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Your Turn: “How Can I Forgive Him for Sexting other Women?”

New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), or submit a question for advice.

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

Recently, I came upon my husband using his phone and he was getting the text tone. When I asked him who was texting him, he became very evasive. I took the phone from him and made some unpleasant discoveries. Long story short, he has been having online flirtations and sexting with a number of girls from all over the country. This has been going on for almost eight months. None of the girls is local and he says he has never met any of them or even talked to any of them on the phone; it was all just typing back and forth. I’ve talked to a few of the girls and believe he’s telling the truth about that.

Apart from this situation, he has been good and caring otherwise. He says he is sorry and wants a chance to start over, and I want us to start over too. I told him I was willing to work on it and I do love him, but right now I’m having a hard time. How does someone get the trust back after being lied to over and over and over again? I mean, I felt stupid and guilty for suspecting anything and it turns out I was right all along. How could he do that to someone he says he cares about unless he is actually lying about caring about me? How could he keep doing that knowing how it affected every part of our life and was getting in the way of our supposed happy family? How can I ever look back on any good memories and be anything but sad? And how can I ever remember all the lies and be OK with them? — Want to Forgive but Can’t Forget


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar ReginaRey April 4, 2012, 9:14 am

First of all, if you and your husband are both completely, extremely, 100% serious about working on your marriage — Then you need to get yourselves to couples therapy. Immediately. It will be a safe place for you and your husband to healthfully explore what may have led and contributed to his emotional affairs. And yes, I do believe that he was emotionally straying from you, at the very least.

By all accounts, you define his sexting as cheating on you (which I think is completely accurate, personally). And the thing about cheating that you must keep in mind is…sometimes, it isn’t possible for someone to forgive and forget. You’ve asked a lot of pointed questions — “How could he keep doing that knowing how it affected every part of our life and was getting in the way of our supposed happy family? How can I ever look back on any good memories and be anything but sad? And how can I ever remember all the lies and be OK with them?” And the truth is — You may not be able to move on from this, to recover from it, or to be OK.

Your job is to figure out what you can accept, and move on from. Personally, I’m the kind of person who has a zero tolerance policy for any kind of cheating. In addition to the betrayal, I know I could never trust the person again, and the lack of trust would ruin our relationship, anyway — I’d be wracked with worry every time he left the house; I’d be tempted to snoop on him all the time, and I’d feel constant anger and grief thinking about what he’d done to me. I can’t do it, and I know I can’t do it.

Absolute, positive bottom line — If you’re the kind of person for which cheating completely dashes your trust in someone; if it’s going to make you crazy with worry and suspcision; if you’re going to start snooping and lashing out; if it’s going to do negative things for your mental health, then you’re likely not going to be able to make a relationship work…nor should you have to.

Some people can forgive and forget. So ask yourself if you think you can. Can you not snoop through his phone? Can you be at peace when you don’t know where he might be going or with whom? Will you eventually stop worrying about his straying? And, for his part, does he make a concerted effort to change? Can you tell that he’s dedicated to the marriage? Does he seem remorseful? Is he making strides to really and truly become a more evolved person in your marriage? These are questions you can answer through time, observation and in therapy. Your answers to them will determine whether or not you two can make this work.

avatar camille905 April 4, 2012, 9:32 am

Yeah that pretty much sums it up.

avatar titian April 4, 2012, 10:10 am

Great advice. I’ve had this happen to me and I think everything Regina said is spot on. I decided to stay to see if we can make it work and so far we are but everything you pointed out: the need to constantly monitor, the crazy in your head when he goes out, happened to me.

For me, it’s gotten better as time goes by. I think you will feel this way at first no matter what and no matter how badly you want to stay.

EscapeHatches EscapeHatches April 4, 2012, 1:11 pm

You didn’t mentioned if there are children involved, so….

For the love of Zeus, DO NOT have a child with him (if that’s in your plans), until your relationship and yourselves have emerged from the other side of therapy. Band-aid babies do not work.

avatar Leah April 4, 2012, 9:40 am

It might be difficult, but you really need to get his side of the story. You’re making assumptions about how he perceived his own behavior that may not be true. You ask, “How could he keep doing that knowing how it affected every part of our life and was getting in the way of our supposed happy family,” but maybe he DIDN’T know that. What really stuck out for me is that there was a very clear line that he was not crossing with these women. He never heard their voices, only typed, and none of them were local so there was no chance of meeting them in person.

People define cheating differently, and I would say that generally women are more strict with their definitions than men are. It’s possible that your husband saw his behavior as wrong and potentially hurtful, which is why he hid it from you, but didn’t consider it cheating. It’s also possible that he underestimated HOW hurtful it was until he saw firsthand when you caught him. It’s really hard to keep sex thrilling and exciting when you’ve been with the same person for a long time. As hard as this is to accept given how hurt you’re feeling right now, it’s possible that your husband saw his behavior as one step up from watching pornography. There was another person on the other end of the line, sure, but there was no physical contact and from what you’ve said no visual contact either.

This is why it’s so important to get his side of the story and for him to spend a long time (preferably in therapy) figuring out why he did what he did. Was this behavior likely to escalate over time? Would he have stepped up to phone sex, video chatting and eventually meeting up with women in real life? Or was this behavior that he (wrongly) assumed was basically harmless because it was never going to go further than the written word? If that’s the case, now that he’s seen what kind of damage he’s done it’s possible that he really would never be tempted to do this again. It would take time for you to really trust him again, but it is possible to move on from this. And who knows? Maybe you can get a much more honest relationship out of it when all is said and done.

call-me-hobo call-me-hobo April 4, 2012, 9:55 am

I agree that this is a chance to work on their relationship, but the thing is, I think he knew how much it would hurt her. He actively hid it from her for 8 months, and didn’t come clean until she actually saw the messages.

