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“I Found Sexts on My Wife’s Phone!”

text message

Recently I found on my wife’s phone inappropriate text messages to her ex-manager/friend that consisted of sexually explicit content. While it was not directed toward him in a sexual manner, it did consist of sexual banter.

While she says it was them “joking,” I feel it was sexting–simply for the fact that the texts were graphic in content and words. She said that she was “teasing” him about his lusting after a certain female that they both worked with. But to me, a married woman/man should not engage in such “banter” over mobile devices or computers or im’s or texts, especially when it is not with your spouse.

This has caused trouble in our marriage because she doesn’t see the wrong in it — even when I am telling her it hurts my feelings knowing she engages in such texts with someone other than I (and, from what I recall, we have only sent sexts to one another a handful of times).

As much as I try to explain to her that it is inappropriate for a married woman to engage in such behavior, I cannot get it through her head that it is “sexting.”

What say you in this matter? — Sexter’s Husband

Well, first of all, why were you looking at her phone? Do you have reason to not trust her or is a desire to police her behavior a longstanding trend in your relationship? If it’s the former, you need to address the trust issue. If it’s the latter, you need to address where this need comes from.

You’ve expressed to your wife that you feel that her text conversation, which was sexual in content, was inappropriate. You’ve told her that you feel it’s “sexting.” What was the response you wanted from her? An apology? A promise not to engage in such behavior again? Or, was it most important that she agree with you that her text conversation was, indeed, “sexting,” even if the content wasn’t addressed to the recipient in a sexual manner? And if it was important for her to agree that her behavior qualified as sexting, would you consider that an admission of cheating? Is that, in the end, what you are seeking from her?

There must have been a reason you were looking at your wife’s phone, and there must be a reason it’s so important to you that there be some admission of sexting/cheating (if you consider sexting cheating). So, what is that reason? In short: this incident seems a symptom of something bigger. What is that something? That is what the conversation with your wife should be about.

I can’t speak to whether what your wife wrote was sexting or not without knowing what it was she said. Does it sounds inappropriate? Yes, probably? Maybe? But even that is up for debate. (Readers, what do you think? Is sending a message that is “sexually graphic in content and words” always sexting regardless or its intent or how or to whom the message is delivered?) Regardless of what the general consensus is, if you felt offended and your wife isn’t acknowledging your hurt feelings or taking any responsibility for them, you have to decide whether this is a battle worth fighting. If it is, why? If you can articulate what it is you feel is lacking — respect, trust, mutual understanding — you’ll be in a better place to argue your point. And if you still can’t find common ground, you may want to consider finding a couples’ counselor to help you find and address the root of your problem (because, as I said, it’s bigger than a text message with some sexual words).

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar NavyWife August 19, 2014, 8:44 am

I think it would definitely make me uncomfortable to find texts like that on my husband’s phone–even if they *weren’t* technically directed at the other person. But that’s just me–I tend to be uptight. If the LW and his wife are completely at odds over whether her behavior was wrong, I think the best answer is to seek out a neutral 3rd party (counselor, etc). I agree that there’s probably a bigger issue here than just a few texts…

Also…did anyone else pick up on the somewhat stilted language? There were a couple phrases that kind of raised an eyebrow. Also, where LW said (and I’m paraphrasing): “A married woman shouldn’t engage in sexting/im’s/etc etc., especially with someone other than her spouse”. So is LW saying he’s not even comfortable with that sort of behavior within their relationship? If that is the case, he might just be uptight and I’d be interested to see how scandalous the texts really are.

RE: “snooping”…my husband and I go through each other’s phones sometimes. Not on a regular basis, or to police one another, but just casually on occasion…for example, I SAH with our 8-month old, so DH will pick up my phone and flip thru the pictures (knowing I’ve probably taken some of the baby that he hasn’t seen). That’s just one example, but it would be pretty easy for him to see if I had explicit texts on there. I can only think of a handful of things I’ve deleted that I wouldn’t want him to read…maybe my sister and me griping about our MIL’s or something. So to me, it’s not so far-fetched that LW would see something on his wife’s phone. But I think the LW’s language/syntax, coupled with the outrage, makes me think he was snooping.

avatar Portia August 19, 2014, 9:21 am

I also found that language to be a little odd… There’s no book of marriage manners that everyone has to adhere to out there, like a definitive etiquette book, right? If there is, I’ve got some reading to do… Either way, it sounds like the wife isn’t going to agree that her behavior was objectively seating or inappropriate for a married person, so he’s getting nowhere with that argument.

avatar csp August 19, 2014, 9:32 am

Yea, so my husband and I are above board with everything. We have each other’s passwords and are on each others phones for pictures, games, what ever. My husband will hand me his phone and dictate texts to me when he is driving.

