I was talking to my friend Lisa – the one with the husband who keeps getting caught with emails and texts from some woman he has been in some way involved with for maybe a few years. All we know is what she has found – graphic photos and highly sexual texts and emails between her husband and another woman who he knows from work. Her husband has never come clean with any information about the relationship. Every time Lisa finds an email or text chain he says things like this:
“That was the last time I texted her. I called and ended if right after sending that one”
“I never have touched her – it’s only emails”
“I swear it’s over and will never talk to her again”
You get the drift. You probably won’t be surprised to know that he has never kept his word to end it.
When Lisa found the latest slew of intense emails, I suggested that the first thing she should do is have him get a full STD check. It’s easy to do in big cities, it can be done anonymously, but she will be putting her needs first by protecting her own health and also making him have a consequence to his actions. It’s not therapy, it’s not divorce, it’s not a decision about anything other than making herself a priority. Her response is that she really believes he hasn’t ever been with this woman!!
Listen…I get wanting to trust the man she is married to. But if he has never – not once – come clean about ANYTHING – or provided a detail that she didn’t know about BY CHOICE then I really think that she needs to do a reality check. She can’t believe a single word from him as it relates to this other woman.
It’s hard to tell the truth. It’s also hard to hear it. All of it raises fears. But if a relationship is going to work, then both parties need to start coming clean about their actions and feelings – and both parties need to know it’s safe to do so. Being honest and telling the truth are skills that need to be learned – especially after a relationship has been upended by betrayal and infidelity. It’s not easy – but it’s doable. And until your partner can be honest – you best do all you can to protect yourself.
I was going to entitle this “did ashley madison ruin your life”. But I can’t manage to give this company that degree of power. That being said, I’m guessing that more than one wife found out recently that their husband had sought an affair. That’s a tough blow for even the strongest marriage to take. Overnight there is anger, anxiety, fear, shame, disgust and a million other emotions swirling.
I’ve written about this site before because my husband had signed up for it once a number of years ago. From the ‘history’ it seemed pretty clear that nothing amounted from it and truth be told I think he found it incredibly boring and he likely never accessed it after his initial ‘sign up’ high. I’m sure he found the site ‘boring’…but that’s because he spent a few years acting out A LOT sexually – visiting chat sites, frequenting massage parlors, having sex with a couple women he knew – lots of horrible and unacceptable behavior. I think the ‘vanilla’ nature of A.M. didn’t capture his interest as much as his other activities.
So you’ve just found out that your trusted mate has an Ashley Madison account. Now What?
I think that most men on that site fall into 3 different categories.
The most harmless category will be the one that everyone is claiming to belong to. The “I was just curious what it was but never sought an affair”. A prurient interest can get the best of anyone and lead them to explore a website like this. Someone sees a commercial – can’t believe what is being advertised – types in the URL and next thing you know the company is charging a monthly fee and you just wish you had never heard of the thing. Honestly, I think this is probably true for some people. I believe it because I am one of those people. I saw a billboard and thought, what is that? A movie ad? A TV show? I searched the site – was pissed off it existed – and emptied my history. OK, I never made an ad or paid for the service but men can be pretty dumb about these things and I don’t put it past someone to go that far down the path of fantasy only to realize they have no interest in being there. So if your husband is claiming that this is his story then maybe it is. Ask him to share his password – go to the site – see how much activity he has and go from there.
A truly repentant man. Let’s face it – people screw up. A man can stray for any number of reasons but it doesn’t always make him a horrible or unloving person. Marriages get over infidelity (or attempted infidelity) all the time. Tust gets rebuilt. Scars heal. Take for instance a man like my husband – a sex addict who has struggled for years with maintaining honest and loyal boundaries with me. He is fully accepting of his mistakes and seeks every day to be a better man. He shares his ‘slips’ and takes total responsibility for his actions. In my situation, I knew long ago that there was an AM account so when this leak happened I just made sure that we cancelled the credit card he used to use for his secret activities so the info doesn’t get into the hands of hackers. I don’t know if my husband was one of the people leaked, or if his account was even still active (I think we cancelled it but sites like this make that really hard so it may have still been up) but it doesn’t matter as I knew all about it and he has long since been forgiven. As hard as it is to learn that your mate was seeking sex outside the marriage… if he seems truly remorseful and willing to be truthful and honest then try to remember who he really is as a person before throwing him to the curb. He might deserve one more chance.
The last group is of course the guys who cheat but have no guilt, no remorse and no interest in changing. This is the guy who swears it will never happen again only to turn around and do it the next day. This person may be an addict, or a disrespectful person or no longer in love, or maybe he is just a jerk – but this is the danger area. He probably blames everything and everyone externally and doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions. He is the kind of guy who thinks he deserves more than the rest. You know the type. Maybe you are married to him. In this case there are a lot of decisions to make – but it’s important to not delude yourself into believing his words. If you do, chances are you will just be hurt again and again. You may decide to stay with this person for your own reasons…children, money, familiarity…but try to protect yourself and understand that another woman/women are just going to be a part of your life. He may change eventually – but if not, just know your own limits.
