When the Past Winds Up in the Present
Dear Margo: My husband and I have been married for 10 years, and for the most part, things have been good. Now, that has all changed. Through a family member, I found out some disturbing things about my husband, his past and his beyond-dysfunctional family. Apparently, he was forced (as a preteen) to watch his gay cousin masturbate, and it continued into his teen years, with my husband becoming more involved with the gay cousin — helping, masturbating himself, etc. He also had a sexual relationship with a female cousin well into his teen years. And as if that were not enough, supposedly he and another brother molested their younger sister.
I confronted my husband about all of this. In the beginning, he lied and denied it. Later, he came clean about everything but vehemently denied molesting his sister.
It’s been almost a year since this news came to me, and I am still living in shock and disgust. Shortly after I discovered this, I sought counseling because I was having a hard time functioning on a daily basis. That came to a standstill when the counselor wanted to start couples counseling and my husband refused. So I am left with many questions and much confusion and shame. He, on the other hand, feels everything is OK.
Am I dwelling on this too much? With the exception of just a few females in the family, no one else in the extended family knows anything. — Struggling
Dear Strug: Your husband was clearly the victim of abuse. If he molested his sister (a disputed fact), it would be consistent with abusers having been abused themselves. However, because he admitted to everything — but denied the sister’s mistreatment — I would be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially because you say things were fine until a family member gave you the background.
His unwillingness to get counseling indicates he has come to terms with his past, and it sounds as though he is functioning well. I suggest that you continue counseling, however, because you are the one who is troubled. I believe in rehabilitation and reform and the statute of limitations. — Margo, painfully
Conflicted and Ambivalent
Dear Margo: I need help. I am married to a great guy, but I frequently find him annoying. (This feeling did not surface until after we got married). The poor guy tries very hard to avoid upsetting me, but he fails miserably. I am sometimes disgusted with myself for the nasty and mean things I say to him when I am angry. We stay married because I cannot find a reason to leave him. However, I think staying with him only makes the two of us miserable (he disagrees).
On top of that, I want to move back to my home state, which is just a few hundred miles from our current home. My husband likes where we are now. Should I just move without him? There are several practical reasons for going back. I feel trapped. I am not happy if I stay, but it just feels wrong to leave. I do love him, but I do not feel I need to have him in my life to be happy. — Going in Circles
Dear Go: Yours is a letter in which one does not have to read between the lines; one can just read the lines. You are seriously ambivalent about what to do. Finding this “great guy” annoying is a cover for deeper discontents. You are not living where you want to be. You’re feeling trapped. You snipe at him and then feel awful — but you can’t stop doing it. You are unhappy and believe you do not need a mate to be happy. Resentment certainly has to figure in.
Were I you, I would have a trial separation, and the time apart will likely give you the answer about how you want to live. Marriage is not for everyone, and a guy doesn’t have to be a bum for a woman to want to call it a day. Not every divorce need be tied to abusive, addictive or criminal behavior. Good luck sorting this out. — Margo, experimentally
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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