My husband is cheating on me. Now what?
January 11, 2013 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I just found out. Should I confront him?

Our relationship has been rocky for about a year now, due to mental health issues on my part. I honestly thought things were getting better -- over the last month in particular. We became more affectionate. We spent more time together. We started having sex again. He does spend a lot of time out of the house, and has picked up several new hobbies during this last year, but I've always trusted that he's going where he says he's going and that he's been faithful. However, he's been pushing for us to start couples therapy soon.

Cut to a few weeks ago, and I accidentally bump his mouse while cleaning. I continue cleaning, and then I see the remnants of a chat with a woman -- in an awfully familiar tone. It wasn't exactly romantic, but they were using pet names and cute references to events. But I didn't scroll up. I hoped it was just a friendly thing.

And now cut to last night, when once again, I bumped his mouse by accident, and saw a chat with the same woman. And for whatever reason, I decided to scroll up this time.

Jesus christ.

It's been going on for at least a month: an honest-to-god emotional affair, full of pet names and "schmootzes" and other romantic tripe. They talk about "not being able to wait" to see one another. And there's enough "I wish I was in your arms" and other shit that I figure something physical has happened. The worst part is that he even spent half of our last vacation chatting with her, "wishing I was here with you." (Along with some unkind remarks about me.) Guess that's why I spent so much time alone in the hotel room.

I have no idea what to do. I can't leave. I don't have any money and I don't have anywhere to go. I feel fat and old and stupid. What do I say to him? Do I wait until we start couples therapy? I have my own therapist, but we don't meet until next week either. I don't want to be around him. I don't want to see him, I don't want to talk to him, I don't want to sleep in his bed. I don't want him to touch me.

Additionally, we're supposed to attend a social event where she'll be in attendance. I definitely don't want to go, but it'll be very much noticed if I'm not there. And if I abstain, I'm just giving him more time with that bitch.

What should I do? I'm just numb. Ugh. Guide me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If it were me, I would confront him with the fury of 18 hells. But that's probably not a super-recommended course of action. Do you have someone you can stay with for a few days? Family? A friend? A coworker?
posted by DoubleLune at 8:17 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

You're going to have to start by talking to him and telling him what you know, and what happens after that will depend on what you both want to happen. Begin by talking to him as soon as possible, and see what he says, and then give yourself a little time to process all this before you make any decisions about what you want to do next. If you need time apart, take it, whether that means staying with friends or just his sleeping on the couch.

I'm so sorry. This must be terribly rough on you. Be sure to talk to your own therapist and your close friends about this, and to take care of yourself physically.
posted by orange swan at 8:23 PM on January 11, 2013

Consider that he may (at least subconsciously?) have wanted you to find out. I find it hard to believe that he left the log of an intimate chat with his mistress open on the computer in your house not once but twice, and walked away from it long enough for you to read through it both times. I realize that people aren't always good at keeping secrets, but closing the chat with your mistress is not exactly some James Bond shit.
posted by axiom at 8:38 PM on January 11, 2013 [62 favorites]

I'm really sorry to hear that you've been so mistreated by him.

I've got no experience with anything like this and don't have any advice to help you feel better, but if he doesn't know that you know yet, is it a good opportunity to try to obtain any evidence that would be advantageous to you in a divorce if that's applicable in divorce law where you are?

Not that divorce is necessarily going to be the outcome but if, as you say, he has leverage over you because of your financial position it might be in your best interest and make you feel more confident if you could get on more equal footing.
posted by XMLicious at 8:39 PM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

My advice from a zero tolerance for cheating point of view:

Don't say anything to him. Go tomorrow and hire a divorce lawyer - is there anyone who could lend you the retainer money? Divorce him and get your fair share of all marital assets.

Focus on him, not the other woman. Channeling anger onto her is a distraction from dealing with the real target.

I'm so sorry - I know this is incredibly painful and hurtful.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:41 PM on January 11, 2013 [48 favorites]

I myself would print this out and bring it to the couples therapy appointment. But that's me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:42 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I can't leave. I don't have any money and I don't have anywhere to go.