It wasn’t a “my bad- you aren’t cool with this?” This was a deliberate deception on his part. That would really bother me more than the actually sexting, and I think that is what is hurting the LW so much.

avatar ReginaRey April 4, 2012, 9:59 am

Honestly, I think the fact that he was texting them while she was right in front of him says a LOT about this situation. He’s either incredibly clueless (doubtful) or so disrespectful and blase that he almost WANTED to get caught. Not to go *too* far in my assumptions, but I find that the people who are careless with their cheating (be it emotional or physical) are likely looking for a way out of a relationship without having to do the “hard stuff.” They’re looking for someone to just end it for them. Kind of like Dennis’ essay last week.

avatar Leah April 4, 2012, 11:07 am

At the same time, I’m really curious about what lead to the LW actually calling these women up. If she did this on her own (the same way she yanked the phone out of his hand), that would be one thing. But if her husband actually gave her his phone and gave his permission to call these women, I think that says a lot about his character as well and how far he may be willing to go to make this right. First off, those phone calls were likely humiliating for him, and it also speaks to how much control he’s willing to give the LW in terms of how they deal with this situation from now on.

avatar CollegeCat April 4, 2012, 11:28 am

the calls may have been humiliating for him but having to make those calls were probably 100x more humiliating for her. I mean “hi i’m ____’s wife. Could you tell me more about the nature of your relationship?” ughh.

landygirl landygirl April 4, 2012, 11:41 am

I’m with you, he should be humilated by what he’s done.

avatar savannah April 4, 2012, 11:01 am

“It’s possible that your husband saw his behavior as wrong and potentially hurtful, which is why he hid it from you, but didn’t consider it cheating.”
I think you’re being far too generous here. If you are involved with other people in a romantic way that makes you hide it from your wife, its pretty much cheating. The only thing you are pointing out is the different between emotional cheating and physical cheating and even in this case its not clear where he lies on that spectrum. If phone sex is considered physical cheating, and cyber sex is physical cheating then sexting is physical cheating.

avatar Leah April 4, 2012, 11:17 am

I really have to disagree here. I think cheating (emotional and physical) is on a continuum and each person defines it differently. Some people consider kissing other people cheating while others don’t. We can all agree that’s a shitty thing to do, but people do label it differently. And what about openly flirting with other people when the partner isn’t around if it doesn’t lead to anything else? Is that cheating? Again, unless there is express permission to do so it’s a shitty thing to do, but people are going to respond differently to that level of betrayal.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how any of us on this message board define cheating; what’s important is how the LW and her husband define it and whether those definitions match up. That’s why I think it’s so important that they have that conversation and see how close or far apart they really fall. As Kate points out below, some people just aren’t as good at monogamy as others. That doesn’t make what he did okay or forgivable, but I do think that it’s possible his actions stem more from stupidity than a knowing betrayal. If I were in the LW’s shoes knowing that would make a difference for me.

avatar savannah April 4, 2012, 11:35 am

“That doesn’t make what he did okay or forgivable, but I do think that it’s possible his actions stem more from stupidity than a knowing betrayal”
I guess what I’m saying is that unless otherwise specified people who agree to get married have the right to expect their partners to be good at monogamy and as a key tenant of the majority of marriages, I think its such a stretch to say the the husband is just stupid and didn’t know that this was a betrayal of their marriage.

caitie_didnt caitie_didnt April 4, 2012, 12:37 pm

I agree….marriage is by default a monogamous contract and I’m tired of this bullshit where emotional cheating isn’t “real” cheating, or it’s not “real” cheating till you’ve slept with the other person. I call bullshit on all of it. if you are hiding your behaviour from your spouse- it’s cheating. If you think your spouse would be upset to find you’ve been sexting other women- it’s cheating. Sure, some people don’t do monogamy. They shouldn’t be getting married, then. Once you’ve entered that by default monogamous contract, you don’t just get to change the terms and claim innocence.

avatar Crying_Raven June 25, 2014, 3:36 am

I agree 100% with this. Cheating comes in all forms including emotional cheating is a huge one (example: sexual advances, sexting, chasing tail, and the like). Physical cheating is a no-brainer on the cheating spectrum of no-nos for most people(unless open relationships are already agreed upon), duh. But boundaries of sexting and etc seems to be brushed off under the rug and accepted openly quite often these days especially in committed relationships, since “nothing technically happened”, right? Personally I say, incorrect. If I was dumb enough to cheat in the first place I wouldn’t bother going into a monogamous relationship at all but live it large with no strings attached kind of life style, where games and fooling around would be appropriate with no possible guilt-trips. However, I personally believe full commitment once commited 100% with one other person, which includes no sexting, sexual flirtations or beyond when I’m with that person I hope/wish to have a possible permanent future with. Firstly all of these things just creates lower self confidence, cheaper sense of the relationship, paranoia, agitation (inadvertently or not, ie…moodyness as my SO would say…hmmm I wonder why?) and tons questions/thoughts of (if I do dare say) the possibility of full blown physical cheating in the long run. In my “commited” relationship, I wish only to have a fully committed/dedicated mate in which I could have the comfort of knowing my secrets and his as well, will only stay between us (for better or for worst) including on the sexual level and not to be “shared” playfully or for “extra-entertainment”. Took much to ask? Why go looking for trouble if already in a relationship in the first place? So if f you’re unhappy with your relationship/situation, break it off and not torture the person who might have higher expectations of full “commitment” on all levels unless both are in it together on a mutual understanding. I could be wrong but I guess I’m a mature enough female who know what she wants in life without the need to play games and fool around to see what my tastes are. Been there done that in the past, lessons learned, moved on. For the younger ones that have yet to figure things out, date around, mature/grow-up and get your ducks in order before settling into the constraints of a commitment, like else anything in life. So yes, make those mistakes early on, live and learn then move onto better things from those lessons. To sum it up, commitment is a conscience mature decision not to be wishy-washy or immature about on all levels.

avatar Heidi April 4, 2012, 6:51 pm

This is in reply to Leah, 100% in agreement with you.

avatar cporoski April 4, 2012, 1:52 pm

I totally agree. They need to go to therapy. I agree about cheating definitions. He might of seen this as looking at porn versus a relationship. The lines are blurred now. Where did he find these women? They are married and I don’t think dumping him should be used so quickly.

