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Are massage parlors cheating?
June 13, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

What do I do with a husband who has been getting handjobs @ massage parlors...help!

I need some advice. Married to DH for 7 yrs with 3dc. I recently discovered he has visited "erotic massage parlors" twice in recent months to get a massage (and handjob), and he also admitted to doing it once before we had kids but after we were married. When we were dating he cheated on me 1x after being together 6mos and told me right away. I was devestated afterwards but loved him so much that I wanted to make things work and he wanted to as well. Our relationship improved and we married. I found out about the massage parlors by snooping- he did NOT come clean until I pressured him a great deal and even then I don't think he was honest about the details.
We were having sex- one visit was even the same day we had had sex so not like there was a legititmate "reason" for him to seek satisfaction elsewhere.

He says of course that this will never happen again, that in his mind he didn't realize he was crossing a line. etc. My issue is that 1) I don't feel it is logical for me to believe him, and also seems logical that if I know about these events there could be more I don't know, AND 2) I don't know that I even have it in me to forgive him and trust him again. I just feel like I am done even though it is awful to separate/divorce and not something I ever wanted.

Any advice? I am so torn. I want to be a good person and do the right thing here but I don't want to be a fool either...
posted by momtothreedc to Human Relations (64 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
He will never stop betraying you. It's awful, but it's true, and I am so sorry.
posted by Coatlicue at 11:06 AM on June 13, 2012 [55 favorites]


Trust your gut, not what's coming out of his mouth. Do you really believe he didn't realize he was crossing a line?

Some people may not believe this kind of thing is cheating, but I do, and it sounds like you do, too. You don't have to accept this behavior, past or present or future, as okay.
posted by something something at 11:08 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


1) I don't feel it is logical for me to believe him

You're right.

if I know about these events there could be more I don't know

Yes.

I don't know that I even have it in me to forgive him and trust him again.

Why would you?

I think you know what you need/want to do already.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:08 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is absolutely cheating, and if he didn't think it was then why didn't he come clean immediately after being asked?
posted by InsanePenguin at 11:09 AM on June 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm sorry. This is awful.

Bottom line: He's cheating on you. The fact that there's a business involved doesn't really change that.

He knows what he's doing, he knows it hurts you, and he chooses to do it anyway. Sexual addiction is a recognized thing, but while it may help explain what he's dealing with, it doesn't really excuse it.

So the whole massage parlor thing is just a red herring. The real problem here is that he's being unfaithful and hasn't indicated any understanding that that's what he's doing, willingness to stop, or honesty about his activities.

You need to decide whether that's something you're willing to live with, and "No" is an acceptable answer.
posted by valkyryn at 11:09 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Be a good person to yourself, he's not honest with you, has no pattern of being honest and will not be honest with you in the future.

If you are ok with that, stick around, if not...take care of yourself. Don't judge the acts, judge the honesty, that's the bigger problem.
posted by iamabot at 11:09 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


that in his mind he didn't realize he was crossing a line. etc

Um WHAT?!

It is awful to separate/divorce but it is even worse to stay in an unhappy or dishonest situation. Call a lawyer.
posted by stellaluna at 11:10 AM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is objectively cheating. There are some gray areas -- porn, for example, which some people consider cheating and some don't, and there are some relationships where doing things like this outside the relationship are accepted because it's been talked about and those lines have been drawn, but not telling you that he is engaging in sexual activity with other people is absolutely cheating.

So here it is: your husband cheated on you and lied about it, after cheating on you and coming clean about it. That is the situation.
posted by brainmouse at 11:10 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


He says of course that this will never happen again, that in his mind he didn't realize he was crossing a line

There are pretty much only two ways to interpret this statement. Either 1) he literally doesn't have the mental capacity to understand that engaging in sexual activity with someone else is a violation of the vow of monogamy the two of you (presumably) made when you were married, or 2) he's lying in order to deflect responsibility.

In your heart of hearts, you know which one is true. Proceed accordingly.
posted by scody at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2012 [27 favorites]


Check out Surviving Infidelity.
posted by BibiRose at 11:12 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


He cheated while you were dating and he's cheating now that you're married. Yeah, getting a handjob in a massage parlor is cheating. No doubt. Then he lied about it afterwards.

