My Husband Is Seeking Out An Old Flame—Should I Talk To Him About It?

My Husband Is Seeking Out An Old Flame—Should I Talk To Him About It?

My husband and I just recently got married. We pushed our marriage date up 5 months because not only did we find out we were expecting but he was going to be accepting a new job out of state, and we had to move before our wedding date. Lots of changes in just a few short months.

Things have been great up until I saw accidentally that he was searching for a former flame on Google on his cell phone her name was the last thing in the Google search, and when he handed me his phone to look something up it popped up, yet I was too scared to say anything just had a gut wrenching feeling. The reason this bothered me so much was because just a year and a half prior to this incident I caught him sending suggestive/flirty text messages – also him suggesting they should meet up, and of course she responded with great joy!

Now after some coaxing he admitted to it, felt guilty, and I put my foot down he could no longer talk to her. They never dated, and she’s about 8 years his junior. She was casually hooking up with him right around the time I met him – she seems to be the girl he just can’t shake!

After all that we got back on track and our relationship was as solid as ever. He even told me although he admitted to being very nervous to when she texted him 6 months after the original incident. He showed me the texts, and he explained to her that he couldn’t talk to her which she replied in a bitchy manner “say hi to your girlfriend.” You could tell she was hurt and that he felt bad, but I praised him for his honesty and loyalty.

My question is WHY her? Why now? Does he truly wish to be with her, what’s so special about this girl that he has to look her up and think about her, he isn’t concerned AT ALL with his former girlfriend whom he actually dated, what makes this girl so special and should I bring it up to him?
–Laura

I’m SO glad you wrote to me before you fucked up your marriage.

Since I have been with my wife – somewhere going on 6 1/2 years now – I have looked up EVERY SINGLE GIRLFRIEND I’ve ever had on Google.

You’re making a mountain out of a molehill and I see no indication that you have any doubts about your conclusions. In your mind, your husband looked up a woman on Google and therefore your relationship is in danger.

In my mind, he looked up a woman because he was curious about her. End of story.

Confession: Since I have been with my wife – somewhere going on 6 1/2 years now – I have looked up EVERY SINGLE GIRLFRIEND I’ve ever had on Google.

What does this “mean”, Laura?

Does it mean that I long to be in ALL of those bad relationships (even the toxic ones that I write about continually in this space)?

Does it mean that I’m dissatisfied in my current relationship (even though I have an idyllic marriage that I regularly cite in my coaching)?

Does it mean that all of those exes are special to me in a way that my wife is not? (even though I haven’t talked to any those exes in many years)?

No. No. And No.

It means I sit in front of a computer for 10 hours a day, random thoughts pop into my head, and Google is a pretty useful tool for indulging such flights of fancy.

It’s interesting that you go to the worst-case scenario first. This says far more about your self-esteem, your insecurity, and your lack of trust in your husband than it does about your husband’s actual actions. As I’ve said a million times before, you shouldn’t marry someone that you don’t trust, but if you DO marry him, you’d BETTER trust him.

Your husband may be in possession of Pandora’s Box, but unless he is currently making extracurricular plans with women in his past, he hasn’t actually opened it.

I know this “incident” is playing tricks on your mind. Chances are, you’ve already looked through his cell phone and browser history. Hell, you’ve probably already broken down and told him the damning evidence you’ve found.

If you did the same thing to me – if you presented me with evidence I looked up my ex on Google, I would just shrug and say, “So?”

So, I was curious where she was living.
So, I was curious what she looked like.
So, I was curious whether she was married with children.

So fucking what?

Your husband may be in possession of Pandora’s Box, but unless he is currently making extracurricular plans with women in his past, he hasn’t actually opened it.

If I were you, I’d just leave this one alone – forever.

And maybe check your own browser or Facebook history to see if you’ve ever looked up any men from your past. I’d be shocked if you didn’t. But even if you didn’t, please accept that thinking about something and doing something are far different acts.

Once you start playing thought police with your husband, your relationship is on an irreversibly downward spiral. He is allowed to look up old girlfriends, he is allowed to wish you were thinner, he is allowed to think in his head that he has no patience to hear your long, meandering story about your girlfriend’s dog.

The only crime would be acting on these impulses.

Your email to me, Heather, was based on nothing more than seeing a woman’s name in a search engine. Not only is there no smoke, but there’s no fire. If you really want to take your relationship to a higher place, go tell your husband that you no longer “forbid” him to talk to this woman.

I predict that will make him feel 1000 times better about your relationship than your unfounded paranoia about his search history.

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Comments:

  1. 31
    Fusee

    Disclaimer 1: I also occasionally google one of my exes. Especially that one guy whose life journey has become fascinating and all over google for everyone to see: arrest during one of the occupy demonstration, recent downgrade (upgrade??) of his long-term relationship with a sweet girl to “open” with a very public online dating profile to find new dates, etc. I obviously have zero interest in interacting with that person and continue to congratulate myself for having ended the relationship many years ago, and yet it’s fun to see what’s new : )
     
    Disclaimer 2: on the cool-ness spectrum, I don’t rank very high. If 10 is super cool like Evan’s wife, and 1 is super uncool like some previous commenters, I may be at 3.5/4. Basically I’m not into flirting while in a relationship, I’m not into maintening very close friendships with the other gender while in a relationship, and I’m not into reconnecting/responding to invitations from exes while in a relationship. But I’m fine with the occasional lunch with the opposite-gender friend, and with some good porn of course : )
     
    Despite my lack of cool-ness, I am naturally trusting and forgiving. Easy, I’ve never been deceived, cheated on, or mistreated. That helps. I also have a good guy-dar as Karmic Equation would call it. The one guy I occasionally google was the one who annoyed me the most, with his tendency to be touchy-feely with his female friends. And even then I was tolerating it because I trusted him and knew he would not cross the line. He never did by the way, but his actions were clearly matching his lack of feelings towards me. All the signs are always there to see!
     
