I have a problem that's a little difficult to explain. I've had RA for over twenty years and my husband of thirty years is having an affair. But the problem isn't my husband having the affair. I not only know about it. I am the one who told him to have the affair. You see I love him but I just can't bear the thought of making love to him anymore. It would be too physically painful. I cannot stand being touched. But I don't think my husband should give up having a sexual relationship. He's a good man and has always been there for me. That's why I told him if he met someone he found attractive that he could have an affair but please don't tell me the details. The problem is other people telling me if they see my husband out to dinner with his lady friend when he sees her one night a week. They tell me like they are doing me a favor. I don't know what to say to them when they tell me he's cheating on me. Please advise.
–The Good Wife?
Dear The Good Wife?,
Oh Hon, let Ms. Mensicus start by saying that you certainly are one Good Woman—but whether you are a Good Wife or a Good Doormat remains to be seen. Let me explain.
By signing yourself as The Good Wife? with a question mark, Ms. Meniscus would suggest that you may actually be asking two questions: 1) What to say to people who make it their business to tell you that your husband is cheating on you, and; 2) Are you being a Good Wife—or a Good Doormat? by telling your husband to have an affair.
First, concerning those who tell you that your husband is cheating on you. It would be easy to box all such people away as buttinskis and simply turn the tables on them and say, “Why are you telling me this?” but it’s not so clear cut when it comes to busybodies. This is where, as my grandmother would say, one must consider the source.
It matters whether it’s a close friend or relative who truly cares about you and is upset at the sight of your husband with another woman and can’t stand the idea of your being played for a fool—or some casual acquaintance who couldn’t give a darn about you.
If it’s a close friend or relative they probably angsted over telling you but decided they had to do it to protect you. What should you say? Ms. Meniscus suggests that you thank them for telling you, let them know you understand they told you because they care about you—and also let them know that you and your husband are fine and will be fine and there’s no need to worry about you. Really. (And there’s absolutely no need for you to give anyone any of the details of your arrangement with your husband).
Now for your arrangement. RA or not, a lot of long-term marriages slip into sexless unions. A good article on the topic from WebMD, “Are You Spouses or Just Roommates?” addresses this:
But, you may say, you have Rheumatoid Arthritis and cannot even stand the thought of being touched. You are not exactly like the married couples in the article. Sex didn’t simply slip away. Ms. Meniscus hears you on this. Over the years we’ve gotten many letters on Sex and RA and both Ms. Meniscus and Dr. Laurie have addressed the issue in their respective CreakyJoints blogs.
Indeed, we hear about this all the time (but Ms. Meniscus must admit this is the first time somebody has given her husband permission to go out). However, before you give up the ship (in a manner of speaking), Ms. Meniscus hopes you will consider forms of intimacy with your husband for those with RA.
Consider a recent piece in a Florida newspaper, “Sex and Rheumatoid Arthritis” that discusses actual ways to enjoy intimacy:
So are you a Good Wife or a Good Doormat? In Ms. Meniscus’ mind it depends on how you feel. Did you shut down on your sex life before you considered other ways to enjoy intimacy? Did you suggest an affair because you were afraid he would otherwise leave you?
Or, did you do it because you really do love this man and enjoy his friendship and companionship and you are truly not interested in sex in any form or fashion but love him too much to expect him to give it up too? If so, Ms. Meniscus says more power to you Hon, however, your husband needs to do a little more on his end of the affair bargain.
You asked him not to tell you the details. Ms. Meniscus would suggest that this should include not wanting other people telling you the details. To this end, your husband needs to be more discreet and perhaps take his lady friend out to a dimly-lit restaurant with high-back booths on the other side of town.
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