I'm not going to tell you what to do about your marriage, but you are married to a guy who cheats and lies to you. Can you live with that?

Divorce can be tough but most people get through it and then get on with their lives. A bad marriage that continues is a bad marriage for as long as it lasts.

Sorry this happened. Good luck.
posted by bondcliff at 11:12 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not only did he betray you, but he's frequenting places that may very well be involved with human trafficking. It's incredibly gross.

He has not been honest with you, and who knows what's gone on that you haven't found out about.

Before you make any pronouncements/decisions, lock down the bank account and the credit cards. Do not let this guy clean out the finances.

You'll have to suck it up for a while, but get all of your financial ducks in a row, once that's done, THEN leave him.

You are in shock right now, don't make any rash decisions. Be circumspect, enter counseling, both couples and personal.

Engage a lawyer (your husband does NOT need to know that you've done this.) Get good advice and counsel.

Only when you've got everything together, do you walk out.

You deserve better. So much better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:14 AM on June 13, 2012 [34 favorites]


He's cheating now, he's cheated in the past (and there's an almost 100% chance there's other times he hasn't told you about), including while you were married. His claim that "he didn't realize he was crossing a line" is complete bullshit. This guy is a scumbag, and there's no evidence he'll ever change. I think you know what to do with that information.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Being a good person means looking out for you and your kid, also. Don't fall into the conditioned trap of that a good person means being a doormat. This activity bothers you on a deep level. You expressed that. He lied, then continued anyway. If you're concerned about being good to him, advise he gets help for his issues.

Yes, it is awful to separate / divorce. But it's also awful to spend your days / nights worrying about what he's lying about now.
posted by skittlekicks at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Getting a message with a happy ending is a far cry from having a long-term affair or cheating emotionally. Asking strangers over the internet what to do about it is also a far cry from discussing it with him and seeing a marriage counselor.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:17 AM on June 13, 2012 [22 favorites]


He is definitely cheating on you. It is not okay. And I am so, so sorry about it.

That said: I think it's really important to have a conversation about why this is happening. If he had sex with you and then got a handjob from a sketchy massage parlor the same day, that is a major problem. Maybe it's sex addiction, maybe something else, but you definitely need to figure it out - especially if you're even thinking of trying to work this out.

Also, you should know that it is totally okay to leave him if you want to, even if it is "only a handjob." I would not be okay with it from my partner, and would seriously consider the same.
posted by corb at 11:24 AM on June 13, 2012


We are discussing this and seeing a marriage counselor and in response to JohnnyGunn and Kruger5 my issues are not solely related to the handjob- it is that he does not seem to be able to acknowledge that he knowingly did something wrong and deflects blame by minimizing it and finding fault with me as well, so I'm not feeling like he is *truly* sorry- more like sorry he got caught.
posted by momtothreedc at 11:25 AM on June 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


No one else has mentioned this, but, as you seem to suspect that he may have had more than just a "hand job" at these places, and you were still having regular relations at the time, in addition to a lawyer you might want to make an appt with your doctor to be tested for any STD's and HIV.

Good luck, Hon...
posted by Hanuman1960 at 11:25 AM on June 13, 2012 [23 favorites]


Yeah, dont divorce him because he got a handjob.

Divorce him because he isn't being upfront about his sexual needs or his sexual activity, because he betrayed your trust and continued to do so even after he was caught, because he lies to you.

The handjob is really incidental next to the mountain of deceit.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:26 AM on June 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


in his mind he didn't realize he was crossing a line.

Ask him whether it would cross a line if you you been the one paying a stranger to manually masturbate you to orgasm. I'm guessing he wouldn't be okay with that.
posted by desuetude at 11:29 AM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


If he didn't think it was crossing a line, he'd tell you about it before you found out. "I'm off to get a massage and a happy ending!" "Okay, dear, pick up milk on the way back!" is a very different conversation than saying he didn't think it was a big deal after you got angry that he did it.
posted by xingcat at 11:30 AM on June 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


If this were my relationship, I would insist that, in addition to his participating in couples therapy, he begin an active treatment program that addresses his sexual compulsions. Because this is addictive behavior--going to get a handjob from a stranger the same day you had sex with your partner, and then lying about it, is classic addict behavior.

