Partner lied about previous sexual partners & his faithfulness
August 21, 2013 5:23 AM   Subscribe

A lie of omission, to be more accurate. When I met my (now) husband he understood that I hadn’t had sex and didn’t plan on it before marriage, and that I was looking for someone with similar beliefs about sex. Because he knew this, he was honest and told me that he had been in a long-term relationship with someone before for 7 years - I was fine with this. But I recently discovered that he had sex with 3 different women right as he was getting to know me, (one of whom I've since met at one of his work parties, and cringe to think I was the only one in the group who didn't know about this), and he didn't feel it was important to tell me about it when he proposed to me.

Last month, his laptop was on the table next to me and I did a bad, bad thing. I needed a document from his inbox that he had promised me he would send to me at some point. You can see what’s coming next. I looked back to the months around when he met me, years ago. And I saw a few emails with dodgy subject lines and clicked.

Long story short, I discovered he had begun steadily seeing one other woman in the months after we first met and were emailing, and he also slept casually with at least two other women during these six months. He and I weren't seeing each other regularly then, and we certainly weren't boyfriend and girlfriend but we were, (I thought), more than friends. He also had a flirty and sexually explicit exchange with one of the women in the months after he and I began seeing each other regularly, (though I don’t think he actually slept with her during that period). He also saw the long-term ex I knew about a week before he told me he wanted to see me more regularly, (from which I date our relationship), and he admitted in an email to a friend that he had been half-hoping she would want to get back together. He never mentioned that to me either.

I came clean to him a few days later, apologising profusely and admitting that I was completely in the wrong for breaching his privacy but also saying that I was upset he hadn’t told me about any of this. He was angry and upset, but eventually half-apologised, adding ‘I wanted you to never find out’, without seeming to realise that that was exactly what I was most upset about.

He also asked me to promise never to mention this again. We both apologised and I agreed, hesitantly, to sweep it under the carpet for the sake of making peace. He’s very much in favour of telling lies of omission to protect people from being hurt - which I told him I don’t agree with, and he has promised to try to be more honest and open in the future.

Eavesdroppers certainly get what they deserve. All of this left me feeling like there’s a completely different side to the man I married that I’m not familiar with. He clearly has very different ideas about when a relationship is solid enough to require faithfulness and about casual sex - I don’t doubt his faithfulness in our marriage, but worry about the messages he might pass on to any kids we have.

I also feel like the relationship has suddenly become very unequal. He knows everything about my romantic past, (or lack thereof). He knows that he was the first man to hold my hand, and my first kiss, as well as the first & only person I’ve ever slept with, (which only came after marriage). He knew it at the time. All of these woman are so much further in their careers, more sophisticated and successful than me. I feel like such a naïve little idiot - the stupid, simple religious girl he married and lied to when he was ready to settle down and stop sowing his wild oats. I’m honestly not sure I would have married him if I’d known – simply because I’d have been worried our ideas about morality and sex didn’t match up, and that it would be an issue when it comes to raising kids. He knew it was an important issue for me in deciding who to marry, and he deliberately kept it from me.

I want him to talk about all this with me - especially the parenting issue. He made it clear these discussions aren’t an option, that he didn’t want to revisit it, and I feel like there’s a big part of him closed off to me forever.

Any advice on how I can get past this? I’m trying to remain aware of my own fault and issues here. Should I try to focus on the fact that despite our not seeing eye to eye on sex he’s a better person than me, (less nosy about other people’s inboxes for one thing!), and will hopefully be a better parent overall? Should I be less judgmental about the fact that he didn’t tell me about his sexual past, and not worry about the conflict I envision down the line?
posted by Zee101 to Human Relations (43 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What's wrong with talking about things that are important? This guy isn't protecting anyone but himself.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:31 AM on August 21, 2013 [26 favorites]

How he should have been was reassuring, saying things like "I have been tested for STIs, I made a pact of monogamy when we started getting serious", etc.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:35 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

He also asked me to promise never to mention this again. We both apologised and I agreed, hesitantly, to sweep it under the carpet for the sake of making peace. He’s very much in favour of telling lies of omission to protect people from being hurt - which I told him I don’t agree with, and he has promised to try to be more honest and open in the future.

I want him to talk about all this with me - especially the parenting issue. He made it clear these discussions aren’t an option, that he didn’t want to revisit it, and I feel like there’s a big part of him closed off to me forever.

This is a big problem. His initial actions- I can see why you're upset about them, but to me that are not nearly as concerning as this reaction. If he'd said "I am SO sorry, as soon as I realized how important you were to me, I broke it off with those women, and I just didn't know how to tell you about them once we got serious"- well, fine. A bit of trust broken, but nothing irreparable.

But this reaction? This man is not being a partner to you. You're hurt and angry, and your PAIN is "not an option"? That's not a caring response at all. Do not let him make you "Agree hesitantly" to hide your perfectly legitimate feelings from him.

He "made it clear that these discussions aren't an option"? Well, you make it clear to HIM that a FAILURE to discuss these things is not an option. Why should he get to decide this? He's not your boss.

Should I try to focus on the fact that despite our not seeing eye to eye on sex he’s a better person than me, (less nosy about other people’s inboxes for one thing!), and will hopefully be a better parent overall?

Hell no. He's not a "better person" than you from what you've described here. Stop thinking that way. You're both people, you both made mistakes, and his most recent one- dismissing his wife's pain as irrelevant and not worth discussing- is worse than snooping by a mile.

Should I be less judgmental about the fact that he didn’t tell me about his sexual past, and not worry about the conflict I envision down the line?

You know... I skimmed this question before drinking my coffee, and his original misdeeds didn't strike me as particularly serious. That's not to say they shouldn't bother you; but they wouldn't have bothered me. However, that is SO not the point! What he did or didn't do when you began dating is almost irrelevant to this. What's he doing NOW to make things ok between you two? Because it sounds like he's doing fuck-all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:37 AM on August 21, 2013 [53 favorites]

He also asked me to promise never to mention this again.


He made it clear these discussions aren’t an option, that he didn’t want to revisit it

Yeah... that would bother the hell out of me. You feel betrayed and disrepected and lied to. He wants you to pretend that you aren't upset so that he doesn't feel bad. How is that okay? That is massively disrepsectful to you. You have a very legitimate issue. There was something that he KNEW would be a major issue for you, that he KNEW would be upsetting to you and give you pause, and rather than showing you the respect to allow you to decide for yourself and enter in to the relationship fully informed, he actively hid it from you. And then, when that potential dealbreaker came up, he basically asked you to keep living the lie he crafted and to somehow ignore all the (very valid) upset and distress you are feeling.