Strategically, you should consult a divorce attorney in your state before anything else. This is not the same as "you should divorce his ass!" What it will do however is let you know what your options are: for remaining in your home, for spousal support, etc. These things vary a lot by state and you need to know what your actual options are rather than feeling like you have no choices.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:44 PM on January 11, 2013 [68 favorites]

Can you leave if he kicks you out or leaves himself and offers no support during or after a divorce? Because that may well happen, and telling yourself that you "can't leave" keeps you from honestly examining if you a: WANT to leave him and b: examining what your options are if the marriage ends.

I'm very, very sorry this is happening.
posted by cyndigo at 8:48 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I disagree about screaming at him. He did this for a reason. You can attack him but if you do you won't be getting to the reasons he did this, instead you'll just be punishing him for his infidelity and the reasons will still exist. He won't feel he can discuss anything with you if you totally blow up. So I suggest an approach that allows for exploration of the cause and discussion of the way forward. Sure, you are rightly angry, and you can express that anger of course, but a total fury isn't going to be productive.
posted by Dansaman at 8:52 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would say that this is one of those situations where therapists encourage clients to call outside of the normal schedule and either check-in by phone or make a sooner appointment. If you can do that, I highly recommend it.

Before you confront him - either on your own or with a therapist - contact a lawyer. There is likely to be an attorney association that helps low-income women understand the implications of this sort of thing in your city or one nearby, so search for that. But don't leave the search open for him to see, of course.

Endure the social engagement if you can do it without harming your health. Do it with dignity and poise. Or, if you feel as if that's impossible, perhaps accept that attending will be more agony than the alternative and absent yourself for other reasons (personally, I wouldn't use a health-related excuse like headache or whatever, because it feeds into his negative narrative about you - I'd pick something like helping out a friend or something like that).

When you are ready to confront him (and you should...after you've talked to an attorney), it would probably be best to do this with a couples therapist. He may be planning on springing it on you there, anyway, as he may have some notion that a mediated reveal will go more easily. After talking to the attorney, indicate you're ready to meet a couples therapist. Again, it would be a good idea to meet with your own therapist in between all of these things.

If you absolutely must leave or if things become too heated after the confrontation, you would probably be relieved by having something lined up, even if it's a room in a women's sanctuary (another search to do while you work out next steps, and another to not leave open for his perusal) or a rotation of couches with tolerant members of your network.

If you're in a place that has it, call 211. Otherwise, contact your Health & Human Services analogue. They can help you find places to go, get you temporary (or long-term) benefits, and otherwise get you to a more stable landing place.

This is hard and I'm so sorry. Don't let the negative talk get a hold on you. Keep moving through the necessary steps to clear yourself of this in the healthiest way possible.
posted by batmonkey at 8:54 PM on January 11, 2013 [24 favorites]

Oh - and I know a lot of folks think this is a crappy thing to do, but you have to be practical, and sometimes that means being cold: as subtly as possible, save and/or print a copy of those chats for yourself. Make sure you're getting a timestamped/dated version.
posted by batmonkey at 8:57 PM on January 11, 2013 [37 favorites]

Even if you are fat and old and ugly (and if you weren't before, you aren't now), that doesn't make this your fault. And fat, old, ugly people deserve to be loved and respected, too, especially by the people they've loved and taken care of, in good faith. Consult a divorce attorney, so you know your options, but resist the natural human impulse to blame yourself or the other woman. This is your husband's choice,and it's about him, not your worth.
posted by gingerest at 9:09 PM on January 11, 2013 [66 favorites]

i second calling your therapist. if you've had issues recently the best thing you can do is make sure you're on an even keel. then talk to a lawyer. gather your ammo and then unload.

i know it's easy for a stranger to say but there are always hidden resources that we might not see in the heat of the moment. call friends, family, parents. collect your support system and get strong emotionally. people ultimately cheat out of insecurity. that might not make you feel good but it's true. but most of all, you are not alone and you are not helpless and you don't deserve betrayal. this might be a sucker punch to your self esteem but it doesn't erase your worth or your selfhood. don't knock yourself down. he's the one who's in trouble here. he sleeps on the couch until other arrangements can be made. he's the one that cheated and he's the one who gets to suffer.

plus, adultery is hard to defend in court.

p.s. fuck him
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 9:28 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

Keep quiet. Document the affair. Talk to several divorce attornies by phone and pick at least one to have a face-to-face interview (free consultation) with, call your therapist and schedule an emergency appointment, see the lawyer(s) and get some feedback, discuss the feedback with your therapist. Process. Decide.