"He says of course this will never happen again" is also classic addict excusing. It's going to keep happening until he addresses the twin problems of a) why he needs to keep having sexual encounters with strangers, and b) why he needs to keep lying and denying and excusing.

I know lots of people who have very healthy open marriages. This is not that. This will never be that, even if that was something you were interested in trying, until he gets help for his shit.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:34 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


My definition for cheating: anything you wouldn't do if your significant other was watching.

My advice: ask (as calmly as you can) if he was aware what he was doing would hurt you when he did it. If no, listen (as calmly as you can) to his rationale. If yes, your decision kind of makes itself- he will do what feels good whether it hurts you or not, and that's unacceptable.
posted by Mooski at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2012


To clarify, I'm guessing this not because "no handjobs at massage parlors" is some sort of absolute rule, but because the sort of guy who would be okay with you getting a similar service would probably not be sneaking off to erotic massage parlors and then lying about it.

This isn't that complicated, it's not reliant on memorizing an Official Register of Rules About Fidelity, it's not that a handjob is an affair...he just needs to respect his relationship with you by treating you the way he wants to be treated.
posted by desuetude at 11:36 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


We were having sex- one visit was even the same day we had had sex so not like there was a legititmate "reason" for him to seek satisfaction elsewhere.

Even if you hadn't had sex on that day, there wouldn't be a "legitimate 'reason' for him to seek satisfaction elsewhere."

He betrayed you by doing this. I see what you are saying with "I'm not feeling like he is *truly* sorry- more like sorry he got caught." That is how I think I would feel, as well. If it wasn't crossing a line - if it were permissible and normal for husbands (or just him, if you will) to do these sorts of things, why did he keep it a secret?
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:36 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, here's the most important thing: you and he need to define what "cheating" is and isn't for your relationship, if you intend to continue the marriage. Not every monogamous relationship has to have the same set of relationship agreements.

Obviously, he thinks it's cheating, or he wouldn't have lied to you about it. If it works for you to negotiate a relationship agreement where this behavior wouldn't be cheating (from either of you), he'll need to make huge advances in his trustworthiness and candor before that agreement is going to hold.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:37 AM on June 13, 2012


For what it's worth, I would probably not divorce someone for one episode (or closely spaced series of episodes) of getting massages with handjobs. That stuff about not realizing he crossed a line kind of insults your intelligence, but it could be charitably interpreted as "didn't think it was that big a deal." But I would really be concerned that this is not even the second, but the third time in 7 or so years that you've found out he hasn't been straight up with you. This suggests that he has some issues.
posted by BibiRose at 11:39 AM on June 13, 2012


more like sorry he got caught

Exactly this. Go with your gut. Things aren't going to change. You deserve better. SO MUCH BETTER.
posted by OsoMeaty at 11:40 AM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


You should get tested for STDs just in case he's lying about it not going further than a handjob.

You don't have to make any decisions today. Today, you make yourself and your kids a priority. You were lied to, cheated on, and betrayed, and your mental, emotional and physical health has been compromised by your husband's lies.

Figure out how to recover and once you do, then start making decisions for yourself. I think the sad choice might be between leaving him and being okay with his being a habitual liar who can't seem to control himself and isn't mature enough to see the impact of his actions on his wife or kids beyond hoping that none of you guys find out.

Also, don't have sex with him unless he gets tested for STDs.
posted by discopolo at 11:42 AM on June 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Cheating is defined within each relationship. Some people would be okay with this, you clearly not, and I'm sure he knew that.
posted by spaltavian at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Definitely get yourself checked for STDs. I don't believe for one second that he has a history of cheating, enjoys sex with you and visits prostitutes on the same day, but draws the line at manual stimulation when he's at the brothel massage parlor.
posted by General Tonic at 11:48 AM on June 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, it's kind of heartbreaking to me that you're trying so hard to figure it out from his point of view or what he was thinking. You have a right to feel insanely hurt, sad, and anxious. Take care of yourself and your heart---your husband is already taking care of his needs and his feelings by blaming you or playing dumb.