FireStar FireStar April 4, 2012, 9:49 am

What happened was a betrayal of your trust – I’m sure you must be devastated but if you want to rebuild your life together the only way to deal with it is with a licensed professional. Some people say cheating of any sort is something you can’t recover from it but I don’t know that that is the case. I agree this is cheating but there are degrees of cheating just like there are degrees of everything else. Kissing someone else is cheating and so if a full blown affair – does it make sense to handle both the same way? We all like to think we know what we would do in certain situations but the boots on the ground reality might be different than we would have thought- this isn’t your boyfriend who you can walk away from with relative ease – this is your husband and extricating yourself from a marriage is a different beast. And while you feel anger and hurt and betrayal now – that is not to say you will always feel those things. You do not have to be doomed to a life of mistrust. But you two can’t achieve that on your own. There have been many couples that work through infidelity – often extreme infidelity – and emerge together on the other side. If your husband is serious in his contrition and you are invested enough in this relationship to try then a therapist can help you both address the issues that need to be addressed in your marriage and help you create a more solid foundation going forward. Good luck to you and I wish for you every success.

avatar kerrycontrary April 4, 2012, 9:59 am

I agree that marriage versus dating makes a huge difference when it comes to cheating. This is not only the man she loves, but their entire lives are entwined. They spend holidays with each others families, they have presumably years of memories together. They have build their lives around each other. Even if you are someone who says “I will never tolerate cheating” you never know how hard it would be to walk away unless you are or have been in that situation. If a boyfriend (even a live-in boyfriend) cheats you can walk away that day. Even if the LW immediately did want to leave her husband, ending a marriage is an expensive and long process, not to mention emotionally taxing. I believe that it is possible for a marriage to survive cheating with the help of counseling and time. It may take YEARS for the LW to trust her husband again, but 3 years is a blip in 40-50 years of marraige.

avatar SweetPea April 4, 2012, 10:39 am

Very much agree, FireStar.

My initial reaction was a very adamant “OH HELL NO!”. I have been there, done that. I stayed far too long with a boyfriend who exhibited this behavior over and OVER. He lied so much I think he believed his lies. So, when I read letters like this, my gut usually says “MOA”.

But, when I think about this deeper and when I read responses like yours… well, I do think I would give it a bigger effort. That word “HUSBAND” is a big, gigantic word. And I hope I would try until I couldn’t try anymore to “fix” things.

I agree- therapy is a MUST. And he needs to work on it. Beware of pretty words that are really meaningless. This guy has got to do some real work.

avatar Mary March 24, 2014, 3:06 pm

I was desperately searching for answer to my situation. Thank goodness I found you guys and your level headed answers.
I reconnected with a man that I dated 20+ years ago. I moved away for a job opportunity and I never forgot him. When I moved back home to Austin I decided to look him up. I checked out his Face Book sight to make sure I wouldn’t cause any issues with current relationships.
I sent him a message and he responded. It was over the holidays and we were both very busy and couldn’t get together til after NYE. He called me frequently and we talked for hours. I ad never texted, or sexted until him. Never sent a sexy pic, never had phone sex. It was fun, new and exciting. It wasn’t until later in the relationship that I realized he was quite the pro at this
I found out that during two years of our escalating relationship that he was quite busy sexting others. He was on Craigslist, multiple dating sights and who knows where else.
He said he never did anything with any of them. He sexted and sent naked pics back and forth. It was confusing and hurtful. I wondered if he had to think of these other woman to have sex with me. Did he think of them during. I’m no prude and understand guys have a fantasy life and women do too.
I left and went to Colorado for 3 months, he kept texting me that he missed me and wanted me to come home. He was sorry and wanted to work it out. I went back for Thanksgiving, he was acting strangely but I didn’t push it. The morning I was leaving I noticed a text on his Ipad with a kissy Icon. I looked a little deeper (yes, I snooped)there in front of me was days worth of texts while I was there over Thanksgiving. Texts to another woman he had been seeing while we were apart, fai enough, we weren’t together, but….the whole time was with him over Thanksgiving, he was telling me he loved me, missed me, wanted me back home, he was texting this other woman. Telling her to hurry home, he missed her. he even told her he was going to go hide out in the bathroom and masturbate to the thought of her.
Now he thinks he can say he was immature and so sorry for hurting me and wats me back AGAIN!!!! Does a tiger change his stripes? Can someone that treats another person so bad really see the error of their was.

Heather Heather April 4, 2012, 9:59 am

This is tough LW. When it comes to things like this, you need to really, truly ask yourself if this is something you can forgive him for. Whatever answer you choose will not be an easy one. Here’s the thing-if you do choose to stay with him, it will go both ways. Yes, he needs to do everything he can to earn your trust, but you need to actually be willing to give it. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to. If I was cheated on, I wouldn’t be able to let it go. I wouldn’t be able to begin trusting that person ever again. It would never be the same for me.

But, this might not be the case for you. At the end of the day, there’s no set way of doing it. There’s no guidebook for “How to Regain Trust”. I agree with other commenters 100% when they say you should begin couples counseling. If your wish is to try to fix your relationship with him, it’s best to do it with the help of a counselor. And I know it’s hard, and it absolutely doesn’t excuse his behavior, but part of the healing process will be to acknowledge his reasons for stepping out in the manner that he did.