    However, many many years ago I found myself on the other side, the one where I was not fulfilled in my long-term relationship (and yet not self-aware/brave enough to reach the obvious conclusion), surrounded by guy friends who were waiting for their opportunity, and having a tendency to drink alcohol on a regular basis. Under those conditions, it takes tremendous self-control and self-awareness to not cross the line. Qualities that if possessed would result in abstaining from putting oneself in such a ridiculous situation in the first place (unfulfilling relationship + hanging out with guys who are interested + alcohol). Despite my immaturity at the time I never crossed the line because I am loyal and come from a family broken by infedility, but that was close, and I was not proud of myself at the time for having put myself in that situation. Suffice to say I changed my behavior and made sure I would never again end up in such scenario, starting by not staying in a relationship past its expiration date.
     
    This being said, I do not conclude form this letter that the Letter Writer is bothered by the googling itself. What seems to trouble her is the fact that there is a history of crossing the line with the same person. There was a breach of trust which was repaired by what seems to be a mutual agreement to stop contact, and this googling episode is obviously not helping.
     
    I’m tired of reading about women who have done nothing wrong being called “unsecure, having low self-esteem, and not trusting” when instead they forgave their man’s lack of judgement, and worked at repairing a trust that was broken by their partner. If you are paranoid for no reason, and if it defines your perception of yourself, that’s unsecure and yes, it’s having low self-esteem. If someone breaks your trust, that’s a whole different story.
     
    Now, Letter Writer, I agree with other commenters: the best approach would be to talk with your husband and express your feelings to him. It would be more effective than asking advice from strangers who do not know the details and speculate from the the little that is written. Honest communication is always the best strategy.

  2. 32
    Karl R

    Wendy asked: (#28)
    “You think it’s better to dump somebody who hasn’t even done anything wrong than to give someone the benefit of the doubt UNTIL they do something wrong? Someone who may NEVER do anything wrong? That seems a bit screwed up to me.”
     
    Of course I’d dump someone who hasn’t done anything wrong. I dumped one woman because she let work consume her life. I dumped another because she was too immature for me (largely due to the fact that she was much younger than me). I dumped another because I just didn’t enjoy spending time with her. I dumped another because we weren’t compatible when it came to physical intimacy.
     
    None of them did anything wrong.
     
    In a couple cases, I thought they were wonderful women, but I thought we’d have a lousy relationship together. And if I think we’ll have a lousy relationship together, that’s the only excuse I need to break up.
     
    To me, it seems more screwed up to stay in a lousy relationship just because the other person hasn’t done something that’s clearly “wrong”.
     
    Wendy asked: (#28)
    “A little snooping on your part, IF she was giving you a reason to snoop, would have answered the question of whether she was trustworthy or not. If you don’t find anything, she is.”
     
    So if you snoop on your boyfriend, and you don’t find anything, he has to be trustworthy? Unless you’re the world’s greatest detective, it might mean that his ability to hide his affairs exceeds your ability to discover them.
     
    That reminds me of the time a police officer frisked me looking for weapons. He didn’t find any. I must have been unarmed, correct?
     
    Somehow the police officer managed to overlook the knife I was carrying in my pocket. I carried it for protection, so it was designed as a weapon, not a tool. It was legal to carry the knife in that jurisdiction, even though it had a 5″ blade. But it was large enough that the police officer should have noticed it and taken it for a closer examination.
     
    If a trained and experienced police officer can miss something as obvious as a large knife during a blatant, hand-on frisk, I think you may be able to overlook more subtle clues during your snooping. It just depends on how hard your boyfriend/husband tried to hide his cheating.
     
    You’re not Sherlock Holmes. I’m not Sherlock Holmes. Trust is a choice.
     
    Wendy said: (#28)
    “Sorry, but I would rather NOT waste years of my life living a lie.”
     
    When my girlfriend cheated on me, I wasn’t living a lie. She was. And until she came clean about what she did, living a lie ate her up on the inside.
     
    I don’t see the time I spent in that relationship as being a waste either. I learned a lot (about myself, about relationships). I grew as a person. Overall it was a positive experience, colored by a negative ending.
     
    Wendy said: (#28)
    “If you don’t care that your wife is doing your best friend and the whole town knows about it, that’s your choice.”
     
    Somehow, I’ve managed to surround myself with people who have integrity. My best friends wouldn’t hit on my wife. If they thought she was hitting on them, they’d express their concerns. If she thought one of them was hitting on her, she’d express her concerns. If either one of us cheated on the other, the cheater would lose the respect of our mutual friends.
     
    The scenario you mentioned can only occur if you’ve surrounded yourself with people who lack integrity.
     
    When that girlfriend cheated, one of her friends convinced her that she either needed to come clean or break up with me. He didn’t do that for my benefit. He did that for hers.
     
    Surround yourself with people who have integrity. Date people who do the same thing.
     
    Wendy said: (#28)
    “Scenario: Boyfriend gets home late again from his hourly job reeking of perfume and no overtime pay to show for it.”
     
    If your boyfriend “works late” at his hourly job but has no extra money to show for his efforts, it means one of two things:
    1. He’s concealing what he’s doing with his time.
    2. He’s concealing what he’s doing with his money.
     
    When you get married, you become partially responsible for your spouse’s financial situation. Furthermore, financial issues are one of the top causes for divorces.
     
    You’ve spelled out a scenario where you know something is going on, and your boyfriend isn’t willing to talk to you about the issue. Who cares whether it’s option 1 or 2? Both options are bad.
     
    Trust issues, communication issues, possible financial issues and possible infidelity … Why would you want to stay involved long enough to snoop on this man?
     
    Wendy said: (#28)
    “What we’re saying is that when you have a partner who suddenly starts exhibiting the tell-tale signs (which you wouldn’t be even remotely aware of if you were so blinded by your complete trust in that person), then I’d say you have every right to start looking for evidence so you can get the hell out and move on with your life.”
     
