I'll be contacting winners of the "Remember Me" contest this afternoon. I'll post the winning entries tomorrow. They were all quite good.
Q: Dear Meredith,
I just found out that my husband cheated on me. It started out online through email, from information that was too personal and escalated to sex related topics and chat rooms. According to him, they never met in person. This supposedly happened over the course of a few months, ending a few months ago when things got too racy and they contacted each other less frequently and that the topics of conversation became more benign.
We are in our mid 40s and this woman is supposedly divorced with kids and gainfully employed. She lured and he willing followed along. I feel that they are both at fault at equal proportions.
This became known to me by accident and at my request, he has sent her an e-mail not to ever contact him again, even though their e-mail content has been benign (lately). I have not read those "benign" emails so I don't know how truthful that is. However, over the course of the few days when details of this thing emerged, I kept finding discrepancies on what he said. He would say one thing to me, the next day when I asked more details about it, he'd adjust the story.
So problem No. 1: trust. Needless to say, my trust for him is greatly destroyed. He asked me how he can rebuild it and frankly I don't know. Maybe I want the permission to read his emails anytime because this started on email. Is this something legitimate to ask? How can trust be rebuilt again? I do want disclosure. I want to know what truly happened. And the whole time he had not been very open about it. I still don't know which part of his story is accurate and which part isn't. Maybe the less-than-truthful answer was his way to protect me from the painful details, but it back-fired big time. I have made it clear to him that I would rather have him lay it all out, I'll deal with it, and then move on. Now I am always wondering which part is true and which part isn't.
Given this woman's life experiences, I think she knew what she was doing, and not "confused," as he put it. (By the way, she supposedly had a boyfriend at the same time). I asked how he felt about her now and he said he wants to think positively about people. Sounds like he hasn't broken it off with her mentally. Problem No. 2: what is going on and what do I do now?
What ever happened to supposedly mature people's moral compass and the discipline to follow it? (But that's a philosophical question for another day).
I do want to make a serious attempt to make things better. And I can use the consistently sophisticated advice given on this board by Meredith and the Commenters. And I apologize for using the word "supposedly" too many times. Looking forward to hear what you have to say. Thanks.
– Want to salvage this, Boston
A: WTST, this is a unique issue. The e-mail cheating isn't unique, of course, but your question is. You're asking whether you should demand to see the evidence, whether reading the e-mails will make things better. Tough one.
I'm putting my support in the "read the e-mails" camp (assuming he'll let you see them and that he hasn't already destroyed the evidence). From what you've said, getting the awful truth will help you process what happened and then move on. And for all you know, the e-mails are not as bad as you've imagined. Or maybe they're much worse. Either way, they'll help you get to the bottom of what happened and why. Wouldn't it be telling if the e-mails included small talk about daily events? Wouldn't it be telling if the content of the e-mails shed light on something that's been missing in your marriage?
If he refuses to show you the e-mails (or if he has already deleted them), I recommend demanding some therapy. I know, I know, I'm a broken record with the therapy thing. But in your case, it seems necessary, mostly for him. From what you've told us, your husband seems very … repressed about his emotions. He's trying to be honest with you, but he isn't coming clean 100 percent, not even to himself. The whole "he wants to think positively about people" thing … it rubs me the wrong way. It's like he made all of these bad choices without much thought and hasn't figured out why. And now he's more focused on getting you to move on than concerned about why he did the bad deeds in the first place. That's pretty typical, by the way. I'm sure he doesn't want to deal with the unpleasant, bad-guy things going on in his head. But you have to get him to show and tell. And you're allowed to tell him that if he can't let his guard down with all of it, you can't be expected to forgive.
Readers? Should she demand to see the e-mails? Will they help? How can she rebuild trust? What should she do next? Share.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.