Q: Hi Meredith,
I have been with my husband for 12 years, and married for almost 10. I am 34 and we have two kids. A few months after my second one was born, I happened upon a dating site left open on my husband's laptop. He had not only created a profile but also corresponded with several women looking to have an intimate fling. It's a pay for dating kind of site.
We have had several things going on in our life. He is finishing up his studies. We recently relocated to a new state to be closer to my family. We have never had a great sex life because of issues on both sides. It's something we have both tried to work on, off and on. I feel the issues are more on his side though (physically mostly). It frustrated me terribly in the beginning, but I learned to live with it because I thought everything else was perfect. He was thoughtful, helpful, always remembered anniversaries, and always had something special planned. We are great friends, I admired and respected him, and I trusted him completely.
When I confronted him about the website, I found out that he had been doing it for six months (from the time my second daughter was a month old). He said he never intended for it to go anywhere, though he did meet one of the women once. But I don't know how much to believe him. When I first found out, I asked him to not touch anything on his profile until I had time to think about it. And when I finally decided a couple of days later that I needed to go through the site and find out the extent of his betrayal, I found that he had changed some things to tone down what he had done. That eroded my trust further because he had promised he wouldn't change anything on the site. Now I don't think I can believe anything he says.
I don't know what to do. He is a good father. He says he will never do it again. But my trust is lost.
I don't know if I can leave him. I don't want my kids to grow up in a broken family, and I am certain I don't want to remarry or have any other men in my life. I have always been against marriage and felt that it was only because my husband was so exceptional that it made sense (my father abandoned us when we were kids). A divorce would also cause a lot of heartache in both our families (we are from a country where this is not common).
Is this a big deal or is it a deal breaker? I don't really have anyone to talk to. I don't want to tell my family because I am afraid they will stop respecting him. I have asked him to come clean with his parents because it would make me feel like it's a sign of being truly repentant. (I am not religious.) It's been two months since I found out and he hasn't done it yet. He is seeing a psychiatrist and telling her his life story so that's more a shoulder to whine and cry on than someone who will hold him accountable for what he did.
Shall we live together and find a way to make this bearable or should I move on? Am I right in insisting that he tell his parents or at least someone who will hold him accountable? He has lost that chance with me since I already found out on my own. What should I do to make this situation livable?
– Looking for Answers, Massachusetts
A: I'm not convinced that things will get any better if he tells his parents, LFA. Sure, you'll get some temporary pleasure from watching someone else get mad at him, but then what? Don't assume that he'll learn a lesson by confessing. Don't assume that his parents can shame him into being a better guy.
I want you to talk to your inner circle about all of this because you both need support. Forget the redemption and punishment stuff for a bit and focus on getting help from the people who love you.
And please, let's not assume that the psychiatrist is just sitting around and validating him. That's not how it's supposed to go. Tell him that you want to join him at these sessions. And please, see a therapist on your own. Therapy is a good thing.
I wish I could tell you whether to stick it out, but I just don't know enough about what's happening in his head. All I can say is that you have to find people to lean on. You moved closer to your family for a reason. This is no time for isolation.
Also know this: Broken families are bad, but so are tense, resentful families who stay together without love and trust. You need to figure out what will make you a happy parent. That's the most important thing. Find help and start asking questions.
Readers? Thoughts on her telling her community and him telling his parents? What about their sex life? And the online dating? Can a couple move beyond this kind of betrayal? 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.