    Top Signs of Infidelity (beginning with the most significant):
    1. Becomes emotionally distant.
    2. Becomes angry, critical and even cruel.
    3. Becomes controlling and complains about “control”.
    4. Increases working hours.
    5. The faithful partner is ill.
    6. Begins paying extra attention to appearance.
    7. Develops more energy and zeal for life.
    8. Becomes inappropriately defensive.
    9. Becomes extra flirtatious with opposite sex.
    10. Becomes obsessed with privacy.
    11. Sex life begins to change (better or worse).
    12. Stops wearing the wedding ring.
    13. Gets caught lying.
     
    Numbers 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 13 and maybe 11 are all major problems even if there is no affair. Numbers 4, 5 and 12 could also be issues even in the absence of an affair.
     
    If you’re seeing the tell-tale signs, there’s already a problem. Why do you need to snoop and discover evidence of infidelity before you act upon it?
     
    At the very least, don’t you think the tell-tale signs provide enough reason to see a marriage counselor together?

  3. 33
    Yuri

    This post made me curious about my exes, so I went on a Google spree.  Two of them are fat and married now.  Good for them.  Really doesn’t change how I feel about my current boyfriend nor does it make me more interested in my prior boyfriends.  I don’t think Googling your exes is cause for concern.
     
    As for flirty text messages one year ago, it’s a bit late to enforce a punishment on a prior indiscretion.  She should have dealt with that burden when the wounds were fresh.  She’s rehashing it now because she is suspicious. That means she never truly dealt with it to begin with.  Sounds like a compounding trust issue.  Those are dangerous.  You either trust him or you don’t.  There is no middle ground with trust.  At this point, the whole being married and having a kid phase, you should know whether you trust him or not.

  4. 34
    starthrower68

    If I had been in a relationship with this guy, I’d have taken myself out of the equation when he sent the flirty, suggestive texts when they were just dating.  No accusations, no drama, no emotion.  I would have just exited gracefully before it ever got to marriage.  Now that she is married to and having a child with this guy, she’s kind of stuck.  

  5. 35
    SAL9000

    In the greater compendium of contact with exes since the dawn of widespread social media and smartphone ownership (~6 years ago) all told on average I’m gonna say that more often than not it doesn’t bode well for a current relationship.

  6. 36
    Clare

    Karl R,
     
    I love your posts to Wendy.
     
    And you are ABSOLUTELY correct about choosing trust and about snooping.
     
    In a previous life, that I’m not proud of, I snooped on my boyfriend. I found an e-mail sent to him by a friend with the subject line “You do not know it yet but amazing girl is writing to you”.  He had replied to this email with something like “sounds good ;)”.  This ate me up for days.  It upset me terribly. 
     
    Until, a few days later, he forwarded me this e-mail.  It was one of these badly written spam e-mails that he found funny.  I can’t tell you how relieved I was that I didn’t say anything, but it completely opened my eyes about how what you think of as “evidence” can be totally misinterpreted.
     
    I don’t snoop anymore.  It simply breeds more snooping and mistrust. I CHOOSE trust.  And I choose to believe that I have a good, loving relationship.  And that if that ever changes, there will be signs that I won’t have to resort to snooping to see.

  7. 37
    Wendy

    @KarlR #32: I can’t believe I have to clarify what I said because you TOTALLY misunderstood what I was saying. But–ok.
     
    “Of course I’d dump someone who hasn’t done anything wrong. I dumped one woman because she let work consume her life. I dumped another because she was too immature for me (largely due to the fact that she was much younger than me). I dumped another because I just didn’t enjoy spending time with her. I dumped another because we weren’t compatible when it came to physical intimacy.”
     
    Yes, we ALL get out of relationships that aren’t working for us in some way or another. What I meant was (listen carefully, please), if your relationship is awesome and you’re compatible in every way, why would you dump someone you merely SUSPECT is CHEATING when you have no PROOF of that SPECIFIC issue? I guess you think we should incarcerate everyone we SUSPECT is dealing drugs or murdering folks with no PROOF, too.
     
    “To me, it seems more screwed up to stay in a lousy relationship just because the other person hasn’t done something that’s clearly ‘wrong’.”
     
    I was defining “wrong” as it relates to “cheating” in this particular case. That’s why I look for evidence…so I DON’T have to stay in a lousy relationship. Again, a simple point you missed.
     
    “So if you snoop on your boyfriend, and you don’t find anything, he has to be trustworthy? Unless you’re the world’s greatest detective, it might mean that his ability to hide his affairs exceeds your ability to discover them.”
     
    I didn’t say if I don’t find evidence of my BF’s/husband’s affair that it proves he’s not having one, it simply means that it puts me in a position to have to trust he’s not based on the lack of evidence, JUST LIKE YOU ARE because you haven’t snooped. You and I are in the EXACT SAME POSITION when there is no evidence in front of us, whether we looked for it or not. The difference between us is that if you don’t look for it, you may not know for YEARS that your partner is cheating on you. I get to find out right away and can happily move on with my life while I still have time to meet someone decent.
     
    “Somehow, I’ve managed to surround myself with people who have integrity. My best friends wouldn’t hit on my wife. If they thought she was hitting on them, they’d express their concerns. If she thought one of them was hitting on her, she’d express her concerns. If either one of us cheated on the other, the cheater would lose the respect of our mutual friends.”
     
    Absolutely the funniest thing I’ve heard in along time. People with “integrity” are only virtuous until they slip, and it happens EVERY DAY. To think you are immune is hilarious. Have you honestly NEVER in your life heard about someone’s affair and thought, “Wow! I would never have thought s/he was capable of that?” People are only human, and as we’ve been taught so well on this blog casual sex means nothing–it’s just a bodily function like eating a sandwich or taking a crap–so what’s the harm if no one’s going to find out? Well, sometimes people DO get found out. And then you have to pick up the pieces of your life, blindsided once again by the unexpected lack of integrity of the people you surround yourself with.
     
    “Trust issues, communication issues, possible financial issues and possible infidelity … Why would you want to stay involved long enough to snoop on this man?”
     
    Because you tell me to trust him 100%, that’s why I’m supposed to stay with this lying loser. I have no proof that he’s doing anything wrong, only my suspicions, which according to you, I’m not allowed to act upon. So I’ll wait around few years, missing out on opportunities to better myself, until he finally decides he’s met someone else. That gives him all the power. Not cool in my book.
     
