A couple of weeks ago the kids were asleep, and, as we were hanging out in the kitchen, he wanted to show me something funny someone had sent him on his phone. I reached out to take his phone in my hand to get a closer look, and he wouldn’t let go of it. It became awkward and, after much insisting on my part, he admitted that he had been sexting a woman, “Ellen,” and he was afraid that I’d see those messages on the messaging app.
Ellen is this woman he worked with a few years back who became one of his closer friends. I liked her, she even babysat our daughter a few times, and she was invited to our baby shower over the summer. In January of this year he instigated the sexting and she, apparently, happily went with it.
He swears he’s not in love but admits he was “obsessed” (his words) with her. I told him friends who lust after each other are simply in love and should start a relationship. He says he doesn’t want that and that he wants to do anything to fix this and I told him to start by cutting off all contact with Ellen. He said he would. He said that he’s never done something like this and that he was curious to see if someone would find him attractive. I thought it was clear that I did.
He says he’ll never do it again—and that he’s never actually cheated. I disagree.
I’m so conflicted. I feel cheated on by them both. I understand crushes happen, but this is a step too far. I feel hurt, ugly, humiliated, and alone. I want to forgive him, but I honestly don’t know how. I’m not attracted to him at the moment and find myself resenting him and hating everything he does.
But we’ve built this life together and I don’t want it to end. And I love him.
What do you make of all this? — Caught Him Sexting
Well, first, your husband did cheat. At the very least, he’s been sexting with a woman he says he’s obsessed with — someone with whom he’s close enough to invite to your baby shower and to ask to babysit your child. We can also assume he’s been having an emotional affair with her since they’re close friends, they’re attracted to each other, you two have had some issues in your marriage stemming from his insecurity, and we know they share private communication that is kept secret from you, all of which can easily lead to an emotional affair. So, yes, he’s been cheating on you and that’s a big problem. It’s also a big problem that he doesn’t take responsibility for cheating — doesn’t acknowledge that the way he’s behaved is not only hurtful but is also definitely a betrayal of your marriage vows and your commitment to monogamy.
Other problems include how stress affects his libido and his feeling “freaked out” by the idea of having sex with your while you’re pregnant (during which time he instigated a sexting relationship with Ellen). Clearly, there’s some sort of disconnect happening where he fails to you see as a wife and mother AND a sexual partner. I don’t know if I even buy his argument that stress affects his libido since he’s at least feeling interested enough in the idea of sex to sext a close friend. I think the effect of stress on his libido thing is an excuse to avoid sex with you. Cutting off contact with Ellen — IF he is actually committed to that — is not going to fix these problems. Ellen isn’t actually the problem (although her behavior sucks, she doesn’t belong in your and your husband’s lives, and you were right to ask him to cut off all contact with her). The problem is really between you and your husband and what is going on that causes him to be unable to enjoy a sexual relationship with you.
I don’t think your marriage is doomed necessarily. It’s a positive sign that your husband has at least admitted to the sexting and didn’t gaslight you like so many cheaters do when they’re caught. But, clearly, there is a lot of work to do to fix your marriage, if it’s even fixable. You need couples counseling, stat. A good therapist will help you get to the root of the problem(s) and determine whether — and how — you can each meet the other’s needs. She or he will give you the tools you need to avoid the pattern you’ve found yourself in and the confidence you need to make decisions about your future, either together or apart.
I’m sorry you’re going through this. I hope you can find some resolution and peace and that your family is able to move past this. Good luck.
Fyodor October 1, 2018, 9:10 am
I think that you need to seriously entertain the possibility that he is having an actual physical affair with this person. I see this fact pattern a lot in my personal and professional life, where people, once caught, cop to the least damning explanation that they can conform to the facts. I would demand at a minimum to see all of his communications with her so you know what happened.
FireStar October 1, 2018, 2:42 pm
brise October 1, 2018, 10:18 am
Don’t rush or try to “forgive” him. You can’t, already now, you can’t undo it, it has an impact on you, it happened. You both can try to understand better the situation, to work on your marriage – with professional help, indeed – but don’t go now to the route “forgiven-forgotten”. Accept that there is a hurt to you, your family, your trust. His job is to reconstruct that, if possible.
And yes, the betrayal by this “friend” is grave. Please check yourself against STD. And ask him to get checked.
Bacon Mistress October 1, 2018, 12:09 pm
I would leave because my I value myself too much to stay with someone who would betray me like that. How can you trust him again? So when things get hard he is going to reach out to someone else and break your vows? What a pathetic coward. Besides, emotional affairs are worse than physical affairs. They are mentally and emotionally investing in the person and not just dropping off a load. I wish I could kick him in the nuts for you.
Poppy October 1, 2018, 12:42 pm
LW- I would reach out to “Ellen” . You may get a different side to the story then what your husband has told you but thats okay just be prepared. She may not tell you anything and thats fine too but just have handy a good written statement to let her know what a lowlife she is. Emotional affair and sexting is cheating but I bet there has been a physical relationship as well. It would shock me if they have not have had sex. If you want this marriage to work then counseling for you, him, and for the both of you.
Bittergaymark October 1, 2018, 12:44 pm
While it’s a possibility they were physical, it’s a big leap. Sexting can take on a whole life of its own.
Fyodor October 2, 2018, 6:44 am
I am not saying that it has to be but I wouldnt take his claim at face value.
dinoceros October 1, 2018, 1:00 pm
I would also wonder if it’s been physical. Not that people can’t sext with someone they haven’t been physical with, but it’s also hard for me to imagine someone sexting with someone they are emotionally close to and geographically close to and leaving it at that. The way he let you know is weird too. Why mention showing you something on his phone if he wasn’t going to let you see the phone? Why not delete the messages if he’s that worried (well, I can think of one reason)? The fact that willingly told you this part makes it seem like there’s more to it because because perhaps it felt “safer” than having to tell you the whole story. Aside from that, anyone who has been dishonest about some things could easily be dishonest about others.
But as the others said, don’t be so quick to try to brush it aside to preserve the life you have. Of course, that’s ideal, but you can’t make everything OK simply out of sheer will. My speculation would be that he is not into the relationship as much any more and used excuses for why you two didn’t have sex (since he’s clearly got the libido for something else). Something like that isn’t going to just resolve itself because he stops talking to Ellen or because he gets shamed into being “good.”
I’d say, at the least, get counseling to determine what his issue is.
Sapphire October 1, 2018, 4:01 pm
Cheating is cheating whether it’s physically or emotionally. It’s still cheating if it’s happening over letters, the phone, or a hotel room.