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

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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.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    starthrower68

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

  2. 22
    Cilla

    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.

  3. 23
    starthrower68

    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.

  4. 24
    Confused???

    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.

  5. 25
    A-L

    Confused,

    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).

  6. 26
    Linda

    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.

  7. 27
    Goldie

    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 🙂

  8. 28
    Clare

    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!

  9. 29
    Audra Anderson

    Found this most useful.

  10. 30
    angie

    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

  11. 31
    abby

    Hello

    I had the situation of finding underwear in my husband pocket. Asked him series of questions …did u go to strip club…did u meet someone else etc etc…produced item. He looked like he would die. Said bought it for me forgot to give it. I said fine asked if he was sure.

    Next day said I wasn’t comfortable wanted to see fone records n bank accounts.

    He refused.

    Became rude and disrespectful.

    Asked where he went previous weekend out of town. Refused to say.

    Then came up w story that maybe it got into his bag from his mother’s house!

    I took a pic and sent it to ask if it was familiar. I foned his mother to ask where he went when visiting her   out of town.

    No truth emerged.   I cried. Over 6 weeks I kept asking. All he did was say he couldn’t tell me cos I would tell my whole family and then it will be truly over.

    He took off his wedding ring started coming home later…gave me silent treatment.

    Blamed projected and denied.

    Said it was over n he was leaving.

    I still begged for truth …knowing it was found in his pocket …not in bag.

    Add to that he goes out of town again this time I find some sex aid in his bag he claims it’s for his PE condition!

    I ask why is it in his bag for travel…why would he need it then?

    Claims before that might have been his brothers !!! Then his mother claimed it might be her late husbands as they all used the same bag!

    Needless to say…after 8 weeks I moved him out.

    It wasn’t because of the underwear or the lies…He clicked his tongue in disdain as I passed in the passage n I thought …I cannot live with that disrespect further.

    It’s been 3 years of games n now I am divorcing him.

    The reality that he may not have loved me at all…made pretence harder as he said…after all if u love someone watching n hearing them cry in distress would have an effect.

    Three years later he tells me he had a meltdown after his father died n bought that underwear. He could not tell the truth as I would tell my family n he did not trust me.

     

    Well it doesn’t matter now.

     

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