“Get rid of the porn, stay away from prostitutes and stay with your wife,” warns Gauteng man Cobus van Wyk*
He says he wanted to give a young prostitute a new life but after she’d strung him along for more than two years, she told him she wanted to keep being a sex worker.
“My family’s been destroyed. My loved ones and friends don’t want to have anything to do with me.”
Cobus says he’s too heartbroken to go back to work. He’s considered suicide but he’s concerned for the mental state of his 57-year-old wife, to whom he’s been married to for nearly 40 years, most of them good.
“I’m living with her until the divorce has been finalised to make sure she doesn’t do something [to harm herself]. She’s a strong person but it hit her really hard when I told her all about Charmaine*.”
YOU interviewed Cobus (64), who lives in Pretoria, telephonically. He says the 1990's movie Pretty Woman is nothing more than romantic fiction.
“I doubt you’ll stay married for even a year to a woman who’s worked in the sex industry. Just like [the character played by] Richard Gere, I thought I’d make my [character played by] Julia Roberts part of my future, but it didn’t work out like that,” he says.
Even now, since he’s decided to win his wife back, he’s struggling to stay away from Charmaine. “To be honest, I SMSed her on Monday – it was her birthday,” he reveals. “Yesterday she phoned and asked me to sign for a flat so she could get away from the drugs and prostitution.”
Charmaine is 33 years old and has a 7-year-old son. She used to tell Cobus she wanted to marry him so he could put a property in her name.
Fortunately for him, in the past few months Cobus cottoned on to what was really going on. Complete strangers called Cobus, who’s a consultant in communication networks, to warn him that Charmaine was using him for his money. Even Charmaine’s sister, who’s also a sex worker, told him to leave her.
“I suppose I can delete her number from my phone and my profile from the escort website. But how do I delete her from my head?” In the past two-and-a-half years he’s really come to love her. “I was ready to leave my wife and have a life with Charmaine.”
But his wife loves him too much to just let him go. In the nearly four decades of their marriage he’s had to travel a lot for work.
“At first I kept busy in the evenings by doing course,” he recalls. But then he started visiting porn websites. “Periods spent away from home felt longer and longer. I started visiting escort websites, chatting to the escorts to find out how far they’d be willing to travel.
“Most of the time I would be in far-flung places but sometimes I’d be in a city.” He started chatting online with Charmaine. They were open with each other and it sounded to him as if she wanted to get away from the sex industry for her son’s sake.
They first met face-to-face in January 2015 in Cape Town, where she lives. “The first time I saw her, I didn’t think she looked like a wh***,” he recalls.
“Why are you in this business?” he asked her.
“Do you believe in the Lord?” she countered.
“Not when I look at you, knowing what you do,” he answered.
After that they regularly SMSed each other and whenever Cobus was in Cape Town, they’d try and meet up. “There was more conversation than sex,” he says.
She told him about her difficult life, telling him that when she was 16 she was raped and her family threw her out of the house. Years later, her mother moved in with her and her son, who’s never been to school, and Charmaine was the breadwinner. “I know they’re struggling because I’ve been to where they live,” Cobus says.
When she asked, he gave her money so that she didn’t have to work as an escort.
“She told me she loves me and doesn’t want to be what she is. I wanted to turn her life around, but instead she turned mine into a mess,” he adds.
His wife confronted him about the affair more than a year ago. “Who’s this woman in the Cape?” she asked him. His wife says she found out about it because she’d asked someone to keep an eye on him but he believes someone saw him with Charmaine on one of the few times she’d been to Johannesburg.
“I thought my wife would be able to handle it because I worked away from home so often. We were living separate lives. But she’s struggling to cope with it. She must still love me.
“My kids are also drifting away. I understand that.
“My wife and I are willing to work on our marriage. We’re even talking about going away to an island somewhere to try and find each other again.”
He’s consumed with self-blame, hate, rejection, thoughts of revenge and a variety of other feelings. He’s been to see a psychologist, a reverend and a pastor – all three urged him to break his ties with Charmaine and focus on his relationship with his wife and children.
“I’ve heard she’s involved with a drug addict. I’ve offered to pay for rehab for her but she’s repeatedly shown she’s not prepared to leave behind her old life.”
When she was arrested for theft, Cobus paid for her advocate. He’s now withdrawn his help. He told her he’d help her again if she removed her ad from the escort website but three weeks ago he saw the ad was back.
“Please, sir, I’m asking you: Don’t destroy your wife and children for the sake of someone who heartlessly uses you by saying how hard her life is and that she doesn’t want to be what she is,” is Cobus’ warning to men. “If you feel sorry for them and start loving them, it’ll turn you into a monster you don’t want to be. Because they’ll use you to get drugs and everything they want – and then she’ll throw you aside.”
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