Bottom line, do what’s best for YOU. Acknowledging that it’s over doesn’t mean you don’t love him or that you can’t forgive him for what he did, just that his indiscretion was a mark on the relationship that you wouldn’t be able to move past. On the flip side, if you do choose to stay with him, you have to go into it all the way with as much dedication as he will have to. I’m definitely not trying to push you in any direction. Just consider it and don’t be afraid to answer the tough questions, or face the even tougher answers.

avatar Chicago_Dude April 4, 2012, 10:07 am

What stands out most is the expectation that a partner is to be flawless.
I’m not condoning his actions.
A route to consider is to separate the man from his fallacy. If he is remorseful, and you are willing, give him a chance to grow from this experience and see how it plays out. Yes, he’s betrayed his marriage and rightfully have lost some trust with you.

Though this affects you, it isn’t about you. It’s about someone who exercised bad judgment in sore of vows and prearranged conditions you’ve set forth in your marriage.
Communicate that to him, and help create an atmosphere for him too redeem himself and for him to use this opportunity to further bond and help the marriage grow.

avatar titian April 4, 2012, 10:12 am

I agree with this too. Part of why I stayed in my situation and wanted to work it out is that he has put up with some awful behavior from me while which I am working through and working on in therapy. I guess I felt like why am I allowed to make mistakes and treat him badly in some situations but he has to be perfect and never make a single mistake in others?

It’s a personal call though.

avatar Chicago_Dude April 4, 2012, 12:25 pm

It is a personal call.
There are a few options, terri of which are:
– use this as an opportunity for self discovery and growth of the marriage,
– beat yourself & your partner to death

When you speak with couples who’ve endured decades and decades of marriage, they all chalk it up to bring resilient, not quitting on the other, forgiveness..etc.
It’s not magic, baby. It’s hard work.

Kudos to you for walking that walk, titan. Keep up the faith.

avatar cmarie April 4, 2012, 12:50 pm

You forgot the option to end the relationship and allow both of them to find happiness.

avatar Heidi April 4, 2012, 7:01 pm

Chicago_Dude – “It’s not magic baby,it’s hard work” this. I’m 34 and have been married 11 years to a wonderful man. My husband has never cheated. If my husband would cheat on our marriage, I would,yes be upset, but I would like to think that (depending on the circumstances) I would make my decision on how to move forward based on the person I have known for 15 + years and not the poor decision he made. Just as I would hope he would do the same if the roles were reversed.

avatar Anna April 4, 2012, 10:31 am

While I do agree that no one is perfect or should be expected to be perfect, I don’t see this as a mistake. He knew what he was doing was wrong and that’s why he hid it. That was deliberate, calculated, and done of his own free will. A mistake is something you didn’t intend to do, like damaging their car or accidentally undercooking the chicken. Sexting other women can’t be done without intention.

FireStar FireStar April 4, 2012, 11:03 am

A mistake is just an act or omission that is misguided or wrong – making a mistake doesn’t speak to intention. An accident speaks to intention but I don’t think Chicago_Due was trying to say he accidentally sexted the other women.

avatar Chicago_Dude April 4, 2012, 12:03 pm

Anna, I think I get from where you’re saying what you’re saying. The LW is justified to be upset about this. Your definition of a mistake versus a calculated mistake however, I’m not sure add much to the dialogue.

avatar jlyfsh April 4, 2012, 10:33 am

There is a difference between expecting a partner to be flawless and expecting them to not cheat on you. Everyone makes mistakes but cheating (whatever form that cheating may take) is not just a small issue. It attacks the very foundation of a marriage and takes a lot of work to come back from.

That being said I think that it is something that can be worked through. They both need counseling as well as to be in marriage counseling. She is allowed to feel angry and upset and needs her own space to work through those feelings, just like he needs to deal with whatever led him to text these other women.

Leroy Leroy April 4, 2012, 11:01 am

I wondered the same. Strange as it sounds, it might be helpful to recognize that he’s just an asshole.

I’ve got no tolerance for actual cheating, but his could be a situation where he didn’t quite get how hurtful it would be to the LW. He may have thought of it like porn, or going to a strip club – not something he’d want her to know about, but not behavior pursuant to infidelity either.

avatar savannah April 4, 2012, 11:09 am

I don’t understand the excuse of ignorance of his actions upon their marriage. How does that somehow redeem any part,however small, of his actions?

Leroy Leroy April 4, 2012, 11:14 am

It doesn’t, but it goes to his state of mind and intentions. The LW seems to feel that he’d done this with knowledge of the impact of his actions – “knowing how it affected every part of our life” – and he may not have.

avatar cporoski April 4, 2012, 5:20 pm

See, I saw this as the porn/stripclub grey area. That is such a slippery slope for people. We have had chats on here about Live chats with people and interactive things. It isn’t cut and dry about a sketchy magazine because they women can interact in so many ways. I think that this behavior is something that can be worked through if both parties are willing.

avatar savannah April 4, 2012, 11:04 am

She didn’t say he’s not perfect so I’m leaving so I’m not sure where you got that expectation from. She said he did this, I’m trying to get over it and having a hard time, help.

Will.i.am Will.i.am April 4, 2012, 10:13 am

I think since you two are married, it warrants the chance to work on your marriage. The hardest part about this situation is the trust that has been broken. Like RR said, it is time to go to couple’s therapy and find the root of why he prefers to see other women’s assets and not his wife’s. Be prepared to feel extremely uncomfortable with the news you might hear. Just have to keep in mind that people change and he ‘could’ have different feelings for you than what you have thought. This problem can be fixed, but it will take a lot of effort from your husband and you having the ability to let yourself open up to his problem, and then allow yourself to slowly or quickly trust him again.