You need to call around to lawyers (a) to get an idea of what spousal support you may or may not be due, and (b) see if you "vibe" with any of them. You should find a lawyer wih a demeanor that meshes well with you own, someone who is knowledgable and capable.

Your therapist will help you sort out your feelings. The lawyer will give you an idea of your options.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:34 PM on January 11, 2013 [15 favorites]

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. If I could restrain myself from causing a huge scene and ejecting all of his belongings from the house/apartment, I would document the fuck out of everything. And - I know this is highly disfavored in the green - I would start snooping the fuck around and documenting everything. Everything. If you don't protect yourself, no one will.

And gather your friends together. You need them now.
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:10 PM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

plus, adultery is hard to defend in court.

This depends entirely on the state -- some states do not allow adultery to impact property division or spousal support. Some states still do. The OP should consult a divorce attorney in her state to find out what her position is so she can make an informed decision about what she wants to do next.

If you absolutely must leave or if things become too heated after the confrontation

I would not have a confrontation until after speaking with an attorney because voluntarily vacating the marital home may have a serious impact in terms of property settlement. If the OP is the less financially able partner and if she's in no danger, she may be best advised not to leave the home. An attorney can advise as to the options and implications.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:21 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you confront him, it's really unlikely he'll tell you the truth.

Go to the divorce lawyer in the next few days.

Don't blame yourself. He made a choice to engage this woman, over and over again. He didn't ask for couples counseling or anything like that. He just started an emotional affair instead.

He doesn't seem to value the marriage very much, and that's not your fault.
posted by discopolo at 10:24 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Document....snoop, take pictures...snoop in EVERYTHING...

Then rain down with the fury of 18 hells...
posted by pearlybob at 10:32 PM on January 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm sorry this is happening to you. Steps:

1) Document known cheating evidence. Make more than one copy, and keep it somewhere secure.
2) Contact lawyers and consult with at least one.
After finding out your options...
3) Therapist, either for you two as a couple if you decide you want to try to save this, or for just you if you're ready to move on.
4) If you're leaving, do it in a way that places your own well-being ahead of your anger. Rely on your legal and personal network to help with this as you make decisions about how to move forward.

I wish you the very best. Please let us know how you're doing, if you feel.comfortable doing so.
posted by anonnymoose at 10:49 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

P.S. Do not confront him until you talk to a lawyer.
posted by anonnymoose at 10:58 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

The people who say keep quiet for now, document everything, and to see a lawyer to check out your options are right. Absolutely see a lawyer and see what your options are. This is very important. Do not leave your marital home.

Confronting him now will only drive him to hide the affair -- you won't know if he really stopped or is just finding sneakier ways to do things.

For additional support, you might be interested in TalkAboutMarriage Coping with Infidelity Forum. You can find more support there, for emotional affairs as well. There is more advice here about how to document the affair, how to take care of your finances, how to deal with the children and surrounding family members and so on.

To be more specific, this might help you a little more:
- Coping with Infidelity (summary)
- The 180

And do take care of yourself. Remember to eat, drink and breathe.
posted by rozaine at 11:37 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our relationship has been rocky for about a year now, due to mental health issues on my part.

Give him as much slack as he gave you.

Bring it up, but not in a crazy, out of control angry way.

We started having sex again.

Give him as much slack as he gave you.
posted by rr at 12:11 AM on January 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

Ah I found a better link: Wife and Best Friend having at least an EA. There are some specific recommended things to do in there that you can consider.
posted by rozaine at 12:27 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

There may be "reasons" why he let you find this out and even "reasons" why he decided to cheat, however, it's not really your concern. This is wilfully manipulative, marriage-threatening behaviour.

While it's true that you may ultimately want to explore this with him and find out why he did it and cut him some slack, you simply must do so in a context of knowing what your choices are. You know yourself that you're afraid of being tossed out on the street with nothing, but your legal position must be somewhat different.

So please, listen to the people who are urging you to get a consultation with a lawyer before you do anything else.

The worst possible situation would be where you allowed yourself to submit to this kind of pressure and manipulation because you've been convinced that you're too fat/old/stupid/crazy to leave and besides he's been tolerating your fat/old/stupid/crazy self long enough to deserve to get a little bit of his own back - and then have him still end your marriage and leave you with nothing.