You have to be your own champion. Don't fall in the trap where you think you have to save the relationship or figure out how to. You need to save your energy for taking care of yourself right now.
posted by discopolo at 11:49 AM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


What do I do with a husband who has been getting handjobs @ massage parlors...help!

Leave him.

Also, what does "dc" mean in the phrase "3dc?"
posted by OmieWise at 11:49 AM on June 13, 2012


A very wise friend of mine once commented that there seem to be three critical elements to a successful relationship: compatibility, loyalty, and trust.

I think you are clearly missing number three, and I'd suggest to you that you always will. Also, people who are untrustworthy with one partner are untrustworthy with all. I.e., this isn't you, it's him.

He thinks he deserves or needs this behavior for some reason. He's never valued your trust much. I don't think he's going to have the realization you are hoping for.

I think you need to decide how well you can do in a relationship with a man you can't trust. And remember that among the other problems if you stay with him is the risk of STDs. Because I doubt very much that you are getting the truth about the full extent of what he has been doing when not with you.
posted by bearwife at 11:50 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


omiewise- dc means "dear children" it is an abbreviation from another message board. tks for your response.
posted by momtothreedc at 11:52 AM on June 13, 2012


momtothreedc: "it is that he does not seem to be able to acknowledge that he knowingly did something wrong and deflects blame by minimizing it and finding fault with me as well, so I'm not feeling like he is *truly* sorry- more like sorry he got caught."

This is a red flag. If he doesn't think he did anything wrong, and is unable to come to terms with your definition of cheating, you're not going to have a happy relationship moving forward, and it seems fairly likely that this exact scenario will play out again.

You are also free to shift your definition of cheating, although the burden certainly is not on you to do so. He's had a pattern of this behavior before, and only you can answer how comfortable you are with the possibility of this happening again (or gauge his sincerity for wanting to change/end this sort of behavior).

I wouldn't say DTMFA just yet, but I do think that counseling and an ultimatum are in order. The two of you should be crystal-clear on what is, and isn't acceptable, and let him know that he already has two strikes against him.

Of course, we're not playing baseball, and you are free to decide that two strikes is already too many. It really doesn't matter what we consider to be cheating*. What matters is that you were hurt, and were unconvinced by his apology.

*But, since you're asking, I think that most folks would consider this cheating, and you do not seem to be overreacting.
posted by schmod at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If your best friend or daughter came to you with a story like this, would you tell them to stay or go? What would be your advice to them?
posted by EatMyHat at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


He's not sorry for the handjob and visiting the massage parlor, he's sorry that he got caught and it's inconvenient and he's got to deal with this (and you) and the consequences when he could be getting out his Day Runner and penciling in plans to do it again.

I'd get the hell out of there so fast it would make your head spin.
posted by THAT William Mize at 11:59 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sidhedevil gets to my position on this - it's cheating when it violates your agreement with each other. And obviously he knows you'd not be okay with it or he wouldn't have been hiding it.

In the most generous interpretation possible on the planet - which I would not advocate - he really believes that a handy isn't cheating in some absolute definition of fidelity but believed that you would unreasonably object to it. Which STILL wouldn't be okay. That is not how you relate to a person you respect or handle conflict.

If you want to stay in this I think counseling is a must. I personally wouldn't stay with someone who would violate my trust and then show me the lack of respect involved with this "I didn't think it was wrong" nonsense.
posted by phearlez at 12:03 PM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


In my book, handjob is cheating. And get tested for STDs right now. Like today.

Sounds like a sex addict to me. If you really want to stay with him, can you get legally separated, hope he gets help (I understand that he doesn't even seem to think there's an issue right now) and make it on your own? I know that single mom with 3 kids is a challenge, but please think of yourself.
posted by honey badger at 12:06 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do hope you have good supportive friends and family nearby and you're not in this alone. Have you considered telling him to leave, at least temporarily? You have three very young children and it would, presumably, be very hard for you to move, so he's gotta do it. I suspect that you're the primary caretaker of the parents, guys who do what he did are generally not very nurturing.