Where trust has been broken, communication has to be very strong. You can’t tread on this lightly, since it will likely lead to him sexting again in the future.

avatar Lindsay April 4, 2012, 10:15 am

Definitely marriage counseling. It sounds like you’re going to have a hard time trusting him, and I’d say that it’s important to start trusting him again when you know it’s smart to and when you know that he’s going to make an effort to be a better husband. A lot of people who cheat get caught and then regret what they did, especially when they see the damage they caused. But a person who has been lying for eight months is not particularly trustworthy, and it’s easy to see why you wouldn’t trust him all of a sudden. A counselor can help you both figure out what’s best for you.

avatar Kate Ellenberger April 4, 2012, 10:25 am

I think it bears mentioning that monogamy is more natural for some people than others. It sounds like this man tried to take action on his desire for attention from other women without crossing what he saw as a boundary. Going to a sex positive therapist who will focus on your relationship’s success instead of his “sexual issue” is key if you really want to build a sustainable base for future trust. You both have areas of weakness, and considering them realistically is the only way to prevent this kind of breach of trust from repeating itself.

call-me-hobo call-me-hobo April 4, 2012, 12:54 pm

I’m sorry, I’m not getting on board with this. When you enter the contract of marriage (unless specifically agreed upon by both parties) the relationship is understood to be monogamous, and it’s not ok to seek attention from others outside the marriage.

Call me old fashioned, but if you don’t see yourself as a monogamous person, and your partner does- you’ve kind of met an impasse. No amount of counseling or work will correct this- it’s like the issue of wanting children. It’s not wrong to want to be childless- but it is wrong to agree to have a child with your partner and then secretly go on birth control.

avatar cporoski April 4, 2012, 5:09 pm

Old fashioned is fighting for your marriage and taking your vows seriously. It sounds like that is what the LW wants and she should be supported in that effort.

avatar iseeshiny April 4, 2012, 5:28 pm

I’m not sure I really agree with that – old fashioned was actually ignoring your husband’s infidelity and taking it out on him passive-aggressively. Cold dinners, etc. I agree that the LW should be supported in whatever she decides to do about this situation, but that’s a pet peeve of mine – this idea that not fighting for your man when there’s been a breach of trust is not taking your vows seriously (because obviously he was the first to not take his vows into account), and that people used to take marriage more seriously during some magical good old days.

avatar cporoski April 5, 2012, 7:08 am

It’s not her fighting for her man but them together fighting for thier marriage. Mark said it below, but there are tons of reasons people get complacient in marriage. They don’t make as much time together or don’t make each other feel special. There are two people in a relationship and he made a wrong step. So they need to look at the relationship together and see what they both need to do together. Everyone saying MOA are people who are not taking marriage seriously. Stay married until things get rocky. And, the “old fashioned” marriages you know I think are just your experience because they aren’t mine.

avatar iseeshiny April 6, 2012, 1:34 pm

I’m not saying anything about your marriage. If you view your marriage as old-fashioned, please know that I’m not saying anything about you or yours. I’m talking specifically about the mythical 1950s suburban nuclear WASP family type of old-fashioned, the kind where old-fashioned meant women went to work or school until she found a husband and then went to keep house for him and their children. The kind of old-fashioned from before women in general knew it was okay to have dealbreakers.

This wasn’t a single wrong step. It was eight months stepping down a wrong road. He was actively hiding it from his wife. He knew it was wrong. We can argue all day about whether it constituted infidelity or not, but I don’t actually know what side I come down on that so… we can’t. The point I’m trying to make is that while I applaud the LW’s willingness to forgive her husband his indiscretion, I don’t think that being unable or unwilling to forgive it constitutes her breaking her vows or not taking them seriously. Because his was the first betrayal. He broke the faith.

I love my husband, and I always will. But if he were to have an affair, I would leave him. He knows this. He knew it before we got married. Because I refuse to stay in a marriage where I don’t trust my partner. To do so would be to damage myself in so fundamental a fashion that I couldn’t be an equal partner anymore. This is not a personal shortcoming or a failing I have. It’s a matter of self respect, and if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be the person my husband fell in love with. I’m sure that if divorce were illegal and I were stuck with him we would continue to stay together, but our relationship would be so damaged that while we would still be married, it wouldn’t be a marriage.

So, really, which scenario does more damage to the institution of marriage? The one where you honestly and cleanly break it off because it can no longer be good or healthy? Or the one where you stay in it through stubbornness until it’s such a twisted, stunted thing with nothing to give anyone but bitterness and spite? Because I’ve seen some “old fashioned” marriages go that way, and I can’t say that they were relationships worth fighting for.

avatar iseeshiny April 6, 2012, 2:48 pm

And to clarify one more point – I’m not saying at all that a person shouldn’t actively work on their marriage, or that you should give up on it the second something gets tough (weight gain, financial difficulties, difficulties associated with raising children, etc) but specifically that it’s not abandoning your duties to end a marriage where there’s been a betrayal that one can’t find it in one’s heart to forgive.

Lili Lili April 4, 2012, 12:55 pm

This! I was intending to write something similar, about how monogamy is REALLY REALLY hard, and I don’t think most people enter into it really giving much thought into how hard they will have to work to make it a reality instead of an ideal vision of how we want our life to be. I think at the root of all these kinds of problems is a communication problem. The problem firstly lies in the husband’s own internal communication which somehow he uses to excuse away the behavior just to himself. Second, it lies in him being unable to express his desires to her in a safe an non accusatory tone that allow them to make decisions about how they want to address his concerns and unmet needs. No one is a mind reader and if a person is unhappy they MUST learn to speak up. I think a lot of people enter into marriage thinking that the intense feelings of love they have will override any future problems in regards to cheating, but thats not how long term marriages work unfortunately. Those intense feelings wane and unless solid communication is in place, a lot of people aren’t able to repair the situation before something like this happens. I think counseling with a sex positive and understanding therapist would be a great step to rebuilding a solid and honest relationship! Good luck :)

avatar Renee April 4, 2012, 1:43 pm

As a monogamous person, I will actually concede monogamy can be hard. Ways to be make it easier, is simply NOT putting yourself into a situation for it.

