Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I have been married for nearly 10 years to a very wonderful man. He's a hard worker, loyal, kind, a good father and extremely dependable. If I had to think of any criticism of our marriage, it's that it's been very even-keeled and maybe lacked some of that crazy passion. But we love each other, and still have regular intimacy — which is more than I can say for many friends who've been in relationships this long. For nearly half of our marriage, he has worked a shift schedule where he is away about half the time in the field on job sites around Alaska. It isn't ideal, but we've made it work.
I do get lonely when he's gone, and with relatively young kids at home, I can't exactly go out and socialize, so I spend a lot of time online being social that way. And recently, I reconnected with a college boyfriend, "Andrew." Andrew and I had a brief but intense relationship back in our early 20s. He is someone I've thought about over the years and wondered how things might have been different if we had stayed together.
After initially accepting Andrew's friend request, and liking and commenting on some of each other's posts, he messaged me. He caught me up on his life and asked about mine. I told him about my husband, our children, our life in Alaska. I thought that would be the extent of it. But he's kept messaging … and I have kept replying. Our talk is completely above board. We don't flirt, we don't bash our spouses, we don't reminisce even. It's just small talk mostly, about what kind of day we're having, about parenting problems.
Here's the problem: I haven't told my husband that Andrew and I are talking. I am actually not even sure if I've ever told him about Andrew, period. Now I feel like this online friendship has accelerated and it's too late to say anything because it will seem like I've been hiding something and that was never the intent. What can I do?
If it feels like you're hiding something it's because you are, which is the opposite of "above board." And frankly, it doesn't matter if your conversations with Andrew are platonic and PG. It's almost worse that you're sharing "how was your day, dear" basics — the kind of casual, frequent interactions you should really save for your husband.
Look, I get it: when our partners are away, there are many aspects of loneliness to grapple with, from falling asleep alone every night, to not having a teammate to turn to for basic household tasks, child-rearing or daily needs. But turning to a past lover for support — secret support at that — is completely inappropriate and even a form of infidelity.
What amounts to "cheating" these days is often up for debate, and there are so many ways to be emotionally unfaithful. And guess what: you're doing it. You are emotionally involving yourself with someone, secretly and consistently, and you're struggling with it because you realize it's completely wrong. What if the tables were turned, and you learned your husband was chatting daily with a past love? You would feel hurt, jealous and betrayed, among so many other things. Is destroying the trust you've built with your spouse really worth a daily dose of ego-boosting small talk? You're putting your relationship at tremendous risk if you continue to talk with Andrew.
So there's your answer. The question here is not how to tell your husband about your chat buddy, it's to cease and desist messaging with this former flame. Put out the fire now before it burns down your house.
Word to Wanda. Delete your account before you delete your marriage!
Since Wanda has covered all the aspects of why you are, in fact, cheating; why you should not, in fact, say a word about it to anyone; and why you should, in fact, stop what you're doing immediately … I'll lay down a roadmap of how you can salvage this situation and your self-respect.
I'm going to assume that you are truly committed to your husband and your relationship, despite your online wandering. So, if the problem is truly loneliness, the answer is filling your time in positive ways.
You can volunteer at your children's schools or at their extracurricular events, or dedicate your time to a community organization you care about.
You can dedicate more time to your friends and family — play dates with moms and kids, moms' nights out without the kids, house parties, road trips.
You can exercise your brain and register for some classes — online, in person, one-offs, full-on semesters. Homework is a great way to burn away a lot of your free time.
Of course, these options fill your time but can never fill the space of not having a partner at your side. So if your loneliness is a hurdle that you don't think you can clear, it's time to work with your husband to get him closer to home. I'm guessing he misses you and the young children terribly, as well. And, obviously, it would be great for the kids to have their father around full time.
So after he gets settled back at home during his next break, have the talk. Is this move something that everyone wants? If so, can he find a job in his trade based in town? If the answers are yes, you now have a new way to spend your free time: helping your husband land that new job.
Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.