It may be that the counseling will help him to realize that he's betrayed you and that he doesn't want to lose you and the kids. He may, or may not, be able to earn your trust. Good luck.
posted by mareli at 12:08 PM on June 13, 2012


While the after effects of making the hard decision of a setting a bright line boundary - like, say, divorce - will be painful for all of you (especially the children), please keep in mind that this was his choice.

And if he makes it seem as if he didn't have a choice, then he has an even bigger problem than what he's been willing to admit so far.

Please do get STD testing. You may also want to talk to your counselor about what therapy options they know about for youngsters in the midst of divorce, if you choose to go in that direction.

You should talk to a lawyer, even if you decide to work it out.
posted by batmonkey at 12:16 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


First, it's good that you clarified "3dc" because I had assumed it stood for "three dependent children." Not a huge difference, but it illustrates why abbreviations really don't save you time. Type it out.

Second, in my personal opinion the people telling you that X or Y "definitely" or "objectively" constitutes cheating aren't very mature or experienced. Take the number of people in any given society, square that, and you'll have roughly the number of distinct forms that relationships may take. What constitutes cheating in one relationship is often very, very different from what constitutes cheating in a different relationship. You asked, "Are massage parlors cheating," and in my opinion only you and your husband, and not know-it-all strangers who enjoy dishing authoritative advice via Internet message boards, can answer that question. It's your relationship. What are its terms?

Third, there are many, many people who would not consider a happy-ending massage to be "cheating." It's a different thing, is the best way I can describe the perspective. If you don't think this way then it probably sounds silly or stupid or much worse to you, but many people consider massage-parlor handjobs and strip-club extras to be "things that happen," along the lines of "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," in the category of accepted life occurrences and not betrayal. I don't say this to endorse the view, nor to invite criticism of it, but simply to put it on the table. It exists. It is common. Many people think this way, both male and female. I can offer zero insight as to whether you or your husband are among that group.

Fourth, you mention your sexual relationship with your husband as if it relates to the "reason" (your word) why he would visit a massage parlor. Again, I cannot offer any insight as to your husband specifically, but for many guys who cheat...it's a separate thing. It isn't related to the marriage or relationship. It doesn't happen because the wife isn't taking care of his needs, or because she isn't taking care of herself, or because of anything at all having to do with her. It is separate and it's a thrill and it is a bundle of things that she cannot compete with because the two things exist in different worlds, for the man.

And last, I have one piece of advice as to how you might be able to "change" your husband's thinking if you do decide to stick it out. Massage parlors and their ilk are notorious for exploiting women. Learn about them. Do it together; make him learn about them. He doesn't have to become a raging activist feminist if that isn't in the cards, but inform him about the realities that most guys remain (deliberately?) unaware of. Whatever he gets out of these visits, whether it's thrill or taboo or what, it might be undone if he learns the whole story about such places.

I'm sorry for what you're going through. Good luck.
posted by red clover at 12:20 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


agree that there are people who honestly don't believe that going outside their relationship to pay for sex is a betrayal or cheating. however, your husband is not one of them - he's a sneaky liar, by the sound of it. i would not overthink this - the guy got busted cheating and he won't own up to it. can you forgive him? can you trust him? only you can say yes or no. if it were me, i'd be on the phone to a lawyer asap.
posted by facetious at 12:30 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Ask him whether it would cross a line if you you been the one paying a stranger to manually masturbate you to orgasm. I'm guessing he wouldn't be okay with that.

Or if he'd be okay if you got a part-time job giving out handjobs, since it isn't cheating.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


He cheated on you before you married, and you forgave him. It's not that he didn't realize he was crossing a line, it's that he expects you to forgive him, because you have forgiven him in the past, and now you have three children to think of.

This is his pattern. He has shown you how he will behave, and you have to decide whether or not you want to live with it. Do not expect him to change, or believe him if he says he will. He won't.

It doesn't happen because the wife isn't taking care of his needs, or because she isn't taking care of herself, or because of anything at all having to do with her.