If I found this kind of stuff, I would have some serious concerns and some real conversations about expectations. I believe that when you are married, you do take a step back from the opposite sex. I had guy friends who eventually became both of our friends but honestly, I don’t hang out one on one with them anymore. My husband never said anything about it, we just both didn’t act like we were single anymore.

LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed August 19, 2014, 9:36 am

Hanging out with a male friend doesn’t mean you’re acting like you’re single.

avatar csp August 19, 2014, 10:03 am

I can see how that last comment wasn’t clear. What I mean is that if I hang out with my male friends it is for a specific purpose like a work happy hour or playing tennis. But I wouldn’t go over to their place to just hang on the couch and watch a movie. Or if we went out, it is implied that my husband is invited. None of my straight, male friends would ever tell me to ditch my husband. “We” get invited now.

LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed August 19, 2014, 10:28 am

That’s fine if that works for you guys. But it doesn’t mean a person is acting single if they go hang out with a person of the opposite sex to hang out and watch a movie or whatever.

avatar Portia August 19, 2014, 10:37 am

Agreed.

avatar taurons August 19, 2014, 12:16 pm

Agreed as well. My best friend is a single, straight guy. We go out to dinner to catch up, have drinks, we’ve even gone to the movies together (just the two of us!)! My SO is nearly always invited but there are times you just gotta catch up with your friend (especially when he’s whining about women and wanting my advice!) or my SO doesn’t wanna do whatever we have planned (like seeing a kids movie at midnight). My SO never has a problem with is (it’s usually along the lines “me and bestie are getting together this week, great opportunity for you to invite the guys for a video games night at our place since I won’t be in your hair, of course if you want to join you’re more than welcome but we’ll mostly be whining all evening” lol). Bestie also sends me texts of a sexual nature (not /toward/ me, but talking about sexual things – like dates he’s been on or dance floor make outs he’s had), SO knows this and doesn’t find it offensive (if they were /toward/ me, I could see it being offensive).

avatar csp August 19, 2014, 12:34 pm

Honestly, I think we are just going to have to disagree but I have found that this is what I see in older, established marriages. Like, my mom doesn’t watch movies at another man’s house. She would go to events, play golf, but I would say that she would only go out to dinner with a life long male friend. She wouldn’t go solo with a man she only knew a little while. maybe it is the way I was raised but there is an intimacy there when you are alone at someone’s apartment.

avatar Sunshine Brite August 19, 2014, 12:40 pm

Yeah, it’s just different. I send my husband away to his friends’ houses which mostly include women to go watch movies, grab dinner, whatever. Most of these are lifelong but they wouldn’t need to be. I’d be mad if my new friend wouldn’t be able to do dinner just because of gender.

FireStar FireStar August 19, 2014, 1:05 pm

My marriage is like that too csp. Hanging out with opposite gender friends tends to happen in public (lunches etc) If a guy friend wanted to watch a movie I would just invite him to the house so we all could together but truly none of my friends would suggest only me going to their house without my husband. They would just tell me they want a movie night and then we would host it at our house – like we are doing long weekend actually. My husband might go help a female friend set up her wifi or something at her place but hanging out he would just make it a group thing. Truly my guy friends now call me up to arrange a motorcycle road trip with my husband and his female friends text me when they want to visit. Over time it just becomes one big friend circle.

FireStar FireStar August 19, 2014, 1:11 pm

Actually an ex-boyfriend called me up out of the blue about a month ago wanting to come over to the house(after close to 20 years) and my husband said he’d prefer it if I scheduled it when the maids were there and I didn’t think twice about it.

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 1:42 pm

The maids?

FireStar FireStar August 19, 2014, 1:49 pm

Um… no one living in with black and white uniforms…. I hate scrubbing floors. I’m happy to pay other lovely people to do it.