    “If you’re seeing the tell-tale signs, there’s already a problem. Why do you need to snoop and discover evidence of infidelity before you act upon it?”
     
    Because the EVIDENCE netted me $700 in alimony for the REST OF MY LIFE. 
     
    I caught my current boyfriend communicating with an old lover who had looked him up “out of curiosity.” They were passing flirty commentary back and forth on Facebook and planning a meetup in her hometown an hour away. I wasn’t even snooping for it because I didn’t feel I had a reason to mistrust him at that point but he’d used my laptop the night before and hadn’t signed out, so when I went to log in to my FB page, up came his messages. Yes, I could have closed the page and never read them and would probably be living a delusional life while this guy was “having a sandwich or taking a crap” with this chick behind my back every Friday (he’s off work, I’m not). When I asked him what was going on, it was a wake up call for him. I nipped something in the bud rather than waiting for my life to fall apart on me without my knowledge. You see, most people would agree that knowledge is empowering. Being presented with the evidence instead of just an accusation forced him to decide whether he wanted to be with me or her because I made it clear it wouldn’t be both of us. He chose me, and he knows I occasionally check up on him. It keeps him honest and us happy. Oh, and for the record, he checks up on me, too, and I don’t care because I’m not doing anything wrong. I think so many of you adopt the “no snooping” policy in your relationships because you want to make it easy on yourselves to fool around later if you want to–you know it will take a long time to get caught, if you ever do, because you believe the other person isn’t looking for evidence. 
     
    To the rest of you who say snooping breeds more snooping and mistrust, I don’t know what you’re doing wrong but I have ALWAYS felt better afterwards. I only do it when there are red flags and I need to answer that question: “Is there something going on I don’t know about?” It doesn’t consume my life, I’ve NEVER done it with most of the guys I’ve dated, and it’s ALWAYS made me feel better afterwards because I pretty much know immediately whether I need to move on (because I found something) or can relax (because I didn’t).
     
    Clare #36: “And I choose to believe that I have a good, loving relationship.”
     
    And I choose to believe I’ll win the lottery and don’t have to save for my retirement. So when I turn 72, I’ll call you and you can support me, ok? Hate to bust your bubble, but “choosing” to believe something doesn’t make it so. Oh, how I wish it did.

  8. 38
    Julia

    Wow Wendy, you sound like an incredibly angry person. Good luck with that, I can’t imagine why a man you are dating might ever contact another woman.

  9. 39
    Wendy

    Julia #38: If you knew me in real life, you’d know I’m a happy, well-adjusted person. I do, however, get angry at people such as KarlR who choose to live their lives with their fingers planted firmly in their ears, because I’m the one these people come crying to when they find out they were wrong. I get tired of being their shoulder when they should have known all along what was coming. Wake up and smell the damn coffee already!
     
    All I can say is, if ignorance is bliss then you all are living in the ultimate utopia so I guess maybe I should be envious. However, I prefer to live my life empowered by knowledge rather than in an oblivious state of false security. 

  10. 40
    starthrower68

    Wendy does raise a good point.  Guarding our hearts, not being used, lied to etc. Is our responsibility is it not?  At least that is what EMK advises women.  If we like what’s happening with a guy stay; if not leave him. No I’m not going to snoop on him when I see no reason to. But I will not ignore the red flags either, if they pop up. As I said no drama, fighting, accusations. Merely remove myself quietly with grace and dignity.  Why should he not have the freedom to chase after as many women as he wants?  The way I see it, if he wants to hook with an old flame, I’m doing him a favor by walking away.  Again though, marriage and a child change the equation a bit.

  11. 41
    Karl R

    Wendy said: (#37)
    “you tell me to trust him 100%, that’s why I’m supposed to stay with this lying loser. I have no proof that he’s doing anything wrong, only my suspicions, which according to you, I’m not allowed to act upon.”
     
    I didn’t say you had to trust this man 100%. I said, “Trust is a choice.” If you don’t trust him, you should act upon it by leaving. Your method (acting on it by snooping) ends up destroying the relationship. The end result is very similar to leaving, but it takes longer, its more painful to everyone involved, and it lacks integrity.
     
    Wendy said: (#37)
    “People with “integrity” are only virtuous until they slip, and it happens EVERY DAY.”
     
    So in other words, you suspect everyone.
     
    Would you date/marry someone who spent the entire relationship spying on you, waiting for the day you slip?
     
    I’d rather be single.
     
    Wendy said: (#37)
    “if your relationship is awesome and you’re compatible in every way, why would you dump someone you merely SUSPECT is CHEATING when you have no PROOF of that SPECIFIC issue?”
     
    If I suspect my wife/girlfriend of cheating, why would I think my relationship was awesome? Why would I think we’re compatible?
     
    Trust is one of the core components of compatibility. It’s also one of my minimum requirements for a relationship.
     
    Wendy said: (#37)
    “I guess you think we should incarcerate everyone we SUSPECT is dealing drugs or murdering folks with no PROOF, too.”
     
    Go read the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. People have the right to their freedom until they have been convicted of a crime based on proof.
     
    Being in a relationship is not a right. It’s a privilege. The other person has to want to be in the relationship with you. If they don’t (even if it’s because they have a suspicion with no proof), then the relationship is over.
     
    Wendy said: (#37)
    “I didn’t say if I don’t find evidence of my BF’s/husband’s affair that it proves he’s not having one, it simply means that it puts me in a position to have to trust he’s not based on the lack of evidence, JUST LIKE YOU ARE because you haven’t snooped. You and I are in the EXACT SAME POSITION when there is no evidence in front of us, whether we looked for it or not.”
     
    We’re not in the same position. We’re not even close to the same position.
     
    I realize that you don’t mind being snooped on. You’re in the minority on that. Almost everyone else does mind being snooped on, particularly when they’ve done nothing wrong. That’s why there’s a scandal about the NSA keeping track of everyone’s phone calls. (That’s an over-simplification of what the NSA is doing, but I’m discussing people’s perception, not current events.)
     