Um, no. That isn't how this should work. Denying it and pretending like it never happened is not going to ultimately be best for your relationship. Until you and he fully address this situation (your apparent mismatch in sexual beliefs and values, and especially his apparent comfort in lying to you and keeping very important information from you in order to protect himself) your relationship is just going to get worse. You're going to constantly be wondering what ELSE he is keeping from you, because his response to this situation has shown that he doesn't understand why lying by omission and keeping things from you isn't acceptable.

I'd be looking in to couples therapy.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:45 AM on August 21, 2013 [22 favorites]

There are very few people in the world whose beliefs line up exactly. The fact that you wouldn't have married him had you known that he had a sexual past rather enforces his belief that what you didn't know, wouldn't hurt you. He was wrong in that respect, you got hurt.

He wasn't trying to put one over on you, he was in love with you and didn't want to lose you. So don't look at it as though this were fraud or that he was deliberately tricking you. I will say that you seem incredibly inflexible in your beliefs and that very few people would measure up to your standards. He may have justified his actions by telling himself that had he known that the woman he would eventually meet and fall in love with would have wanted him to be a virgin, that he might have lived his life differently, but he didn't and the kindest thing would be to plead to the lesser offence and hope you never found out about his other partners. But that didn't work out so well.

Now. I AM concerned that he refuses to discuss it. That's a huge red flag. You have a right to talk about your feelings and ask him to reassure you that you are both on the same page when it comes to values and child rearing.

The man you married did not and probably DOES NOT value virginity. Can you live with that?

Have you discussed this with your religious leader? Perhaps someone whom you respect religiously can put this into a perspective you can appreciate. Once you've reached a level of peace and understanding, your husband may feel comfortable enough to discuss these things in a therapeutic or counseling setting. Many religious leaders will be happy to counsel you.

Moving forward you and your husband need to be able to discuss all issues in your marriage, openly and honestly. No judgement, no secrets.

If he's shutting down the conversation, then I'm not sure this is the marriage you thought you were in.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:47 AM on August 21, 2013 [10 favorites]

From the way you have worded this question, it sounds like there already was a power differential between you, or you felt that there was one, and finding out this information has reinforced that. You're putting the inequality on what you've discovered, but it sounds like it was already there. Why does he have the ability to shut down discussion?

I find it interesting that you're focusing on the parenting in all of this. Is there some part of you that feels like you can only be upset about something if you have a "legitimate" reason, and this potentially making him a bad parent gives you this reason? If so, please know that you can be upset about this for your own reasons. It would be an upsetting discovery.

I think you need to talk to someone who can be on your side -- not immediate family, maybe not someone in your church. A therapist? A close friend who is totally your friend and not his friend? Once you've done that, and figured out where your head is at, it's time to approach couples therapy -- not for his actions back then, but for the way he shut you down on the subject now.
posted by pie ninja at 5:50 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think you are being incredibly unfair to your husband. You think having more sexual partners than you will make him a worse parent? Do you honestly think the number of sexual partners a person has will have any affect on their children's sexual behavior at all? Children takes note of what their parents do, not what their parents did (particularly if they never find out about the stuff their parents are way too embarrassed to talk about). If you want to not be his naive little wife, don't be so close-minded. He married you because he loves you and wants to be with you. He didn't settle for you, he chose you. He's done some things he's not proud of- oh well! No partner is perfect, welcome to being married. I think part of growing up is learning to deal with disappointment. I also think it would be a big mistake to blow this up any bigger than you already have. Let your husband put his past behind him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:52 AM on August 21, 2013 [65 favorites]

I 100% understand why you feel angry and grossed out. But (I say this having spent my whole adult life in a conservative religious community) I think that people who DON'T have these kind of grey areas are the exception, and that includes among religious people. Not that you would ever do this, but if you DID have this knowledge about older relatives and/or sage married people you admire, you'd be surprised.

Let's look at the stats:

he had begun steadily seeing one other woman...and he also slept casually with at least two other women...He and I weren't seeing each other regularly then, and we certainly weren't boyfriend and girlfriend

OK. He was still a single man then. Did his practices about premarital sex match up with yours? No. But is he willing to hold the line looking ahead? Almost certainly, or he wouldn't have married you. If you guys had had a conversation where you said, make me a list of every woman you've ever been with, and he lied, that's another matter, but still, you WON, you married him.

He also had a flirty and sexually explicit exchange with one of the women in the months after he and I began seeing each other regularly

Gross, but if it's years ago, no RECENT such exchanges, then it's over.

He also saw the long-term ex I knew about a week before he told me he wanted to see me more regularly, (from which I date our relationship), and he admitted in an email to a friend that he had been half-hoping she would want to get back together.

This would make me the saddest, if I were in your place, but the human heart is a very complicated thing. You say things in emails that you wouldn't necessarily want other people reading, including, or especially, your wife. I myself have plenty of deleted or zipped-and-hidden emails. Most people do.

OK. That concludes the actual count of previous women.

I feel like there’s a big part of him closed off to me forever.

I hate to go with the broad gender stereotypes. BUT from his perspective, sleeping with a couple of women BEFORE HE EVEN WAS DATING YOU may not occupy that much space in his thoughts. Not much space at all. It may not, in his view, constitute a big part of him. Think of it, rather, as a small part of him closed everyone keeps a small part of themselves closed off.

Focus on who he is now, what kind of husband he is, what kind of family he wants to have. He has gotten on a path that works for you. His previous paths are no longer at issue.
posted by skbw at 5:52 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

All of this left me feeling like there’s a completely different side to the man I married that I’m not familiar with.

Think long and hard about this sentence, because I'll bet this is exactly half of why he disagrees with you about lies of omission. I can't read the guy's mind, and I'm sure he's sincere about believing lies of omission are important to protect the other person (you). But they also protect him, from that sentiment. "I’m honestly not sure I would have married him if I’d known." That's huge. Imagine how scared he must have felt sometimes, wondering if someday you'd discover these things and then the whole marriage would unravel.

