Q. Recently, while driving my husband’s car, I found an unopened condom in the back seat. It’s curious because we don’t need them anymore (we’re both in our late 50s, menopausal). He’s usually at work or at home, so most of his time is accounted for. The only possibility is that he met someone on a multiplayer online game that he plays obsessively.
We have a good marriage and we’re looking forward to retiring and exploring the world together. However, I am at a loss as to what to say about the condom in the back seat. Any suggestions?
THE BACK SEAT
A. My only suggestion is to say exactly what you said in this letter. Tell your husband you found a condom in the back of his car and want to know why it’s there. Then listen.
For the record, I’ve been trying to come up with some reasons that might make sense (sort of). All I’ve got is:
1. He was walking by a public health festival and a person at a booth handed him one. Later, he threw it in the back seat.
2. The condom is from like ... 1992. He needs to clean his car.
3. His friend, one who uses condoms, sat in the back seat of the car and the condom fell out of his wallet.
4. There was a Halloween costume that involved ... (I’m still workshopping this one).
This is really difficult because without knowing what he’ll say — how he’ll explain — it’s hard to guess how you’ll feel, what you’ll believe, and how you’ll want to proceed. I want to believe there is a reason that can put you at ease (like No. 1). Also, if he’s really having an affair and didn’t want you to find out, would he be this careless about it? It’s possible, I guess.
If his reason for having the condom makes sense to you, you might want to talk about the multiplayer game anyway. You were quick to say that he plays obsessively. It doesn’t sound like you’d be surprised if he was making romantic connections on that platform. That seems worth discussing if it’s something that’s been bothering you for longer than the condom.
For now, though, focus on the ask. There’s no special way to bring it up; you just have to say the words.
Thanks for future possible responses! I will go with the health fair one if this happens to me!
^Personally I like “running out of balloons at a kids birthday party and needing to use it to make a balloon animal for a child who was having a meltdown.”
There’s only one suggestion we can give you and I think you know what it is.
I drive my own car all the time and couldn’t tell you if there’s anything in the back seat. Regardless, ask him about it. Don’t accuse him of anything, just ask why it was there. You’re in your 50s and I assume married for a long time. I’m sure this isn’t the first difficult conversation.
You should start by checking the “use by” date on that condom package. Does it say “September 1984″?
I think the bigger question is: “Why am I so afraid to ask my husband a simple and straightforward question about something that I didn’t do anything wrong to find?”
Meredith doesn’t have a clue that her advice on what to do is precisely what a cheating guy would want a woman to do. Men are trained to deny, deny, and deny in the face of a barrage of questions. What men fear above all else is the woman simply handing over the condom, saying she found it in the back seat of the car, and then ask nothing.
I had an almost identical situation happen when I was still married. The ex told me to retrieve something from his backpack and when I stuck my hand in, out came a condom. His explanation was that some women at the health service center at work insisted he take some. Being a “go along to get along” guy, he took some, stuffed them in his backpack, and then promptly forgot about them. I believed him too, though perhaps a little too quickly given subsequent events.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.