    Wendy said: (#37)
    “People are only human, and as we’ve been taught so well on this blog casual sex means nothing–it’s just a bodily function like eating a sandwich or taking a crap–so what’s the harm if no one’s going to find out?”
     
    My cheating ex-girlfriend already proved you wrong. She cheated. Even though I didn’t suspect anything, she knew had cheated. It ate her up inside.
     
    I’m absolutely certain that I could cheat on my wife without her catching me. But that’s irrelevant. If I cheat, I’ll know what I’ve done.
     
    Wendy said: (#37)
    “he knows I occasionally check up on him. It keeps him honest and us happy.”
     
    That’s not honesty. It keeps him cautious.
     
    Your boyfriend will eventually have an opportunity to cheat at a time and place where there is no opportunity for you to check up on him. If he was honest, that would have no effect on his behavior.
     
    I wouldn’t be happy in a relationship where my wife’s fidelity was proportional to my ability to monitor her. I wouldn’t be happy in a relationship with someone who felt my integrity was so questionable that it had to be routinely spot checked.
     
    But this discussion reminded me of an psychological study of the differences between people who cheat (in academics) and those who don’t. The cheaters overestimated the prevalence of cheating. The students who didn’t cheat underestimated the prevalence of cheating.
     
    You see cheaters everywhere. You think the rest of us are naive for trusting our partners and not snooping. Those are really big red flags. Good thing you don’t mind being snooped on.
     
    The reality of cheating tends to be more complex. Fusee’s example (#31) was a rather common scenario. A person who is in an unsatisfying/bad relationship ends up in a situation where cheating is easy and seems attractive.
     
    If you want to avoid being cheated on (or cheating yourself), put some maintenance into your relationship up front. If your relationship is going through a rough patch, avoid getting into compromising situations with attractive members of the opposite sex.
     
    Wendy said: (#37)
    “the EVIDENCE netted me $700 in alimony for the REST OF MY LIFE.”
     
    Spying to earn money makes sense. (Corporate espionage is based on that principle.) But if I get to that point, I’m leaving regardless of the evidence.
     
    If you had found no evidence, would you have happily stayed in that marriage?
     
    Spying won’t give you a happy or healthy relationship. But if you’re already planning to leave, I agree that it can make a divorce more profitable (or less costly).
     
    I certainly hope you meant to say that the alimony is $700 per week (or $700 per month). If he just paid you $700 total (or $700 per year), you would have been better off just leaving.
     
    Wendy said: (#37)
    “I do, however, get angry at people such as KarlR who choose to live their lives with their fingers planted firmly in their ears,”
     
    Interesting description. I’ve been cheated on before. I understand the tell-tale signs better than you do. I’ve read the studies that discuss the psychological differences between cheaters and non-cheaters. I understand how people who ordinarily wouldn’t cheat can end up being unfaithful. I also understand strategies about how to maintain the sort of healthy atmosphere that keeps the possibility of infidelity low.
     
    For a person who is allegedly keeping my fingers firmly planted in my ears, I’ve certainly gone out of my way to keep myself educated on the subject.
     
    Ultimately, the proof is in the results.
     
    When my wife decides to have lunch with an ex-boyfriend, she tells me about it. You had to catch your boyfriend in the act through his own carelessness. And his continued honesty (and your happiness) require you to adequately monitor his actions.
     
    But to you, your relationship is a “happy” one. It’s actually kind of sad that you’ve set the bar for happiness so low.
     
    This isn’t about being “empowered by knowledge”. As I said before, trust is a choice. Despite your knowledge and empowerment, you’ve chosen to remain in a relationship with a man who has already demonstrated that he can’t be trusted unless he knows he’s being watched. Instead of false security, you’ve knowingly chosen a relationship where your security is limited to your ability to track your boyfriend’s actions.
     
    So much for empowerment.

  12. 42
    Joe

    Wendy, I think you’re missing Karl’s point.  If you have any suspicion that your SO is cheating on you, you’re done.
     
    a) If you snoop and find something, you’re done, because you’ll always have that little voice in the back of your mind, asking if he’s cheating again, even if he says he won’t do it again.
     
    b) If you snoop and find nothing, you’re done, because you’ll always have that little voice in the back of your mind, asking if you missed something.
     
    c) If you don’t snoop at all, you’re done, even if he isn’t cheating, because you’ll always have that little voice in the back of your mind, asking if you should have snooped.
     
    Only if you choose not to be suspicious at all can you go forward.  If he wasn’t cheating, your relationship will continue without incident (at least from this type of issue–not to say there won’t be others).  If he was cheating you’ll get burned, but you’ll be able to take the high road.

  13. 43
    Kiki

    I had two occasions when I had to deal with an old flame popping up. The first time around – i ignored several red flags. The guy dumped me eventually, and married the old flame three months after breaking up with me. The second time – I was super nervous when a woman from the past all of a sudden started calling my boyfriend in the evening. I asked him why – he said she started work at the same company, plus she’s an old friend, plus she is the one calling her and not him, and he can’t tell her not to call as that is too rude. I told him: if you can’t tell her to leave you alone, i will. He thoght i was joking. I called her the next day and told her to get lost. She became defensive – how could i be jealous ( she was aleady married and had a son) – i said – look i am calling on his behalf, he is too delicate to tell you to leave us alone – ask him if you don’t believe me. She did apparently, and ii am not sure what he said – but she disappeared after this. We have been married for more than 10 years – nothing ever happened after that. I was ready to walk at the time; he saw it and took it seriously even though – like every normal man he hates to be told what he can and can not do. Stand your ground, and be ready to deal with the consequences.

  14. 44
    Julia

    Think of all the things that you could be doing instead of snooping. I have friends who snoops, it tears them up inside. Everything is seen as a tell tale sign of cheating when you constantly suspect your partner is cheating.
     
