Sunday, March 14, 2010

I Love My Husband But I Can't Stop These One Night Stands

Sally Brompton in a recent piece in the Sunday Times answers a problem entitled:-

 “I love my husband, but I can’t stop these one night stands”.

An abbreviated letter from a woman, whom I shall refer to as Jill, is published. Jill writes about her infidelities, guilt, shame and the cycle of self-destruction in which she finds herself. She talks about how her father leaving her mother had a profound effect on her and how her husband provided her with stability during this time. She says that “my husband isn’t open emotionally, but he’s a lovely man who brought me stability at a difficult time” and “we had a great five years together”. She questions her own behaviour and worries that her behaviour will break her husband’s heart. She wonders, given her actions, should she be married at all.

Sally in her reply, says that she is unsure of the source of Jill’s behaviours. She urges her to face up to her demons to find the source of her unhappiness. Sally says “wherever we go, there we are. Even if we flew to the moon, we couldn’t escape ourselves.” Sally also refers to Jill’s feelings of guilt and shame around her behaviours and how that is linked to her questioning herself about whether she should be married or not.

In this article, there are a number of points which Jill has made in her (abbreviated) letter that strike me as conflicting.
They are the following. In her opening line, she says “her husband isn’t open emotionally, but he brought me stability at a difficult time“. Further on, she states that “we had a great five years together”. There appears to be a contradiction inherent in these lines. In other words, how can this man provide stability and a great five years while at the same time being emotionally closed? Either, those five years were not great and life was an emotional rollercoaster ride, or else this man did genuinely connect with this woman and was able to provide her with enough emotional substance to sustain her during this awful period in her life.

The other point I would like to highlight about this article is how she described her history of intimate relationships. She talks about her life prior to getting married in terms of having “a colourful sexual past” and being “never faithful for long”. This, I believe is the key to Jill’s current behaviours. It would appear on the face of it, that Jill, then and now, is looking for emotional intimacy. However, she believes that she will get it through sexual activity. Hence, the change of partners, the belief that the next one will be better than the last and that the next one will provide more excitement.

This brings me back to her current relationship and which leads me to believe that it is her and not her husband that has the problem of intimacy. This may explain why she finds it difficult to stay emotionally attached to her current husband. If she herself has not been used to an emotionally close relationship, then she will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to stay in an intimate relationship. So I agree with Sally when she recommends that she discuss her demons with a neutral third party, as this will give her an understanding of her behaviours. One caveat I would also add, is that therapy for this woman will involve staying in a relationship to facilitate change. Based on her past and current experience this will be particularly challenging for her.


  1. Jill is most likely addicted to sex as
    a substitute for intimacy. She most probably
    doesn't really love her husband but is dependent on him - just as he is on her. So,
    there are two issues to deal with - her addiction and their mutually codependent marriage. Of course there will be a lot of interlinking between the two.

  2. Hi Roy,
    Thanks for your comment. However, I don’t get the sense that Jill’s husband is co-dependent on her. Certainly, Jill is co-dependent on her husband and this is expressed in two ways – on the one hand, her inability to stay emotionally attached and on the other hand her desire to achieve intimacy through “sexual addiction”. However, co-dependency is a symptom in and of itself. It is a symptom of a lack of intimacy with oneself or a lack of an emotional world. Once Jill starts to develop a sense of an emotional world with a neutral third party and understands her pattern of behaviour more, she most likely will address the symptoms of co-dependency and “sexual addiction.” Sheila