I want to have sex with other women. My wife and I haven’t shared a bed in over a decade. For years our lack of sex life didn’t bother me much, but a few years ago, after a health scare, I lost weight (9st) and I’ve found myself being attracted to women everywhere I go; they seem to notice me too – it’s all I think about. I have tried to suppress this for so long, but now I am ready to act on it. Although I love my wife, our marriage is over. But my son as good as told me that if I left her I wouldn’t see the grandchildren. — Hot under the collar
Well, this is all new for you, isn’t it? All this fitness and fantasy. New and clearly bewildering. Our first thought, upon reading your letter, was that this isn’t really about sex. The sexy stuff – the noticing women and wanting to press go on that – feels like a by-product of the journey you are on. This is about a whole life: family, identity and evolution. We all change, Hot. We are built to grow and to thrive. But it’s what we do with that change, isn’t it? And your own personal development has come on the back of huge physical change. Your clothes no longer fit and it feels as though your life no longer fits. So what now?
You sound like a dear and honest soul with a tendency towards anxiety, and we don’t believe that an affair or series of liaisons would suit you very well. An affair would muddy the waters and make everything a bit grubby: our feeling is that it’s time to look at reshaping your life the way you’ve reshaped yourself. You can sense the possibilities that lie just over the hill. Now is the time to make sure that your sense of self is as muscular as your new-found quads.
‘Our’ lack of sex drive has become ‘her’ lack of sex drive. So as you’ve been charging around getting healthy and horny, she’s been living ‘our’ life. The life you both signed up to.
Have you – gently – talked to her about your change in perspective? Or have you just written her off and assumed that she is content? Assume nothing. She may surprise you. Do not accept that your marriage is over without putting in the work. Therapy will help to open up a dialogue and bring her up to speed on your process. It is possible that therapy could lead to a rekindling, or at least an understanding. Even if therapy only helps formulate an exit strategy, it will still facilitate some transparency. Lies (even by omission) and a refusal to communicate act as a fertiliser for hurt further down the line.
Which brings us to your son.
Listen, children are precious and wield an almost sinister amount of power over us, but it is inappropriate for them to blackmail us. Bad for them because they become falsely empowered, and bad for us because it is not a wholehearted way to go about a decision-making process.
Your transformation might be uncomfortable for those around you. Armchair Dad has morphed into Dynamic Dad, and if your son is making these noises then the disconnect between old Dad and new Dad must be stark.
Children do not react very well when it comes to their parents having alternative lives or shifting identities because, so often and well into adulthood, they define themselves by kicking against us and our choices. It sounds as though everything he says is based on his perspective in terms of his family.
Trouble is, these treasured children whom we love so are the very epitome of the unreliable witness and unhelpful counsel. They are too invested. And friends can go wonky as well: some because they take sides; others because they get the fear that divorce is infectious. A few will opt out; others will stay close – you will be able to handle it.
Hold your horses, Hot. Talk to your wife. Have the difficult conversations because, if you are to embark on a new life, why not ground it in honesty? You look like the man you wanted to be; now act like the man you want to be.
Do you have a dilemma that you’re grappling with? Email Annabel and Emilie on firstname.lastname@example.org All questions are kept anonymous. They are unable to reply to emails personally.
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