Ask Carrie Fisher: my husband has been seeing prostitutes. Can I trust him again?

The Star Wars actor responds to a woman who recently discovered that her husband of 30 years has been seeing prostitutes since before they were married

Carrie Fisher: ‘But no one can be everything to everyone. It’s a lot of time to spend with someone, 30 years – more than half a life.’
Carrie Fisher: ‘But no one can be everything to everyone. It’s a lot of time to spend with someone, 30 years – more than half a life.’ Photograph: Alex Berliner/BEI/Rex Features

Dear Carrie,

I’m a woman in mid 50s, two kids older than 18 (one launched), and have been married for 30 years to a man who, I recently discovered, has been seeing prostitutes since before we were married, at the rate of about every other month (“But not all the time!” he says – I would estimate about 100 during the course of our marriage). We are seeing counselors, both separately and together, and trying to make it work. I know I have every right to walk out in high dudgeon, but the facts remain – I am not financially independent. He is in many ways a good partner. I did love him like crazy. We have built a lot of life together. But on the other hand, he lied, lied and lied. I can forgive the fucking around, but the lying is difficult. And even with therapy, I don’t have reassurance that he will understand that lying is wrong. It’s like having a really sweet dog who doesn’t understand that peeing on the carpet is a no-go. But with the dog, at least I can go out and form relationships with other animals. I have so much invested at this point, and I am stubborn about giving up. But that stubbornness sometimes only allows me to see the exit signs in the rear-view mirror. I am at a loss as to what I would gain or lose by staying or going. If I leave, I will have no reason to keep his secrets, and he will lose his kids and a lot of his family. I feel bad about that, even if it’s not my fault. But on the other hand, maybe he needs some of those natural consequences to give him a kick in the pants. Having lived a well-experienced life, what are your thoughts?

It’s difficult to know what to say to someone whose partner has cheated on them. You write about how your husband lying to you is worse than his being with the prostitutes – and I know what you mean. It’s also the feeling that one has been a disappointment somehow – not enough. But no one can be everything to everyone. It’s a lot of time to spend with someone, 30 years – more than half a life.

And you’ve had children together – made people – combinations of you both – something like forever mixed into two beings. But the lying. It is a big thing. My question to you is – has he lied to you about other things? Can you believe him now when he says he hasn’t?

If you do believe that this is the “only” thing he lied about, then maybe there’s something to be salvaged. Everyone always lies about sex. If you haven’t lied about it, it isn’t sex. Have you ever faked an orgasm? Some might say that’s a kind of well-meaning lie – but it’s still lying, no?

His lying about the prostitutes shows you that he’s ashamed of his behavior. He didn’t want to hurt you. None of this justifies his behavior, but it explains it – superficially at least. You’ve been together a long time. I think it’s worth maintaining your marriage. Forgive him. It’s the most amazing thing to be able to forgive. And so difficult. But relationships are difficult. You’ve managed to maintain your commitment to him. You’re the better person in that arena and in the position to forgive. Resentment, on the other hand, is a toxic experience. Superior and final – and when you walk away, what have you got?

You’re already doing the right thing – seeking help, in the way of therapy – and even me – yay! I’ve not managed to sustain a relationship and in many ways I wish I had. There is no true bottom line for this question – there are many. You know what I think? It sounds like it’s similar to what you think based on the actions you’ve already taken. He needs to prove he’s ready to stop hanging around with hookers. You need to be able to punish him for as long as you may have already and then no more. But he has more to prove than you do. I want him to send you a present or get you flowers. If he doesn’t, I will. You’re a good gal and don’t deserve this. I’m proud of you for taking the long road and not the easiest and fastest. You’ve already proven you can go the distance. It might get easier as you go – it might not. It sounds like it’s worth trying. In which case we all owe you a present. Post me your address and see what you get. A stone, a leaf, an unfound door, some cliché flowers or perfume and a dress. Keep in touch. Good luck, and keep up with the gusto. I’m cheering.


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