Now maybe the situation is that bad and maybe it's salvageable. I am not saying the worst case here is inevitable. I am saying that it's possible and that it's therefore something you have to plan for. You need to negotiate from strength here, that's why you need a lawyer FIRST.

Another thing that's important here is that it's clear that, for whatever reason, your husband is manipulating you. Even if that's all this is, treating it with the utmost seriousness from the beginning, shows him you're serious about being dicked around like this. That you won't hesitate to call in help if anyone, even him, messes with your life or your mind.

After you talk to some lawyers, then call your therapist because yes, I agree, they probably will be able to talk to you in an emergency.

Depending on what your lawyer says, I agree that you should veer away from the social engagement at the last minute, on the grounds that "Fictional!Bestfriend's had an Unverifiable Crisis - I'm so terribly sorry but I have to drop everything and tend to her, you just go and have a great time without me, bye!"
posted by tel3path at 3:56 AM on January 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

Surviving Infidelity.
posted by BibiRose at 5:35 AM on January 12, 2013

We started having sex again.

And you don't know if/who else he's been sleeping with... Please make sure you look after your health! I'd be making sure I had a clean bill of health. This is important.
posted by teststrip at 7:51 AM on January 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mental health issues are an illness. Your spouse does not "cut you slack" by caring for you and staying with you when you are ill. It's a basic part of marriage.

Cheating is in no way comparable to being ill. You shouldn't feel the situations are equivalent and you owe him "slack" because you were ill.

And I agree with the people who are saying don't discuss it with him. Cheaters are liars who can't even be honest with themselves. How could they be honest with you? They'll lie, evade, and manipulate because they are in a fucked-up head space where you don't count as a person with feelings anymore. Best to avoid the extra pain of listening to their squirrely bullshit.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2013 [26 favorites]

Call your therapist and see if you can get a meeting, or at least have a discussion. But don't wait around for an appointment before you contact a lawyer. Find out what your legal options are. You may be relieved to discover that you are not as powerless as you think you are.

Don't confront him until after you get a better picture of where you stand. Keep in mind that he won't be all that helpful in working out what you ought to do--he will probably be more interested in justifying his own actions than he is in helping you define yours: in any case, don't let what he thinks you ought to do be your guide, here. I think he didn't leave his intimate conversations lying around by accident, but then maybe he's the careless jerk wallowing in hubris that he appears to be. Or, maybe he's just a spineless yoyo who doesn't have the integrity to face you with his betrayals, and wants it to be all on you. It doesn't matter. This is for you to deal with. It's better to take the initiative and make your own terms. Later on you can have discussions if you still want them, but wait until you get more of an idea how all this works.

Don't worry about him being with his little friend. That never was under your control. It's best to reflect that an man that cheats on his wife is getting hooked up to a woman who screws married men. What could go wrong with that? Okay, I'm sure they had their reasons, but keep in mind that their reasons didn't include your welfare.

Anger and its derivatives don't help clear thinking--but the adrenalin rush can actually help you clear your head and jar you out of apathy. Anyhow, you are normal if you feel hurt and angry. The pain of having been betrayed can make you feel small. This negative stuff will get put in a better perspective later on, after you get a reading on what your alternatives are.

You got some good advice in the thread. You can get help with this from several sources, but it starts with your telephone. Look at a Woman's Hotline, for example, for referrals.

However all this shakes out, you don't have to sleep with him and you don't have to let him touch you if you don't want him to. You may find it easier if you pretend things are normal for a few days, but that isn't your only option. You can tell him to leave you alone for a while, because you have to think some things out. Tell him you'll get back to him about this when you figure out what you want to say. I realize that the world must seem be turning to shit for you right now. Please know that it's just him turning out to be a shit, not not the world, and certainly not you. Foremost in importance is that you don't need either his help or approval for any of this.

When you talk about this with friends, they may suggest revenge. Don't do it. Well, don't do it now. Revenge is best when it has more to do with getting on with your own life than fucking his life up. None of this means that a divorce is inevitable. That's a decision for down the road. Still, my inclination is DTMA.
posted by mule98J at 8:26 AM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

rr: "Give him as much slack as he gave you."

Having mental health issues are in no way comparable to being an adulterer.
posted by katyggls at 8:50 AM on January 12, 2013 [22 favorites]

Having mental health issues are in no way comparable to being an adulterer

We don't know any of the details.
posted by rr at 10:23 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Give him as much slack as he gave you."
Having mental health issues are in no way comparable to being an adulterer.