You should indeed be less judgmental—about everything. Quit judging how sophisticated other women are. Quit judging yourself as a "naïve little idiot." For God's sake and both of yours, quit judging your husband to be a "better person" than you. None of that is going to do you any good. It doesn't move the ball forward, as we say in football. To the contrary, it appears to be harming your well-being, as it probably would most people's.

What you've uncovered is a tricky issue. You have two separate things going on, both of which happen in relationships and sometimes they go hand-in-hand. The first is a slightly different flavor of the perennial question, "If you cheat, should you tell?" That's tricky enough to disagree about, but it sounds like you also have the second: a situation where one partner feels betrayed and the other doesn't feel like he betrayed her. These aren't easy emotions for a couple to untangle...but lots of couples have, and you can.

It sounds like you're religious. In most religions, forgiveness is a big issue. I'm not especially religious but I work in criminal law, so forgiveness is still a big, important, complicated issue for me. I'm not going to judge whether your husband did anything wrong—either by his actions once upon a time, or by keeping silent—but you feel he did something wrong, and that makes forgiveness a relevant concern. That's what I'd explore, if I were you. Forgiveness is a big subject and I doubt anybody can be worse off for spending occasional time with it. In this case, it might help you to heal what's hurting.
posted by cribcage at 6:00 AM on August 21, 2013 [17 favorites]

stepping aside many of the issues here, consider that: people change. Your/his viewpoints on MANY issues (sex, children, etc,) will change over time. By the time you have children, you might be into stuff that causes to give him pause... what would you want him to do? it's tough sometimes, but a certain amount of "openness" can help many relationships thrive.

Also-- oftentimes, when a baby comes into your life, MANY of your preconceived notions FLY OUT THE WINDOW.
posted by mrmarley at 6:13 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

For me it the issue comes down to He knew it was an important issue for me in deciding who to marry, and he deliberately kept it from me.

Essentially, he got you to marry him on false pretenses. Yes, as cribcage wrote, he may have been in love with you and very frightened to lose you, but lying about it all was not the way to deal with the issue with integrity. I will add that I say this as someone whose attitudes about virginity and sexual exclusivity are very, very different from yours--but who regards integrity and accountability as enormously important.

I concur that it's a really, really bad idea to sweep this under the rug. Yes, it was intrusive to read his mail, but now that you know what you know, your trust is broken and pretending it all didn't happen is only going to make it fester and get worse.

Maybe the most productive approach to going forward is to take this incident as evidence that you are both human, with human failings, and use it as a learning experience to build your intimacy. That means BOTH of you coming clean about what's going on inside of you, about why you did what you did. Why does virginity and exclusivity mean so very much to you? What does it represent? Why did you look at his email history? Are there other things in your life together that make you feel suspicious or mistrustful of him, particularly around other women? On his side, what does he think now of his sexual history? Why couldn't he be honest with you? What was he afraid of then? What is he afraid of now? Are there other aspects of his life or your shared life together that he is hiding? Why?

This would probably be most productively handled in a counseling environment.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 6:30 AM on August 21, 2013 [22 favorites]

I will admit, I am one of the many for whom virginity until marriage sounds extremely unappealing. That said--I would also be hurt if I were you, because he LIED. He lied to ostensibly protect your feelings, which means he admits it was something that would hurt you even if he doesn't agree with it. I would also feel like he has some kind of upper hand. I am pretty emotional so I honestly don't know if I could move past this if I were you. Even if you get counseling and resolve this issue (I don't even know what that would look like or how it would work), will you be able to, ten years from now, enjoy having sex with him? Without feeling inadequate? I personally wouldn't! I'm crazy, though. I would just feel like the foundation upon which your relationship was built was a lie, and that would make me mad, and I wouldn't want to be around him anymore. Bleh.

In general, yes be less judgmental of other people's sex lives. Your husband's sex life and lies about it ARE your business though.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 6:42 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree with others here that saying "discussing this is not an option" is not an acceptable way to respond to this situation. But I also think that your husband has not committed any great crime here in terms of his past actions.

Look, you say that he was dating other people after he "met you and was emailing with you". Although it isn't something you would have done were you in his shoes, dating some people casually and having sexual relationships with them is something most people do as adults in our society. It's fine that you didn't do it, but it's also fine that he did.

It sounds like you had a misunderstanding about this 6 month period in which you and he were not dating, but you saw him as "more than a friend". I'm sure he felt the same about you. But you weren't seeing each other and you were distant enough from each other that your relationship consisted to some significant extent of emailing. You didn't realize he was dating people during that time, but he was not under any obligation to tell you who he was sleeping with if you were not his girlfriend. If you wanted him to be your "official boyfriend" and be exclusive with you, you needed to have that conversation with him, and it doesn't sound like you did. He should have confessed to it later. That's a separate issue.

If he had a sexually explicit email conversation with someone else while you were in the early stages of your actual relationship, that is wrong, but as far as relationship crimes go, I feel like it's a misdemeanor rather than a felony. I think it deserves discussion. I think therapy is a great idea. But I also think that this is a forgivable mistake that a lot of people make, especially in the early stages of a relationship when they may not be certain about the long term prospects. It's far from physically cheating on your girlfriend, which is even further from either emotionally, electronically, or physically cheating on your wife. I can also understand why he didn't tell you about it, even though it was a mistake. Can you imagine telling someone you love, who you want to marry, who you know has very high ideals about love and relationships, that you had a stupid sexual email conversation with another woman back when you started dating? I bet he thought about telling you of all the things he had done, but got scared, and the further along you got in your relationship and then your marriage, the harder it would be to mention any of it - well, that's why they talk about that tangled web we weave. It's a lesson many people learn the hard way.

I think you should absolutely talk to him about this, and particularly in the setting of talking with a good couples therapist. I am concerned that your discussion about parenting may be an excuse for you to lay down guilt trips on him or to punish him for what he did in some way, by emphasizing how immoral you think he is now and how unfit to parent children he is, despite the fact that what he did is something that many if not most people in the world do (have sex with other people before marriage). Do you really think that your children will have any idea what he did? Who's going to tell them? Do you think he is going to tell his children that it's OK to have casual sex with many people? Or do you just think that the children will somehow read his subtle, subconscious cues that will tell them that he thinks that casual sex is cool? (which I doubt he does - just because he did it doesn't mean he thinks it's a good idea. Most people do things they seriously regret as a young adult, and your children probably will too - if you didn't, consider yourself quite lucky). I guess what I'm trying to say is that this parenting thing seems like a smoke screen to me - he most likely essentially agrees with you on how you are going to raise your children and is planning to teach them the same morals you hold dear - the real issue is that he lied to you, so address that directly rather than suggesting some hypothetical future problems he might create.

