talk me down
April 29, 2010 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Scenes from a marriage. I snooped; his behavior was borderline. What now?

My husband and I have been married for 7 years, together for 14. We are in our mid 30’s. No kids (yet). We do own a house together.

About 3 weeks ago I snooped in his Gmail. He has had the same password forever and we have always shared our passwords with each other. I don’t know why I snooped. It wasn’t the first time I’ve done it. But I can’t say I had a conscious feeling or suspicion. I almost feel like I did it on autopilot or out of boredom. In any case, I found flirtatious gchats he had been having with a former coworker. Nothing blatantly cheating, but flirtatious enough that I felt it was a betrayal. Calling her “honey” and “babe” and remarking on how cute and hot she was. They were discussing her failing marriage—she was telling my husband that she couldn’t see herself staying faithful to her husband. I don’t feel it was appropriate for him to be this kind of exchange. I don’t suspect my husband of any current physical infidelity. The woman in question lives across the country. Though it does make me think back to when they worked together and I have a strong gut feeling that they may have kissed or something like that, though I have absolutely no proof and this could very well be simple paranoia.

In any case: he was flirting, and has obviously been nursing a crush on her for quite some time. More details: they worked together 3-4 years ago, then she moved to another city (still working for the same company). She no longer works for this company. I have met her several times and could tell there was a spark between them. It bothered me, but I never thought that I actually had anything to worry about. He has always told me that he doesn’t like/respect her, which I now realize was an overcompensating cover-up for the attraction. Apparently they have been intermittently keeping in touch over gchat. I had no idea they still kept in contact.

Here’s what bothers me. It’s not that he had/has a crush on someone else. I’ve had them too; we’re human. In fact, I just came out of a pretty intense attraction to a coworker of my own—he’s since quit my company and I haven’t made any attempt to contact him, nor do I want to. The problem with my husband’s behavior is that it was secretive (he has told me he disliked this woman), it was overtly flirtatious (I might have crushes on people, but I would never take it to that level), it was specific (not a random woman at a bar or party, but someone in particular that he sought out).

So that’s that. But I snooped! Enter my own guilt. After I saw the chat I compulsively checked his email every day. I am not proud of this. I read all the AskMe archives having to do with snooping/cheating. It was somewhat eye-opening to realize that people considered snooping such a serious offense. I personally would not care if he read my email or facebook—I leave them logged in and open on my laptop all the time. But I do understand that many people feel that it’s a terrible betrayal.

And then what happened was: after a week or so of checking his email compulsively, I went to log in one time and he had changed his password. I immediately felt dread and certainty that he was onto me. I now realize that Gmail has new security features that show the user the IP addresses of previous/current activity. My husband is not technologically-minded at all and I would be surprised if he realizes this—I only found out after googling for more info when it happened. But regardless I feel deep down that he knows. We had a strange interaction over gchat ourselves later that day where he told me he thought I was acting odd. He never mentioned the password change to me.

Man, I have just been going insane with this whole thing. Going around and around in mental circles. Does he know I was spying? If so, is he testing me? Waiting for me to confess? Or was it simply chance that he changed his password? Or was it to hide further exchanges with the woman/friend? Etc, etc.

At the moment I thought I was caught spying, it was almost a relief, though. Because I would get to confront him about his own behavior, and it would all come out in the open. I really thought he was going to confront me but he didn’t. So then I doubted whether he really knew, or if this was a telltale heart situation. I kept my mouth shut, life went on as usual, and that’s where I’m at today.

I’m struggling with whether or not I should confess/confront him. It’s terrifying to think that this could have big bad consequences. I’m just going crazy. I forgive him for his flirting—though it would be nice to tell him how I feel about it and get satisfaction that it would never or has never gone further., rather than letting my imagination run away with me. But what if he’s appalled at my own spying? Is this a case where I should just shut up and move on, or does it need to come to light in order for us to have a strong relationship? It’s weird—ever since I found the flirt-chats I’ve been more attentive/romantic with my husband. Our sex life is great. I feel us growing closer again—the ebbs and flows of a long-term relationship.