From what the OP is saying, her mental health issues led to some serious marital issues -- possibly no sex for an entire year. When her husband started betraying the sanctity of the marriage bed, that marriage bed probably didn't seem viably sustainable.

It's possible to imagine her husband starting an affair as the best of various bad options -- better perhaps than trying to negotiate a divorce or an open marriage given his wife's emotional state at the time, perhaps better than going insane himself. From what the OP says about the timing, it does sound as if beginning the affair may have actually helped her husband be able to be affectionate within the marriage.

That doesn't mean that the affair hasn't led her husband to handle things unskillfully: he deceived his wife, said unkind things about her, and left them where they could easily come to her attention.

Only the OP knows whether her mental health issues led her to treat her husband deceptively, insultingly, or carelessly. But I don't think that cutting him as much slack as he gave her is bad advice.

Note however that even in the most charitable interpretation, the OP's husband secured his own oxygen mask first, by finding a sexual outlet -- and the OP should secure her own oxygen mask first too, by allying with relevant outsiders as suggested in the comments above.
posted by feral_goldfish at 10:28 AM on January 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

From what the OP is saying, her mental health issues led to some serious marital issues -- possibly no sex for an entire year.

Good God. Even if there was no sex for a year - which happens in relationships, due to pregnancy and post-partum issues, or loss or stress or illness or any number of things - that doesn't grant him a free credit card on which to buy an affair.

When lack of sex becomes an issue in a relationship, the correct order of operations is not start an affair and then start pushing for couple therapy.

When her husband started betraying the sanctity of the marriage bed, that marriage bed probably didn't seem viably sustainable.

Nobody has anything like enough information from the details of the OP's post to make that kind of "probable" assumption.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:44 AM on January 12, 2013 [23 favorites]

Even if it were a sexless marriage, there is no excuse for being unkind about you behind your back when you thought you were with someone you could trust and love...! Wow. I am angry on your behalf. That was a huge betrayal, and it was not okay.

I agree that a divorce attorney and your own therapist are the way to go here. If you end up deciding to stay in the marriage, it's best to do so from a position of knowledge.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:39 AM on January 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

When her husband started betraying the sanctity of the marriage bed, that marriage bed probably didn't seem viably sustainable.

I'd like to address this, OP, because the way you are talking right now, it sounds like your self-worth is pretty low. I reiterate that I don't want you to think the affair is something you owe him as compensation for being mentally ill.

For one thing, the OP and her husband are married. That means "in sickness and in health". That means that even if the OP's illness put her husband under stress, he doesn't get to compensate for that by committing adultery. That would be like saying he was entitled to break the marriage vows twice over.

I do take the point that we only have one side of this story. If, for example, the OP is leaving out occasions where, I don't know, her illness caused her to be compulsively promiscuous, or caused her to be cruel or violent towards her husband, or otherwise act in marriage-breaking ways herself, then the husband starts to look more sympathetic. (No, lack of sex for a while doesn't actually count as a marriage-breaking behaviour.) I can imagine mental illness leading someone to do things that were just as provocative as leaving your IM sex chat logs up on screen for your wife to find.

But so what, though? What if the OP behaved really horribly and/or abusively throughout her illness, by responding like this, the husband is dealing with it by retaliating. And yeah, leaving her to discover it definitely takes this from an "outlet" [eyeroll] to retaliation.

The OP deals with all this by going to therapy, working to improve her communication with her husband, and resuming sex, while the husband deals with it by finding himself a floozie and accidentally letting the OP learn about it.

Instead of, y'know, suggesting joint therapy or talking about it or any of the many other things he could have done to handle the situation other than this.

OP, unless you're really withholding a lot of incriminating self-description here, your husband is not entitled to do this to you. And even if you are withholding a lot of truly bad stuff (adultery, abuse etc.) there are still better ways of dealing with it than this.

I hope you'll remember that you're entitled to protect yourself and that you might choose to work through this with your husband to a resolution, but you don't owe it to him to indulge him in this.
posted by tel3path at 12:06 PM on January 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, please keep this to the question and don't debate each other.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:28 PM on January 12, 2013

OP, it's totally natural to feel horrible and betrayed right now. But please keep in mind that affairs do not always (or, I suspect, even in the majority of cases) need to end marriages. Just because right now you are sick with anger and disgust (and I'm not saying you shouldn't be -- I know I would be) doesn't mean that this is going to end your marriage.