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 1:57 pm

Oh, haha. For some reason I thought you meant something else like “old maids.” I guess I’m used to hearing housekeeper. No judgment on having people do it for you at all! I do too.

avatar RedroverRedrover August 20, 2014, 1:58 pm

One of my best friends is a single, straight guy. We used to live in the same condo building and had keys to each other’s places, and we would constantly hang out together. When I stopped living there we didn’t do it as much, but we still have a comfort level almost like we’re siblings. It would really bother me if my husband didn’t want me hanging out alone with him. It would indicate a lack of trust in me.
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Also, my husband’s best friend is a woman. She was the “best man” at our wedding. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If he wants to go hang with her, that’s fine by me. Actually I’ve hung out with her husband before, doing playdates with our kids. We go to the zoo together and stuff, or just hang at one of our houses. I don’t understand the big deal. What difference does it make if he’s a guy? I’m not gonna sleep with him, he’s not gonna sleep with me, so who cares?

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 12:39 pm

She cleared up what she meant by that, though. They are just more comfortable that way. I actually don’t see anything wrong with it if both of them are just like that. It doesn’t scream to me that they have trust issues. More like its just how it, but also not a hard and fast rule really? I’m not seeing that they aren’t “allowed” to, just that they don’t because it usually works out that they are together or she doesn’t have many male friends who aren’t “couple friends.”

avatar Portia August 19, 2014, 10:33 am

So, me and Bassanio definitely both get invited to things together, too, but I think that’s just a function of us being together for so long. Like, I really dislike “girls nights” or “boys nights” because then it’s implied that one of us is not invited and neither of us are fans of exclusion. Doesn’t mean we do everything together – a lot of times one of us will “represent the unit” (that’s what we call it) if the other one is tired or out of town or busy, regardless of the gender of the person it’s with or type of activity (movies, dancing, hanging, dinner).

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 10:42 am

Would you still go out if your husband couldn’t make it? In my house, one of us always has to stay home with Lil at night, so I often will go to my friends’ places alone for an hour or two after she goes to bed. We’d rarely see friends if we could only go together.

avatar csp August 19, 2014, 12:28 pm

Yes, I would go. But honestly, lets say a guy friend asked me to come over to his apartment to watch a movie, I would have to be really passionate about the movie to go. Like if we were geeking out about Lord of the Rings. But I think that it would just be weird. I am not sure when that happened exactly, and I know it wasn’t right after I got married, but over time I feel like we just don’t hang out with members of the opposite sex without a real purpose. Like, play a sport, training for a half marathon, having a work happy hour/event. Again, there wasn’t jealousy or anything, it just stopped happening.

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 12:35 pm

It sounds like its working for you guys, so keep on keepin’ on :)

Kate B. Kate B. August 19, 2014, 12:13 pm

I have to say that I wouldn’t do that, either. Not until I tell him up front that that’s what happening.

avatar SasLinna August 19, 2014, 8:46 am

First of all, I get where you’re coming from. For me such texts would cross a line, too. It depends on the exact content of what she said and on whether it was a back-and-forth or just one text, but I see your point. My question is how did you address it with her? It kind of sounds like you told her that what she did was “inappropriate” rather than framing things in terms of how you feel about them. I wonder if she dismissed you because you were so insistent that what she did was wrong period, rather than something you are personally not cool with.

avatar something random August 19, 2014, 9:01 am

I agree. Being “confronted” by someone who is hurt and upset would make me feel defensive. I also probably wouldn’t be cool with my husband trading intimidate, sexy, inside jokes with a female work colleague. Being so unprofessional it would already feel kind of inappropriate and if I didn’t know that colleague as my husband’s personal friend I would feel like some boundaries had been breeched.

Okay, back to my stuff now :)

avatar Something random August 19, 2014, 11:52 am

Okay, I just re-read this letter more carefully. So it is no longer a work relationship and the husband knows about the ongoing friendship. Without knowing what the content of the messages were, I’m understanding the wife’s response a little more now.

avatar jlyfsh August 19, 2014, 9:56 am

Yeah, I agree. I wouldn’t be happy about something like this either. Although I am confused about how texting someone else about what they want to do with a third party comes across as sexting them. Makes me think the language is not what I am imagining. Either way it obviously makes him uncomfortable and like you said approaching it from a this is not ok to me, it makes me feel “x” way will get you much further than trying to get the other party to say you’re right it was sexting. Hopefully she has stopped, but I think that’s the bigger issue than whether or not she agrees it was sexting. Plenty of people might not agree with their spouse on issues, but they stop engaging in them because it bothers them.

avatar something random August 19, 2014, 8:48 am

I don’t think a message with banter is always sexting. But I think everyone has their own comfort levels about the boundaries of extramarital friendships. Relationships require some balancing between individuals owning their insecurities and not using them to control their partner and being respectful and accommodating of their partners comfort levels. I don’t think its a good sign that husband felt he had to snoop nor is it good that wife completely invalidated his feelings. IMO this speaks to a general lack of trust between the two of them.

