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Love Letters

Inappropriate e-mails?

Q. I recently discovered inappropriate e-mails between my husband and a female friend and co-worker of his. There was flirtation involved.

This issue arose with the same woman back when we were dating. I noticed that their communication was flirtatious and what I considered to be inappropriate for someone in a committed relationship. I told him that it made me uncomfortable and would prefer if they kept their relationship work-related only. After a long argument and me threatening to break up with him, he agreed. Then I found out that he friended her on Facebook. He assured me that they had a strictly work-related relationship. I believed him.

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Last week, I found the above mentioned e-mail communication. I confronted him and he became extremely defensive and said that I violated his privacy by reading the e-mails. I then found more e-mails. One e-mail had communication about a movie date. In another e-mail, she simply stated that she loved him. Another asked if he was still married.

I confronted him with these e-mails and again he accused me of violating his privacy. He said that the e-mails about the movie were an inside joke, and that he would never go to the movies with her or do anything else like that. He said that she says she loves him (as a friend) but he has never told her that he loves her. He admits that the flirtation was inappropriate and that he would address the behavior, but refuses to give up their friendship. He says it is a principled stand because he feels I am trying to control him and dictate who his friends are. I have never asked him to end any other friendships.

We are trying to secure an appointment with a marriage counselor. However, as he refuses to end their “friendship,” I really do not see how we can move forward. For the record, I do not believe that they have had an affair. I am seeking perspective.

A. You can move forward if you get to that marriage counselor. A professional will help you guys focus on what matters, which is how all of this makes you feel.

Ethics and privacy issues aside, something prompted you to go into his account without permission. You had a bad vibe. Where did it come from? What were your first thoughts after you read the e-mails? If this woman didn’t exist, would you have other problems?

For the record, his relationship with this woman does sound inappropriate. “I love you” and “Let’s go to the movies” aren’t funny inside jokes. She’s flirty and he likes it. Or maybe he feels bad for her. It’s tough to say. It’s worth asking him some questions about what he gets out of their friendship.

As for the snooping, yes, it’s always a horrible relationship crime . . . unless you find what you’re looking for. He can be angry about what you did, but all that matters right now is why you did it and what you found.

Get into therapy, and again, please focus on the feelings, not the right and wrong. Right vs. wrong debates won’t get you to a better place.

READERS RESPOND:

I’d say this is pretty much the beginning of the end . . . or the middle . . . or late middle endish of the end. Consult a lawyer and move on.

He’s a liar. Period. And rather than accept responsibility for his actions, he will deflect by focusing on the snooping. It’s an ancient trick. The snooping is irrelevant. You were suspicious and you were right. His feeble protests are making you question your own judgment so don’t be so sure he hasn’t had an actual affair. Get into therapy ASAP. It will help you to see what’s really going on, whether he can learn to behave, and whether you can stay in this marriage. Good luck dear.

I have a few male friends that are in committed relationships. . . . I will go out of my way to give them support and encouragement. The reason we can be close friends is because those boundaries exist. I can tell my male friends ANYTHING and know that he won’t think it’s a come-on. With all of that said, I can’t imagine maintaining a close friendship with someone who is married without also being friends with their SO. It’s a matter of respect and consideration. Therefore, I am quite suspicious of the co-worker.

Unless you find what you are looking for? So the ends justify the means, Meredith? Would you suggest the same if it was the guy that did the snooping? It sure seems like you’ve got a double standard when it comes to the issue of women trusting men with opposite sex co-workers vs. men trusting women — as if women can be trusted and men can’t when it comes to platonic friendships.

I’m a little surprised by all the hate for the hubby here. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that what he has here is a very flirty but not particularly uncommon workplace friendship/relationship. I’ve had co-workers that I’ve flirted with, had tons of inside jokes with, and generally interacted with in a way that if my SO were witness to would make him cringe. But it really was all harmless fun.

If he flirts with this woman and has lied about his interactions with her, how are you so sure he hasn’t had an affair? In the least, he is currently conducting an EMOTIONAL affair. Time for you to (wo)man up and find a divorce lawyer.

I dunno. The flirting sounds kind of one-sided to me. Lots of people flirt at work to make the day go by faster. Have you met this woman? Maybe she flirts with everyone at the office. Anyway, if you go to marriage counseling, it shouldn’t be just about the flirty e-mails. Clearly there are other, deeper issues in your marriage (or in you yourself?) that make you feel so insecure.

You’ll get better advice from a professional marriage counselor than a bunch of anonymous strangers on a blog. I think what you’re really looking for here is our opinion on the situation. Mine — he’s cheating on you. . . . Given his defensiveness though, and his refusal to give her up, I believe it’s gone full-blown sexual affair.

Column and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesdays at 1 p.m.
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