Last year, I sought relief for chronic back problems and had an inappropriate, brief sexual affair with my chiropractor. He initiated the affair, and it took place in his office. It was awful, disgusting behavior. My psychologist urged me to file a complaint against the chiropractor after I learned he had similar complaints filed against him by others. I feel guilty because the relationship seemed consensual, but the doctor crossed the line and I was too weak to say no. After I filed the complaint, he accused me of “destroying his life.” I’m a 55-year-old woman who has never done anything this stupid in my 30 years of marriage. But I have a hard time feeling close to my husband, so I have not confided in him. We’ve gone to therapy in the past, but he doesn’t believe it helps. Should I confess in the hope we can work through it and become closer? I am afraid that he may be retaliatory towards me or toward the chiropractor. Do you think we should separate?
You and your husband are already separated, honey. The life-giving question is: Should you learn to grow in intimacy with him? Of course, I would say yes. I’m a big fan of intimacy: emotional, mental, verbal and spiritual transparency. American culture tends to use the word “intimacy” as a synonym for sexual activity, and that’s unfortunate. Sex is not necessarily intimate, nor is it necessarily an expression of love or even affection. Sometimes sex is just sex, an activity we reach for out of boredom or distraction or instinct. But sexual intimacy—the alignment of two minds, bodies and souls—usually follows emotional intimacy. The curious thing is that many people will happily strip off their clothing, but not drop their pretenses or masks. And that’s a deliberate choice to avoid intimacy.
Let’s unpack your situation, with this: How open are you? Are you willing to explore the dark recesses of your own mind and shake out truth from the stories you tell yourself about your own history? Are you willing to reveal the reality of who you are to your husband—both the beautiful and the beastly aspects of your personality? (We all have both.) All relationships are based on the presence of intimacy, whether actual or projected. To be close to another human being requires the willingness to know who we are, and to trust that others are worth knowing deeply, too. There is no room for perfection on that journey. Intimacy is always a revelation of reality.
I am grateful that you can admit your part in the affair with your chiropractor. Yes, he took advantage of your vulnerability. You also admit that you failed to refuse his advances. It’s good that you are taking care of yourself by seeing a therapist, and that your therapist has encouraged you to report the chiropractor. Be clear that he has destroyed his own life, but is blaming you because he is afraid. Dealing with that fear is his life’s work.
Your work now is to learn how to stand up for yourself. You will need self-love and a big dose of honesty when you tell your husband about your affair. Yes, he deserves to know and you deserve the experience of practicing how to talk about, and take responsibility for, your choices. If your husband is angry, don’t yell or plead. Let him experience his feelings. When his emotions subside, consider a fresh beginning together. Neither of you really know the other, so a different life together is possible. But if you can’t or don’t want to mend your marriage, find a way to divorce that leaves your heart (and his) lighter and more joyful.