Dear Annie: I read "Dear Annie" now, just as I read "Ask Ann Landers" and "Dear Abby" starting in the 1950s. I hope you can give me some advice.
My husband, "Fred," and I have been married for 58 years. We met when we were both working in Washington, D.C. We were 18 years old. We dated for 3 1/2 years. He presented himself to be charming, a man of good morals, sweet, kind, a Christian and a virgin. I thought he loved me more than anyone. I had some reservations because he spoke of "Mother" frequently, often using the phrase "Mother said."
Once I got to know him better, I felt he had matured. But after marriage, he began to have temper tantrums. I was shocked.
After losing our first baby to a miscarriage, Fred was drafted into the Army and soon sent to Korea. I had begged him to join the Guard, but at his mother's suggestion, he refused.
After he returned home, I became pregnant and had a little girl. A year and a half later, we had a son, born a couple of weeks prior to Christmas.
While out shopping around that time, I saw Fred using a pay phone, so I walked up behind him and overheard a romantic conversation. He made up a plausible lie, and I let it go. Years went by, and he was not good to me.
Last year, after 57 years of marriage, he decided to tell all. He now tells me he was calling a woman for a second date during the week of Christmas. He later called to see if the coast was clear, as she was married, too. He also told me he had slept with prostitutes while in Korea and then had relations with other women in D.C., Chicago — where we lived for a time — and then Memphis, where we now live. He claims he has always loved me and the encounters with other women were "just sex," as if that makes a difference to me.
I am devastated beyond belief.
We are now 80, and I have stage 4 cancer. People tell me I look as if I am in my 60s, and the cancer is in remission. Our children are grown. We have completed one year of counseling. He has been diagnosed as a "sex addict," and I have PTSD. Our lives are in ruin. He denies that he's addicted to sex, and he denies that it was caused by his domineering mother, as counselors have suggested.
I am uncertain as to what to do. I worked hard and invested well and can afford to support myself. Counseling helped some but not much. Right now, I am unable to make logical decisions. Do you have any words of wisdom for me? — A Lifelong Reader
Dear Lifelong Reader: You sound like a remarkable and very strong woman. My advice is that you make the decision NOT to make a decision at this time. Instead, focus on yourself and making you — and only you — happy, whatever that might mean. Go to your church, visit your children and grandchildren. While you're healing from this trauma of deception, it's perfectly reasonable to take a break from your husband. There are different types of therapy you could try. Continue with your counseling and perhaps add some meditation or prayer groups. Spend time with your friends.
At some point, you will realize that your husband had a very troubled upbringing, which contributed to his acting out. This does not excuse his behavior, but hopefully, the realization will give you some peace of mind. Remember that his actions had nothing to do with you or how much he loved you but rather with how little he loved himself.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]