Here's what you need to do --

1. Figure out what you want -- a therapist can help here, try to get an emergency appointment. Maybe you want to leave him. Maybe you want to him to stop seeing her, go to counseling with you, and move past it. Maybe you want him to stop seeing her, stay together provisionally and reassess in six months. There are any number of possible outcomes.

2. Do talk to a couple of divorce attorneys about options and what the likely scenario would be for you if you do decide to get a divorce, or if he wants one.

3. Taking the info you get from (1) and (2) into account, you can confront your husband and let him know what you want. He may have a different choice than you.

People do have affairs sometimes because ... God, so many reasons, that have nothing to do with not loving their spouse or wanting to end their marriage. I don't know your husband's reasons. Maybe you know some of them. Maybe they're shitty reasons and he's a shitty person, but that doesn't necessarily follow from the facts as you've laid them out here. Find out, and know that despite all the pot-banging I see in the thread above, nobody will think less of you if you decide to fight for your marriage. Or, for that matter, if you decide that you'd be better off without him and that being single sounds a lot better than seeing his dumb face every morning. Either is valid, and this is a big decision that you need to make based on your priorities, not ours.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:39 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

(That said though, please do get guidance from a lawyer about how to prepare for a worst case scenario, just in case, even if you decide that you want to stay together. If he doesn't, it could get ugly, and your ducks need to be lined up before you tip your hand.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:42 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

finding himself a floozie

She's not the one who broke his vows and we have no idea what truths or lies he told her. More than one good-hearted woman has been duped by a married man. There's no need to malign her.

People do have affairs sometimes because ... God, so many reasons, that have nothing to do with not loving their spouse or wanting to end their marriage.

This is totally true, Anonymous. The advice to see a lawyer is not because you should get divorced but, again, just so you understand your legal and financial position and know your options. I know you feel like you have none but that probably isn't the case.

Good luck to you, however the two of you work this out.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:51 PM on January 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

He may be planning to divorce you.
While its possible you can work things out, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Imagine a fire destroys your home at the same time a computer glitch destroys all online records.
How do you prove to insurance company what they need to reimburse you? (really its proving things in court)
First grab a video camera and do a walk thru of your house, examining all possessions and their condition (play the stereo, run the vacuum and snowblower)
Get a new email using a safe (friends) computer, safety deposit box, and at least get prices for a small storage unit.
Gather all account info, copies of his pay stubs, credit card bills, utility bills, etc.
Consult with a few lawyers, and do not commit to a large retainer to start. If you do decide to file, the initial temp agreement is extremely important, as it may be the basis for the next few years of your life.
posted by Sophont at 3:41 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think you need to talk to a lawyer to protect yourself. Sometimes one member of a couple will push for couples counseling because they want a safe space to end the relationship. He might be doing that in this case because he knows you had mental health issues during the last year. I'm sorry to say it so harshly.

Please, no matter how you feel about ending or not ending your marriage, make sure your butt is covered in case he's about to take the choice out of your hands. Things can go from cordial to nuclear in the blink of an eye. Don't count on him being fair during whatever comes next.

You sound smart and strong. I'm sorry you were treated this way by someone you love.
posted by Brody's chum at 3:52 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, might as well be an outlier here. You say an 'honest to god emotional affair.' Okay, to me that means someone who is spilling their guts to another human being, perhaps creating some emotional bonds and treating each other like potential or even probable lovers.
In all senses of the word, if I'm understanding this correctly, your husband has not slept around as far as you know, and has not consummated this 'affair.'
So, an emotional affair is grounds for lawyering up and suing? Let's do the real thing. Your husband let himself get suckered (via his own actions as well as the active encouragement of another) into bonding with someone else, but has not acted on that beyond chats and talk. Your marriage still remains and is valid in all 50 states of the union. Emotional chat and talk is not in itself grounds for divorce IMHO. It may well signal deep trouble ahead but 100% of how you handle this is up to you.
You could get a grip on yourself, discuss this with your husband in a loving way and propose refocusing your marriage in whatever way seems best for the health of your union. Of you could lawyer up, fly into a conniption fit, and create new and fresh dramas to spice up your days and nights. After all you are the one having sex with the guy. If he was really and truly bonded with this other person, the sex would probably not be happening. Count your blessings and work on what you have, not on destroying it.
posted by diode at 5:25 PM on January 12, 2013

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you so much, everyone. On your advice, I got back into his machine and copied the message archives with a couple of friends, including the woman in question.