You're clearly trying to resolve some paradoxical things here - you say that your husband is a "better person" than you and you approached him in an extremely apologetic way and tried to make up with him immediately after bringing this issue up. But at the same time you're talking about your husband being immoral, being a potential bad influence on his own children because of his poor choices in life, and you're obviously, obviously angry with him despite whatever apologies and discussions of peacemaking were had. That's where further discussion in therapy would really help here. You need a space to admit how you feel about this, a space to be as angry with him as you actually are, rather than trying to smooth everything over on the surface and seething underneath. "I made a mistake too because I looked through his email" doesn't mean he gets a free pass. You are allowed to be upset about this, and not sharing your feelings of insecurity, frustration, and sadness is just going to result in resentment and a future blowup.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:44 AM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

I gotta say, I think the behaviors you see as serious sexual crimes are normal in most circles (having sex with other women when you're just emailing), at most misdemeanors. But lying is a big deal, and this:

He also asked me to promise never to mention this again. We both apologised and I agreed, hesitantly, to sweep it under the carpet for the sake of making peace.

. . . This is SUPER fucked up. You don't maintain a lifelong relationship by sweeping shit under the rug and ignoring problems. You don't show respect to your partner by telling them to shove it when the going gets tough and they have things they need to talk about. "Avoidance" doesn't make you a better person, it just takes all the problems and stuffs them in a closet. Closets get full and then they explode. It's unhealthy and it's cruel.

I agree with the other commenter who said it seems like there is a power differential between you. Does he engage in this kind of head-patting "Just don't worry about it, honey" behavior a lot, or is it just this instance? Right now this is a little red flag. If this is something he does regularly that's a big red flag.

That said, I suggest you go to him and say "Honey, I know you don't want to talk about this, but I can't pretend my feelings don't exist. I know I shouldn't have looked through your email, but I'm hurt by your behavior, and more hurt by your attempts to sweep my feelings under the rug. I'd like to discuss this."

And if he still refuses to talk about it, well, I would start looking into marriage counseling.
posted by schroedinger at 6:51 AM on August 21, 2013 [40 favorites]

It's not good that he thinks he can decide what topics can and cannot be discussed. That's your bigger and more fundamental problem with him.
posted by Dansaman at 6:57 AM on August 21, 2013 [26 favorites]

What ruthlessbunny said, and everyone else really, plus the following: we never really know our partners. We get an idea, a whiff, we see many sides to them but! We just don't 100% know another person. Think of all the experiences you've had, the small elations, the nutty crushes, the injustices, the quiet dreams, the subconscious programming... there is a unique world inside you and your husband is no different. Part of your hurt may stem from the realization that as close as you are, he is still Not You, and this conflict is bringing this reality into a harsh light. Your husband's mind is unknown to you. If this idea scares you and shakes your trust, then you might want to re-examine how YOU relate to other people. If you think they are mirror images of you, and that "same values" = "phew they're predictable & safe," you might want to talk with someone about control issues. There are no guarantees in life. People are individual little countries. It's a miracle we can get along at all!

Conflicts are great that way actually - they show when there is a difference in world view or emotional landscape. And empathy allows each party to see the world through their partner's eyes. If both sides understand & can accept what they see, then you have a relationship. This way conflict brings you closer.

Hopefully he can talk about it with you until you feel ok. That's the big concern right now.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:11 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Beliefs about premarital sex and parenting and snooping v. lying aren't the issues here it seems, the real problem is that he gets to decide what to talk about or not when overwhelming feelings are present. I'd bring his ass to counseling if he wants to stay married, especially if you envision more conflict. Listen to your gut.
posted by Sayuri. at 7:11 AM on August 21, 2013 [11 favorites]

I would have a long think about what motivated you to look through his emails "back to the months around when he met me, years ago." I'm a bit stuck on this because it implies that there were already fears and seeds of mistrust kicking around in your head, perhaps for some time, specifically about the period of time when the two of you met. Is this the case? If so, there's a lot more going on here than what your question demonstrates.

I think that the best way to deal with this now is not to try and have it out with your husband about the sex stuff, just the two of you, but rather to sit down with a marriage counselor. As others have said, it's really his insistence that you two sweep all this under the rug that is the problem here - the sex stuff is the catalyst that has brought both of your issues into the light. He's got some conflict-aversion issues, and you've got some power/trust issues, that need to be dealt with if your partnership has any hope of remaining mutually fulfilling in the long term.

Finally, I disagree with some folks upthread who are implying that the issue about any future children is a smokescreen. I am diametrically opposed to your personal beliefs about sex for many reasons, but you are allowed to raise your children in accord with your own values. I'm thinking about the position I'd feel I was in if I was married to someone who had very conservative sexual beliefs, and that person didn't tell me just how important no-sex-before-marriage was to them before we were married. One of the first things I'd think about, upon finding out the extent of his beliefs, would be the earliest conversations we would have with our young children when they started to be curious about sex and sexuality. Unless my religious husband was that particular, rare flavor of believer who is deeply religious in his own beliefs but completely, honestly open to letting his child choose completely for him/herself, I'd be very concerned that my husband and I would get into a messaging war. It's not like little Beth is going to ask about casual sex when she's in elementary school, but building a child's fundamental value structure starts early, and is often accomplished indirectly. An example that's suggestive of what I'm driving at: I asked my father what gay people were when I was three.

Good luck to you.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:13 AM on August 21, 2013 [18 favorites]

It's not good that he thinks he can decide what topics can and cannot be discussed. That's your bigger and more fundamental problem with him.

Agreed, with the caveat that if the wife is prone to irrational insecurity, sometimes you have to shut it down. I was in a relationship that required biweekly re-assurances until finally I had to say: I am not cheating, I am 100% invested in this relationship, and we are not talking about this again. (He had trust issues, which ultimately killed the relationship.)

I have a wee bit of sense that the OP tends towards this kind of thinking, or in a subtle way doesn't want the real truth BUT in this specific case it's not irrational as he did indeed lie. Hubby could be the type that senses what the person wants to hear and just says that in order to spare them from their own insecurity machinations. Not the best trait either. These two could be feeding off each other. Hence, therapy.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:28 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your mismatch in expectations about sex while you were first meeting isn't the really big issue here.

