Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] I refuse to have sex with my husband after reading his texts from other women

Jeremy Baer, Margarita Holmes

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[Two Pronged] I refuse to have sex with my husband after reading his texts from other women
'Even if I miss sex, I still don’t allow him to touch me. I love him but I cannot forget the texts I read. What to do?'

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:

My husband is a manager in Indonesia, and comes home twice a year. On our first night, our sex is very good. We have very good sex for about a week. This is when he tells me how much he misses me and could not wait until we were together in bed. But on the second or third week, I start to read texts from other women. When this happens, we don’t talk to each other. Even if I miss sex, I still don’t allow him to touch me. I love him but I cannot forget the texts I read. What to do?


Dear P,

Thank you for your message.

So your husband (let’s call him Ed) habitually receives texts from other women whenever on leave and your standard response is to refuse to talk to him or have sex with him, however great it might be? 

This prompts the well known but much ignored adage: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” (attributed to Albert Einstein, but probably apocryphal).

You say you love him despite everything so maybe it is time to redefine what love means to you.

A good starting point is the Triangular Theory of Love, developed by Robert J. Sternberg, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University, which has three components: passion, commitment, and intimacy. Your situation suggests “empty love”: loving another and committed to that love in the absence of both the intimacy and passion components of love.

If silence and withholding sex have not prompted a change of behavior, perhaps it is time to try something else. Why not express your concern, not as a strident complaint but as an attempt to understand the situation (e.g. Is this flirting or more? Does it also happen when he is away?), elicit Ed’s view of your marriage and try to find a common path to an improved marriage, with special attention to intimacy and passion? If this is unsuccessful, consider separation – after all, is a marriage which is an LDR with no sex, no real communication, and no incentive to make things better really worth prolonging?  

All the best,

JAF Baer

Dear P,

Thank you very much for your letter. 

If we had all the time in the world, which alas, we don’t, I would suggest we take a closer look at what always happens when he visits you back in the Philippines: a passionate, loving reunion, great sex, but inevitably followed by texts from other women, the cold shoulder and, I would guess, a sad departure when you still don’t speak to each other.  We could probably “solve” that problem reasonably well. After all, it would just be a matter of mere logistics. It could be a question asking for mere information such as: “Since you know how reading those texts upset me so much it affects our relationship before you leave, why don’t you erase them? Do those texts really mean that much to you?” 

But getting an answer from this will not really be a solution, will it?  It will not be a balm to your soul.  I am not promising our column can do that, but I shall certainly try my best. 

Like Mr. Baer, I will “analyze” your love/marriage through the prism of Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love (this is considered one of the best definitions of love from a social science perspective, even backed up by research across many countries).  

However, unlike Mr. Baer, I do not think your love is empty (empty of love’s three components: passion, commitment, intimacy). 

There is no doubt passion is alive and roaring in your marriage, otherwise the second, third, and fourth sentences of your letter would not say what they did. You both find each other sexy and enjoy having sex with each other. Drives leading to physical attraction/consummation, or, as Hatfield and Walster, two of the best love, intimacy, and sex researchers in the 1980’s described it, “an intense longing for one another.”  

Commitment seems askew in your marriage. You seem 100% committed to him, entertaining no other man in your life, wishing you and he will remain a faithful couple till the end of your days.  He seems not as committed. 

Some men claim they are committed to their marriage because they intend to spend the rest of their lives with their wives, and thus a dalliance or two, usually involving texts between them in this day and age, doesn’t really matter. I do not know if your husband belongs to this camp.  

In my clinical experience, if (and this is a big if) intimacy flourishes in your relationship, complete commitment becomes not only possible, but highly probable.  

Para bang (It’s as if) if you are truly intimate with your partner – laughing at or crying over things nobody else but the two of you understand because of your shared history, able to show her your true self that you dare not share with anybody else – how can you ever think someone else would easily suffice?  Do you really have the time, energy, and pasensiya (patience) to start from scratch? 

Intimacy, however, is the most difficult component to attain. Like many couples, it is the component missing in your relationship. You and your husband do not talk to each other when either is angry, or when one (or both) don’t like what’s happening. And yet this is when you most need to talk to each other. 

It can be scary, because you don’t know how the other person will react. Intimacy requires trust, being able to tell something about yourself to another person you know will honor that trust, will not make you feel foolish for confiding in that person, will not make you feel you backed/trusted the wrong person.  

Intimacy does not happen overnight either. It starts simply, by self disclosure – sharing something about yourself that is so private, you don’t ordinarily share it with people. You keep it private because it makes you vulnerable, which is something you allow yourself to be only with people you trust.

For example, don’t ask him my original suggestion: “Why don’t you just erase those texts?” This focuses on his mistake and does not really touch on what bothers you so much about them. This is what you ask when you are angry (which you are).

But is it possible that you are angry because you are scared? And/or feel betrayed? I sure would be. I imagine any person would, left to stay in the Philippines, taking care of hearth and home, while one’s spouse is in another country (even if earning for us)? 

If you are able to share your insecurities, perhaps it will enable him to share his too. This is not so you will have a pity fest, bemoaning your sad situation. This is more “Omigod, ikaw rin pala (you too)!! And here I was thinking ako lang (it was only me) feeling this bereft.”

It is probably you who need to start this kind of conversation. It can be scary and certainly easier said than done.  

Trying to be intimate with your partner  will not solve all your problems, but it is a good start. Mr. Baer and I are very willing to walk this journey with you if you want us to do so. All it needs is another letter. With all my hope for a successful first step, then another, THEN another.

MG Holmes


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