July 17, 2002

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alt.sex.column
by andrea nemerson

Moving on

DEAR ANDREA: We've been married for almost 10 years. We've always had a healthy sex life. He's a wonderful, generous lover. Sounds great, huh? Well, not exactly. I have discovered I haven't been the only recipient of his desires.

On top of his having a serious drug problem, I asked him to leave after he admitted having affairs throughout our marriage. Some of these were with people who worked for me. I had suspected but never to this degree! I was heartbroken. He says that it was purely sexual and that he wanted to feel attractive and wanted. I can't recall one single time I ever turned down sex with him. I love sex and loved being with him. He was not married to a cold fish.

He has completed a rehab program, and now things are going well. As more time goes by, I find myself thinking more and more about these affairs. I replay scenarios and speculate constantly. There are nagging questions I want to ask him: when, what happened, how long did this last?

I understand that it is unhealthy to hold on to this. I'm trying to move on and make this work (we have young children). I tried to broach the subject once, and he became defensive and angry. What do I do? How can I stop thinking about these infidelities? Would it be harmful for me to know details? I am carrying this around, and it is becoming more of a burden. I know it will only get worse and hurt more as time goes by if I don't resolve this resentment and need for information.

Love, Obsessed

Dear Sess: You asked me, so I shouldn't feel so bad for saying this, but this does not sound good. This man – your man – has betrayed you so often and so deeply that you may never be able to forgive, let alone forget. Worse, you seem to have taken his sins upon yourself to the point where you believe that your marital troubles are now your fault for being unable to let go, rather than his for cheating and lying since you left the altar together. If you can't forgive him, perhaps it's because you shouldn't.

I can't help thinking that what you really want to know isn't "when, where, and for how long?" but "why?," and I'm not sure there's ever going to be an answer to that beyond "because I wanted to." I don't really want to send you off for counseling – you cannot be cured of his sickness – but couples counseling is (I suppose) an option. The only two options I have any faith in, however, are (a) you two negotiate some sort of polyamorous arrangement wherein all extracurricular activities (yours, too, if you want any) are out in the open, and (b) you leave. Honestly – can you bear the idea of this happening again, even once? It will.

Love, Andrea

Dear Andrea: My girlfriend and I were doing something sexually (I won't say what). I was surprised to learn from her later on that she didn't enjoy it. Trying to be an understanding lover, I asked her why. She then went on to tell me intimate details about something that happened to her in a relationship prior to ours, where she was doing something very similar.

The key word here is "intimate." Right now I feel sort of weird knowing a specific detail about my lover's past. Should I be accepting and understanding of this, or will this "detail" remain on my mind for the rest of my life if I continue to have a relationship with her.

Love, Stuck in a Loop

Dear Loop: Your girlfriend told you that story because she trusts you and, I suppose, because she assumed that she'd feel better after it was out in the open. I doubt very much that she told you because she hoped you'd spend the rest of your relationship thinking, "Oh my god! She did a thing! She did a thing with somebody else, somebody who wasn't me!"

Unless she swore up and down she was virgin intacta and otherwise untouched when you met, you have no reason to be surprised, let alone angry, at her for having done some thing with some person sometime. Let it go. You'll be happier.

Love, Andrea You can reach Andrea at alt.sex.column, the Bay Guardian Building, 135 Mississippi St., S.F., CA 94107, or andrea@altsexcolumn.com.