His stonewalling and dictating your emotions in the present is. You absolutely need to be able to talk through medium-seriousness-emotionally-vulnerable issues to maintain trust, power balance, openness, good faith everywhere else in the relationship.
posted by ead at 7:30 AM on August 21, 2013 [9 favorites]

There are a couple of different issues here:

1. Your snooping. This wasn't even vaguely accidental, it was you having the thinest excuse to use his computer and then going through it however you saw fit. That's a breach of trust, yes, but I'm wondering if you suspected something and that compelled you to look. That doesn't excuse what you did, but it is important to consider why you did it and whether you'll do it in the future, especially if he doesn't want to talk. Also, why is using his computer a big deal? I'm married and insist on the wife and I having separate computers, but it's not a big deal if she uses mine. Just don't rearrange my icons!

3. Him wanting to sweep all this under the rug. it's easy to be suspect of him on this, but consider giving him the benefit of doubt on his reasons for doing so. He might be embarrassed or find the memory painful, what have you. We don't know and you know him better than us, so ask him why it needs to be swept under the rung. Also keep in mind that you two are on unequal playing fields with this information. For him this may indeed be behind him, but for you it's fresh and new information.

Impress upon him how unresolved this issue is for you and then it needs to be discussed and resolved in some way. You feeling stupid, the unequal power balance etc are important because they affect how you feel about him and the marriage and those feelings need some conclusion. Otherwise, they'll fester and grow into something else.

Give him some room to negotiate here, as in y'all don't have to talk about the issue right this very moment, but sometime soon, say in the next week.

He "made it clear that these discussions aren't an option"? Well, you make it clear to HIM that a FAILURE to discuss these things is not an option. Why should he get to decide this? He's not your boss.

Sure, but he is master of his own thoughts and what he wants to talk about, as is every human being. Attempting to force him to talk isn't going to help matters. He can choose not to discuss this, but she should make it clear that his decision is making his spouse uneasy and harming the marriage. At this point, the ball's in his court.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Whether you're being overly judgmental or not regarding his sexual past (and really, it's your body; you get to be judgmental about who you share it with), of course it hurts to find out the person you married isn't who you thought he was. You should be able to express these feelings to him.

However, I think you also need to explore what resolution would make you happy. He can't de-virginize himself, and if he is indeed a wonderful life partner and a good (potential) father, it's worth it to you to take some time and be honest with yourself about what would make you feel good about your marriage again. If the answer is "nothing," then you need to leave before the resentment and bitterness poisons things. Figure out what you need, and work together with him to make it happen.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:44 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm guessing part of your commitment to virginity and chastity was about valuing yourself. You need to value yourself a lot more than you are right now. Why does he get to decide what is and is not an option to discuss? Why do YOU have to be the one to get over this? He lied to you about something that is foundational to your relationship with him. I personally don't see his activities before you were together as being particularly problematic, but you and I share different values about sexual behavior and that is totally fine. What is not fine is him deceiving you about something foundational to your relationship and then telling you it's not up for discussion. That is disrespectful and is not a sustainable way to more forward. This is not something you need to get through, this is something you two as partners need to reconcile. It can be done, but him stonewalling you and you taking all the responsibility on yourself is not the way. You are worth more than this.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 7:48 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

All of these woman are so much further in their careers, more sophisticated and successful than me. I feel like such a naïve little idiot - the stupid, simple religious girl he married and lied to when he was ready to settle down and stop sowing his wild oats.

I think that unless you suspect that he had some ulterior motive for marrying you, that you should consider the fact that he married you evidence that he doesn't feel like they are better than you. If he slept with you and dumped you, that would be something different. Whatever else is going on in your relationship, you need to work on your self esteem.
posted by empath at 7:57 AM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Some people respond to conflicts with a partner by trying to keep the argument going, on the assumption that if you talk about it long enough you'll eventually work it out. If you insist on going in circles, this can be as damaging as stonewalling--at a certain point, it's not communication, but rather badgering. That's not to say that declaring the topic off-limits is a healthy response, but depending on how the argument has gone so far, it's not surprising that your partner might feel like he never wants to talk about it again.

So. I think you should take some time to cool off and think about what you want. You make it clear in the text of your question that you don't believe he cheated on you and that his "lie of omission" was not telling you about all of his previous sexual partners, yet your subject heading is about lies and unfaithfulness. Consider the possibility that your husband thought your concern was whether or not he was a virgin, and answered your question honestly. It's tricky to know how much to tell a person you're just starting to get to know about the other people you're interested in or are seeing casually. I wouldn't have expected my now-husband to tell me about women he had recently been on dates with when he first asked me out, and I didn't feel like I needed to tell him about people I was interested in at the time. We weren't lying to each other, we were starting a relationship out of two separate lives--lives that included their own particular complications.

I'm not saying that your values are dumb, or that your feelings are wrong. However, I do think that there are multiple threads that run through religious (I'm assuming Protestant Christian, apologies if I'm wrong) teachings about sexuality. There are threads that can be empowering and healthy ("I choose to do XYZ with my sexuality because I want to live my values") and threads that are deeply unhealthy ("If my husband has had other partners, he's always going to compare me to them," or "If a person has premarital sex, that person is damaged goods"). I don't think you need to "get over" this conflict. I think you need to do some reflecting on what is truly important to you, and if there are issues that run deep into your marriage, think about seeing a therapist with your husband to begin navigating these conflicts in a healthier way.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:10 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

I, too, have felt like my partner was someone Totally Different from my understanding when I realized they were far more experienced than I'd thought for years. But after time had passed and we discussed it, I realized he was still fundamentally Exactly who I'd understood him to be, just more sexually experienced.

A lot of your insecurity shines through in your wording about the snooping and his being better and just generally not trusting yourself. Therapy helped me become a Lot more self confident, trust others more, and let go of a lot of judgements (of others, and myself). Talking with a professional could be one of the best things you do for yourself and your relationship. He chose you - now you can choose you, too, by talking with a therapist. Good luck!
posted by ldthomps at 8:35 AM on August 21, 2013

Speaking from a conservative Christian viewpoint here. It's one thing to forgive someone's past behavior. (I myself had a long talk with my husband before we married. I had a "past" and he did not. I wanted him to know precisely because if it was a dealbreaker for him, I needed to know that up front. So this is not academic for me!)