This is 100% true. Infidelity can really do a number on the other spouse's self-esteem; this type of compulsive behavior has absolutely nothing to do with you, it's about your husband attempting to fill a hole inside of himself.

I say all of this because I was in your shoes, many years ago. In my case, he was not only unfaithful in the sexual realm, but he was a financial disaster as well. If your husband has been paying for sex he's probably figured out a way to shelter at least some of his financial information from you, even if he's only spending cash. If you are even contemplating leaving him, I urge you to get a good grasp of your financial situation. Consult an attorney before you do anything official, laws vary so much by jurisdiction that you really need local counsel. And I strongly urge you to find someone to talk to about this, a friend, or ideally a therapist.
posted by ambrosia at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


A few things:

*If you haven't had an explicit conversation about hand-jobs in particular, I think it is fair to assume that they lie well within the territory of "Things I Probably Should Confirm Are OK Before I Go Off and Do Them."

So from that perspective, I'd call this a violation of trust, at minimum.

*You can read the advice in this thread any way you want, but you'll notice that anyone who describes this as a "happy-ending" massage is also likely to minimize the importance of the act. In fact, by not calling a hand-job a hand-job, they're already desexualizing an activity that is sexual by any measure.

*If you do choose to stay, invest some time into thinking about other gray areas of your husband's sexual life--what other unspoken, undiscussed activities do you consider cheating? What does *he* consider to be sex? What does he consider to be cheating?
posted by yellowcandy at 12:40 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Folks, please keep your answers directed towards the OP and don't argue the larger points in this thread if possible. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:48 PM on June 13, 2012


he does not seem to be able to acknowledge that he knowingly did something wrong and deflects blame by minimizing it and finding fault with me as well

Hello, classic addiction behavior! Oh, I am so sorry you are going through this.

Can I recommend Facing Codependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller as a possibly helpful resource?
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:50 PM on June 13, 2012


He's lying, and realistically, he's pretty much never going to stop lying, and I doubt he's ever going to stop cheating on you as well.

These both are and are not separate issues.

If he had come clean about this of his own volition and promised to work together with you on this and had basically made some kind of good-faith attempt to be honest about what he's doing (even if only after the fact), then sure, who knows, you could probably try rebuilding something. Hell, maybe come to an understanding where he gets to go out and have impersonal tugjobs every so often with your blessing, if that's his particular blue heaven and it's something you're okay with.

See, the specific act does not constitute cheating; what makes it cheating is that you are not okay with it, he knew you were not okay with it, and he did it anyway.

He says he didn't, but come on. And that is the big, insurmountable problem here: He doesn't particularly respect you at all.

If he did, then he might try to come up with a better lie than "Well, you never told me not to!" Like I say: come on. He's coming up with a half-assed lie because he doesn't give a huge shit about your feelings, and as such he isn't willing to put in more than a token effort at making this right.

Marriage counseling is your best shot at making this work, but I kind of feel like it would be a long shot even if he were playing you square, and he's not. If I were in your situation, my decision would be this: If I stayed with him, I'd be doing it for the kids, but all I'd be accomplishing is modeling this kind of marriage for them - one in which there's no trust, one in which one partner doesn't respect the other at all, one in which you're basically roommates; I'd be fairly certain that this would seep into my daily interactions with my spouse.

What I'd do for the sake of the kids is show them what you do when someone walks all over you, lies to you, and disrespects you: You treat yourself with the respect they're refusing to give, and you leave.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:58 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was the unfaithful spouse in my marriage. It was not what I wanted, so I have done a great deal of soul searching to try to figure out how and why things went so very wrong. My need for attention from other men plummeted as soon as my husband moved out during our divorce. I have been celibate ever since he moved out while working on getting my life together.

I said all that to say this: It takes two to make a marriage work. I do not think it works to simply point fingers and blame one person. If that is the only way you can frame this, it would probably be best to see a divorce lawyer. That is not intended to say it is somehow your fault either. I am only trying to say that a "him against her" approach will deepen the problems, not fix them. It has to be an "us against the problem" approach to have any hope of working this out.

