My husband and I are in our late twenties and we have been married for six years. We work hard and have a busy social life. I am happy and I always thought that he was too, but recently he went out for drinks after work and didn’t come home until after work the following day. I called his mobile phone, but it was turned off. Nothing like this has happened before and it is driving me crazy. I refuse to have sex with him because I am convinced that he slept with someone else. I feel that I have a right to know what has happened, but he refuses to talk about it. What can I do?
There is very little that you can do. I know you feel that you are owed an explanation, but unless your husband is willing to provide one you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Marriage fosters a sense of co-dependence and it can be difficult to remember that it is, primarily, a voluntary union between autonomous beings. Any trust that exists within that union is entirely volitional and although married couples do, ideally, choose to share the events of their lives they are under no obligation to do so.
Your husband’s behaviour is obviously unacceptable, but, unfortunately, the more that you berate him, the less likely he is to tell you the truth because when suspicion creates hysteria, fact rarely creates calm. If he gave you any kind of confession it would inevitably lead to a demand for detail and that usually makes the situation worse, not better, at least in the short term.
Your big fear is that your husband has been unfaithful, but what if the truth turns out to be more complicated? What if his one-night stand was with a prostitute? Or a man? Or a crack pipe? What if he got drunk, fell over, lost his memory and cannot tell you what happened because he has absolutely no idea himself? What if he was robbed, or spent the night in a police cell?
The smorgasbord of awfulness with which you can choose to torture yourself is endless, and it is also futile, because you cannot change any of it.
Right now the only aspect of this situation over which you have any control is the way in which you respond to it. And since the wailing and gnashing of teeth isn’t working I would suggest that you adopt a less emotional approach.
At the moment you are almost entirely focused on your own feelings. However, to an objective outsider, your husband’s behaviour is a classic red flag. Although you say that you had a good relationship with each other, men who are happy don’t go Awol for 24 hours, nor do they refuse to explain their absence.
The combination of your husband’s unorthodox behaviour and the fact that you got married so young makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that there are serious cracks in your relationship. Contrary to the widespread perception that divorce is very much a midlife phenomenon, more marriages dissolve when the spouses are younger than 30 than at any other time. The Office for National Statistics explains the higher incidence of divorce in couples who marry in their twenties as a reflection of lax attitudes towards divorce, but early marriages are, I suspect, less about a casual attitude to commitment and more a reflection of the difficulties of synchronised development.
Maturity changes people, but it doesn’t always change them in the same way, at the same time, and younger couples frequently find that career pressures, financial responsibilities, new social groups and diverging interests can drive a wedge between them.
Although I think that couple counselling would be extremely beneficial, given your husband’s reticence I am not sure that he would agree to go. However, that does not mean that you cannot seek help yourself. Relate (relate.org.uk) does one-to-one phone or e-mail counselling and Mootu (mootu.com) offers face-to-face counselling on Skype with a choice of 58 therapists.
You have some turbulent times ahead of you and the future of your marriage will, to some extent, be determined by your ability to forgive. I doubt that you will ever forget, but then, hopefully, nor will he. I wish you both the best of luck.