It turns out he's spent most of this year thinking I'm a terrible person (definitely along the lines of rr's thinking). Your sub-discussion on that topic was spot-on. He was planning to leave me. But that topic of conversation has stopped over the last month or so -- right as things have been getting better.

It also turns out that maybe things aren't as bad as I thought they were with the woman. Their communication is definitely way, way more familiar than I would like, but on second reading, it's not as romantic. It sounds like a close and flirty friendship, maybe on the cusp of something more. I'm still hurt and scared, but maybe I have a chance to cut it off now.

After reading the logs, I went back to bed with my husband, cried on his shoulder, apologized for my behavior, and then we proceeded to have a lovely day together. We talked a lot about future plans, in fact. If he really wanted to leave me for some college slut, those conversations would not have happened.

I swear, if it weren't for you all, I would have confronted him instead and made a shitstorm out of this.

I'm about to go to the event. I'm scared to death, but I hope that maybe having the two of us in one place will make him feel bad about his behavior -- it feels more like real cheating if you've just had a great day with your wife, and then you see your younger woman, right? I don't think he's a scumbag.

Here's to hoping, anyway. I'll continue to monitor his chats, I have a therapy appointment first thing Monday morning, and I hope that I won't have to contact an attorney.

Thanks again -- this is a great thread. But feel free to talk me down from my optimism!
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:42 PM on January 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

Another word for snooping is reality check. Um, two other words.
posted by tel3path at 7:53 PM on January 12, 2013

I know that relationships are complicated.

How comfortable will you feel trying to see to your well-being AND having to keep an extra eye on your husband?

Explore that in therapy on Monday! Please!!

I'm well more concerned that your mental health is stabilized. Don't start engaging in vigilant behaviors if that undermines your progress. Keep an eye on yourself, in this regard. Put a stop to it and choose a new strategy if monitoring your husband taxes you or stresses you out.

I think eventually (way down the road?) you might have to tell your husband of your past discovery, if just to clear the air and get a little more honesty and trust between the two of you?

But not now. Or maybe now if that is what your therapist recommends AND you agree.

Secrets hurt. Don't keep them indefinitely if that is counter to having a solid partnership and a sense of personal well-being.

If down the road you can easily put this in the past... Carry on....
posted by jbenben at 8:08 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can I ask that you explore the language you use to describe this woman and yourself, you've called her a bitch and a College slut here, with your therapist?

at very least you are in danger of transferring hatred about yourself onto her, you were cruel about yourself, "fat and old".

I'm really glad the discussion here has helped move this difficult situation onto a more positive footing and truly wish you both every success in re-building trust however, whatever happened between your husband and this woman happened between two adults (presumably) and both carry equal blame.
posted by Wilder at 2:50 AM on January 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

at very least you are in danger of transferring hatred about yourself onto her

your husband and this woman ... both carry equal blame.

If there's a certain amount of free-form hate sloshing around the OP's system, such that she needs to hate SOMEONE, I reckon it's probably healthier and more practical for her to hate someone with whom she shares neither a house nor a body nor a future.

Allocating blame (as distinct from assessing risk) correctly is way less important than staying sane and experiencing love and hope.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Kids or no kids - time to cut him loose, there is no way back from this.

I speak as the husband who once made a similar mistake, my wife found-out and then, we tried to recover for 10 miserable years. There was no way forward, no forgiveness, no moving on - nothing healthy ever evolved from it - just bitterness.

So - don't. As others have said, document and divorce - you will all be happier in the long-run.
posted by jkaczor at 9:00 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

your husband and this woman ... both carry equal blame.

No they do not. It is your husband who made promises and your husband who broke his vows or at the very least, skirted infidelity. If we're using the term slut here (and I am not a fan of this term), it applies to him.

If he really wanted to leave me for some college slut, those conversations would not have happened.

Oh honey. This is miles from the truth. Miles and miles down the road in a town called Delusional. A plan is not a commitment, any more than a vow was apparently a commitment. People who cheat lie. People who cheat self-justify and avoid blame and conflict. Please go with your husband to couples therapy.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:20 AM on January 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

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