My concern is that he feels it is okay to keep the truth from you if he thinks it will upset you. And the reason that is a concern for me and probably is for you is....what else is he doing that he might be keeping from you? From finances to....whatever.

If I were you I would seek counseling and invite him to come. If he won't, go alone. If finances are an issue-or if you feel more comfortable-talk to your religious leader. But someone who is trained in family/marital counseling (and shares your values-they do exist) would be a good bet.

He needs to know that part of being married means being able to be open with one's spouse even if it is painful. As to the past, what is done is done. I totally understand what you mean about feeling your value system was violated; I would have felt the same under the circumstances. But again, the past is forgivable. Continuing to live with the thought of there being lies in your relationship? Not tolerable AT ALL.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:39 AM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Here’s my reading of your post, on which I’m basing my answer (I’m sort of re-writing the gist of what you said so I check if I got the story right):

For a few months after you met your now husband, you weren’t explicitly dating, but you were growing close, with romantic overtones. During this time, you explained to him what your position on virginity and sex before marriage is, and he implicitly or explicitly said he shared your views, and led his life accordingly, with the exception of his one long-term relationship. Then, six months after first meeting, you started seeing each other as girlfriend and boyfriend. Now, x years later, you find out that he slept with three women during the six months you were not officially going out, but had the conversations which led you to conclude that you were on the same page re. casual sex/ sex outside of a serious relationship. You also found out that he exchanged sexually charged emails with another woman after you officially started to go out, and that he tried his luck once more with his ex right before the two of you got more explicitly romantic. When you asked him about this, he stonewalled you.

Like most of the other posters in this thread, I have a different approach to sex, relationships & marriage. So much so, that I actually do think that your position can be quite harmful to the person holding it. So, had you come in to tell us that your stance on sex means you can’t find a life-partner, or that you found the love of your life, but he doesn’t share your views etc., I could totally get suggestions that you might like to revise your views.

However, given your actual situation, I cannot get away from the fact that he lied to you (by omission or outright, I just don’t feel it matters too much) about something that is of utmost importance to you, and that you suspect might have led to a very different outcome for your relationship. It does not matter, in this context, one bit, if he, or I, or anyone else in the world thinks you should (retroactively) chill about your eligibility criteria; discarding them like that is, in my opinion, a pretty egregious act. Maybe I am oversensitive, but, for me, there is a lot of dubious stuff bound up in his decisions to first be economical with the truth, then act counter to what he professed, then start a relationship with you without letting you know that "hey, remember that thing about casual sex, relationships and marriage? Turns out I am on a slightly different page" (yes, all of these were decisions): he dismisses your principles (and, I repeat, it doesn’t matter if these don’t align with my - or Metafilter's orthodoxy on this matter), he dismisses your right to make your own, informed decisions (it would have been up to you how to negotiate between your love for him and your principles, once he told you the truth), etc. To me, this is like someone who knows I don’t sleep with anyone unless they are up to date on their tests and are in good (sexual) health, and allows me to infer that yes, they are all tested and good, (even if they don’t explicitly state “I got my test results and I am clean”), then years later I find out that wasn’t true, and now I’m saddled with an STD.

To be honest, I’d be pretty sad about some things even without being a proponent of “no sex before marriage”. Again, this is clearly a very unpopular stance to take on Metafilter, but if I am in a relationship with someone, and that someone exchanges sexy (plural) emails with someone else, I’d be heartbroken. It would affect me more than a stray instance of physical cheating. Especially after explicit discussions on what, for me, constitute taboo sexual or romantic behaviours, and a simulated acquiescence from my partner. I’d also feel incredibly small and insecure if I found out that our relationship was (half)-predicated on the ex not wanting to get back together.

I must say, considering all these things, my heart really goes out to you, especially since outside of strictly religious circles you won’t find a lot of sympathy, and your husband is once again dismissing your pain and views and concerns, so it may be a solitary burden to bear. I’d weigh all that I found out against the time we DID spend together as a couple after the sexy email interlude stopped, and see if the balance is such that I can hope to work things out with the help of a therapist, or another kind of outsider (maybe a priest if you are both religious?). But I’d also try to remain true to myself. There is incredible, prolonged pain when you try to twist yourself into a bretzel and renounce yourself for the sake of someone for whom you are not as high a priority, or who doesn’t truly respect & love you. I hope this is not your situation, and that your husband’s actions turn out to have more benign motives/ be a thing of the past/ that you can reach some understanding. But, for me, his current attitude would not bode well, and, personally, I would have great trouble getting over what, to me, are several massive past infringements without him showing openness in our conversations about these issues, and, indeed, understanding for why these things matter so much and great willingness to re-build the trust which has been breached between us (and the fact that you felt the need to go hunting through his Inbox also has a place here). I truly hope he gets a grip on this, particularly since I assume that divorce is not an option for you, if it turns out that his attitude is “well, suck it up”.

Good luck.

On preview – seconding both snickerdoodle (especially the second paragraph) and c’mon sea legs
posted by miorita at 8:41 AM on August 21, 2013 [14 favorites]

He had been in a long-term relationship with someone before for 7 years - I was fine with this

I am truly baffled by some of the responses which bring up you wanting a virginal husband. You stated that your husband was *not* a virgin because of the longterm relationship he had previous to your marriage. You knew this! You were okay with this!

What you are not okay with is being lied to, having your husband omit something that he knew to you is a huge deal. Sure, to other people, no damns are given regarding some of this stuff. Obviously you have different beliefs, and while the green tends to lean left, and the left tends to value sexuality in a way that is different (not better or worse) than how you value sexuality, you should never be shamed for having the values you have. Again, you are entitled to have your values! You are entitled to have deal breakers. As far as I can tell, you are not standing there, demanding that everyone be virgins until marriage. You simply wanted to know the sexual past of your husband, so that you could CHOOSE whether you wanted to be with him or not. The fact that he continued some of that stuff into while you were dating is even more deceiving.