There’s so much more but I realize this is too long already. I mentioned I had just gotten over my own workplace crush. Looking back, although nothing untoward ever happened, not even flirting, I realize that my crush was a delicious distraction/fantasy that made it easy for me to ignore my marriage. I am just terrified to realize how fragile a relationship can really be, even when you’ve been with someone for years and the love is there. I finally get it that relationships take work, and I am committed to this one big time.

So what do you think? Should I get all this out in the open? Or have I dodged a bullet and should leave it be?

Re-reading this question makes me worried that it sounds disorganized and detached. Please believe this is very important to me. I want nothing more than for us to live happily ever after.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Should I get all this out in the open?

Immediately. Secrets kill relationships.
posted by jbickers at 7:05 AM on April 29, 2010 [20 favorites]

You need to talk to your husband. A secret like this will kill your relationship.
posted by smorange at 7:10 AM on April 29, 2010

You need to talk to him ASAP. You're not going to feel okay again until you do and he will surely notice if he hasn't already.

Sure, snooping is wrong, but sometimes it happens. I occasionally will log on to my husband's email account, completely innocently, just to find out if he's read an email I've sent him earlier in the day. There is no suspicious intent on my part, but I know how it would look to him (and to others) if I did run across something I didn't want to see. Regardless, you did it, you didn't mean any harm, but you discovered something that is going to upset your marriage until you address it. You have to talk to him, and the sooner the better.
posted by something something at 7:12 AM on April 29, 2010

Well, it sounds like if you just ignore it and try to move on, that having a perfectly normal (oblivious) relationship will be impossible. You both are acting different toward each other and you both know at least that much. It seems there were already some serious communication issues before the discovery: hence the snooping. So although getting this out in the open could indeed result in some scary consequences, I don't think ignoring it and living blissfully ever after is realistic.
posted by Eicats at 7:15 AM on April 29, 2010

It's really hard to tell what the tone of the chats was. I could see a male friend telling me I was "cute" and "hot" just to bouy my feelings of confidence and security in a time when I think my husband is rejecting me and marriage is failing, just to be a friend. I'm not clear that just the use of those words makes the communication flirtatious - that really has to be determined by the context of the relationship.

But as to the larger question, you say:

At the moment I thought I was caught spying, it was almost a relief, though.


it would be nice to tell him how I feel about it and get satisfaction that it would never or has never gone further., rather than letting my imagination run away with me.

So there is a big part of you that would find it a relief to come clean. You're bothered by your own behavior. I would probably be inclined to do so. I agree that he might now - the fact that he changed his password after keeping it the same for so long is an odd coincidence at best, evidence that he's concerned about privacy at worst.

The thing is, you have to be ready for what might happen next. It might not be that you "get satisfaction that it would never or has never gone further." You might learn that things are more complicated than that. I would not broach the subject unless you're ready to handle whatever the range of his responses might be.

It sounds like you generally have a good relationship, and people can get through these things. If nothing else, it may become a chance for you to both become clearer about your boundaries for yourselves and as a couple - privacy and relationship boundaries. It sounds like they've been somewhat mushy in the past since you've been through his email before. It could be that you want to be a "full-disclosure, shared-passwords, open-book" couple, or maybe you don't. But either way right now it seems like you have different definitions about that, or you wouldn't need to feel you've been sneaking.

If you do broach the subject, be prepared to be really contrite about snooping. Snooping is lousy. It's funny that often snooping DOES lead to a discovery - I believe that's because intuition or small hints that aren't recognized by the logical, conscious mind lead one to snoop - it really amounts to "I have a funny feeling something's wrong but can't prove it," so you look for concrete evidence. Of course it would always be healthier to just go to your SO and say "I have a funny feeling something's wrong," but we doubt ourselves and our intuition, or tell ourselves they'll lie about it anyway, or some such thing. Noen of that, though, is the kind of thinking and activity we should aspire to.
posted by Miko at 7:17 AM on April 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Yes, talk to him. You're not going to get any less worried about what he might be doing. He might freak out about the snooping, or he might not, but the fact is that you saw something you're uncomfortable with and he needs to know that you are not okay with his behavior. It will continue to be an issue for you and will distort the lens through which you view him and your marriage.

