I WASN’T GOING TO STAY IN A LOVELESS MARRIAGE
John’s porn addiction undermined Em’s confidence until all the love was eroded away. So she upped and left.
Until last year I led a very settled life, I was married and very focused on my work. But within a few months I was like completely different person. It’s been quite a journey. But it shows that however bad things get, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
We’d been married since I was 23 and John was 34 and had been happy initially. But my sexual confidence had been undermined for several years because he preferred porn to sex with me. He did it in secret throughout the whole of our marriage and it was so hurtful. But we just put it aside. I thought the problem would just go away, but it kept reappearing.
Once when I was supposed to be going away with a girlfriend I found a load of videos in his shirt drawer. I lived with so much anxiety as I never knew what I was going to come home to. Occasionally I’d gone out and come back early and caught him with a porn movie. It made me anxious. My confidence was so undermined that I nearly had an affair, just for sex.
“I lived with so much anxiety as I never knew what I was going to come home to”
We had a long talk and he went into counselling. The sessions were never discussed with me, and I didn’t feel he really took responsibility for his addiction. It was always in the background in our relationship and sexually I always felt inhibited.
The menopause hit me in 2013 and coincided with a mega amount of stress in his work life. It was a miserable time, but I battled on – we’d been together so long and I couldn’t see any way out of my marriage. And I still loved him. What’s more I thought I’d find it difficult to meet somebody else and had no idea I’d support myself if I left. It was a constant battle with myself. Even when I had enough money to leave, I didn’t – I was scared of the consequences and of being lonely.
I know a lot of men are addicted to porn, but if he’d just been open about it it would have been fine. What really hurt was the idea of him preferring porn to me, and feeling like I wasn’t enough. After the menopause our sex life never really got back going again. We had two years of nothing.
Then there was the stress of him being ill. He suddenly lost weight and we weren’t sure why. He wasn’t working and my work suffered because I was looking after him. And I remember standing naked in front of the mirror one evening, looking down at my body and thinking it’s all atrophying away – would I ever have sex again?
When he was diagnosed with a serious illness I became his carer. I did my best to support him, but he’d killed off the feelings between us long before.
Meanwhile there was a lovely man called Tom I knew through networking, who was doing a charity walk near where I lived. As we lived really near the route of the walk, Tom asked me to walk with him. There was a lot of chemistry that day. We talked and talked – he was going through a divorce and we had so much in common.
When he sent me a flirty text to meet for lunch I was quite open with him – I just said ‘Never mind lunch, shall we just book a hotel room?’ I hadn’t been naked in front of another guy for 32 years. And it just felt so right. Neither of us knew where it was going to lead but it didn’t matter. By this point I was taking bio-identical hormones and my sex drive was back in action. I had feelings I hadn’t had in a long time.
I felt bad leaving John. But we’d never addressed our sexual relationship in all those years and I couldn’t contemplate staying in a marriage without intimacy, especially now I’d rediscovered my own sexuality. So when a girlfriend who’d just moved to London mentioned she needed a flatmate, I quickly made the decision to just move out rather than watch the marriage deteriorate. I took a bagful of possessions and left a note on the kitchen table. It felt like ripping the plaster off.
“You can’t put a price on regaining control of your life”
It was all pretty stressful but I’m glad I detonated. I feel like I’m living my life again, with no expectations as to how it’s going to work. I’m still seeing Tom and loving getting to know him. There’s been a fair amount of hardship, of course, but my new life has given me the chance to rekindle friendships, and I’ve found there’s a lot of support there when you really ask for it. You can’t put a price on regaining control of your life.
My possessions are spread out all over the place, but I don’t really care about all those things that I thought would make me happy. I’m quite enjoying simplifying things. Whereas before, a weekend for me was cleaning and washing and watching telly, with Tom I’m out doing stuff all the time – gigs, sports events, open air concerts and comedy. Life is for living.
We’ve both come out of marriages where we weren’t happy and weren’t being our authentic selves and it’s a delight to share this newfound freedom with him. Everyone says I’ve lost years from my face. I think I was so bored and fed up but now I’m going out and living life. We’re not in a position to set up home, so it’s all about travel, meeting new people and creating this amazing thing together.
After all the sexual rejection I’d needed to prove to myself that I could pull a guy, but to my delight Tom stuck around. And now we’re just going with it. So many people stay in a relationship because they think it’s the right thing to do, but you are responsible for your own happiness. Leaving was such a leap of faith, it felt like diving into the deep end. But like most humans, I discovered I can float.