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dating coach for smart, strong, successful women Evan Marc Katz
I have been dating my boyfriend for over two years now. For the most part, I think he is a very loving, respectable, and caring man and I have never felt I couldn’t trust him regarding other women and cheating.

Recently, I used his computer and found his I.M. chat still open and couldn’t help myself but to read it, thinking I might find some clues as to what he was getting me for Christmas. I am being completely honest to say that I am not a stalking, insecure, snooping around kind of a girlfriend, and in fact, I have never checked on anything such as emails, phones, or texts previously. Unfortunately I found some very inappropriate dialogue from my boyfriend to his buddy on this IM,  describing different girls and what he would like to do to them.

The comments regarding the women’s body parts and looks don’t bother me as much, because I do understand about “guy’s language” when it’s just guys chatting. However, the parts of the conversations where he asked for opportunities to meet up with some of these woman and described in detail what he would then like to do to them is what really disturbs me.

I am not quite sure how to discuss this with him, given that I discovered this reading his IM without him knowing, but this is too hurtful to me to ignore. Our rules have always been if you are doing something that you wouldn’t approve of the other one doing to you, then it’s wrong. I guarantee he would not like it if I started doing this about other guys. How should I approach this?

Thanks,

Vicki

Dear Vicki,

There’s a fine line between emotional infidelity and genuine infidelity. Both are insidious and threatening to a relationship. Both highlight unmet needs and unfulfilled desires. Both are indicative in a structural crack in your foundation that must be addressed.

There’s a fine line between emotional infidelity and genuine infidelity. Both are insidious and threatening to a relationship.

And while I can’t say whether expressing desire to meet a strange woman via IM constitutes “official” dictionary-definition infidelity, I can say, for sure, that it counts as cheating, and it is not something that should be swept under the rug.

I’m going to hijack this post here, to share a very personal story that just happened to me. I asked my wife’s permission to share it, because it is a little, well, personal. But it’s completely relevant to your question, Vicki, so bear with me.

So my wife and I just moved in together on January 1st, two months after we got married. Marriage is stressful, house-hunting is stressful, moving is stressful, moving in with someone else is stressful, merging lives and households is stressful. And I, in general, am a first-class stress case. So let there be no confusion when I say that I had a pretty difficult January. The basis of my relationship with my wife is how easy and trusting we are, and yet we got on each others’ nerves more than ever recently.

It was during this process that she took a business trip to Costa Rica for a week. While she was gone, she checked in almost every day, and I went out almost every night to catch up with friends and fill up my time.

Upon my wife’s return, things were back to normal. We both work from home and settled back into our routines. One Tuesday, she took my dirty laundry from our new Bed, Bath and Beyond hamper and did it during lunch, while I coached clients from my office. Later that evening, around 7pm, she pulled me aside and said that we had to talk.

Now, “We have to talk” is not something I’ve ever heard her say. As I’ve stated ad nauseum, on these pages, my wife is better at understanding men than any woman I’ve ever met. Which is why I take it seriously when she sits me down for a talking-to.

She leads by saying, “Do you have anything you need to tell me?”

I look at her, blankly. She continues to probe.

“While I was gone, did you have anybody over the house?”

I look at her blankly once more and shrug. “I don’t know what you’re talking about”.

“Well, when I did the laundry earlier, I found a pair of women’s panties in the wash. And they weren’t mine.”

“Well, when I did the laundry earlier, I found a pair of women’s panties in the wash. And they weren’t mine.”

Nothing registered on my face. I was stunned. She continued, methodically.

“I would normally assume that there’s some sort of mistake, because I trust you completely. But since I found the underwear this afternoon, I’ve racked my brain and can’t come up with any explanation for how another pair of panties ended up in our new hamper.”

“So,” she continues with tears in her eyes, “Is there anything you need to tell me?”

I’m not sure if I should start laughing, or start crying. I know I’m innocent – know it from the bottom of my heart – but there is such conclusive physical evidence pointing to my guilt, that anything I say will sound ridiculous. And that’s exactly what I tell her.

“If I were you, I would assume the same exact thing. And, as much as I’d like to come up with a rational explanation as to how a pair of panties materializes in my hamper while you’re gone and nobody else has been in the house, I simply don’t have one.”

