My Boyfriend May Be Cheating on Me Via IM Chat. Should I Discuss It With Him?


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?



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.

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  1. 1

    That’s such a powerful story Evan. I love that your past trustworthy behavior and your wife’s past sane behavior played such a large role in resolving everything well. That’s a great point that everyone should take seriously.

  2. 2

    There’s a book about handling such issues. It’s called Never Be Lied to Again: How to Get the Truth In 5 Minutes Or Less In Any Conversation Or Situation. It’s a bit adversarial, though.

  3. 3

    Wow- your wife is a really cool lady, Evan. Hell, I wish I was married to her. 😉

  4. 4

    “Never Be Lied to Again” is not only adversarial, it’s geared toward people who are already full-blown paranoids. It’s not a book I would recommend to anyone who is trying to get the truth from people. That said, I *would* recommend anything by Harriet Lerner, in particular “The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed or Desperate.” The title says it all. Her book “The Dance of Anger” is a classic.

  5. 5

    Thanks for sharing that story Evan. I’m so glad the mystery was solved – if such a thing happened to me it would have driven me crazy. Add to that, I’ve been falsely accused before and I know how terrible that feeling is.

    I wouldn’t classify Vicki’s bf’s IM conversation as cheating per se…but as far as INTENT to cheat it’s pretty damning. Asking his buddy about opportunities to be with these women? That seems to go beyond fantasing to premeditation. Something about premeditation to cheat is as awful as after the fact.

    In any case, something is clearly wrong if the guy is starting “to plan”. Maybe this is an opportunity to prevent something before it could ever start. Maybe counseling could get things back on track. Don’t know.

    Good luck Vicki, I know this must really hurt.

  6. 6

    1) Computer snoop: Show him the IM transcript and ask him how he’d feel if you’d had a similar conversation about men with one of your pals. Play it by ear from there, but try to stay calm.

    2) Oh God, Evan. Horrible flashback after reading your story; I had almost exactly the same thing happen. Only they were pantyhose found under my bed and they belonged to an ex-girlfriend (from several years previous). It took months to convince the girl I was with at the time that I hadn’t been cheating, though I’d never given her any other reason to suspect that I might’ve been (her issue, seriously). And she still brought it up YEARS later. I surely do not regret kicking that particular insane vampire harpy woman to the curb.

    Of course the real issue it should have raised with her is that I didn’t adventure under my bed for purposes of cleaning too often; I definitely deserved an earbashing for slovenliness, if not infidelity.´s last blog post…Casual Encounters Web TV Show, Episode 3

  7. 7

    EMK – you and your wife ROCK! I can’t believe she didn’t totally flip. I was reading it thinking, this guy cheated on her! But the more I read, I started wondering maybe there really was an explanation. I thought the New Years hookup friend most plausible (if a woman lost her panties while hooking up at someone else’s hosue, it’s plausible she’d leave without saying a word about them.)

    As soon as you got onto the TV show filming angle, and the former owner, I knew it was case solved. But – how did you find out they matched that woman’s bra? 😛

    I love this line: “I’ve asked it to produce a 3 piece suit, but to no avail.”

    This is an all-time classic story. Well done.

    dadshouse´s last blog post…Fathers and Daughters What a Dad Needs to Know

  8. 8

    Just a thought but is the man so insecure that he would show off to his buddy, asking to hook up, even if there was no real intent to go through with it. Just a thought, as I said. Most men would not even have that conversation, I don’t think, though, if they really valued their relationship with their wife/girlfriend.

    Wow, Evan…what a great newlywed story you have! I understand why your wife is so cool. For me, the rare, few times there’s been some indiscretion, I KNEW. The memorable time my beau came to my door and I said, “I think you were doing something you shouldn’t have been doing last night.” He wasn’t even particularly hang-dog looking, I just knew. If it doesn’t “ring” I don’t have hackles up.


  9. 9

    Perhaps it’s not the best book, but “damning” is the situation. Contrast Evan’s situation with it. Marriage built on friendship (and so he got a huge benefit of the doubt re panties) vs. a not formally committed relationship based on maybe just sexual attraction. Rather than worry so much about how to discuss a relationship that now probably is doomed, Vicki probably should be asking herself how she apparently could be so wrong about her boyfriend’s nature and what brought them together in the first place. Maybe they just looked good to each other and she made personality inferences from appearance and other unreliable cues.