It sounds like you need to have some conversations about boundaries. You need to establish what is an appropriate level of privacy for you to expect from each other and where each of you draw the line on cheating-type interactions with other people. That's assuming that the flirting you saw is the full extent of his misdeeds. If he has gone any further than that, that is another bucket of worms that, unfortunately, needs to be opened.

You're likely to get a lot of responses here talking about people's personal opinions on snooping and flirting/cheating, but you can ignore them. It doesn't matter a bit whether anyone on the internet thinks snooping or flirting is okay or not. What matters is that you and your husband discuss how the two of you feel about it and come to an agreement about what is okay for the two of you.
posted by Dojie at 7:27 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

You'll probably get a lot of flak for snooping, but I think it's good you snooped. He's being secretive and managing information. Though this woman lives across the country, had she lived closer, they might have ended up doing something and you have a right to protect yourself and find out what's going on if you feel like something is fishy. There's no reason why he should have kept his communication with her a secret, so he's not exactly trustworthy.
posted by anniecat at 7:31 AM on April 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

There are a couple of things:

1) You are pretty defensive-in-advance about your actions here. There really isn't any "innocent" snooping. It's hard to then search their chat logs "by accident." You say: "I almost feel like I did it on autopilot or out of boredom." That's not something that happened to you, that is something you did, and that is something you need to discuss as well.

2) OK, enough about you. Your husband sounds like he's crossed a line. There may be an entirely innocent explanation, but it's going to be hard to see that now. So, as suggested above, you are going to need to discuss this with him.

I am thinking that, because this has the potential to become a two-way blame-fest with a sort of weird asymmetry to it, especially if he sees snooping as worse than flirting, that you may want to get a councilor lined up. A neutral party might help you keep the discussion on track and help the two of you rebuild trust.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:33 AM on April 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with snooping when it uncovers infidelity. Cheating husbands have to be found out somehow.

posted by General Tonic at 8:00 AM on April 29, 2010 [13 favorites]

This happened to me, and when I confessed to snooping I came at it from the perspective of how contrite I was, and how terrible I felt, and how I had these bad feelings that led me there in the first place.

My partner hardly cared about the snooping at all, and just wanted to reassure me that there was nothing to worry about, and to explain the things I'd found (which turned out to be completely innocent, and not quite of the nature you describe).

You may very well find the same thing: your husband may not actually be one of the "snooping is worse than cheating" variety that we see on MeFi so often, and if you come at the issue from an apologetic, rather than accusatory, perspective, the communication may go more smoothly. Simply confronting him may put him on the defensive and cause him to be even more secretive.

In any event, I completely agree with the above posters that you have no choice but to put this in the open. It will fester for years and you will continue to check in on him when possible and not have any release for the emotions that your findings raise in you.

Best of luck...
posted by Pomo at 8:04 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

I read all the AskMe archives having to do with snooping/cheating. It was somewhat eye-opening to realize that people considered snooping such a serious offense.

Well, I don't, I think people overstate how bad it is. I mean really, you share your finances with someone, you might have a kid. Aren't you glad you know about this so you can deal with it?

And then what happened was: after a week or so of checking his email compulsively, I went to log in one time and he had changed his password. I immediately felt dread and certainty that he was onto me.

No, he feels guilty and realized that you have his old password and is upping his security instead of, you know, just not chatting to the excoworker.

Or he is taking it to the next level and making plans to meet with her, so he upped the security.

You do not need to worry about your snooping UNTIL you worry about your husband trying to cheat on you.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:06 AM on April 29, 2010 [7 favorites]

secrets, in my experience, are probably the worst betrayal. just get it out there, deal with the aftermath. it's worth it.
posted by crawfo at 8:09 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

You were not snooping. He told you his password. If he does not want you reading his email, he will not tell you the password.

If you tried to guess his new password and succeeded, then you would be snooping.
posted by massysett at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

You should come clean and apologize profusely. If he criticizes you for snooping, accept it. You should tell him specifically that "I saw your emails to so-and-so" but don't go any further than that (i.e., don't ask questions about her or his relationship with her).

