Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
I’m a loyal bisexual guy. My wife doesn’t know about it. I don’t practice or intend to seek gay sex. I only fantasize about men. I guess my wife is doing a great job satisfying my sexual needs, and my urge to do it with another guy is not strong. But this is not my issue. It’s about retroactive jealousy, and I think my bisexuality plays a major role in it.
My wife presented herself as a straight-up lady when we first met. During our dating stage, I asked her about her sexual past, and she said she only had two boyfriends and never had any sexual partners aside from them. I repeated this question several times until our second year and mentioned to her that it would be an issue for me if I found out otherwise because I had the same issue with my past girlfriends. From that point on, I thought that I was just being fair. The past of my partners is very important to me and I don’t know why.
Until I accidentally discovered her promiscuous past. I had to confront her, and she confessed. Her past was so wild and the body count was so high (10 including me) that I thought that I was loving a totally different person. Each time she confessed, she promised that she had already told me everything, but I kept on discovering other men from her past one after another. She could have hurt me once by telling me everything, but she kept on hiding something, and that made me feel like I was on the hunt for something new. It devastated me so badly that, until now, it has seriously bothered me.
We have a son; we’ve been together for 13 years already. She has been a good wife, and I love her so much, but the pain is so intense that whenever I think of it, the thought of leaving her is on the table. For 11 years, I still feel betrayed, and the trust is not there. I’m also tired of talking about it with her already.
Thank you for your message.
The pain you feel is very understandable, particularly since your wife (let’s call her Alma) seems to have been drip-feeding you the uncomfortable truth about her past over a number of years. This has resulted in a variety of questions, some relating to Alma and others to you.
Starting with Alma, her opening response about her past was to reveal two previous relationships. Since then, in the face of your persistence, she has progressively upped the number to 10 – and perhaps there is even more to come. Why this reluctance to come clean, especially since you made it very clear early on that her past is a really important issue for you? Doesn’t she realize that the longer she draws this out, the worse the potential outcome?
As for you, Hal, ask yourself why are you obsessed by her past? What difference NOW does it make if she had two or 20 past relationships, provided they are indeed past? She is still the person you chose to marry, still “a good wife,” still the mother of your child.
You say you are tired of talking but perhaps the problem is that you are both having the wrong conversation. Thinking about the above and related questions and then having a genuine talk, not about mere numbers but about why you have both allowed yourselves to reach this difficult point in your relationship, might enable you to find the way forward.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. Admittedly, I do not know your wife Alma at all, so suggesting a reason for what Mr. Baer calls “drip-feeding” you her number of lovers probably seems presumptuous. However, the reason she did what she did is pretty obvious — although perhaps only to a clinical psychologist trained to look for the overwhelming effects of the past on the present — God, I so hope this doesn’t make me sound mayabang (arrogant)!!! (But it’s true.)
Alma didn’t want to lose you. Plain and simple as that. Because she loved you, she was frightened that knowing her “real” past would turn you off so much you wouldn’t marry her and she couldn’t bear that.
As it turned out, she wasn’t wrong, was she, Hal? Her high body count and wild past DID appall you and perhaps you wouldn’t have married her if you had known that beforehand.
And it isn’t as if you hadn’t telegraphed this to her in advance: “I repeated this question several times until our second year and mentioned to her that it would be an issue for me (italics mine).” Dearest Hal, if this were not a clear request to hide the truth, I don’t know what is!
Of course, she could have left you then and decided that you were too conservative a person for her, but, again, she didn’t want to lose you and gambled on the fact that 1) you never would find out (the past is the past is the past) or, perhaps more likely, 2) that you would had had such a wonderful marriage and such a beautiful family by the time you found out, that you would realize what mattered most was the present and the future. Not the past when she didn’t even know you and thus her actions had no bearing on her love for you and, indeed, your love for her.
How to deal with it? Actually, through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as Mr. Baer strongly suggested when he said: “She is still the person you chose to marry, still ‘a good wife,’ still the mother of your child.”
In a nutshell, CBT believes that your feelings and reality are based on the thoughts you have. Let’s take your case as an example:
The reality is that Alma has been a good wife and mother.
Your feelings are that you “love her so much.”
BUT, when you found out about her past, your attitude changed to feeling betrayed and no longer trusting her.
The reality didn’t change: Alma is still a good wife and mother. Your feelings for her changed because of your thoughts about what a wild past and high body count means. It might be time to examine how accurate these thoughts are, because it is only your thoughts that changed, nothing else.
The reality hasn’t changed. Alma is a good wife and mother, and she was that even with her “wild” past. Your feelings (at least up until the time you found out about it) also remain the same – loving her so much.
Oh, Hal, I can’t help feeling leaving such a beautiful woman because of her lying to you (behavior you probably now realize you may have contributed to) seems a bit extreme.
You end your letter by saying you are already tired of talking about it, a sentiment I have no doubt Alma shares, too.
I thus suggest that you see a therapist to help you both explore why her lying and/or her past has such an impact on you and why she did (I mean, about her lying, not about her past). Seeing a therapist is to help you both explore the best way forward.
You hint at it: “I think my bisexuality plays a major role in it (my reactions),” but you did not go further. It might be helpful if we were to explore this together with your therapist (or even with us). It would even be more helpful to explore this with your wife.
Please, please think about it? Too much is at stake here.
All the best,
Please send any comments, questions, or requests for advice to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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