'Perfect' Marriage Has Some Secrets
Dear Annie: My husband died in February 2020, just a few weeks after our 25th wedding anniversary. He was 12 years older than me, and this was a second marriage for both of us.
Our sex life started out amazing but came to a screeching halt about 13 years in, after he developed what he called a "friendship" with a co-worker. I called it an emotional affair, which he adamantly denied. Counseling worked short-term, and their relationship ended when she moved across country (with his help). I continued with counseling without his knowledge, and the counselor was supportive of me. My husband kept saying he was "content" with being abstinent.
We lived the next 12 years as brother and sister, although we had many fights over trivial things that had never been an issue before. To friends and family, we were madly in love.
Inside, I was seething over his worsening lack of empathy toward the intense stress of my job. I quit trying to vent about any issue I was facing because he would go into a rage about whoever was upsetting me -- yelling about "how dare they" and "you should sue." Then he would calm down and say how glad he was that he got that out of his system. All I wanted was a hug and some empathy.
The day after his untimely death at age 72, my sons came over to remove his guns, as they know I dislike having guns in the house. One pistol was missing, so I checked my husband's dresser drawers (he did his own laundry). I was stunned to find a picture of him and his old co-worker together.
Friends and family think my husband was perfect. He was the life of the party and extremely intelligent. I have such overwhelming feelings of anger toward him. No one knows, and people continue to talk about missing him and how great he was.
I have no intention of ever having another romantic relationship (I'm 64) because I cannot work through the anger and I don't think I could trust another man.
Do you think counseling would help? I have very little money left each month, and my insurance doesn't cover it. My two closest friends do not know, and I hate to ruin their image of this "perfect" man. -- Can't Get Rid of Anger
Dear Can't Get Rid of Anger: Yes, I think counseling would help. You are holding so much inside, and you need to confide in someone. Why hold up an image of a perfect man? First of all, no human is perfect, they are only human, so try to let that image go. Twelve years of no intimacy and feeling like you were being lied to is difficult, to say the least. You have to process that and confide in your friends and a therapist as to the pain you suffered for all those years and how betrayed you felt when you saw a photo of him with his co-worker.
You didn't do anything wrong, and it makes it more challenging because you can't physically talk to him to work through the issues. Best of luck to you and please know that you don't have to hold up a perfect image of your husband -- or of yourself, for that matter. You kept saying that on the outside it looked like the perfect marriage; what does it matter what it looks like to other people? What matters is how you felt in your marriage and how you can heal those wounds.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.