See how he handles your knowledge of the situation. His reaction to that will speak volumes. The key is to open the door to his relationship with the former colleague, but don't go on the attack (yet) because you'll end up talking past each other.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:18 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

You are in the wrong. There are some parts to everyone's life, even when you are married, that we should feel comfortable keeping hidden, or not relating to the other spouse. The worst part is that you are going back and reading his emails every day (?!)

It also sounds like you have insecurities about the relationship. If you didn't his chats wouldn't be a big deal and you wouldn't be going into his email account daily to track him.

Go to your husband, fess up, and beg his forgiveness. This is as big a betrayal of his trust than what you accuse him of doing by chatting to his co-worker.

Don't hesitate to bring up what you were doing in his email account and why, but remember, this is not about him right now, it's about you.
posted by TheBones at 8:24 AM on April 29, 2010

You must, must talk about this openly. My answer would be different if you had only been dating for a few months, but you've been together so long that there's no option to cut and run without major consequences. There is no possibility for trust unless both of you are completely open, and in this case it looks like you'll have to go first.
posted by desjardins at 8:28 AM on April 29, 2010

Discuss this openly. Towards the beginning of our relationship, I snooped--genuinely snooped, as in, read his diary--on my husband and found something I didn't like. It cast a pall over our relationship for several months, and he knew something was up. Just like your husband does. My partner was unhappy with me, but we weren't able to deal with the consequences of what I'd read until it was all out in the open.

For what it's worth, your husband's behavior would have constituted definitely crossing a line in my relationship; yours may be different, but it doesn't sound like you had any indication that his behavior was changing or this flirtation had ended. I think you need to talk about it. It's one thing to have a crush on a coworker and never act on it. It's another to tell a coworker how hot she is and discuss her failing marriage with her.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:45 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

You do not need to worry about your snooping UNTIL you worry about your husband trying to cheat on you.

I really don't think this is true, since, even if the flirtation was innocent, many people will respond to this story with "why were you reading my chat logs?" OP has to be prepared for that, or the conversation will be less likely to go anywhere good.

You were not snooping. He told you his password. If he does not want you reading his email, he will not tell you the password.

Um. I have a friend's keys and she has mine. We check on each others' apartments when one of us is out of town. I think she would be mighty shocked if I just went into her apartment one day when she hadn't specifically asked me to.

Is the snooping the worst thing here? Maybe or maybe not, depending on the husband's reaction and what he feels he was doing. But it's still a thing, and it's part of the situation, and the OP needs to get a handle on it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:35 AM on April 29, 2010

You are to blame for your snooping. It wasn't innocent or accidental. It reveals a basic mistrust you harbor toward your mate.

Despite what people say, there is no such thing as total trust in any romantic relationship. Human beings are always vigilant toward possible cheating.

He is to blame for the flirting, but the secrecy is not the issue. It wouldn't be flirting if he came home and said, "Hey, I flirted with someone today."

You admit you've crossed the same line in the past. This doesn't justify his behavior, but it seems you were just as secretive.

No matter what you do, you can't control his behavior when you are not there to observe it.

You must confront him and admit your own transgressions.

Men will always be tempted to cheat, even if their relationship is good and their mate is a supermodel Nobel laureate. Martin Luther King Jr. cheated. Ghandi cheated.

You can't stop it from happening - but you can have a frank discussion about incidents like this.
posted by Lownotes at 9:40 AM on April 29, 2010

Men will always be tempted to cheat, even if their relationship is good and their mate is a supermodel Nobel laureate.

Um, I don't know if the men of Metafilter (or most men) would agree with this statement. I'm not one of them, but in past threads I've read, they're pretty vociferous about how they aren't tempted to cheat and are committed to being faithful partners.

If I'm wrong, then I appreciate the education on what all men are like and I'll make sure I incorporate it into my future advice about how all men are unable to be loyal to their wives, girlfriends, same sex partners. I'm sure I won't be shouted down by male commenters because you're a man and you're saying all men are like this.
posted by anniecat at 10:04 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don’t know why I snooped.