  10. 10

    Unless Vicki’s landlord is sneaking in to her place when no one’s home and logging on to her boyfriend’s IM account, I doubt this mystery will have a happy ending like Evan’s.

    marc´s last blog post…IT’S ALL STARTING TO PAY OFF

  11. 11

    I disagree with marc because I had a similar situation happen, except I was the offender. My man never saw the emails, etc. but he noticed I started acting funny and distant. Evan you are totally right when you say it is a result of unfulfilled desires. I had expressed to my man some of my desires which he never took seriously, over and over again, not just once! So I sought out someone who would. I ended up feeling way too guilty to do anything and confessed on my own. We had a heartfelt long talk, over a few days! He was sad and I felt low. He finally realized how strong my desires were and we figured things out. Anyhow, be direct and honest. It is the only way. It was difficult for me to tell him why I had done this, but the only was to let it all out. So Vicki, allow him to be completely honest and be open to what he has to say. Be forgiving!

  12. 12

    Yeah Marc, doesn’t look pretty. The guy sounds like a major jerk, incidentally. Maybe she should skip the chat and just dump the bozo.´s last blog post…Casual Encounters Web TV Show, Episode 3

  13. 13

    If Vicki is a great girlfriend (attentive, fun, loving, nurturing, trustworthy, understanding), and this happened, I believe the relationship is doomed.

    If a man already has a loving attentive woman in his life and is exhibiting these behaviors he is either an attention whore seeking ego gratification from external sources, or his needs are not being met.

    Better to know now before making babies. Dump him Vicki!!!

    P.S. All women snoop around because we can sense that something is going on, and because we care.

  14. 14

    Wow, Evan.

    Your wife sounds like a really remarkable woman, and you must be some a guy to have resolved a potentially marriage-ending misunderstanding so beautifully. Thank you for writing about this.

    Vicki’s situation feels creepy. I’d definitely talk to the guy in the calm manner you recommend. Maintain dignity at all costs!

    But if I found out my husband had been sending IMs detailing what he’d like “to do to” other women, I’d talk to him, but I’m afraid I’d lose respect for him — unless he had a really good explanantion (and I can’t imagine what that would be…he was trying to look cool for his buddies? Eh).

    Your column demonstrates to women that good, honorable men exist. I think Vicki would do well to hold out for one of them.

    Terry´s last blog post…He Didn’t Call. Now What?

  15. 15

    @ Maria, re: all women snoop around.

    OH MY GOD I KNEW IT. TIME TO HIDE THE ALIEN PENIS TENTACLE PORN.´s last blog post…Casual Encounters Web TV Show, Episode 4

  16. 16

    Ha! You should be open with Porn, it’s fun and worth sharing!!

  17. 18

    LOL you’re with the wrong girl. I can only dream of an LTR where my man is open and honest with his porn collection. 🙂

    Sorry about your jaw, and worse yet, sexless life.

  18. 19

    I’d say it was okay and not to worry about it, but unfortunately my chosen career of “Guinness Record Breaker Guy” involves pulling airplanes down landing strips using my teeth, so yeah. The jawsmash was a big fat career-ending game over and my projected lifetime future earnings are now less than or equal to zero.

    Plus, you know, now I don’t even have regular sex or my alien penis tentacle porn collection to keep me warm at night.

    What I’m saying is that I really need this lawsuit to come through for me. You are stupendously wealthy, right? And, uh, drowning in guilt and kind of naive vis a vis applicable law?´s last blog post…How to Find Sex: the Art of the One Night Stand – Part 11 Looking Ahead

  19. 20

    That’s a great story and a great response, one of your best IMO. I think you’re spot on. I knew very few (like zero) women who would react and stay cool like your wife. I can imagine it was a stressful month.

    The couple in question has some other issues, probably the guy is starting to lose attraction for the girl and there looks like a sex conflict for the guy. I don’t doubt their love for each other, and it’s my opinion that at around the two year mark guys get antsy to have sex with other women (for me it’s around 1 year, sometimes less). I won’t dive too deeply into that here, but if he needs to have sex with other chicks, they should consider taking a separate vacation where he can hook up for casual sex or go see a pro. Talk openly about the sex, lay out strict rules, and get the sex out of the way. Sex shouldn’t derail a perfectly good relationship.

    Lance´s last blog post…I’m Going Vegetarian For A Month (WTF?!)

  20. 21

    Lance, I’m really scratching my head in wonder at that last sentence.

