[Two Pronged] Infidelity, STDs, and blackmail
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I have been following you because you don't sugar-coat your views. You tell them as they are and I think that this is what I really need right now.
Of particular interest to me Dr. Holmes was your article on Kris Aquino and your statement at how she debunked a myth that only certain kind of women get STI.
I used to take pride at being "good." I did everything by the book. Studied hard. Married my first and only boyfriend. Made a home for my family. But in 2011 I discovered that I had been harboring chlamydia for God knows how long.
My husband gave it to me. We separated after that but we reconciled the following year. It wasn't the same anymore. I was in constant pain but I thought I owed it to my daughter to give her a happy and secure home. My husband used her against me and stopped communicating with her unless I would get back with him. Financial support wasn't an issue. He continued to support us generously but I believed in my heart that my daughter, who was entering teenage years that time, needed her father and not just his money, so I acceded to his demand.
This year I discovered that he had given me gonorrhea. I cringed just at the thought of that. I can't begin to tell you my pain. I want out of this marriage for good.
My husband has left our home. We did it so quietly that nobody knew what was happening. Everyone still thinks that he is just in Manila for a work-related trip. Even my daughter believes the same.
Why did I do it this way? To spare her from the harsh truth for as long as possible. The first time we separated my little girl became "lost". She started having boyfriends at grade 6. She turned to these relationships for comfort. I can't have that happening again.
i really don't know what to do this time. I know that I have to tell her some time but I was hoping that we could wait one more year or just allow the realization to sink into her gradually. This is possible because my husband is a seafarer and I could just tell her that he has left for work already.
At first I thought that my husband wanted out too, and would cooperate with this kind of arrangement. But he is doing it again. He is threatening to inform our daughter and to cut off all communications with her after that. It is happening again. He is using our child again.
I don't know what to do. I can't talk to anybody. Nobody else knows. Not even my family. I just kept all these to myself.
I need somebody else's unbiased opinion regarding my situation. I want out if this marriage but what about my child? Should I risk raising her by myself this time?
Would having her uncaring father in her life worth me facing the risk of getting HPV or HIV from him considering his reckless sexual practices?
I love her. I sacrificed for her last time. But will I be forgiven if I'd put myself before her own interests this time?
Thanking you both in advance.
Thank you for your heartfelt letter.
From your account it seems that you are presenting yourself with a false dichotomy: either you sacrifice yourself so that your daughter has a father in her life or you pursue your own 'selfish' salvation and your daughter goes off the rails. The very way you have framed your dilemma limits your options even further because you allow yourself only one 'honorable' choice. Yet the reality of your situation is somewhat different.
Let's consider this husband of yours (we'll call him Jon). He obviously has some redeeming characteristics or you would never have married him, but the only positive trait that you mention is that he is a good provider. On the other hand, he has given you chlamydia and gonorrhea – which tells us something about his attitude to sexual fidelity – and is quite happy to use his own daughter as a bargaining chip in his relationship with you. In short, Jon is a blackmailer and an adulterer who engages in risky sex.
So perhaps you should ask yourself if a father who behaves this way is the right sort of influence on your daughter. Is this the type of person you want in her life? Is this the principal male role model she should have as she grows up?
Turning to your part in this drama, to date you have kept Jon's behavior a secret from everyone. Perhaps the time has come to change that. You have to decide whether the understandable reluctance you feel to reveal the truth should continue to outweigh all other considerations. After all, why should you hold him up, especially to your family, as an exemplary husband and father if that is so far from the truth? By hiding his true character for so long you have made it more difficult to change your tune but it is by no means impossible.
I am not suggesting that you now suddenly unveil Jon as Satan personified, complete with photographic evidence of your STIs. Instead, perhaps you should adopt a gradual approach which is not 'one size fits all' but audience sensitive i.e. what you tell your daughter about her father should be different, not to mention age appropriate, from what you tell family and friends about your husband.
Please write again if there is more you wish to share. Best of luck.
Thank you very much for your letter. I know whatever I say will not be enough to respond to all your needs and questions, so can we do it this way please? Write to us again, should you have any other old ones, or even new ones? They need not be questions—Jeremy and I are not delusional enough to think we have all the answers ☺ – they can be observations, realizations, stories about the latest things that happened between you, your husband, and/or your daughter, etc.
With that caveat in mind, let me respond to what I feel are the most important concerns you raised:
“Will I be forgiven if I'd put myself before her own interests this time?”
There is nothing to forgive, Cory. Putting your own interests before anyone else’s is the only way you—and thus your daughter—can move on.
Family therapy is the practice of treating psychological problems in the context of the family. I am sure you will agree that your situation is one where only family therapy will do.
Your husband has not only been unfaithful to you, but he has given you an STD at least twice in your life. I’m sure he will have his own reasons for doing so, and it is even possible (though improbable) that all his reasons are accurate, valid, and even heart-rending. But even if they are, this doesn’t change the fact that he was unfaithful to you. It doesn’t change the fact that Jon could’ve done things to avoid his getting an STD and his passing it on to you – ordinary things that don’t need the creativity of Einstein.
Perhaps what it really needs is something so basic it’s almost unforgivable that Jon should take it for granted: a heart and a mind that thinks of other people as much as he thinks of himself.
You and your husband seem to be at opposite ends when it comes to responding to your own needs. He thinks only of himself; you think only of your daughter’s. What is best is a position that can do both: take care of yourself and take care of others.
All sentient beings need to think of themselves before they can protect their loved ones. Your husband’s behavior suggests that you have to be vigilant in doing so, because unlike most women who have husbands they can count on, you are the only parent your daughter has to rely on.
A lioness can protect her cubs only if she is strong enough to do so. Even if she has all the will in the world, she can do nothing if predators sense that she has no strength to deter them. We human beings need emotional, as well as physical, strength. So yes, not only is it ok, it is an absolute must that you take care of your own needs before you take care of anyone else’s.
I hope Jeremy’s and my responses to you are enough for you to carry on. I, personally wish I could write more. Should you feel the same, please write to us again, ok? Should you feel this is adequate, then I shall congratulate us both for being better “advice columnists” than we originally thought we were ☺ Stay strong, dearest Cory.
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.
When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Two Pronged asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments which appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.