I think that unless he is willing to talk about this, with compassion and a deep sense of regret for misrepresenting himself, intentionally, that the relationship should be re-evaluated. If he is not willing to do that, then he is not invested. And why be with someone who is not invested in your wellbeing?
posted by DeltaForce at 9:35 AM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

I was in a relationship with someone who lied by omission, we spent ages talking it through and trying to sort it out. In the end it became pretty clear to me that he was always going to be someone who lies that way, he would never agree that it is harmful beyond the "I'm sorry you feel hurt" stage, and I couldn't deal with it.

From the replies here, it appears a lot of people are ok with lies of omission. I'm not one of them. Finding that sexual email knowing he was turning around and acting sweet to me right after writing it would be devestating. Having him tell me he refuses to discuss it would be my cue to pack up and leave, after my previous experience I know I'd never be ok with it. You may come to a different conclusion, but if he won't discuss it then you'll never know.

I'd also argue that the reason you snooped is that you've had some feelings that he wasn't always being forthright, and having it confirmed must be exceedingly hurtful.
posted by Dynex at 9:42 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

The strange thing is, a lot of mefites are actually super agreeable to "lies of omission".
In prior questions, people have asked whether or not they should disclose a drunken kiss or a meaningless one night stand to their partner and the general responses to those questions are: "NO - don't tell them. You'd just be easing your conscience and if it really was just a one off, then the kinder thing to do is NOT to tell them".

Think about that before you judge your husband too harshly. I don't know everything about my boyfriend's sexual past and likewise for him. Sometimes it's just better not to know. But something your husband did before you two were officially dating, should not necessarily be a deal breaker.

His lack of willingness to discuss it at all, is a problem though.
And I would also say your willingness to snoop around in your husband's personal emails is also a red flag.

If you wanted to marry someone with no baggage, you should have married a virgin. There are plenty of men out there with way more worrisome pasts than your husband for sure.... only you can decide if he is "no longer the person you thought you married" and whether or not this issue is a deal breaker.
posted by JenThePro at 10:05 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

The most important thing contributing to the success of my marriage is that we learned how to discuss difficult issues. There was no way we would have developed good communication on our own, because we were doing so many things wrong, but "for the right reasons." It actually required only two therapist visits, where we actually talked about an actual problem while following her advice on how to go about it. It was hard, but we both could see it was a much better way than what we'd been doing. After that we read a book that she recommended. Healthy arguments didn't happen all at once; we gradually got better at it.

The principles we learned were based on "active listening," also called "listening skills." If both people speak and act from the best part of themselves, and listen and respond while obeying certain rules, you end up understanding the other's feelings and point of view. You don't always end up agreeing, but it fosters a deep feeling of partnership.

A therapist can also help directly in the issue you're talking about, and how the discussion has gone. Your husband made certain assumptions and so did you -- the therapist will encourage you both not to assume anything, and also not to act on one another's behalf (as in "protecting" your spouse from the truth).
posted by wryly at 10:14 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just to say thank you all for the very thoughtful responses. It’s really helpful to be pulled out of the situation and see it from someone else’s perspective. I completely understand and respect what all of you have said about having different approaches to mine towards sex and marriage. I also appreciate what some of you have said about our respective attitudes to sex in a way not being the issue - as much as his keeping from me something he knew was important in deciding whether to marry him or not, and my right to want to try to pass on my beliefs to any kids of mine. I feel I should emphasise that my concern isn’t about his being ‘damaged goods’ or something similarly awful and shaming. In a way - the keeping it from me issue aside - it’s more about what he thinks now than what he did then. I don’t think I’m a better person than him for not having had pre-marital sex, (though thinking back to things said that night, he might well have felt this is the place that I was coming from). I just think parenting is going to be much, much more difficult with someone who doesn't have similar beliefs to mine about sex. (And I do mean similar, not identical - when he told me about his long-term relationship outside marriage early on I came to terms with it, though I wouldn't ever have one myself.)

At the same time, perhaps I am pushing the parenting issue to the forefront a little to hide my own insecurity about why he decided he wanted to marry me, and about my own career prospects. It's true that there are wider issues of inequality in our relationship - he's nearly a decade older than me, he works in the same not massive industry in a much more senior job, (I deliberately avoided any work for his organisation as an intern or otherwise since we got together, to avoid any impression that he was helping me along), which does mean that at industry parties I'm introduced as his wife first and someone in the industry in my own right second. And I’m not senior enough to be invited to most of those parties at all if I weren’t going as his wife. Maybe my own slightly self-indulgent self-esteem issues, related to this, are playing a part in how sensitive I am to our sexual inequality, and my snooping for reassurance about why he wanted me when we got together. I’ve tried not to be an irritatingly insecure partner but I guess I crossed that line when I went into his emails. I hadn’t thought about this - thanks for making me.

I'm going to take all of your advice, try to cool down for a bit longer, and then look into seeing a therapist myself and think about whether to broach another conversation on this with my husband or suggest the idea of a couple’s therapist. Perhaps we both try to avoid conflict far too much for our own good.
posted by Zee101 at 10:33 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are you a newlywed? I can't tell from your question, but the vehemence of your reaction to what you found (as well as how easily you were able to access his old emails with previous hookups) suggests that you haven't been married very long. Which I think would make this sort of an emotional betrayal feel a lot worse, because it means you are still figuring each other out at a time when you thought you were on solid ground.

I'm also getting the sense from the way you described your husband's past, that if he had told you about his other relationships honestly, you would have accepted them - maybe you wouldn't have married him if it turned out you both were not religiously on the same page about casual encounters, but at least you would have known where you stood in order to make that decision. And now that is gone. If I'm wrong and you've been married a few years already, then I think your reaction right now may be a bit counterproductive -- as others have said, he chose you and he loves you and he can't possibly see you as some religious naive girl who he pulled a fast one on.

But regardless of how long you've been married, you probably should consider couples counseling to try to find ways to talk about this issue -- because I do think that if you are worried that he's in some way a ticking time bomb when it comes to teaching values to future children, that is something that you need to talk about. If he married you saying he believes one thing while actually believing something else, that will impact on how you talk to future kids about that/those issue(s). Which isn't necessarily a bad thing - if you can find a way to see that each of your approaches has validity, not being on the same page but being respectful of your differences is just as healthy for a kid -- maybe more healthy -- than both of you marching in lockstep.