Let me tell you about a small river in Egypt.

The critical importance of trust in a relationship is a true as it is cliche. Do you trust your husband? Did you trust him even before this mysteriously unexplainable quantum snooping event happened? Will his response to confrontation satisfy you even if he denies or can explain any perceived wrong-doing? I have my doubts. Consider the possibility that your relationship may be facing deeper problems that existed before this all happened.

You have certainly betrayed his trust and he has likely betrayed yours. At a minimum, this needs to come to light if your relationship is going to last, but that may well not be enough. Perhaps deeper introspection and even professional counseling might be worth considering if you want to do everything to keep this ship afloat.

I would suggest starting into this by approaching your husband contritely, and with a more thoughtful, less defensive reason for your snooping that doesn't defer your own culpability and wrong-doing. Taking the blame and accepting the responsibility for snooping will make the impending conversation about his own betrayal more worthwhile. Try to remember that if you really care about the relationship, these conversations should not be about who started it and who deserves more blame.
posted by drpynchon at 10:08 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go to your husband, fess up, and beg his forgiveness. This is as big a betrayal of his trust than what you accuse him of doing by chatting to his co-worker.

That may be true in some relationships, but not in others. In this case, it is up to the OP and her husband to determine where the lines are drawn. OP clearly feels that the flirtatious chatting and the lie about his feelings for the former coworker are a betrayal of trust. We don't know if her husband feels the same about the snooping. Maybe she needs to beg for forgiveness, maybe he does, or maybe neither will feel there's anything to forgive once it's all in the open. They have to figure that out for themselves.

He is to blame for the flirting, but the secrecy is not the issue. It wouldn't be flirting if he came home and said, "Hey, I flirted with someone today."

I don't understand that at all. Flirting is still flirting whether anyone else knows about it or not. It isn't magically changed into some other behavior when the story is told later. The secrecy is definitely an issue for the OP - particularly since he seems to have tried to give OP the impression that he wasn't talking to this woman at all.
posted by Dojie at 10:18 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sounds to me like you need to acknowledge it and you both need some couples counselling as there seems to be some (at least slightly) inappropriate behaviour on both your parts as well as some trust issues on at least your part. The counselling can help you with some communication issues that you seem to have and you can work to re-establish trust and boundaries, both within your marriage and with relationships with other people.
posted by 1000monkeys at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2010

Stop beating yourself up; it really serves no purpose other than to say, "Look, I'm beating myself up already so you don't have to!" Let the other person decide how they want to deal with your actions and what consequences you should pay for them (which I think would feel worse than beating yourself up - probably one of the reasons why we beat ourselves up in the first place). Having said that, it sounds like you feel worse about the snooping and your workplace crush than your husband's gchats. In fact, I think that's why you did the snooping - you just ended your workplace crush, and then one day, on autopilot, you go into your husband's email. i.e. might he be doing the same thing you are? Unfortunately, you find that he is, in a way. So now what? Like others have said, be honest about what you've done, but also be honest about your own workplace crush, and the realizations you came to: relationships are fragile, they take work, crushes will happen, but to just be honest about them. Just be honest about all that stuff. A friend recently said similar things about her relationship, and I think hers is a really, really good relationship. I like her partner a lot, and he's a good friend too. A few months ago, she met someone through work who was flirty with her. Last year was a bit hard for her work-wise, which affected her relationship, so therefore, it would have been easy to cheat so she wouldn't have to think about her own issues. (She didn't do anything with him.) Which just goes to show that cheating is about the cheater or potential cheater, and not about the cheat-ee (which was also the consensus on an askmefi question about why people cheat, which I can't find right now). Cheating is an easy way out and easy way to avoid doing the work that relationships take; cheating is easier than breaking up IMO.

I agree with you that it was not appropriate that your husband was having this exchange. Calling another woman "honey" and "babe", calling her hot and cute is over the line. Men only do that to let women know they're interested, not because they're being friendly and trying to give good advice on a problem.