    I’ve literally never snooped and coincidentally I’ve never been cheated on. Both men and women like partners that trust them. Checking in, snooping its a sign of insecurity and more importantly of control. Controlling of one partner by the other can be considered emotional abuse. Sorry, I’d prefer to be happy and spend those treasured snooping hours do things for me to make myself better.

  15. 45
    Wendy

    @Julia #44: If your friends are spending hours of their lives snooping, then yes, they have a problem. I never said that’s what I do, nor advocate that this is what people SHOULD do. I’m simply saying, as starthrower68 #40 stated, it’s up to US to us to be responsible for OUR lives. We can’t expect anyone else to make us happy. So IF and WHEN a guy starts showing signs he may be up to something I’m not going to go screaming accusations at him but I’m not going to demurely sit there and allow him to make a fool of me while he does whatever he pleases with whomever he pleases for as long as he pleases. I’m going to do what I have to do to find out what’s actually going on so I can make an educated decision to stay or leave. And trust me–coming right out and asking him, as others suggest, is NOT going to give you the answer! But I’m not going to leave somebody if there’s nothing going on, as KarlR suggests. That makes NO sense. 
     
    Sigh. This is an argument I’ve had with friends of mine that I have never been able to win…until the breach of trust occurs. Then all of a sudden I was right all along! (Insert eye roll.) 

  16. 46
    Wendy

    KarlR #41 “I didn’t say you had to trust this man 100%. I said, “Trust is a choice.”If you don’t trust him, you should act upon it by leaving. Your method (acting on it by snooping) ends up destroying the relationship. The end result is very similar to leaving, but it takes longer, its more painful to everyone involved, and it lacks integrity.”
     
    NO, it DOESN’T take longer! THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT!!! If I find out something’s going on, I can get out NOW rather than waiting for the guy to make the decision about when our relationship will end. And it doesn’t destroy the relationship–if he’s fooling around, the relationship has been destroyed anyway, and if he isn’t fooling around then it’s all good. ZERO problem.
     
    “Would you date/marry someone who spent the entire relationship spying on you, waiting for the day you slip?”
     
    Sure, why not? I’m not going to slip so he’s free to snoop away. Remember when the Tiger Woods scandal hit the news? Everyone was sooooo shocked because he had “integrity.” And then there were all those nasty comments about Elin and how stupid she had to be not to know about all those other women. Guess what? I’d bet my LIFE she was one of you who trusted her “man with integrity” 100% and never snooped. 
     
    “That’s not honesty. It keeps him cautious.”
     
    As Kiki #43 shows, handling a situation before it gets out of control CAN lead to a happy marriage. Your way is not the only way.
     
    “Spying to earn money makes sense. (Corporate espionage is based on that principle.) But if I get to that point, I’m leaving regardless of the evidence. If you had found no evidence, would you have happily stayed in that marriage?  Spying won’t give you a happy or healthy relationship. But if you’re already planning to leave, I agree that it can make a divorce more profitable (or less costly).”
     
    Yes, if I had found nothing I would have stayed in the marriage until I did. Why wouldn’t I? If he wasn’t cheating there would have been no evidence. That was another situation I discovered completely by accident. If he hadn’t left his email up one day, I would never have known about it. There was no emotional pulling away, no getting angry with me, no increase in work hours, none of your 13 points applied in my case. Some people are masters at this kind of behavior which is why I laugh when I hear you people insist you have good “guy-dar” or can tell a person with integrity.
     
    “For a person who is allegedly keeping my fingers firmly planted in my ears, I’ve certainly gone out of my way to keep myself educated on the subject.”
     
    Sounds like someone who is studying up on how to cheat without getting caught. Read AskMen.com much? Thought so.

  17. 47
    marymary

    Wendy
    your ex cheated, your current beau seems untrustworthy, you think anyone with integrity would cheat and now you think karl R is a studying how to cheat. in the same way that some of us think cheating is unusual, you seem to think everyone does it. I guess there’s no meeting point between those views.
    I didn’t cheat on my ex, he may have cheated on me. I don’t know and I didn’t need to know. I took the view that he was a cheating accident waiting to happen and broke up with him. I didn’t need to snoop to take that decision. Even if I was wrong, the relationship was  unsatisfactory anyway.
    I haven’t cheated on my current boyfriend and have no intention of doing so. If he has cheated on me I would be extremely surprised. I wouldn’t even know where to start snooping on him. I just don’t feel the need to. 

  18. 48
    Paula

    I think this article is way off. I have looked up ex boyfriends on facebook or google out of curiosity. I get that. But I don’t go around corresponding with them. This reader is NOT making a mountain out of a molehill. If he is talking to her and emailing or has, that is not appropriate. Searching is one that but communicating and going out of your way is another.
     
    Heather writes:
    The reason this bothered me so much was because just a year and a half prior to this incident I caught him sending suggestive/flirty text messages – also him suggesting they should meet up, and of course she responded with great joy
     
    If he didn’t do that, then yes I can see that she is making a mountain out of a molehill but she isn’t. She has a legitimate concern. She doesn’t feel safe in the relationship because of what happened previously. Yes it’s in the past but her issue is based on unresolved past issues. I think this situation is out of your field of expertise and she would do better off to speak to a professional. She is probably better off speaking to a counselor so that she doesn’t sabotage this relationship or future ones and get to the root of her emotions

  19. 49
    Wendy

    I’m not saying no one is trustworthy or that everyone will cheat, but cheating is FAR from “unusual.” Google whatever sites you want (the statistics will vary), but you’ll find that most studies indicate the MAJORITY of people cheat. And according to a recent Rutgers University study, 56% of men who have affairs claim to be in happy marriages. To deny all this is simply to be in denial. I’m only trying to make the point that we are all CAPABLE of it, given the right circumstances (perhaps when they are not happy in their relationship at the moment, they don’t think their partner will find out, it’s just sex and doesn’t mean anything, etc.), just as we are all CAPABLE of murder under the right circumstances (a man breaks into your home and threatens your children). That’s why I think you folks who believe you “KNOW” your partner will never cheat are simply wrong, and telling the OP she has nothing to worry about is terrible advice.
     
