Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I desperately need advice. Recently my husband has been distant and distracted. This in itself isn't unprecedented. We've been married for 12 years and have kids. Dry spells happen. This has lasted for a while though, and I'm embarrassed and a little ashamed to admit that on a recent night after everyone was in bed, I went through his phone.
What I found shocked me. It appears for several months, my husband has been texting with a woman whose name I recognize as his high school girlfriend. The texts started out innocent enough but as time went on, they got increasingly flirtatious. They started admitting to having lingering feelings. He started using emojis like hearts and the stupid kissy face. They talked about missing each other and meeting up in person. Then, my husband did a 180. He told her he needed to stop texting her. That he felt guilty and he loves me and the kids. She asked if he was sure. He said yes. And as far as I could tell, that's when the texts ended.
But now what? I feel like he cheated. Did he? I want to confront him but then I have to admit I snooped through his phone. Part of me thinks I should be grateful all he did was text her and I should forget and move on. But wasn't he unfaithful, in a way, and shouldn't I address it? I don't know what to do. Please help.
What technically defines cheating has gotten murkier in recent years. Some purists will insist it's only infidelity when physical lines are crossed. I disagree. Certainly that counts, but it's also undeniably disloyal when we find out a partner is forging emotional, sexual connections with someone else. Simply put: yes, no question, he cheated.
You're doubting whether to speak up because, after all, he stopped things. But did he? I don't want to sound completely paranoid here, but if it's done, why did he keep the texts? Are you sure he isn't using a safer or secret platform for communication? Don't rule it out. There are all kinds of tricky tech tools that enable infidelity — like Private Photo, an app that looks like a calculator icon but is really a password-protected photo repository. Ick.
I know you feel like you betrayed him for swiping his phone and snooping but women's intuition wins again and it turns out your fears were justified. So cut yourself some slack. The worst thing here isn't that you read his texts; it's that he had an emotional affair and still hadn't told you about it. Sadly, unless you get to the root of the issue, he will likely do it again. So you have a choice: admit you invaded his privacy but demand you work through his reasons for emotionally straying, or stay silent, and enable a painful repeat of the past.
Wanda and Wayne: Boldly exploring the gray areas of someone else exploring the gray areas of their partner's explorations! To infidelity and beyond!
Look, you're both wrong. He broke your trust by communicating and concealing that communication with an old friend. You broke his trust by breaking into his phone. Is one breach of trust worse than the other? More debatable gray area!
You're also both bored out of your minds. He's looking elsewhere for attention. You're looking into his phone for reasons why your relationship flatlining.
Instead of wondering why your relationship is stuck in a rut and worrying about what your husband is up to, take charge and try to make things better. The current climate is distant and disinterested? OK, dump a big bucket of togetherness on the dry spell. Plan a surprise weekend away for just you two, ASAP. Schedule weekly business lunch dates so you can talk like adults about your work lives and connect during times you're usually stressed and apart. Arrange weekly after-work walks/hikes with the kids and dogs to break up the usual routine. Tell the kids they're in charge of dinner once a week, even if it's ordering Thai food with your credit card, so you and your husband can relax together after work and bond as you both laugh at the kids struggling not to burn down the house.
And seriously consider couples counseling. This doesn't have to be driven by suspicions and mistakes. Approach it as an opportunity to improve your communication and connection, and to work hard together to strengthen and improve your relationship and partnership. No gray area there!
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