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 9:44 am

I really love this comment.
But I also don’t think sex jokes (especially about other people) is sexting at all. Clearly this guy has trust issues because I really think if he didn’t, he’d see nothing wrong with this.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana August 19, 2014, 9:12 am

I am so incredibly confused about how you can send sexts but not have them directed at the other person? Like what does that even look like? To me sexting is sending dirty photos and explicit messages about what you want to do/have someone do to you…was your wife like “oh that hot coworker–you want to get naked and x her x in the x?” I am so confused.
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But LW, whether we think what she did was right or wrong, given the murky background you gave–isn’t really important; some of us will think you are being uptight, others will think you are justified in being so angry. What really matters is that you told her how uncomfortable it made you, and she brushed it off like it was nothing and didn’t really apologize or say she would stop engaging in that behavior. You seem so hell bent on proving she was in fact sexting, you are glossing over the fact she is being really dismissive of your feelings. I agree with Wendy’s advice that if she can’t at least see where you are coming from and you two can’t have an open dialogue about this then bringing in a third party (counselor) to help with communication/whatever else is truly the root of this will definitely help.

LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed August 19, 2014, 9:15 am

I can see how she is dismissive if he was as obsessed with proving that it’s sexting (I’m with you on that definition) that that’s what the fighting is about. If that’s what he’s focusing on, getting her to agree its sexting and she doesn’t agree with his definition instead of his discomfort.

avatar Norabb August 19, 2014, 9:30 am

I think it’s important for him to stop using the term “sexting” if it really wasn’t sexting. I personally think that a “sext” is a text or image that is supposed to simulate (or stimulate!) sex between the two people conversing. So I would be mad if I were his wife and he accused me of sexting when I was probably just having an inappropriate conversation. Not saying what she did was right, especially since she didn’t apologize at all, but he’s saying she’s doing something MUCH worse than she is, so it’s understandable that she’d be defensive when being told she’s cheating, when she doesnt think she is.

so if there’s another word for this besides “sexting”…let’s use it.

avatar Essie August 19, 2014, 9:50 am

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. IMO, sexting is like phone sex. It’s graphic messages/photos sent between two people instead of them having actual in-person sex. He’s accusing her of sexting, she reacts angrily and defensively because that’s not what she’s doing, she’s not involved with this guy, she doesn’t want to have sex with him. Her reaction makes him upset because she’s minimizing his feelings. Nobody’s actually LISTENING to each other.

Some people are more comfortable with sexual jokes/conversations than others. It sounds like the husband is far less comfortable than the wife with that kind of humor. And is very focused on the method of communication – that it’s inappropriate to discuss anything related to sex on electronic devices. Which I’m not sure I understand, he seems more concerned about how she’s communicating than who she’s communicating with.

I don’t know what to say here….I think this is a good example of a situation that calls for counseling. This is a communication issue, and I think a third party would help sort it out.

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 9:53 am

Right?! I’d be super defensive and pissed if I were being accused of cheating when all I did was hug someone goodbye.

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 9:37 am

Uh oh, stepford wife made a dirty, dirty sex joke. Better take her phone away.

avatar lets_be_honest August 19, 2014, 9:39 am

Real advice: just tell her while she did nothing wrong, it makes you uncomfortable for her to talk about dicks to other men. (or tits, whatever it was)

Amanda Amanda August 19, 2014, 9:50 am

Okay, LW, I don’t know what kind of discussion has happened. But, what I can say is that from this letter it seems like you’re badgering her. That’s not a conversation – that’s one-sided arguing. She’s shutting down and being dismissive because (from what I can tell) it’s constant. Ease up on that, perhaps go to marriage counselling. Let her tell her side and actually LISTEN, don’t just shoot it down because you’re so obsessed with getting her to agree to your definition. And tell her, don’t preach, about how you’re hurt. Then you both should be able to figure out what the real problem is.