Did these women randomly text your husband out of the blue and forced his fingers respond back? No. He chose to invite these conversations into his life and text back, instead of deleting the texts/blocking the number or finding something else to do with his brain when he was bored. Angry Birds anyone? You can even read the classics (for free) off you phone now. With so many options, other then sexting, you can be monogamous and faithful.

He was thoughtless. If he makes steps to reconcile, and find other ways to deal with those idle times.Then I would do what I can to save the relationship, and make it stronger.

Lili Lili April 4, 2012, 1:51 pm

Oh I agree totally that people just need to stop putting themselves in the situation. However, its never that simple unless one is really self aware of what the initial stages are. I learned this while watching a friend enter into an affair with a married man while to me, it was just SO simple, don’t hang out with him, but to her it wasn’t and the excuses she kept on giving were an eye opening view into just how thoroughly we all able to delude ourselves.

avatar Kate E April 4, 2012, 7:54 pm

I agree – it’s not about logic or self control. Also this man is not just bored, he’s looking for sexual attention. I think before she can allow him back into a trusting relationship, he has to know what he is and is not able to commit to. If he writes it off and promises he won’t do it again without further discussion, I bet he will, he’ll just be more secretive.

Kate B. Kate B April 4, 2012, 10:29 am

Good for you for following your instincts! Where there’s smoke there is fire. My opinion matches that of Regina Rey. I cannot tolerate cheating and I do consider what your husband did cheating. He broke your trust and for me, where there is no trust there can be no love. I am one of those people who cannot forgive or forget something like this. I would not consider counseling because I would be out the door. However, I am not you. If you think there is even a small chance you can forgive him, try counseling. Go by yourself, even, to explore whether or not you can move forward from this. If you think you can, your husband has to be with you 100% That is the only way it will work. Good luck.

avatar ReginaRey April 4, 2012, 10:33 am

About your “where there’s no trust, there can be no love” comment…I find that it’s not even necessarily the lack of trust that would push me out the door (though that would HELP push me out, that’s for certain), but the shift in my worldview that would occur after I was cheated on. It’s never happened to me, thankfully, but I imagine that if someone who I NEVER believed would cheat on me went and cheated, I think my mind would do a massive shift. There would be a rift — on one side, the person I used to know, and on another side, a new person I can’t recognize — and that rift would cause me to fall out of love pretty fast. You can’t love someone you don’t recognize, and I think having to totally reevaluate the person you thought you knew, in my case anyway, would kill my love for them pretty quickly.

avatar savannah April 4, 2012, 11:13 am

The issue with that rift is that it often does not happen immediately, which is the hardest part. You don’t always stop loving someone the moment they tell you they cheated, which is a real bitch. It took me two months after a ex told me he cheated to process the issue and realize that i was no longer in love with him, which really surprised me as I thought I was pretty clear about where I stood when it came to cheating. You never know how you’re going to feel until it happens to you.

avatar jlyfsh April 4, 2012, 10:37 am

No two marriages are the same and it’s hard to know what to tell you to do without knowing more about you as individuals and as a married couple.

If you still love him, believe that he will change his behavior, and want to put the work in to it. I think like others have said it is possible. You have to be willing to forgive though and be willing to attend marriage counseling. As well as probably counseling on your own. You need a place to vent your anger and disappointment in what has happened. At some point though, you have to let go of that and move forward. And your husband has to be willing to work to rebuild the trust.

I hope that if you both want this marriage to work, you get some outside help and you’re able to rebuild your marriage!

avatar ktfran April 4, 2012, 11:12 am

I like this advice a lot jlyfsh. Your middle paragraph, I think, is spot on.

I have a hard time reading comments about cheating that are so black and white. Especially from people who have never experienced it. You have to look at the situation and the people – as a couple and as individuals. If both parties are willing to work on their marriage and get to the root of the problem, I think there is a chance to stay together. If one of them is wavering, then it’s probably time to call it quits. I’ve seen it happen both ways and every time, the right decision was made for the couple.

I think you just have to decide what is right for you, with help from counseling, and make a hard decision. Don’t let outside opinions – from friends, family, coworkers, the internet – get inside your head. Nobody can truly know you or your situation, but you.

Amybelle Amybelle April 4, 2012, 10:40 am

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” ― Maya Angelou.

I learned this the hard way.

avatar EricaSwagger April 4, 2012, 10:42 am

This is just so wrong to me. It’s a shame that you’re married because that makes it a lot harder to just say “alright, thanks for letting me know you don’t love me, I’m out.” If you truly meant your marriage vows, working with a counselor is a good first step. But it’s not a guarantee that your relationship can recover.

What your husband did was horrible. Of course he’s going to say, after the fact, that he wants to start over and change and be better, because now he sees there might be some consequences for what he’s been doing. Of course he feels bad now that he’s been caught. But he was hiding this from you for 8 months so he obviously didn’t mind hurting you when you didn’t know about it.

Personally, I don’t think people can change. They can learn to act better, they can make a conscious effort to not give in to their negative qualities, but your husband will always have that desire to talk to other women. He will always be the kind of person who has the potential to cheat and hurt you. If he chooses not to act on it, then he wants to make things right with you and that’s great.

As others have said, if you can eventually get over it and trust him again, you should try to. If it’s just going to eat at you forever, well, then cut forever short.

Fabelle Fabelle April 4, 2012, 10:45 am

You ask how he could do that “to someone he says he cares about unless he is actually lying about caring about me.” I know that’s the “logical” conclusion to draw from this, but cheaters aren’t logical people– at least not when it comes to their relationships. You’re going need to separate the person he is from what he did, because his 8-month sexting stint does not define his love for you, or your relationship.