Marriage is not easy. There is about a fifty percent divorce rate in the U.S. I finally got divorced as the only loving, kind thing left to do. My divorce was amicable, far more so than the marriage had ever been. Some people cannot make it work. But I know if I ever remarry, I will not accept the blame for any problems in the bedroom like I did in my previous marriage. I was molested as a child and he and I were both quick to blame me rather than try to figure out how to effectively meet my needs. That doesn't work. It takes two to make it work. Blaming one party is a huge problem which fixes nothing.

Best of luck. This type thing is very hard to deal with, any way you slice it.
posted by Michele in California at 1:09 PM on June 13, 2012


Children really change the calculus here. I suggest going to a divorce lawyer to find out what your financial and custody situation would be in the event of a divorce. It will help inform your decision-making. It will also help to know there are concrete options for you should you decide not to continue in the marriage. I'm so, so sorry.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:15 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, cheating, and lying about it even after getting caught = going to do it again. DTMFA.

My condolences.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:15 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


he did NOT come clean until I pressured him a great deal and even then I don't think he was honest about the details.

In other words, he's lying even when he's telling the truth.
posted by rhizome at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Marriage counseling actually doesn't seem like a good next step to me. I think you should see a therapist on your own and get your thoughts and feelings sorted out first. Not because you're broken, just because you're in the middle of this situation and could probably use an objective yet compassionate professional opinion to help you make healthy decisions.

The fact that he's cheated on you in the past, plus his dismissive and deeply disrespectful attitude toward you now leads me to suggest you shouldn't rush to fix this relationship, but rather take some time to think about what you really want--and whether you can realistically expect to have that with him.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:03 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, after you had been dating 6 months, he cheated on you, but owned up and apologized immediately. Not good at all, but apparently you came to believe he could be a good and faithful partner.

Now, 6.5 years later, he's received 2 hand-jobs at a massage parlor. This time, he's not handling it well at all, i.e., "it is that he does not seem to be able to acknowledge that he knowingly did something wrong and deflects blame, etc." Yes, this is bad. I can understand that you are very hurt and angry. I, too, would find this behavior not acceptable.

But I can't believe all the recommendations to DTMFA. For crying out loud, there are 3 kids involved in this marriage!

See a counselor. If things don't progress after a few months, find a different counselor. Marriages recover from infidelity—and based on what you've said, this is pretty low-level infidelity, i.e., this is not a full-blown affair with emotional ties. People absolutely can change. (But, they can't become perfect.)

And, if it turns out that he truly is a MF (or if discover that you really aren't compatible), the option to DA is always open.

Good luck.
posted by she's not there at 4:45 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Start preparing for the worst case scenario without letting him know what you're doing. Change all of your passwords. Get copies of all financial/legal docs, copies/screenshots of however you found out about him cheating, and speak to your own lawyer. Protect yourself and your children and find a safe place outside of the house to store this material. You don't have to act on the preparation, but do it anyway, just in case.

Also, see your doctor and get a full set of STI tests. Consider also seeing your own therapist outside of any joint counseling you do with him.

I doubt that it's 2 hand jobs.

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by quince at 4:51 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


The issue with trying to make it "us vs. the problem" is that if one-half of "us" doesn't believe there's a problem, it's never going to work.

OP, if I were you, I would have a very serious meeting. First, change all your passwords and move some seriously large amount of money into an account under only your name; then sit down and figure out what you want out of your marriage, what you would need in order to trust him again, what you consider to be cheating, and what you consider to be monogamy. Then sit him down and lay it on the line: "I am not willing to be married to someone who participates in sexual activity with anyone other than me. I am not willing to be married to someone who lies to my face about his involvement with other people. I am not willing to model to our children that this is an acceptable way for spouses to behave. Are you willing to work with me to heal this breach of trust and mend our marriage? If the answer is yes, then i need X Y Z A B from you, no arguments or questions. If the answer is no, or if you're not willing to do that, then I think we should divorce."