    After going back through some of the other letters/comments on this blog I honestly can‘t help but wonder what advice you’d have given her if her letter had been more like this: “Dear Evan, I was feeling sick at work one day and went home early. When I got there, I found my boyfriend’s penis inside my best friend’s vagina. What do you make of this?” I can see the responses now: “Why on EARTH did you enter the bedroom, let alone the HOUSE, when you clearly saw their two cars in the driveway? Now you’ve gone and fucked up not just your marriage, but your relationship with your best friend as well. Congratulations!”
     

    I’m done.

  20. 50
    Karl R

    Wendy said: (#46)
    “NO, it DOESN’T take longer! THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT!!! If I find out something’s going on, I can get out NOW rather than waiting for the guy to make the decision about when our relationship will end.”
     
    You found out that something was going on with your current boyfriend. He was planning to meet up with an ex-partner without telling you, which demonstrates a lack of integrity. In addition, he was putting himself into a position where there would be a strong temptation to cheat (alone, with a former sex partner who was still into him, in private, where there was no accountability if he should give in to temptation), which demonstrates a lack of judgment.
     
    But you’re not getting out now. You’re waiting until you catch him before dumping him. The only decision you’ve made is to wait. Where are these alleged time savings?
     
    Wendy said: (#46)
    “That was another situation I discovered completely by accident. If he hadn’t left his email up one day, I would never have known about it.”
     
    You didn’t catch your husband through proactive snooping. You caught him because he left his email up where you could see it. You didn’t catch your current boyfriend through proactive snooping. You caught him because he used your laptop and didn’t sign out of his page.
     
    Have you caught anyone through proactive snooping?
     
    Wendy said: (#46)
    “As Kiki #43 shows, handling a situation before it gets out of control CAN lead to a happy marriage. Your way is not the only way.”
     
    Instead of snooping, Kiki addressed a red flag directly.
     
    How is that different than my way?
     
    Didn’t you just tell us (repeatedly) that addressing red flags directly is pointless, because the person you’re confronting will just lie?
     
    Kiki didn’t snoop. She spoke to both parties (her boyfriend and his coworker) about the behavior she felt was a red flag (the coworker regularly calling her boyfriend at home during the evenings). She got results. She’s now the example you’re trying to use to prove that your method is superior to mine.
     
    Let’s just agree that Kiki’s way is superior. Instead of doing what you’re doing, do what Kiki did.
     
    Wendy said: (#46)
    “Read AskMen.com much?”
     
    Never. I like facts. A bunch of opinions posted by anonymous sources … not particularly useful. Even Ask.com and WikiAnswers are questionable. They may have the correct information, but they rarely cite their source, which means I have to keep searching until I discover the source they’re relying on.
     
    Why do you ask? Is it your source for information about infidelity?

  21. 51
    Cat5

    Karl R. @ #50 said:
     
    “Let’s just agree that Kiki’s way is superior. Instead of doing what you’re doing, do what Kiki did.”
     
    No Karl R., let’s not agree that Kiki’s way is superior.   Let’s agree that Kiki’s way was superior for her.   It may not be for everyone.
     
    I have represented both men and women who decided to approach significant others/spouses in a direct fashion about issues in the relationship, such as cheating, addiction issues, stealing marital assets, etc.  In one case, after the husband tried to discuss addiction and money issues with the wife, she got mad and tried to run him over with the family car, almost running over their daughter in the process.  In another case, when the a woman attempted to discuss possible cheating issues with her boyfriend (they lived together), he beat the living hell out of her and she ended up in the hospital.  These are only a couple examples.
     
    It worked for Kiki because it appears she is in healthy relationship with a healthy individual…so it worked well, and I’m always happy (and truly prefer to see) to see that.
     
    But, let’s face it…although we’d all like to believe that we would only be in a healthy relationship, that is not always the case.  Sometimes people end up in relationships that are not quite as healthy as they thought/hoped for, and may even have the potential to become violent/abusive.  So when red flags come up, an individual may need to deal with the situation in a less than direct, perhaps even sneaky, fashion.  In those situations, a different tact may need to be taken.

  22. 52
    Julia

    @Cat5
    In another case, when the a woman attempted to discuss possible cheating issues with her boyfriend (they lived together), he beat the living hell out of her and she ended up in the hospital.
     
    Wow, let’s unpack that. So first you are blaming her for getting beat. If she didn’t address it she wouldn’t have gotten beat according to this statement. I would say her issue wasn’t her boyfriend cheats its that her boyfriend BEATS her.

  23. 53
    Cat5

    Julia @ 52:  You…have…got…to…be…kidding…me!  Could you take my post and twist it into what you want it to say and be any more offensive about it.
     
    You have no idea who I am, what I believe, or what I do on a day to day basis, and to say that I am blaming a victim of violence…is extremely offensive to me.  Moreover, you have know idea what I meant to say.  Perhaps you should have just asked me to clarify what I said instead of accusing me of blaming the victim.
     
    Obviously the woman and the man I mentioned above both clearly had issues with their significant others.  But, as I pointed out in my post, not everyone is in a healthy relationship with a secure personality type where he/she can directly approach the other party with a question.  They may be involved with an abuser, an avoider, a pleaser, a victim, a controller, a vascillator, etc. personality type.  Different tacts may need to be taken with these types of personality.
     
    Contrary to popular belief not everyone is ready or able to get out of an unhealthy or abusive relationship.  In my volunteer work with abused and neglected children, and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual explotation, if they are not ready or able to leave, all that can be done is to counsel them on how to stay safe, which may include everything from a how to get away to how to take a different tact with these types of issues.  It breaks my heart when they are not ready or able to leave, but I do not ever blame them, and I try to help them find ways to live safely until they are ready and able.
     
    That is what I meant.  It’s not a cookie cutter thing.  The same tact does not work for everyone, and sometimes outcomes are dire.

