Annie Lane: Haunted by the skeletons in my wife’s closet

Published 4:56 pm Friday, September 9, 2022

Dear Annie: I’ve been married to a wonderful woman for almost 50 years. That alone should explain our relationship: 50 years. I’ve never loved anyone else. Our courtship and marriage were wonderful. She was everything I wanted my wife and the mother of my children to be, and she has been, except for one detail. She lied to me about her sexual past, during the time we were dating and before.

She had implied that, like me, she had no sexual experience. Twelve years and four children into our marriage, she suffered an emotional meltdown because of a difficult childhood and years of lying to me. Counseling produced a whole mess of ghosts and goblins from her youth, and then finally came the big one. She had lied to me about her virginity and sexual past. What this did to her was cause a dark two years in her life that took therapy to work through. She has never discussed or wanted to discuss how it has impacted me.

Initially, she told me she lost her virginity by being date raped. Later on, it became evident that was another lie. I think she used that story because she thought I could accept it more easily. Then she slept around with three more guys after that (who knows how many). Her telling me all this essentially ended my marriage that day and started our second one. I still love her, but it is different.

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For over 38 years, I’ve been married to my best friend, my partner who I share everything with —our money, our home, our kids. We share our lives. The day she told me the truth, the intimacy we had was gone. We are more like business partners sharing what we have made of our lives. She has been completely focused on our children and grandkids. She hasn’t got a clue about what her past has done to me. Even in sexless old age, in my mind, I still see visions of her with those other guys, still young; they never age. In my mind, they visit me every day.

Counseling has helped reassure me about my love for her, her love for me and pointed out that I could have had a miserable life of a different kind had I married someone else. Sometimes life can be like beauty and the beast. You get handed both. I believe it is retroactive jealousy OCD. It is a horrible curse. I’ve had to pay for her sins. Being in a marriage with the person you love and knowing that desire and intimacy were thrown away and handed out to other guys has changed everything. My advice is to NEVER lie about any sexual history or details when dating. It is so destructive.

— Husband in the Dark

Dear Husband in the Dark: It’s understandable why you feel betrayed and hurt by your wife’s changing stories over the years. When we are used to thinking of things in a certain light, it makes us feel especially in the dark to realize it’s not so. Perhaps your wife felt she had good reason to shield you from her past. Maybe her previous sexual encounters were, indeed, not consensual. Maybe she felt embarrassed by them and didn’t wish to share with you these moments she’s not proud of. Whatever the reasoning, after five decades of marriage, I’d bet that you know her heart, her character and what truly defines her better than anyone else.

You should each continue with individual therapy to make sense of the situation and see how it is continuing to haunt you. If your feelings of jealousy and rage are an intense form of OCD, seeking help could give you the tools to manage and overcome it. It’s also important that you feel heard and understood by your wife, so for that, I’d recommend couples counseling.

Ultimately, what matters isn’t the first person she slept with but the last. You’re the person she chose to make such a rich life with. Don’t lose sight of that fact.

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