I am married but have been seeing escorts for 21 years

My wife is not interested in a physical relationship and I don’t want a sexless life

PROBLEM: I’ve been deluding myself that it is not really a problem but I guess it is one if I’m writing to you.

The issue is that, even though I’m married, I have been seeing escorts for almost 21 years. The visits occur about eight or 10 times per year. Sometimes the girls are very pleasant and the sex is great. Mostly it is not a nice experience.

My wife shows no interest in sex at all. The conundrum is that I gave up trying to interest her in sex many years ago; so do I live a sexless life? My choice has been to have occasional detached sex. And with the proliferation of escorts throughout the towns of Ireland, that is not too much of a problem.

Sometimes I feel a failure that this is what I do, even though in a few instances I have seen the same girls regularly and even given them cash to assist their passage out of the unsavoury business. So what is the problem? Part of me feels a failure for not being able to stop such visits, and the other part feels, well, why live a sexless life?

If I cannot talk to a friend about what I do, then it appears I am ashamed of what I do. I have not found an “at ease” position on this whole issue.

ADVICE: It seems you have a conflicted view of how you manage your difficulty: you have stayed married for a long time with no intimacy but feel some shame at using escorts.

Most things that we keep secret and make justifications about hold some shame for us, and perhaps you would like to have a more forthright life in which you do not have a hidden existence. But this might entail honesty with your partner, and hurt, conflict and even betrayal might ensue. For 21 years you have kept this secret and you say this has resulted in a sense of failure for you, but perhaps this action is what you thought would keep your marriage together.

However, the secret creates dishonesty between you and your partner, and so you have little intimacy in either your main relationship or your casual encounters with escorts. You are not detached by nature as you have been drawn into the lives of the girls you encountered to the extent that you want to help them. The question is what kind of relationship do you want to have for the rest of your life and what kind of person do you want to be (internally and externally)?

You say you tried to connect with your wife sexually many years ago, but gave up due to her lack of interest. I wonder if it is possible to broach the topic again in a way that you can be heard about the loss of intimacy or emotional connection that this creates in you.

This conversation in itself will create intimacy, and, even if it does not move into physical connection, you may feel closer and more understood. It might be possible for your wife to open up about her sense of closeness or disconnection in the relationship and how she might like to see this improving over the next part of your life together.

The risk of full honesty with your wife is that she might reject you, but with it comes the possibility of acceptance and an opportunity for real bonding. Your wife has a right to an honest relationship; she might not choose to exercise it but maybe that option should be offered to her.

There is an addictive quality to the secret, forbidden world of escorts and it will be difficult to give up. You already express a sense of failure at not being able to stop and this shows you have tried in the past to do so. You are also aware of participating in the “unsavoury business” and have a sense of moral conflict about it.

Changing this behaviour will require consistent effort and support, but also the motivation to initiate the change. You do not want to lead a “sexless life”, and this is a legitimate wish, but it leads you to actions that cause shame and concealment.

It is very difficult to tackle this alone, and any breaking of the silence will begin the process of change. Could you talk to a trusted friend or family member, or see a professional? By speaking to someone, you will go some way to meeting the need for connection, but the reward of sexual release is a tough one to replace and you will undoubtedly benefit from the support of others if this is what you choose to do.