My lack of defiance, I learn later, was reassuring. In fact, it doesn’t occur to me to get defensive about her accusation, because she is not the type to spy, and not the type to fly off the handle unnecessarily. In fact, she’s the sanest, most stable woman I’ve ever known – one whose life has been touched repeatedly by infidelity. And now she has a smoking gun, which I have no capacity to explain. I continue:

“I’m really upset right now, because I want to take away your pain and concern, but I have no way to do so. If some woman wrote to me on my blog and said that a pair of panties appeared in her boyfriend’s house while she was out of town, I’d tell her to get her head out of her ass and leave him. And yet I know that I’m 100% innocent. I can tell you where I was every night. I can show you my phone calls, my text messages, my emails. I have nothing to hide. But I also have no way of explaining what happened. None.”

We start brainstorming together. Could it be her friend, who spent the night with us on New Years and hooked up with a guy? Unlikely that she’d leave the house without her underwear and that said underwear would linger for three weeks without being put in a hamper. Could it be her co-worker, who roomed with her in Costa Rica? She would later ask and find out it was not. Could it be some old fling of mine from over two years ago? It would be hard to fathom that a pair of panties would get stuck in my jeans or sheets for two years without shaking loose in the wash. We even contemplate the idea that someone might be playing a sick practical joke on us. But who has access to our place besides our landlord who lives upstairs? Suddenly, we’re a crime solving team, and we’ve got no hot leads.

If some woman wrote to me on my blog and said that a pair of panties appeared in her boyfriend’s house while she was out of town, I’d tell her to get her head out of her ass and leave him. And yet I know that I’m 100% innocent.

After a half-hour, my wife lets me know that she believes me. But that’s not enough for me. I want to erase any doubt from her mind – as much for me as for her. I determine that I’m going to be like O.J., except I’m actually going to look for the real killer. It’s intolerable to me that my wife could doubt my fidelity, no matter how stressed we’ve been, and I cannot let her go her whole life with a little black cloud hanging over her head.

Time goes on and while she doesn’t bring it up over the next week, I do. Again, I have nothing to hide, and I am not content with faith-based answers. She shouldn’t believe me just cause I said so – hell, I wouldn’t believe me. No, the only way to clear my name is to find proof. I encourage my wife to keep up her vigilance and keep asking questions.

Ten days later, the TV show Curb Your Enthusiasm is shooting at our house. (I know. Weird things happen in LA.) There are crew members all around, prepping our apartment for an October episode with a woman in a wheelchair. My wife turns to my landlord, and casually asks if she somehow left a pair of brown underwear in her old place. The landlord doesn’t remember until my wife produces it. Turns out the landlord’s wearing the matching bra right this moment. Mystery solved! Since then, 4 MORE pairs of panties have emerged from the fabric-spewing dryer. I’ve asked it to produce a 3 piece suit, but to no avail.

What’s remarkable about this entire episode, and why I saw fit to share it with you, is that our communication allowed a potentially toxic situation to resolve itself. In the hands of another woman (say, a few of my ex-girlfriends), I would have been presumed guilty, without a fair and speedy trial. But since my wife is level-headed, and I’ve proven to be honest, I was given the benefit of the doubt. I indicated that I had nothing to hide, validated her rightful concerns, and was determined to get to the bottom of the problem with her. Sure, I could have been a master actor, using reverse psychology to manipulate her. We joked about how I paid my landlord off, and how I offered my wife access to my cell phone, knowing full well that she wouldn’t take it. But we got through it together, because we have a union worth preserving, and it’s in both of our interests to remove from her mind any seed of doubt about my fidelity.

Treat him with more respect than he may deserve – which is exactly what my wife did with me – and either give him a chance to confess and redeem himself, or a chance to hang himself with his own rope.

What does this mean for you, Vicki? Well, it means that you need to have a heart-to-heart with your formerly trustworthy guy, and, instead of yelling and becoming emotional, confront him with the evidence and see how he reacts. He could get angry because you snooped, and try to turn the tables on you for sowing the seeds of mistrust, but that would be a smokescreen. What a good boyfriend should do, if guilty, is confess to his sins, and explain to you why he did what he did. It may not be a good explanation, but that will be for you to determine. The one thing I can guarantee you is that if you confront him with “Liar! Cheater!”, he’s either going to shut down or start firing back at you.

Treat him with more respect than he may deserve – which is exactly what my wife did with me – and either give him a chance to confess and redeem himself, or a chance to hang himself with his own rope. At least you’ll know you comported yourself with class, and that you will never again be played for a fool.

Good luck.