|Ben and Nicky on their wedding day|
вторник, 10 января 2017 г.
‘My husband was a serial cheat – with other men’
An anonymous letter warned Nicky Mendham, 36, her marriage was a sham...
'The person's face in the photograph was hidden. But there was no mistaking who it was or where it had been taken. The tiles on the bathroom wall were the ones I had chosen to complement the cream walls.
The man in the picture? My husband. It was from a profile he'd been secretly using on a gay website. I'd been sent a printout of his details, along with an anonymous letter.
My husband had been cheating on me with other men. Our whole marriage was a lie.
Ironically, when I first met Ben* through work 11 years ago, I'd assumed he was gay. He was so easy to talk to and I'd never met anyone who knew more about designer fashion and beauty products. Tall, with striking eyes, I fancied him straight away. But his flamboyant humour and sensitive nature made me assume he couldn't be straight.
Ben proved me wrong. He had a string of girlfriends, and was the first to nudge the guys when a pretty girl walked into the bar where we went for drinks after work.
At the time, I thought he was too good for me. My wardrobe was frumpy and I really lacked confidence. But when I ended things with my ex, Ben made it clear he liked me.
He asked me out, and took me to nightclubs where we sipped cocktails and danced until the early hours. And we went shopping together - he helped me select a whole new stylish wardrobe.
Despite everything that's happened, I'm genuinely grateful that Ben taught me how to have fun.
When we started dating, our friends were thrilled. 'We actually thought he was gay,' some of them confided.
It was true that Ben could be camp, and I admit I wondered if perhaps he was bisexual.
I wasn't sure how I felt about that, but I knew I had to ask him.
'Have you ever fancied men?' I asked. Ben actually laughed at me. He assured me he was straight and insisted he was the ideal man - strong yet sensitive.
I actually admired Ben for his honesty. Was I blinded by love? Maybe. I like to think I just trusted the man I'd fallen for.
Two months after we became a couple, Ben and I moved in together. We both earned good money and splashed out on meals, music festivals and exotic holidays. Ben liked the best of everything, from sports cars to flashy watches.
At home we made a good team. I was more practical, so while I put up curtain rails, Ben cooked and cleaned, and everyone was jealous of my perfect metrosexual man.
When Ben proposed in December 2004 with a diamond ring, I didn't hesitate in saying yes.
We married 16 months later on a beach in the Bahamas, with more than 30 guests. I wore a beautiful white dress and Ben looked handsome in a stone-coloured suit with a gold cravat.
Life, it seemed, was perfect. We had a good sex life, and started trying for a baby the following year, but with no success. Slowly I started to realise that we only ever had sex when I made the first move. I deliberately stopped initiating it, and it got to the point where we hadn't made love for six weeks.
I talked to Ben about it, but he was nonplussed and said: 'It's totally normal in relationships. You know I love you.'
When tests showed I had fertility problems, we decided to try IVF, but Ben didn't want to come to any of the appointments with me. I was devastated, but I said nothing. I'd always thought he would be there for me.
When the IVF failed, I told Ben I thought we should wait before trying again. He was shocked.
'I really want to be a dad,' he pleaded. I looked at him - if he was so keen why hadn't he been to the appointments? He said the right thing, but actions speak louder than words.
I sensed that he wanted a baby in the same way he craved the latest car. Now I know he just wanted to look like the perfect family with a wife and kids.
Perhaps he thought a baby would make him think about men less. Or maybe a wife and child would give him the cover he needed.
Our marriage hit a very rocky patch. Ben spent all his time on the computer and I'd go to bed alone and he'd have left for work when I woke up.
My job took me away overnight sometimes. I hoped he'd miss me, but instead of romantic dinners when I returned home, he seemed indifferent. After a year, we were hardly talking - we were more like lodgers than lovers.
'I can't go on like this,' I blurted out one night. 'Our marriage isn't working.'
But when Ben thought his 'perfect' life was at risk, he fought to save it. He promised to change and begged me to give him another chance.
Ben could always persuade me with his passionate charm. I guess when you're living a double life, you get very good at lying. I just wish he'd respected me enough to let me go. Instead, we spent the next four months trying to fix things, having dinner, talking about our feelings.
Then, one morning in February last year, we were in bed going through the post, when I opened the letter that shattered my world.
'Please read this carefully. It concerns Ben,' I read. My first thought was that he was ill and he'd been trying to protect me. It would explain everything - the mood swings, him being preoccupied. The truth was so much worse. The anonymous letter said Ben was signed up to a gay dating website. Enclosed was a printout of my husband's profile.
'He invites men back to your house for sex,' the letter said. For a split second, I thought it was a sick joke. But then I recognised the picture of Ben in our bathroom and I nearly threw up.
