I'm the wife in a hetero couple, together 10 years. Had a good sex life until I got off birth control to try to have a baby and suddenly started suffering from symptoms due to a hormonal disorder I didn't know I had. I struggled for a year and a half before getting diagnosed and treated. One of the symptoms is low sex drive and significant fatigue. To complicate things further, we had to do the scheduled-sex-during-ovulation-window thing. My pregnancy was rough, so sex suffered then too. When I was six months along, I discovered my husband had cheated on me, several times, during the time we were trying to get pregnant. He says he did it because his needs were not getting met and at the time he thought due to my illness, sex was just going to be subpar forever now. He says as soon as he found out I was pregnant he stopped. I was too busy growing a human to really deal with it at the time but now that our child is born and some normalcy has returned, I'm trying to work through this but I'm so many levels of pissed.
1. What happened to "in sickness and in health"?
2. No conversation or communication was had about his lack of satisfaction or desire to possibly request a "hall pass."
3. Instead of following Drs orders for maximizing chances of conception he was out sexing up strangers.
4. He says he had sex with "prostitutes" but he won't tell me how he located them so I don't know if they are actual sex workers or random women off the Internet, which to me has the potential to be very risky.
5. He did not use protection and got a bacterial infection and tried to have sex with me when I was one month pregnant and he was starting to show symptoms of the STI. Luckily I was too nauseous at the time and he ended up getting antibiotics before we had sex so I didn't contract it.
6. He definitely could have caused me to have a miscarriage had he given me the STI.
I've tried to talk with him about what happened but he's ashamed about his behavior and just keeps saying it's in the past and won't happen again. He generally has trouble communicating openly about sex. I honestly wouldn't be averse to setting ground rules and opening up the marriage but given his breach of trust, his difficulty talking about his needs, and his risky behavior (STI? Seriously?!), I don't know if that's a good idea.
I don't want a divorce but I can't just move forward without addressing all the ways he could have fucked up our lives. In order for me to feel safe I need to hear from him that he understands where he screwed up, but he just seems to want to pretend it won't ever be an issue again, and I don't think that's realistic or practical. It doesn't help that his job takes him out of town for a few days to a couple weeks at a time every month. He could easily go back to this behavior and I would be none the wiser. Other than this, he's a good partner and we haven't had any other major problems in our relationship. Any suggestions?
When Trust Fails
1. He didn't leave you, WTF. So teeeeechnically he didn't violate the "in sickness and in health" chunk of those off-the-shelf marital vows. He definitely violated the most common understanding of the "forsake all others" thing and, more importantly, the monogamous commitment you two presumably made.
2. He probably figured it would be easier to ask for forgiveness than permission—and hoped he would never get caught and never have to ask for forgiveness. That's a pretty common hope among cheaters. I would love to see a study that looks how many cheaters get away with it. How many cheaters hoped they wouldn't get caught and didn't get caught vs. how many cheaters hoped they wouldn't get caught and did get caught? My sense is most cheaters get caught—but my perspective is skewed, of course, since people who caught their partners cheating write in seeking advice while people who are cheating and haven't gotten caught—at least not yet—rarely write in to say, "Hey, I am so totally getting away with this."
3. That was selfish of him. But you don't mention the scheduled-sex-during-ovulation thing going on forever and in the end sexing up strangers didn't prevent him from impregnating you. So... um... no harm, no foul?
4. If he won't answer your questions, WTF, he won't be able earn back your trust.
5. Jesus Fucking Christ. That was a shitty thing for him to almost do—and he gets no points for not having done it, since it was your nausea that shut that shit down, not his dormant (or non-existent) conscience.
6. I would file this one under "unforgivable," WTF, but you seem prepared to forgive him. You have, for all practical purposes, already forgiven him. You didn't throw him out, you didn't grab the baby and run, you didn't initiate divorce proceedings—all of which would've been justified, given his actions. And it doesn't sound like you want to leave him—with the exception of cheating on you and putting you health at risk and endangering life of your unborn child and having ample opportunity to cheat again, you say your husband is a good partner. (I'm going to file all that under, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?")
Okay, on to my suggestions.
If you want answers out of him, WTF, you have to be willing to leave him—and you have to communicate your willingness to leave in unambiguous terms. Your presence is your only leverage, WTF. So if you're not willing to take "prostitutes" and "won't happen again" for an answer, you have to be prepared to go. Tell him you don't need or want to hear every last detail or read every last email or text message ("a death by a thousand cuts," as Esther Perel describes it), but you need to know roughly what happened, when it happened, and with whom it happened. You need to know enough about what happened to know it isn't still happening... or isn't happening in the exact same way.
Why won't he tell you what you want to know? I have no idea. Maybe he doesn't want to go into details because he's hiding some aspect of his sexuality from you. If he was seeing pro-Doms or trans escorts or male escorts, WTF, he may not feel comfortable giving you an answer more specific than "Internet." If the husband having a sexual interest or need that you can't and/or won't be able to meet for him isn't a dealbreaker for you, WTF, reassuring him of that in advance might make him comfortable enough to share those URLs with you.
Finally and obviously, WTF, a qualified, competent couples counselor can help facilitate the conversations you need to have with your husband. Look for one who doesn't regard cheating as unforgivable, WTF, even if the particulars in your circumstance would rise to that level for most. A therapist who heaps contempt on your husband—a husband who has, yes, done contemptuous things—or subtly or not-so-subtly shames you for staying isn't going to be of much use to you, WTF, if saving your marriage is the goal. Good luck.
UPDATE: I've said it before, I'll say it again: sometimes the best advice is in the comments thread.