/u/Trainwreck1980 on /r/sex writes…
“Last week I [39M] was going through some old computer files, backing up all our stuff. I found an old folder of hers [35F], on an old stored computer that was filled with “risque” photos, some nudes and XXX style photos. It was obviously my wife (I know her tattoo’s and body). I also found another file talking about how much her “donations” were, incall vs outcall.
I really don’t know what to do or think. When I asked her about it she, she at first tried to say it was silly youth, or how it was not what I thought, but finally admitted she had for several years worked escorting. She also admitted she had done so when we were first dating, although she would not say when she had “quit” working.
I am devastated! We have 2 children a daughter and a son, I really don’t know what to do. I love this woman, but now, its like she is damaged in a way.
I have not stayed at home since I found this out, I have rented an extended stay hotel. Lucky our kids are away with their grandparents for another week, they do not have to experience all this havoc.
I really just don’t know if I can accept my wife now, It has totally changed my perspective of her, and our whole relationship.
How can I move past this, my mind is filled with all sorts of AWFUL things.”
Dear Trainwreck 1980,
There are some very crucial missing information here.
We do not know if her sex work continued into your relationship with her, and, if so, how long. We do not know to what kind of sex work she did. We do not know why your wife decided not to tell you about her work history. And we do not know to what extent that is all a violation of trust for you.
Let’s first talk about sex work.
Sex work is work. It is a very valid career option that has been around since as early as there has been a trade of goods. It is as valid as a career choice as any other profession out there. I know it will be hard to accept this right now while in the midst of your fresh pain. But please understand that it was a career-choice she made for herself at some point in her life. Respect that it was a decision she made for herself. Her sex work does not mean she is any more damaged than someone else is for having previous relationships or a speckled work history full of minimum wage jobs. And understand that this current situation is damaging her more than any of her previous sex work has done for her.
Now let’s talk about what this means for you.
I really feel for you. The pain is clearly evident in your language. The misunderstanding around validity of sex work, the way you feel protective around your kid even though nothing specific has changed in regards to your wife’s history as a mother, and these images your brain on anxiety is producing… I am so sorry you are experiencing all of these emotions.
I know it feels difficult to do so right now, but embrace and talk to that pain you are feeling. Have a dialogue with your insecurity and determine how much of that insecurity is rooted in your prejudice about sex work and how much of it is based in the breach of trust you feel about the preexisting agreements you’ve set with your wife.
And it really does come down to agreements. One of the implicit agreements in traditionally monogamous relationship is that you are sexually exclusive with each other. You two might not have had that explicit agreement to be sexually exclusive, but that is the basic assumption in monogamous relationships.
So what does this mean for your marriage?
You don’t have to forgive your wife. But you should. Not because you feel like she is owed forgiveness, but because you want to for your own sake. And once you’ve decided on forgiveness, consider what this means for your relationship going forward.
Once you do a bit more digging around your pain, you might discover that the pain does not come from the fact that she used to do sex work. That pain might come more from the fact that she was not forthcoming with this information until you discovered that part of her life and continued to press her on her past. Your pain might also originate from the mismatch in the expectations of a monogamous relationship you’ve had with her compared to the realities of the early parts of your relationship. You are right. You aren’t going to accept your wife because that was a bit of a mirage. Your wife has always been a painting of your own mind. It might have been very close to reality, but is ultimately not the truest picture of her.
Instead of trying to connect with this false picture of your wife that you initially fell in love with, it might be more beneficial for you to figure out whether or not you can fall in love with this new version of your wife. Think about the fifteen years of relationship you’ve had together, twelve of which you’ve been married. That version of her is just as valid as the one you just discovered. It makes her no less of a mother, no less of a wife. Just different.
I am really sorry to hear that you are in so much pain. I am sorry for your two children who deserves two loving parents who are struggling with their marriage. I am sorry for your extended family who might be confused as to why your marriage is suddenly on the rocks. Your pain is legitimate. But it is an underlying symptom for the pain of insecurity and confusion. I really hope you can find some space among this chaos for yourself, to heal, to breathe, and learn to judge her entire history with the backdrop of your otherwise problem-free relationship with you.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
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