Everything slotted into place. All the time he'd spent on the computer, the distance between us...
At first, the fact he was cheating was the biggest blow, not that he was bisexual or gay. I threw the letter at him, demanding an explanation. I waited for him to be furious about the allegations.
Eventually he spoke. 'My mum's going to go mad,' he said quietly.
No denials. No surprise. Ben wasn't upset. If anything, he looked relieved.
Pure shock enabled me to stay calm as Ben confessed he'd only been having these feelings for a few months and had slept with just one man. He admitted he was probably bisexual.
I shut down completely. So many thoughts were racing through my mind. The main one was my health.
'I used a condom,' Ben insisted.
As Ben skulked away to the spare bedroom, the enormity of his confession started to sink in. I cried over his betrayal and his lack of respect for me - bringing a man into our home. I was broken.
The next day, I went for an HIV test at a clinic. Although I believed that Ben had been careful, I needed reassurance for my own peace of mind. The nurse said the results would take three months.
Numb and humiliated, I went to see a divorce lawyer. I started looking at every man, wondering whether they'd slept with my husband.
Breaking the news to my friends and family, most admitted they weren't surprised. I felt so stupid. My instinct when we first met was that Ben was gay. I should have trusted my intuition.
Incredibly, Ben and I continued to live together, passing silently in the hallway. I clung on to the fact that he'd only started fancying men recently - that the rest of our marriage had meant something.
Then, a week later, a second letter arrived. This time, it contained copies of emails from Ben to another man. In them he talked about sleeping with several men in our home. He'd always known he was attracted to men, he wrote, adding; 'I don't pretend to justify what I'm doing - well let's face it, how can I!'
Blind rage kicked in. Our whole life together was completely fake.
I ran through the house, piling his clothes and half of everything we shared - from plates to candles - into suitcases.
When Ben got home, I told him about the latest letter. He couldn't deny the emails and he didn't even try.
'I've nowhere to go,' he said. But I didn't care. He was pathetic.
When he left, I opened a bottle of wine and drank until I couldn't stand. The next day, I tried to go to work to ask for time off, but I had a panic attack.
Was everyone talking about us? Did everyone think I knew? At home, I tortured myself, questioning whether I'd failed as a wife.
Soon, I felt anxious whenever I went outside. I didn't want to see friends, but I was on the phone to them constantly, talking it over and over.
The anxiety got worse and so did the depression as I struggled to come to terms with the fake life I'd been living.
In the end, my mind just snapped. I'd been signed off work and I had a nervous breakdown.
Downing wine was the only way I could stop myself replaying the past in my mind. Had Ben ever really loved me? Maybe I was just a project for him - an ugly duckling to turn into a swan. Someone 'acceptable' enough to be on his arm. The fact that he'd never begged me to take him back spoke volumes.
For a while, I actually felt sorry for Ben. I hated to think of the man I loved in such turmoil. But he seemed more interested in how our money would be divided up if we divorced.
Three months later, my HIV test came back negative. Although I'd not been in any danger, the relief was overwhelming. The results gave me the closure I needed to move on.
I finally felt strong enough to draw a line under what had happened. I couldn't let it destroy me. Ben and I divorced on the grounds of his unreasonable behaviour. He's never once said sorry.
The real hurt was not that he cheated on me with men. It was that he lied and betrayed my love and trust.
I moved to Cornwall, setting up a business in an alternative therapy called kinesiology. Eventually I felt strong enough to date again.
I've been seeing a new man, singer Tony King, 40, for a year, but I found it very hard learning to trust again.
Ben's betrayal taught me so much about myself. He was happy to live a lie. I'm not. And I won't beat myself up for trusting the man I loved.
I'm moving on, and that makes me stronger than Ben will ever be."
Fabulous asked Ben to comment, but he declined.
Relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam says:
"People like Ben who juggle double lives will find it very hard to be happy in either existence. Once their secret is revealed, they may actually feel relieved that the pressure has been removed.
Those who lead double lives always do so because they're afraid that what they want or who they are isn't acceptable. They put on a front of a 'normal' life to hide their behaviour because they don't want to be disapproved of or hurt others - but, of course, they just hurt other people even more in the process.
Ben had compartmentalised his life, being homosexual in one part and heterosexual in another. He will have had fears he wouldn't be accepted in society if he was gay and may well have ended up in a heterosexual relationship with Nicky to try to convince himself he was straight.
Once immersed in a double life, you often start to believe that your secret will never be exposed because you keep both parts so separate.
What Ben did was inexcusable, but it takes a huge amount of bravery to come out and Ben simply didn't have the courage to be that honest."
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