Q: My husband and I have been married for a long time. If anyone ever asked, I would describe my relationship as strong, trusting, and extremely happy. We're best friends who can talk about anything with each other. This is the first time in the 20 years that I have known him where I have been at a loss for words.
He has a large group of friends. Many are women. That never bothered me as most of my friends are men and I believe that you can be just friends with a member of the opposite sex. But there is one particular woman who makes me uneasy. And lately that uneasiness has turned into sleepless nights and a feeling of heart sickness that I've never experienced before.
She has known him as long as I have and previous to our relationship expressed interest in him as more than friends. He rejected those advances but they have always been good friends. Good friends who text and write to each other incessantly. Practically every day they are going back and forth on their cell phones almost every hour on the hour. It started some time ago and was getting to be so much that even our friends noticed and mentioned it. I talked to my husband about it and told him that while I knew nothing inappropriate was going on between the two of them, that didn't mean that their constant contact wasn't hurting me. He was very understanding about it and agreed to temper the texts.
Which he did for about a year. But recently it has started up again full force. And this time it isn't as open. He waits until he thinks I'm not in the room and is practically glued to his phone. There have been many times when I've come in and the phone has disappeared again, but not before I see her name.
And this is the part I'm not proud of. I'm not a snoop. I like my privacy so I try and give him his own, but my jealousy and curiosity were getting the better of me. I've looked at the phone without his knowledge once. Most of the texts were just back and forth about every day minutiae, but there were some that really bothered me. Her saying she missed him and his replying back with the same. Affectionate back and forth that was not consistent at least in my opinion with a normal friendship. No concrete plans for meeting or anything that was not above board, but enough to make me uneasy. Banter that I recognized as what we had at the beginning of our relationship. He was being more affectionate and attentive with her than he has been with me in some time.
What do I do? I want to trust him and I want to believe that there isn't anything more going on than just this. I'm not as confident as I once was. Could it be that his hiding it was his idea of continuing what is an innocent friendship but without hurting me further? If this continues, should I be that woman who lays down an ultimatum? Her or me? Or should I trust my husband and swallow my misgivings?
– Tired of Texting, Massachusetts
A: Your letter makes me heartsick, too, TOT. My guess is that this is simply a flirtation, but it's still awful.
I'm worried, but you have a very important thing going for you that many couples don't have: "We're best friends who can talk about anything with one another." Thank goodness for that.
The last time you asked him about this, he was honest and understanding. He didn't get defensive; he simply did what he needed to do to make you comfortable again. That's pretty great. And it means that when you talk to him about this again (and confess to him that you snooped), he'll probably explain what's going on in his head.
I have to wonder whether the texting is simply an addiction. It almost sounds like he's blogging -- but just to her. And let me tell you, when you write something down and someone comments on it, validating your existence by the hour, it feels good (said the blogger). It can become a part of your routine. It can be the thing that keeps you going. I'm not condoning his behavior, but I'm open to the possibility that he's using her as an audience.
It's something for you both to consider when you have the talk, which should be soon. I'd save the ultimatums and start with an honest discussion.
Readers? Could I be right about the blogging? Is this other woman just his audience? Or is he having an emotional affair? What should the letter writer say and do? Help.
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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.