  21. 22

    Great post. Never thought I’d see the day when a pair of panties in the laundry hamper were LESS of a smoking gun than an IM making explicit plans to meet someone LOL.

    Vicki, I hope you come back and let us know how you handled the situation. I’ve been in similar scenarios, and it doesn’t usually go well. Even if he is able to convince you it was nothing, you have to make sure you feel you can trust him in the future.

    @Lance: it doesn’t seem like they have that kind of mutually agreed upon open relationship. If they had laid out those ground rules first, his IM wouldn’t be considered cheating. Unfortunately, most couples aren’t able to put those rules in place retroactively after one partner has cheated. That’s just a lame way for him to cover his ass.

  22. 23

    Cilla, on your last point, if an attempt had been made to establish such ground rules, I’m guessing somebody would have bailed on the relationship. Either Vicky would not have wanted an open relationship or her BF would have wanted it. Somebody would not have gotten what they wanted.

  23. 24

    don’t i know about guys talking to other girls online. stumbled across conversations my bf had with girls online starting out him calling them hot, or sexy, or other suggestive comments, finding out where they live, asking they want to hang out… (and these are girls he does not other then having met them online) and i haven’t called him out directly on this but i have given chances to admit to it, which he hasn’t kind of suck knowing he does this as he can be a hell of guy, but after finding out about that… i don’t know if i can stay with him, it’d hurt if i left but then if i stay and online “flirting” continues, i don’t know if want that.

  24. 25


    I would directly confront your boyfriend with the evidence and see what his response is. If he’s willing to stop it point-blank, then you have a decision to make as to whether or not you can trust him again and if you want to continue in the relationship. If he doesn’t fess up then drop him and find someone better (ie, someone who isn’t hitting on all sorts of women online, and possibly trying to meet up with them in real life).

  25. 26

    Very good story.
    I can relate with your wife.
    But I think she managed it much better than I did.

    Too bad I never felt we cleared my situation up 100% and I think my doubt is getting in the way of my relationship. Therefore seeking for a solution.

    Actually I’m not sure how to do that anymore. It’s been so long since it happened too…

    I hope I clear it out. Anyways your story helped me a lot.

  26. 27

    Amazing story, I love it!!
    I had a similar thing happen a few years ago, when I was still married. One day, my son was going through his dad’s dresser drawers for whatever reason, and found a brand new condom and an empty wrapper, which he brought to me. I was pretty shocked, because we hadn’t used condoms since, oh, 1995. And, frankly, our marriage was in pretty bad shape at that point, so, I thought, who knows? Anything’s possible.
    Now, unlike your wife, I spent a week or two fretting, stressing out, and not saying a word of it to my (then) husband. But finally, like your wife, I decided to talk to him, because none of it made sense. While my ex used to do a lot of things that I disagreed with (hence he’s the ex), one thing he would never do was cheat. I’d known the guy for twenty years by then and cheating was just not his thing. There was no logical explanation for what my kid had found.
    So I ask my husband, and, like you, he gives me a deer-in-the-headlights look and says, These are not mine. I don’t do that. – Which is pretty much in line with what I already know about the guy – he doesn’t! Then after maybe five minutes of deep thought, he goes, Oh, I know! Remember the costume party?
    And I remember. A few months prior, we’d gone to a costume party, where one of our friends showed up with condoms and hersheys kisses sewn onto her dress. (Don’t even ask.) Apparently towards the end of the party, another friend of my ex’s, who’d always been famous for his middle-school pranks, had started tearing the condoms off this woman’s dress, and shoving them into the male guests’ pockets. Except with my ex, the guy decided to be extra funny and added an empty wrapper for good measure. My ex put them in his drawer when he got home, because he is a thrifty guy and saves everything. Mystery solved. Marriage saved. (granted, only for a year or so, but still.)
    So this is my story about how logic and communication always win over knee-jerk reactions and panic 🙂

  27. 28

    I have a story like this of my own with my boyfriend, who has never before cheated or even come close. All the evidence pointed overwhelmingly to his guilt, and yet he was innocent! I really struggled to keep it inside and for a couple of days, I was a mess.

    But I’m really glad I kept it to myself and didn’t accuse him because a perfectly rational explanation came out of the woodwork a few days later. I laughed, and actually just about danced I was so relieved!

  28. 29
    Audra Anderson

    Found this most useful.

  29. 30

    i thought i was wit my soulmate of course i was wrong u either forgive or forget orr u will drive urself insane trust me

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