I know that sounds impossible to do, but when the rawness of your grief fades, it will become easier not to dwell on his shitty behavior. You’ve probably already spent too much time thinking about it– willfully blocking those thoughts from now on doesn’t mean you’re being stupid, or letting him off the hook. It just means you’re keeping yourself sane & really trying to work on your marriage. Hopefully he truly is remorseful, and does the same.

Skyblossom Skyblossom April 4, 2012, 10:52 am

I think that the only way you can know whether this relationship will work is to get to the root of why he sexted. There are so many different reasons why this could happen and some are much more amendable to change than others. If he has poor impulse control probably nothing will change and what you see now is how it will always be. If it was due to being self-absorbed and narcissistic then also, not much will probably change and it will happen again and again. If he has low self-esteem he might be able to find other, healthier ways to build his self image. If he loves excitement and an adrenalin rush he could also find other ways to meet that need. If he loves the forbidden and sneaking then that is harder to find some other, better avenue to meet the need.

Knowing that this behavior would hurt you and yet doing it anyway is a bad sign for the future of this relationship. I think you need to go to counseling to get to the bottom of the reasons for the behavior and then you can decide whether they can realistically be dealt with and whether you are realistic in expecting change. Then you will know whether you can get beyond this situation with a stronger relationship or whether life with your husband will be more and more of the same.

mandalee mandalee April 4, 2012, 10:53 am

This is definitely a hard spot to be in. If my husband did something like this, I’d kill him or at the very least make him move out until we got stuff figured out, but I’m a bit dramatic, so I won’t tell you to do that.

The first thing that stuck out to me is that he’s been texting these girls from all over the country for 8 months. Did he say how he got to know these girls and got their phone numbers? Is he listed on a dating site, cheating site, or porn site? I would assume there had to be some kind of online communication before they jumped into texting, because people are much more cautious with their phone numbers than they are with meeting people through e-mail, websites, etc. I think he needs to come clean completely before you move on from here. Were their pictures exchanged, how did they meet, what sparked this, etc. You won’t be able to move on until you know. My cousin went through something like this in therapy, but her therapist encouraged her husband to tell her EVERYTHING, so it was all out there, and they could start to re-build.

Even though he wasn’t meeting these girls face to face, what he did was a complete breach of trust. I don’t think when you took your vows, you made allowances from being truthful and faithful except for online flirtations. So why it may not be full blown cheating, it’s a breach of the foundation of your marriage.

I think ReginaRey is right in that you need a therapist to help you navigate what to do next. Couples can come back from this, but it’s not a easy road and having a professional help you through it is a huge help. What your husband needs to understand is that he’s basically starting at ground zero in terms of trust and faithfulness. If it’s going to be repaired, you both need to be committed 110% to doing what it takes to fix this.

Good luck LW!

avatar Trixy Minx April 4, 2012, 11:04 am

My response is probably going to be different than everybody else because I grew up reading Dan Savage. It sounds like your husband has a kink and its sexting women he’ll never meet. Should he have been open and honest about what turned him on? Yeah but he was probably afraid how you would react. Which I can’t blame him. You know what I would do. I would start sexting my husband all sorts of dirty raunchy things that gets him wild.

avatar savannah April 4, 2012, 11:17 am

As another Savage reader while I agree with you in general, you know he would also address the issue of the broken trust and not gloss it over like it’s somehow her fault for being perceived to be a prude by her husband.

avatar Sue Jones April 4, 2012, 7:21 pm

I do not know what Dan Savage would say (also a fan), but I think that he would address the issue of Monogamish in there somewhere. That being solely monogamous is hard and we as a species are just not very good at it. So allowing for a little leeway while still being committed to staying in the relationship and keeping the marriage together for the kids, etc… but that said, perhaps they need to have a discussion of what is and is not acceptable. If sexting strange women is a dealbreaker, but porn is not, for instance, they need to have that conversation and come to an agreement about it. And stick to it.

rainbow rainbow April 4, 2012, 11:19 am

You’re making his sexting other people about what the LW couldn’t give him, and turning it into her responsibility. That’s really not different from saying “He probably screwed all those other women because you don’t agree to anal, so you should do it from now on” and it’s very VERY wrong.

avatar cporoski April 4, 2012, 5:32 pm

that isn’t what she is saying. She is saying that there are two people in the relationship and she should look at the relationship as a whole. There is a reason for this behavior and it might be him or it might be a reflextion of thier relationship. We don’t know but it is good to see all sides.

Caris Caris April 5, 2012, 9:52 pm

It might be a reflection of their relationship, but if he was unhappy for whatever reason he should have told her so they could try to fix it it instead of turning to cheating.

call-me-hobo call-me-hobo April 4, 2012, 11:21 am

Although, Trixy- Dan Savage would point out that it is pretty selfish for the husband to marry the LW without explicitly informing her first. Savage isn’t about hiding kinks- and to get someone to legally commit to you when they don’t know the whole deal is unfair.

Will.i.am Will.i.am April 4, 2012, 11:27 am

For instance, someone may like to sext their girlfriend or wife, but they may not like it. Everything else in the relationship is good; however, it still doesn’t change that that is something they like to do. Some people it’s not a big issue, but with other’s, they want that need to be met. Maybe, the LW’s husband loved everything about his wife, but after sometime, he wanted his urge of sexting to get met. It’s CLEARLY not the LW’s fault that this happened, but some urges for certain people are hidden, till they can no longer hide them. That’s why compatibility is so very important!

avatar Trixy Minx April 4, 2012, 7:51 pm

Hobo you are right. Dan Savage is all about open honest communication. I agree the husband should have told his wife what his kinks are. I wonder if he considers this a type of porn?

avatar Mary March 24, 2014, 4:00 pm

I tried this with my guy. We actually had a pretty healthy sext life when we started out. I should have known. I tried to keep it going but he fisseled out. Come to find out, he was sexting other women. Laughs on me.

avatar silver_dragon_girl April 4, 2012, 11:15 am

First of all, to put myself in your husband’s shoes, I think it’s likely that he saw this more as “interactive porn” than “cheating.” It probably started out that way, anyway, but he hid it because he knew you wouldn’t like it, kind of like a lot of guys hide porn watching from their SOs if they know they won’t “approve.” But then it probably snowballed into more and more frequently, and it became this big 8-month long thing and finally he realized what he was doing and now that he’s been caught, understands how serious it is.