To have this conversation with the husband, I'd start it with yourself - you had this workplace crush, it's over, you love your husband, you realized relationships are fragile, they take work. Who knows, maybe he'll even come clean about this woman. If he doesn't, you have to tell him that one day you looked at his gmail for no particular reason, after this crush happened, and found the flirty chats. And then tell him how you feel about his flirting, and go on to say that crushes are going to happen, but you guys should be open about them in future.

It sounds like what you and he did are not that different, though if you never flirted with your workplace crush, I think that's a lesser transgression than your husband's flirting. The only difference is, you know about his flirting (he doesn't know about your crush), and he did this over email, so there's a record. Tiger Woods, anyone?

I want nothing more than for us to live happily ever after.
And stop the "fairytale" language too. You just said yourself that relationships take work.
posted by foxjacket at 10:25 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I once idly thumbed through the text messages on my husband's phone without thinking about it--I'd borrowed it for something else, and the list of messages was up. I stopped, once I thought about what I was doing, but I understand the bored/curious impulse. I think that, while my "snooping" probably wasn't the best thing to do, and I did stop, it wasn't a terrible betrayal. So, although you chose to log in, which did take thought and might have been a moment to stop yourself, I don't really see it as the extreme betrayal you're thinking it is. You share passwords, you share lives; this is something to apologize for, but stop the self-flagellation. You didn't install key-logging software on his computer, did you? You accessed information that he knew you could access but figured you wouldn't. Apologize for having overstepped that boundary.

Being aware of your attraction to someone who is not your spouse (i.e., having a crush) is very different from feeling attraction to someone who is not your spouse and talking or acting flirtatiously with that person. The former is natural and inevitable in the life of a marriage; the latter is a choice, and it is the wrong choice to make unless your relationship explicitly allows it. What your husband did was inappropriate and merits a conversation. By all means, apologize for having looked at his e-mail, but don't let your guilt over that diminish the seriousness of his actions.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:52 AM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

If I'm wrong, then I appreciate the education on what all men are like

Any statement about "what all men are like" is inherently false.
posted by jbickers at 11:08 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's really hard to tell what the tone of the chats was. I could see a male friend telling me I was "cute" and "hot" just to bouy my feelings of confidence and security in a time when I think my husband is rejecting me and marriage is failing, just to be a friend.

Ok, but the poster does say that the problem is the husband specifically told her he didn't like this woman, and that she's an ex-coworker he has no reason to any longer even be in touch with, let alone have such an intimate relationship with. I think that's a bit different from a husband using friendly language to a close female friend the wife is fully aware of.

I agree that this has to be put out on the table and dealt with. All you can do is be honest about your actions, and see how he feels about them. If he thinks you crossed a major line in logging in to his account, then you can discuss why that upsets him, and what boundaries he thinks are appropriate. Those sorts of decisions and opinions are not universal truths. Each couple has to draw conclusions about how bad or not bad it is for privacy to be violated within a marriage.
posted by mdn at 11:12 AM on April 29, 2010

I would definitely fess up and tell him what happened and how uncomfortable you are with what you discovered. This whole issue needs to come out. I don't know about the "beg his forgiveness" part--that's up to you and how badly you feel about your own actions. But you really do need to get this whole thing out in the open so you can discuss the former co-worker situation and make sure you are both in the same place when it comes to marital boundaries.
posted by misha at 11:12 AM on April 29, 2010

Speaking of testing, I would advise against the temptation to confess to the snooping without bringing up what you found in hopes that he brings it up first.

Bring it all out, possibly by showing him this AskMe. It you appears that you've written very honestly and that's usually agood place to start.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:22 AM on April 29, 2010

Any statement about "what all men are like" is inherently false.