  24. 54
    Lia

    I believe what Julia was pointing out in her post was your extreme examples were just that … extreme.  If a man beats the hell out of his girlfriend for ASKING about his fidelity, then the “address the red flags” ship sailed long ago.  If he is beating her who gives a damn about him cheating????? I mean really.  The man is abusing her she is worried about him CHEATING????  Oh My God, what is she worried about that he will leave her for someone else and won’t be around to abuse her any longer?
     
    I got that you work with abused women, but we are talking about men and women in relationships and whether or not snooping on your partner is okay.  We are not discussing how to escape a sociopath that would as soon kill you as look at you.  

  25. 55
    Lia

    @ Wendy
     
    I have a friend who was with a lying cheating scum bag for YEARS.  And for years she tried to catch him in the act.  She snooped and obsessed incessantly.  None of us liked him we all knew he was a liar because he lied about everything.  We all hoped she would leave him and we were all pretty sure he was cheating but no one had absolute proof.  (The one friend who did see him with another woman was dropped as a friend when he “explained” the incident away.)  
     
    My friend finally caught him after fourteen years, FOURTEEN YEARS.  She literally caught him with his pants down.  She drove to the coast, found the hotel he was staying at and pounded on the door.  He was naked and still tried weasel out of it.  After all that SHE TOOK HIM BACK.  He left her for someone else two years after that.
     
    Her snooping didn’t save her time, it didn’t keep him from cheating.  She knew he wasn’t honest…  She knew it from the outset.  She never addressed the multitude of red flags directly.  She just kept looking for evidence, when what she really needed to do was dump the liar.

  26. 56
    Fusee

    Wendy, I agree with you on a couple of points: people with integrity can end up cheating, and some people have delusional blind faith in their relationships. To me, it means that nothing is certain, and that the path to happiness involve vulnerability and the risk of being hurt.
     
    Everything else you explain about the way you conduct your relationship feels to me like hearing about opponents instead of allies. Where is the team there? Where is the unity? I think it’s impossible to keep trustworthy people around when we do not extend trust to them. Look, I’m trustworthy, yet I need to be trusted to stay in a relationship. Romantic or otherwise. Lack of trust would make me run. Being suspicious might lead you to a cycle of keeping the only prospects who tolerate suspicion, because they are indeed not firmly grounded in their integrity and commitment. Dating is about assessing someone’s character and seeing if we can trust them. If we decide we can, then, as KarlR has written, we must choose trust, and manage our relationship wisely to keep it healthy and fulfilling for both parties.
     
    I agree with KarlR and Joe 3#42. If you feel the need to snoop, it’s kind of over. The mistrust in enough, no need to actually snoop. Snooping would only generate more mistrust, regardless of the results obtained.
     
    If I were the Letter Writer, I would have left right after having heard about the boyfriend’s flirty shenanigans. That would have been it for me because I’m not that cool and I would not be able to trust after that. A graceful exit before the paperwork and the baby. See, after another year and a half, she is still unable to trust him fully. How is that saving her time?

  27. 57
    Cat5

    @ Lia 54:
     
     
    If that is what Julia meant to say, wouldn’t it have been better if she said that directly instead of saying I was blaming the woman involved.  Or as I mentioned above…asked me a clarifying question.
     
    These situations may be extreme to you and others on this board, but they are not to me…and many people I know personally, and through my professional and volunteer work.  I’m not saying it is the norm, but it is not the exception either.  It is more prevalent than most people care to acknowledge.
     
    From my experience, I’d put it at 33.3% healthy relationships involving secure-type communicators, 33.3% dysfunctional relationships involving avoider/vacillator/pleaser/victim/controller-type communicators, and 33.3% abusive relationships.  That’s fine if you want to provide comments regarding the 33.3% of healthy relationships.  I have no problem providing comments regarding the other 66.6%.  I only ask you keep an open mind to other viewpoints, as there are many different ones in this big old world.
     
    Snooping is, of course, not optimal.  But, it should not be totally ruled out as an option because you and others on the board are in healthy/secure-type relationships.  Not everyone is…and sometimes other actions are taken for a variety of reasons.  That does not make you right/good, and them wrong/bad.  Their situation may be different than yours.
     
    It also does not mean that if they snooped all is lost and their relationship sucks because they don’t trust their partner.  Sometimes it can actually to more open/better communication.  And sometimes it does not.

  28. 58
    Lia

    @ Fusee # 56
     
    As always you put that gracefully, compassionately and with your usual wisdom.
     
    @ Cat5 # 57
     
    I will not argue with your percentages.  I don’t know what the percentages actually are.  When I wrote extreme I did not mean unusual, I meant extreme, as in beyond repair.  If a relationship is that much of a nightmare snooping or not snooping isn’t even close to the biggest problem.   I understand that in those cases confronting the person who would beat you senseless if you  lost the tv remote or burned the chicken would not be wise, but then wisdom is not alive and well in that household.  Again we can go on about the extremes but the letter writer is not afraid her husband is going to kill her she is afraid he is interested in his ex.  
     
    I am very aware that there are different view points in this “big old world”.  And I understand that there are people who feel that they need to snoop and justify it as a necessary way to protect themselves.  It does not make them bad but it is a barometer of their sense of self worth, their level of integrity, and their need to control things.  I don’t believe that living with suspicion and surreptitiously monitoring your mate makes for a loving and joyful relationship.   
     

  29. 59
    Kiki

    I was thinking a lot the last few days about the snooping discussion. I tend to think that it is more the overall quality of the relationship than a particular incident to trigger mistrust. Also, when you have been toghether for a long time ( and especially if you have or are expecting a child) a quick, and what many of you call, graceful, exit is really not easy. 
    I really liked Fusee’s referral to the scale of coolness, where Evan’s wife is a 10. :-). On that scale, I am probably  a 2.5-3, i.e. very close to the uncool extreme :-). i am thinking it is a bloody lucky incident that i managed to get married at all. 

  30. 60
    Joe

    Wendy #49 said:
    just as we are all CAPABLE of murder under the right circumstances (a man breaks into your home and threatens your children)
     
    I believe in most states that would be justifiable homicide (self-defense), not murder.

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