Secondly, I’m kind of curious about what else has been going on in your relationship for the past year or so. Have you been drifting apart at all? Has communication been a problem? Have either of you been working significantly more or less? Has there been a major stressor?

Thirdly, I know I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but you need to know that this is not your fault. He made a choice to do this and that is on him and him alone. I definitely recommend couple therapy for you two. A good therapist can help you figure out WHY this happened and rebuild the foundation of trust that every relationship is built on.

Personally, this would not be a dealbreaker for me. A cause for concern and anger and a lot of hurt? Absolutely. But not a dealbreaker. I think in any long-term relationship or marriage, there are going to be times when one person or another toes the line between fidelity and cheating, or even crosses it. I think that most people who think their marriage is perfect either haven’t reached that point yet or just don’t know about it. I think that most of the time when this happens, the offending party realizes what they’ve done and stops, without confessing to it. Because “technically” it wasn’t cheating, per se. But maybe I’m getting cynical in my old age ;)

avatar cporoski April 4, 2012, 5:34 pm

so true!!!

Caris Caris April 5, 2012, 9:54 pm

“First of all, to put myself in your husband’s shoes, I think it’s likely that he saw this more as “interactive porn” than “cheating.””

And this is why you discuss whats considered cheating with your SO at the beginning of your relationship.

avatar Suzanne April 4, 2012, 11:29 am

I’m not so quick to believe that it was innocent. It was more likely just a matter of time until he met some of these people in person. And there’s no guarantee he hasn’t already. So why did he have that need? What will fill it now that will make him not want to sext anymore?

Be very wary.

avatar Chicago_Dude April 4, 2012, 12:36 pm

Naysayer, much?

avatar savannah April 4, 2012, 12:42 pm

This however, is a gem that added deeply to the dialogue.

avatar Suzanne April 5, 2012, 9:48 am

It’s funny you would say that. I’m actually a really optimistic person. But come on, that no one would bring up the possibility that the boyfriend lying about sexting might actually be lying about having sex…. huh. Sometimes it’s good to help someone take off their blinders and at least make an informed decision. Not one based on lies and unrealistic hopes.

avatar rachel April 4, 2012, 12:59 pm

I agree. I had an ex who spent a lot of time flirting with other girls on the internet. Eventually he did cheat, though not with one of those girls. He needed women to validate him somehow, and used the cyber-cheating for that purpose. So, of course when presented with an opportunity to get it in real life he was going to take it. I would not be surprised if the LWs husband is the same way.

avatar AndreaMarie April 4, 2012, 11:30 am

You guys are not going to be able to move on and make real changes if you don’t sit down and honestly discuss WHY he was doing what he was doing. It’s not so easy as to just have him say ‘im sorry let’s start over”, because they is not addressing the cause of the actions, so how can things really change. What void was he trying to fill? What emotional need was the sexting fufilling? (and remember it doesn’t have to be something you were doing or not doing, it very well be a problem within himself that he needs to address in order to stop the behavior)

avatar Mary March 24, 2014, 3:19 pm

My boyfriend got caught sexting for almost the duration of our two years together. I left for 3 months and after long talks and some sexting of our own we got back together and tried to work through things. I found out the 4 days I was back he was sexting a woman he had been seeing while we were apart, guess what he was saying to her? I can’t wait til you get back, I’ve been masturbating to my pics of you. I’M DONE!!!!

avatar cmarie April 4, 2012, 11:35 am

Easy answer, hard truth: sometimes you just can’t get past a betrayal. I know that cheating is a dealbreaker to me, no matter how long I’ve been in a relationship. I could never forgive and if I couldn’t forgive I wouldn’t be able to rebuild any sort of trust in my partner.
If you want to try and make the marriage work, you’re going to have to forgive him. Not immediately but at some point you have to forgive him, that’s the only way you will be able to rebuild the trust and the relationship. If you decide to stay with him and try to make it work, you have to put everything into it. You’re hurt, you’re betrayed, you want him to grovel (and he should) but the only way it’s going to work is if you’re willing to make past those feelings. Get to a counselor, individual and marriage. You’re going to want to vent to family and friends but my recommendation would be to be choosy with who you confide in; they’re great sources of support and venting may make you feel better but we all have that friend or an over-protective brother who will undermine any efforts you make in the relationship. Most importantly, you have to trust him again. It would be completely understandable to be a nervous wreck when he leaves the house or be suspicious when he texts but you have to let that go. Draw up a contract with each other, set down rules for him; not to restrict his behavior but to ensure openness and honesty. You don’t have to snoop if he’s willing to let you have access to his phone and email, which I personally think should be a give for a few months while you work in counseling.
At some point, you’re going to have to be willing to let him send a text without you jumping to see who he’s texting. If you don’t think you’ll be able to forgive, you need to be kind to yourself and him and end the relationship. A marriage may be harder to end, legally, but it shouldn’t force you to stay where you don’t want to be. Marriage does not obligate you to put up with anything you wouldn’t be willing to deal with if you were not married. It’s a hard decision and not one that’s going to be made overnight, but in the end you have to do what’s best for you.