I can think of a lot of reasons why he would be unwilling to discuss the issue, but it's possible you just need to reframe it - not as an accusation of mistreatment, but as a way of finally really and truly getting to know and accept the man you married. And you might need a professional in the room with you to help you see his side as well. But if you love him, try to realize that this is another facet of him you've discovered - it's part of what made him the man you wanted to marry, not a tragic flaw that proves he's a completely different person.
posted by Mchelly at 10:35 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just think parenting is going to be much, much more difficult with someone who doesn't have similar beliefs to mine about sex

Are your beliefs really that different? Just because he had "casual" sex doesn't mean he's proud of it, or would advocate it for his children. I urge you to dig deep on this issue- I think you're confusing "beliefs" and "actions". If you married someone 10 years older than yourself while you were still quite young (I'm guessing you're...26 at most?), you hardly even had a chance to have any premarital sex, so don't pat yourself on the back too hard for that one. I still don't see how him having a few months of "casual" sex compared to a decade or more of either being monogamous or celibate is really so terrible.

And how much do you think sex really figures in parenting, anyway? I have a 13-month old, and let me reassure you, he has never once asked me about sex. I doubt he will for many years. Are you and your husband thinking about having kids soon? If you have doubts about having kids, explore and address them; don't use this mess as a weapon in that fight.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:10 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

"I just think parenting is going to be much, much more difficult with someone who doesn't have similar beliefs to mine about sex."

What? Why? Besides the obvious sex-leading-to-parenting, I don't see how these topics are inherently related. And it doesn't matter how he felt about sex then, what matters is how he feels now.

It's possible that I'm missing something huge but I'm thinking about becoming a parent in the next few years and the topic of how my husband feels about sex (besides that he enjoys having it with me) is not something I think about in that context at all. It's like say, "I just think parenting is going to be much, much more difficult with someone who doesn't have similar beliefs to mine about public transportation and nutrition."
posted by kat518 at 11:15 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

It upsets me that in your update you don't address the fact that it isn't okay for him to refuse to talk about the issue further. You are really focused on the sex/parenting thing but I really worry you're ignoring a much larger, much more worrying problem. It doesn't matter in the slightest that he is 10 years older than you and more advanced in his career. He doesn't get to declare that something that is really upsetting to you simply doesn't matter and can never be discussed. You are NOT inferior to him, but by allowing him to do this you are making him feel like you are.

I really really hope you spend a little more time thinking about THAT aspect of this situation, because if his being dismissive of your feelings and disrespecting you in this way is at ALL something of a pattern for him, I promise you THAT will have a much bigger implications on your parenting and your children's upbringing than your attitudes towards sex.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:19 AM on August 21, 2013 [14 favorites]

He also asked me to promise never to mention this again. We both apologised and I agreed, hesitantly, to sweep it under the carpet for the sake of making peace.

This really doesn't sit well with me. You're concerned about his dishonesty and he makes you "promise" not to mention it again. Then, if you mention it again, he can call you a "liar" since you are mentioning it again after promising not to...
posted by parakeetdog at 11:21 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

....and think about whether to broach another conversation on this with my husband or suggest the idea of a couple’s therapist.

That and the other realities you related are worrisome.

Making you promise to never mention this again is ludicrous.

And giving that the first second's serious thought, much less agreeing, those are things -- on both sides -- that don't happen in healthy relationships among equals.
posted by ambient2 at 12:24 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you need a script for bringing up the subject with him, try something like, "Honey, I know you wanted me to never find out about this. But I did, and it's really, really upsetting to me. I really want to talk through this with you so that we can move on and re-establish intimacy. Will you please give it a shot, for both our sakes?"

For what it's worth, I stumbled across similar stuff early in my marriage--and, hell, I can tell you that the fact that every time I even mildly snooped, I found something super suspicious made me much more likely to snoop in the future--and only honesty and calmly talking through it got us to the other side. Now he's much more open with me, and I don't feel the need to snoop. At all, really. You can only have safety and security when you have trust, and that trust will need to be rebuilt, one brick at a time.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:34 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

To me it sounds like it's not only that his values about sex are different to yours, but that they're much less important to him - and that's why he was so willing to go along with yours in both theory (not being upfront about his own thoughts) and practice (delaying sex with you until after marriage.

That's a potentially significant values difference but I think it might be worth exploring for you exactly how important it is and whether chastity steel feels like such an essential shared value to you. Having parents with differing values who respect one another can actually be a tremendous gift for a child.

The much bigger issue I see is the inequality in your relationship, and the way it sounds like it will only increase as you get into childbearing.

I think therapy for you would be a great way to keep you honest - to yourself - about your wants, needs, and dreams that you may not feel fully free to be in touch with while you are (or are feeling) dependent on both his finances and his approval. I would also suggest talking with a lawyer to help you understand your legal rights and entitlements in the marriage, and perhaps to think through what you can do or how the two of you can structure finances to make you feel secure enough to keep growing as a person, both in your career and out of it.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:40 PM on August 21, 2013

i think you should cut him some slack. you have some very conservative views on sex and relationships. he's still the guy who's been your (awesome?) husband for seven years. he hasn't really cheated on you.

you're not 100% clear about what your really mad about. is it that he had sex with other women before you? that he lied to you about it?
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:20 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

What bugs me the most about this situation is how quickly everyone has demonized this guy. And despite having been cheated on myself, I feel it necessary to play devil's advocate here for ol' hubby.

Foremost, let's remember that this entire ordeal came about because you violated his trust and began to snoop on his laptop. You purposely went back in his inbox to look for incriminating information. Your lack of trust started it. So where did that come from? What were you really looking for?

The incriminating evidence you uncovered was not only old ('years ago') but involved some casual sex and flirting that took place before you and he had even joined in a monogamous partnership. You and he weren't exclusive, so there was no need to divulge this information to you--he had no clue where the relationship with you was even going yet.

And given how you view his past discretions, is it any wonder he never wanted you to find out? You question his future parenting and your marriage over these things he did before you and he were even together. It's incredibly judgmental and he was probably worried you'd respond just as you're responding---from a moral highground (despite your snooping) where you cast judgement over his behavior.

Frankly, his reluctance to discuss the issue any further is understandable. What do you want from him? To discuss it? -- to what end? Will it make you happy to hear him list off the women he's been with while he was single? Isn't the fact that he's shown his morality by upholding a monogamous relationship enough?

Also, on a side note, it's been my experience that a lot of people don't like to divulge past partners to their current partners. Not because they want to be mean, or deceitful--but because most partners don't really want to hear about their partners' past affairs.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:53 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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