All 22 million people (if that is the current number) on that AM site aren’t horrible people. Some are. Try to know who you are dealing with before taking the next step.
I want to follow up on my last post in which I pointed out that after infidelity I think that the offending spouse should be willing to share any and all information that will help his/her mate feel safe. I want to add a bit to what I had said.
I absolutely believe that if the ‘cheater’ is truly committed to changing then they will have absolutely no hesitation in providing the information and access that is requested. This is not a violation of privacy. This is a partnership where there are no secrets…and that is the only kind that seems worthwhile to me. If your spouse is unwilling to share something like his phone code, then what else is he hiding. Why does he think that is OK? Why does he think his actions shouldn’t have consequences.
My husband has GPS on his phone. He has given me all of his passwords. He will “share” his computer screen with me at any time with no warning. He shares his feelings. He goes to therapy. He attends SAA meetings. He never has one on one lunches with female colleagues. I have every one of his credit card passwords. He is willing to take yearly lie detector tests. On paper this sounds overwhelming. But these are the things I asked for a year ago and which he agreed. These were some of the boundaries that I set with the help of my therapist. At the time, I used all of these “powers’ and he was supportive of it. He never questioned my following up on him. He just assured me he has nothing to hide. Time and again it proved to be true. I have all but stopped looking after him. Because I understand how sneaking addicts can be, I sometimes spot check things on c/c statements or GPS or email. But to date, there have been no slips.
I always tell my husband when I feel the need to “check” on him. It shouldn’t be my burden alone. He hurt me and ruined my trust and I shouldn’t have to experience the painful moments alone. He deserves to go on that journey with me, if only as a witness to my pain. Not for him to feel guilty but to understand me and support me.
If you can’t stop researching and spying on your mate then I think you need to really talk about that and discuss with him reasonable steps that he can take to help your security. Its not healthy to spy – in fact it is a dishonest act and not the example you want to be. The other harm with secretly spying is it puts your efforts in the wrong area. If you have been betrayed you need to work on yourself and care for yourself – you don’t need to spend hours hacking into an email account. This isn’t beneficial.
Calmly ask your spouse to help you by giving you the safety nets you need so if you are ever freaking out you can use those tools. They aren’t meant to be abused (though in the beginning they probably will be). At first I checked my husbands GPS multiple times a day. Now it’s more like once a week. That is progress that would not have been possible without the cooperation of my husband.
Another thing to note. This is a two way street. I will happily provide my husband with any information about my life that he desires. I have nothing to hide. I am married to an amazing man…so why would I want to?
Yesterday, I shared a full disclosure with my husband about the ways that I had acted out in response to his cheating. I wrote about the fear I had going into the disclosure in my post “the more you look the more you see”
It was exactly as hard as I knew it would be. I was crying before we even entered my therapists office…and sobbing uncontrollably by the time we settled in and were ready for my confession. Somehow I managed to read aloud the list of the sins I had committed. I didn’t expect my husband to be so surprised by what I had done. It makes me wonder if a man’s sixth sense differs from the female’s sense. I always knew in the back of my mind that he had acted out with this one or that one – but he seemed utterly shocked by the things I told him. I had told him bits and pieces over the years about how I had reached out to my ex-boyfriend for comfort when I felt scared, hurt and alone. He knew that I emailed and texted with my ex, he even knew we talked about reuniting if we had ever decided to divorce. He knew all of that for all these years but apparently he never considered that maybe I had seen him. Perhaps he was just in denial all that time, or maybe he was so caught up in his own acting out and addiction that what I did just wasn’t on his radar. Or maybe (and this hurts) he thought I was better than that.
It’s amazing to me that I was lost for so long – and was willing to do things that so severely went against my nature. I said to my husband yesterday that in those fearful and lonely moments I wanted to return to someone who knew me before I was changed by my husbands betrayal. I think that hit the nail on the head. The discovery of my husbands betrayal changed me into someone I didn’t even recognize. I started to dress differently, act differently, walked on eggshells, stopped being sexual. I buried myself under a pile of shame. When I saw my ex it was like a turning back of time to a person I used to be before I married an addict, before my world crumbled down in front of me. But all of that was a fantasy. We are who we are because of our life experiences. I could spend the rest of my life with the ex and not really ever be that carefree girl that I was before I was betrayed. My husbands behavior changed me in dozens of ways – as I’m sure my disclosure with change him. But here we are – for better or for worse – supporting one another in our own personal recovery. We are moving beyond…