Q: My husband insists on engaging in wife-swapping with his core group of married friends. I am deeply disturbed. He views this act as acceptable and is unable to appreciate how disturbing the thought is to me. He is a good provider and a good father to the kids. I can’t speak to anyone about this and he refuses to see a marriage Counsellor with me. What should I do?
A: You will need to continue to have an honest and empathetic chat with your husband about how being shared sexually and sharing him sexually with other people is disturbing to you. Instead of getting emotional about the issue, try continuing to reason with him. There are no guaranteed results to the process of negotiating relationships and that is why there are so many relationship challenges that people constantly face in their lifetime with spouses, parents, siblings, employers, employees, and friends.
Acceptability is a subjective construct. To assume that one’s values apply to another without checking with them first is presumptuous. Having said that, you cannot and should not be dishonest with yourself about how you feel. If your husband is ‘unable to accept’ how disturbing this is to you, it implies that he cares about his desires more than he cares about what you really want or feel about your relationship with him.
This is no doubt going to be a harsh reality for you to accept but not an irredeemable one. You will need to assess your husband’s willingness to go beyond his own needs. You will need to see and understand for yourself how sensitive he is willing to be to your needs.
Generosity and thoughtfulness have its merits but most people usually always put their own wants and needs first. Even in putting someone else’s needs first, it’s a way for a lot of people to assure themselves ‘how generous and thoughtful they are to have put the needs of others before their own’.
This technically means that their efforts to put the needs of others first complements their self-congratulatory viewpoint of themselves. What this means is that they are actually putting their own need to put someone else’s needs first as a way to give themselves a favorable self-rating. It’s funny how the brain finds ways to trick itself into believing exactly what it wants to believe.
Marriage is a monogamous socio-familial-relational construct where two people are to spend a lifetime being loyal and romantically hardwired to each other. This is a commonly known fact in most cultures.
His being a good father to your children has nothing to do with your situation. People are usually able to quite successfully compartmentalize different aspects of their life. The chances of the world’s best actor being the world’s best husband are slim. One can’t always have it all.
If his refusal to see a marriage counselor is compounding this issue for you, perhaps some bold steps might need to be taken. I suggest having a preliminary meeting with a good psychotherapist first to understand the state of your mind better so that you can make an informed choice on whether you’d like to continue in a relationship with a man who clearly isn’t tuned into your needs and so far – has shown no willingness to understand what you say you’ve tried to communicate to him.
The obvious solution need not necessarily be an easy one. Take some time apart from each other (perhaps even live apart for a while) if you’d like some quiet time to reflect on this more conclusively.
(Aman R Bhonsle is a qualified Psychosocial Analyst and a Professional Youth Mentor with specialization in Transactional Analysis and REBT. He is available for consultation at the Heart To Heart Counselling Centre.)