That's what I suspected.
posted by anniecat at 12:02 PM on April 29, 2010

I can’t say I had a conscious feeling or suspicion. I almost feel like I did it on autopilot

Some people are saying that you were wrong to mistrust your husband. And you are saying that you didn't even know that you mistrusted him, but it seems like you did know that you mistrusted him. Unless you're the kind of person who habitually snoops -- and it seems like you aren't -- then doesn't it seem like there was some reason why you suddenly felt the urge?
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 12:06 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

hmmm. a lot of people are saying snooping isn't necessarily wrong, which is surprising to me, but in the effort of keeping an open mind, let me suggest that you put aside the question of whether or not it was wrong to snoop.

instead ask yourself what the current situation says about your relationship. to my mind your having snooped and his chats says that you guys have a pretty serious trust issue in your marriage. this isn't to say that you always have or that you always will. but now, at this moment, I'd say you have a trust issue you need to address.

so ultimately I agree with everyone else: you need to talk about it. He may get mad about you having snooped. If it were me, I would. And I believe he'd have a right to, and I hope you remain open to that. A few people here have said that snooping is ok because that's how you find out someone is cheating on you. Maybe that's true, but I'd ask myself "is suspicion of cheating the foundation of a happy marriage?" It seems to me that, whether or not you were justified in snooping, the real thing you need to address is that suspicion. Whether or not it's by addressing his behavior, or whatever inspired you to snoop, something needs to be addressed so that you can live with one another and not feel a need to either flirt, snoop or whatever. And that can't happen without talking.

So the final summation of my recommendations: talk. put yourself in a place to be open to his feelings, and try to remain in that place. Try to help him be open to your feelings, and do whatever you can so that you both feel able to say what you really feel without fear of condemnation. Be willing to acknowledge the possibility that your behavior has hurt him. Be strong enough to acknowledge how his behavior made you feel. Be focused on addressing the trust issues, and not on trying to shame or punish anyone. Look for what will make you both happy or satisfied, without making one or the other of you out as the total bad guy.

Good luck.
posted by shmegegge at 1:26 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to say:

I see a couple answers here guilting you for not trusting your husband. There is nothing wrong with not trusting someone who has not behaved in a trustworthy way. Having an obvious spark with another woman in front of you, when that's not the kind of relationship you have agreed on, is not behaving in a trustworthy way. Ideally he wouldn't have indulged himself with that in the first place. I don't buy that it's cool and everyone does it or there's no way to avoid it; I have guys throw flirty vibes at me all the time when I'm in relationships, and I would never humiliate anyone I was in a relationship with by having a flirty sparky vibe with someone else in front of them (or behind their back). Flirty vibes meet a brick wall with me, and that's what your husband should have done.

Second best would have been if you guys had addressed it when you first noticed how they acted around each other, and he had been honest and forthright instead of cagey and obfuscatory.

Those things didn't happen. So I, for one, don't blame you at all for not trusting him, and for snooping on him. The trust in your marriage isn't there right now, but it's ridiculous to act like you were in the wrong for not continuing to pretend it was there when it wasn't.

I agree with everyone else that you can get it back by airing everything. However, that means he has to air everything too, and be the picture of candor.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:44 PM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

Seconding what Ashley801 said.
Plus, focusing on what you did wrong doesn't excuse him for what he appears to be doing wrong.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 4:14 PM on April 29, 2010

(This may unnecessarily stir things up.) Yes, you snooped. Not good. Having said that, I would be more concerned about why he's now feeling the need to change his password, if the email relationship has escalated or if he has plans to escalate it. I'd also be concerned about the fact that he deliberately downplayed his feelings about this woman to you. It may still be innocent though. Either way, you'll only know by sitting down and talking to him about it before your guilt about snooping and/or his email flirting eats away at you and the relationship.
posted by Jubey at 5:54 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I am a married male.

He knows you've been snooping and the password change reflects that knowledge. It really is too coincidental in timing to be anything else.

If you are going to tell him you snooped (which he probably already knows) please don't say you had no reason why you did it or that you did it on autopilot, or whatever. Tell him something like (even if it untrue), "I've been sensing a distance between us..." and/or "...I have been having suspicions, however irrational this may sound". I would be devastated if my wife was having suspicions that I was even having an emotional affair; I would never consider the snooping to be a breach of trust...since you found something! If you found nothing...then you could beat yourself up over this.
posted by teg4rvn at 9:06 AM on April 30, 2010

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