FireStar FireStar August 19, 2014, 9:54 am

The official definition (according to Webster) is

the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone

There. Feel better? No? This is one of those cases where being right about the definition is meaningless because it is your feelings on the matter that (should) count. You feel hurt and disrespected because any kind of sexy talk should be between the two of you and her conversation with another man crossed the line. Why not say that instead of trying to shove the definition down her throat? The goal here isn’t to be proclaimed the King of Being Right… Right? The goal is to convey that this behaviour is outside what you feel comfortable with, it hurt your feelings and you would like it to stop. You need to change your approach – you are trying to win at the wrong thing.

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy August 19, 2014, 9:57 am

FireStar for the win!

FireStar FireStar August 19, 2014, 10:10 am

Awww….

Lianne Lianne August 19, 2014, 10:00 am

Yeah what pretty much everyone else said. I don’t think it’s sexting, per se, but you are uncomfortable and she’s dismissing that. Something similar happened to me with a guy I’ve been friends with for years. Last year this guy friend and I had a text-versation that wasn’t intended to be inappropriate, but a response I accidentally sent to my fiance made HIM uncomfortable. And even though in context it was totally benign, he was upset and that’s all that mattered. Of course I explained the situation, but I also did not invalidate his feelings. That’s what I think the issue is here – she’s invalidating your feelings on the matter. You two need to communicate better by listening to each others’ concerns.

Fabelle Fabelle August 19, 2014, 10:37 am

I… yeah, what everyone else is saying. Stop trying to convince your wife that what she did was sexting–it doesn’t matter (also, in my opinion? It’s not sexting. BUT ANYWAY–)
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If it makes you uncomfortable, just own that & tell her it makes you uncomfortable. & that you’d prefer if she refrained? (I think you already made that clear, though, judging by what you’ve said you told her).
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How she responds is up to her… personally, I do not appreciate when my partner tries to control the manner in which I communicate with my friends (& vice-vera). I know other people structure their relationships differently, but your wife also clearly does not appreciate your reaction? Yow two could be at an impasse…

avatar Lucy August 19, 2014, 12:09 pm

There’s a huge difference between sexting and off colour banter. It sounds like your wife was engaging in the latter, just based on your description. Surely, if you knew her well enough to marry her, you know whether she’s a person who engages in off colour banter. Is this behaviour really a surprise to you? Or were you expecting her to turn into a different (uptight) person after the wedding? If you don’t think your wife is cheating on you (and it sounds like you don’t), maybe stop trying to control her behaviour, and instead work on changing your reaction to it.

avatar Vathena August 19, 2014, 1:19 pm

WEES. The style of the writing in this letter made me think that the writer is part of a generation that came of age before the current technology hit the market, and has heard about this “sexting” thing that All The Kids are doing nowadays. It’s impossible to say how inappropriate the texts were without knowing exactly what was said. I’d be annoyed and dismissive too, if my husband were acting like I was committing a grave sin against our marriage by joking with a friend about his desire to bone a co-worker.

On the one hand, the wife should make an effort to tone it down if she knows it bothers her normally reasonable, non-jealous husband. On the other, she should not have to tiptoe around, changing her fairly innocuous behavior, in order to appease someone who may just be exhibiting controlling tendencies.

avatar Skyblossom August 19, 2014, 1:41 pm

I know that for myself, if I had any banter going on with a friend, male or female, I’d be sharing it with my husband, just because it’s funny and we share funny with each other. I think the thing that stands out to me is that she doesn’t share this kind of sexual banter with her husband in their own relationship and she was hiding the fact that she had this type of banter going on with the male friend. If she was hiding it, then she knew it would bother him and she was keeping a secret from the marriage that she knew would be damaging to the marriage. If she was hiding it then she shouldn’t have been doing it. If she has this kind of banter with lots of people, and he knows that, then it isn’t such a big deal but it doesn’t sound like he knows about this side of her. When a friendship starts keeping secrets from the marriage it is never good or the marriage.

avatar John Farrier August 20, 2014, 5:14 pm

LW writes:

But to me, a married woman/man should not engage in such “banter” over mobile devices or computers or im’s or texts, especially when it is not with your spouse.

This strikes me as obviously correct.

avatar something random August 20, 2014, 7:25 pm

Half of the commenters I reply to here have engaged in banter that could be characterized as graphic humor right on this site. It’s hard to know obvious without some quotes, at least from my view. I don’t think he’s wrong to feel the way he does, I might feel the same way. But trying to make it universal to gain clout probably isn’t the most healing method of resolution.