In the past, some of the people I've known who have had unfaithful partners have asked for things like the passwords to email & message services, physical custody of their partner's cell phone when they are home, for tracking to be always enabled on their partner's phone, or for their partner to attend psychological and / or pastoral counseling services. Regardless, it's your trust that has been broken, so you get to be the one who sets the terms under which it can be earned back. So if he tries to play that "That's not reasonable!" bs card, well, it doesn't matter if it's reasonable or not, this is what is required to demonstrate remorse and earn your trust back.

And definitely, DEFINITELY get a full STI panel done ASAP.
posted by KathrynT at 5:56 PM on June 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


We have been in counseling for 4 wks and progress is slow/iffy. He finally acknowledged that he hurt my feelings and knows he did something wrong- but it was only after basically being spoon fed during therapy that this was what I needed to hear. He has said many other very angry things to me before admitting what he did was wrong in attempt to sort of spread the blame around which hasn't helped.

In general he has wavered between saying very loving over the top things in therapy like, "I thought our marriage was better than anyone else's and loved X more with each passing day," and then will turn around and regard me with contempt when I am speaking calmly. His moods and the things he says swing widely and it makes me feel unable to trust anything he says at either end of the spectrum...

I am seeing a therapist on my own as well which is helpful.

Thank you all for your insightful comments- I have never posted here before and very much appreciate your thoughts.
posted by momtothreedc at 6:01 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


she's not there: "Now, 6.5 years later, he's received 2 hand-jobs at a massage parlor."

... that he's admitted to, after being caught. And lied about that, too.


quince: "I doubt that it's 2 hand jobs. "

Yup. Sadly true. If all he'd had was two handjobs, it would be a relatively small crack in a 7yr marriage. The lying is the biggest problem - if he was doing more, was he using protection? You can't know for sure.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:39 PM on June 13, 2012


The mixture of behavior in therapy is rather concerning. I'm glad you're getting counseling on your own, but I think the advice for lawyering up and gathering required things in a non-home place is a really good idea.

If I were you, I would open a safety deposit box in a bank I don't bank at and move birth certificates, social security cards, any financial stuff, and evidence of the infidelity there. Have it under your name only, so that only you can get access. This seems paranoid, I know, but... well, better safe than sorry?
posted by Deoridhe at 10:46 PM on June 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


He finally acknowledged that he hurt my feelings and knows he did something wrong- but it was only after basically being spoon fed during therapy that this was what I needed to hear.

Well, what did he acknowledge. That he's sorry he hurt your feelings and that there was a "thing he did" that was wrong, or that it's wrong to for him to 1) conduct a clandestine sexual relationship 2) so indiscreetly that his wife has openly questioned him about it 3) at which point he lies to her face.

Maybe he's got some issues he hasn't faced that he's expressing through self-sabotage. Maybe he's pompous and self-absorbed. Maybe he's too lazy to think. Maybe there's something more complicated or ambiguous going on, because after all we only have one side of the story here.

But fundamentally, what are his broad expectations for being half of a couple? Ideally speaking. Because that's not something that should be really hard to know.
posted by desuetude at 11:46 PM on June 13, 2012


I think that your marriage could probably survive the handjobs, but cannot, and should not, survive his subsequent attitude. I really believe that every couple should set the bounds for themselves of what constitutes fidelity, and that two people can have an awesome marriage that includes allowances for this sort of thing. But the idea that this is something someone in a marriage can just do without talking to the other person first is transparently false. Seriously, what is this, Mad Men? The fact that he's trying to blame you for this is very troubling. It's hard to imagine that you're marriage is going to get any better if he won't even accept responsibility for what he did. I'm sorry.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:17 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I were you, I would open a safety deposit box in a bank I don't bank at and move birth certificates, social security cards, any financial stuff, and evidence of the infidelity there. Have it under your name only, so that only you can get access. This seems paranoid, I know, but... well, better safe than sorry?

If you are considering taking this advice you would do well to consult with a lawyer about how workable this is in your state. If you're in one of the nine community property states it's possible you cannot prevent access or the banks won't enforce it. If you really want to prevent access you might be better off with a storage unit that you have a friend open in his/her name, in order to better prevent a "helpful" worker from allowing access to your husband.

A good safe in your or a friend's house might be more financially doable and practical.
posted by phearlez at 8:42 AM on June 14, 2012


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