The man who knew too much -- about his wife

He spied on her and caught her fooling around. Now what?


Cary Tennis
November 23, 2004 1:00AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I know what I'm going through is all too common, though of course for me it feels pretty singular. My wife of three years has spent the summer having an affair with my friend of 15 years. I found out by reading their text messages, which didn't leave very much room for the imagination about their sexual activities or their feelings. Since then I've done a pretty bang-up job rifling through her computer and phone records to unearth hordes of information. I probably know more about this affair than most spouses find out. I know that they are/were in love. My wife confirmed it.

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When I confronted her, she denied and denied, then finally admitted it when it was clear I knew. She said she is choosing me, and we have been working for the past couple of months to work it out. Our marriage hasn't been perfect, but neither I nor my wife can account for why she strayed yet (we are seeing counselors). I asked her to break off all contact with him, but he is volunteering at her school, so there has been some contact there. The other contact has been that every couple of weeks since I found out she has sent him pleading e-mails -- pleading him to stay at her school, to try to be around, talking about how much she misses him -- which I duly discover in my now regular snooping. These e-mails haven't been utterly damning, but they certainly haven't been encouraging. Each time (three or four now) there is another round of confrontation, denial, admission.

After the last one, I broke. I told her to go ahead and speak to him, do whatever, since my wishes clearly couldn't stop her. I just wanted her to stop lying to me. I said I was going to give us both some space. With almost no thought, she decided that she would, in fact, talk to him. That was tonight. After spending some time with friends, I left to go hide near the other man's house and waited for them to come back from the bar where, ostensibly, my wife was finally giving him the heave-ho. I watched as they shared a few passionate kisses before he walked to the door. My wife and I spoke a few minutes later. Confrontation. Denial. Admission. She says that the kisses were for "closure" and that it's finally and really done. I don't know whether she is telling the truth, lying to me, or lying to herself.

So now I clearly have a few problems. One is whether and how to trust my wife again -- without interrogating her. Another is whether and how to stop snooping around. But Cary, the snooping keeps yielding results. I want to stay with my wife, but I'm tired of being kicked around. I'm trying to maintain a supportive attitude, but I can't tell the difference between that and my own desire to just be comforted by my wife. I have to figure something out soon -- my entire professional life is in the toilet because of my own slack before this and my utter inability to work at all once I found out.

Depressed Digerati Doormat

Dear Digerati,

While human life is infinitely rich and variable, my view of it is hopelessly constricted, as though I were a small boy peering through the keyhole in a palace door at a glittering costume ball attended by thousands. Not only is my view small, but my time to contemplate what I observe is even smaller. Given my duties in the palace, I can only spend a minute at the keyhole, and then I must run off to compose my notes.

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So I am always on the lookout for situations that are relatively easy to understand, problems whose solution is clear. This is one such problem. The service I offer, being a stranger, is to coldly survey the situation and report on the obvious.

In this case, here is the obvious: This marriage is already over. There is no trust in this marriage. Trust defines marriage. Without trust you cannot have a marriage. So in essence you do not have a marriage. You may be feeling fearful about the consequences of ending this marriage, but you don't need to. This marriage is already over.

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It ended when you lost the ability to believe what your wife tells you. All you need to do now is figure out how to divide the property and find a place to live. It's really that simple.

Stay single for a while. Take care of yourself. You've been betrayed; you need to heal. Don't trade your integrity and pride again for anything -- not for a woman's love or sex or anything. Eat well, stay healthy, and concentrate on your work; in a year or two you'll begin to feel better. Eventually you will meet a woman you both desire and can trust, and perhaps it will be time to try marriage again.

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