Is this typical behavior?
July 17, 2007 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Is this cheating?

My husband periodically gets infatuated with other women and "finds himself" in some very personal space with them.. a hotel room, a bed, a car... he says "nothing happened, we just talked". I actually can swallow that nothing physical happened but "talking" can be an incredibly intimate thing. I can often see it coming. If a woman enters his life who is talented in some way that he admires, he generally gets pal-y with her and it goes from there. He never seems to see it coming.

Is this typical? Is it cheating? What IS cheating? Would you be okay with it?
posted by MiffyCLB to Human Relations (46 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's creepy. That's what it is.

"Cheating" has many definitions. It doesn't really matter if this fits one of those definitions. You're not unjustified in being bothered, regardless of what this is called.
posted by The World Famous at 7:10 PM on July 17, 2007

I'd definitely be okay with it, but I'm one of those people who think monogamy is an unnatural setup for inevitable disappointment anyway, so don't listen to me.
posted by rokusan at 7:12 PM on July 17, 2007

"Just talking" in a car I'll buy. Maybe even "in a hotel room", if they're on business together.

"Just talking"....after he "finds himself" in bed with another woman???

Someone's getting played for a fool here.
posted by availablelight at 7:12 PM on July 17, 2007

He finds himself in bed with them? How does that happen, exactly?

Are you kidding me? Sex or no sex, no, I don't think most people would be "okay with it".
posted by modernnomad at 7:14 PM on July 17, 2007

Best answer: Cheating is any breach of your trust.

Thing is, I think he's breaching your trust more than he's letting on, but.. that's just my instinct... still it sounds incredibly fishy he's "finding himself" in personal spaces like that and not doing anything.. I don't believe it for a minute...

Either way - it's up to your trust with each other and your agreement with each other on what is in and out of bounds for cheating. More than likely, though, any breach of trust, any romantic-style intimacy with someone else even if nonphysical is cheating.
posted by twiggy at 7:15 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of friends who are amazing and attractive women, but I don't end up in hotel rooms or especially in beds with them.
posted by advicepig at 7:16 PM on July 17, 2007

"Finds himself in bed" is about as believable as "your wife slipped and fell on my dick." Maybe, just maybe, your husband is a special snowflake and is actually telling the truth, but statistics are against you. I have to bet on cheating.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:18 PM on July 17, 2007 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I think the crushes are pretty common and normal, I think your husband needs to learn to stop them way earlier if the situations he's putting himself in make you (or him, or even her(s)) the slightest bit uncomfortable. You shouldn't have to justify or prove your sense of unease. I'm torn on whether your husband telling you all this is a great sign that you have an honest and open (not that way) marriage, or part of your husband justifying things to himself, I guess it could be both but it might be helpful to think about.

What would happen if you two brainstormed some ways to avoid these situations? Would he be resistant or come up with excuses, or is he really a clueless guy who could use some help anticipating and preventing bad situations?
posted by crabintheocean at 7:21 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do you need to ask? I'm really extroverted. And I can't think of the last time I talked to somebody IN A BED that wasn't my husband.
posted by mimi at 7:21 PM on July 17, 2007

Look, I know I'm wearing a ski mask, have a gun, and am running out of a bank with a sack that has a $ sign on it but the only thing I did in that bank was talk to the teller about opening an IRA.
posted by 517 at 7:27 PM on July 17, 2007 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't be okay with it. I mean, there he is saying "nothing happened" and it's possible there was no physical contact (I think that's what he means) but to be so infatuated with someone that you end up in bed with them - something happened, yeah.

It's possible "nothing happened" is code for "well, I did have sex with her, but I really really love you and want to stay with you and I know you wouldn't really understand the depth of my love if I told you the truth because you're uptight like that, but I am sort of telling you the truth and that makes me a good guy, because okay, well, yes, my penis did end up in her vagina or mouth but it didn't mean anything, anything at all. I love you so much, sucker."
posted by b33j at 7:29 PM on July 17, 2007

This is a joke, right? Your husband winds up in bed with strange women and you wonder if its cheating? And you just happen to choose the following cliches to describe the situation?

"I actually can swallow..."

"I can often see it coming."

"He never seems to see it coming."

I call blogger-fishing-for-content on this question.
posted by googly at 7:34 PM on July 17, 2007

Response by poster: Ach... Thank you!! Only moments ago I had a knot in my stomach and now I'm laughing to myself like a madwoman... ;)

I DO think it's like crabintheocean said - he's making a lot of us uncomfortable. He really is a clueless kind of guy who wants desperately to be liked by women he admires. I think a good talk is in order when he gets back into town.
posted by MiffyCLB at 7:36 PM on July 17, 2007

Let's set aside the issue of "did they have sex or didn't they" for a moment. If this is something that bothers you, and you've asked him to stop, and he does it repeatedly, and then acts like he has no idea how it happened again...well, even if it's not cheating, it's certainly a disrespect of your boundaries. I'd be extremely bothered if I were you (to me these little dalliances seem to be emotional affiars), and completely livid if I found out he was cheating and lying about it.
posted by christinetheslp at 7:37 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you asked yourself how he gets to that point? If you believe him incapable of physically cheating on you, you still have to wonder how it is that these women agree to go to a hotel room (or bed!) with him. To me, that suggests that he is lying to them about the nature of his relationship with you.

I can almost hear the discussions: "My wife doesn't understand me.""We're on the verge of separating/divorcing." And I'm hundreds of miles away from you!

I don't want to be snarky, but I doubt you know him as well as you think, if you believe he is some kind of poor deluded innocent caught up in all of this.
posted by misha at 8:02 PM on July 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

You can ask him to stop. You have that right. If he continues then it's cheating because you have made it known to him that you are uncomfortable.

My wife used to hang out with a former boyfriend of one of her friends when we first started dating. She thought they were just friends but I could see the way he looked at her and the way he considered me competition. I knew she had no interest in him but she was just leading him on so I told her she needed to decide who she was going to date him or me. She told him she couldn't see him anymore and that was that. It's a very rare situation that two unrelated people of the opposite sex have a friendship that one or the other doesn't have intimate designs - it's just not the way the human chemistry works.
posted by any major dude at 8:03 PM on July 17, 2007

He never seems to see it coming.

Is that what he says? Bullshit. You don't regularly "fall" into hotel rooms and beds- that doesn't even happen to most of us when we're single. And unless your name is Angelina Jolie, I highly doubt there are gobs of women chasing down and cornering your pooooooooor, clueless man. You need to figure out what your boundaries, and make yourself real clear that these sort of hijanks are not OK with you. Because even if he's not cheating on you, everyone else in his life thinks he is (if they don't know it for sure already).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:11 PM on July 17, 2007 [4 favorites]

It's cheating - it's a breach of trust and of boundaries. However, at least your husband is telling you about it, so there is room to correct the situation. First, you have to reset the boundaries - tell him no more hotel rooms with strange women. If he can't meet your expectations, separate from him for a while.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:07 PM on July 17, 2007

You two clearly have different definitions of what is appropriate. Whether you need to budge or he does is a matter to be worked out together, especially if he's telling the truth and nothing ever happened.
posted by hermitosis at 9:24 PM on July 17, 2007


If my partner did the same thing, no, it wouldn't be OK with me.

Maybe I'm petty or controlling, but if he's going to be having deep and meaningfuls with someone, I'd rather it was me. Or at least someone I knew/ had been introduced to. Maybe I'm a bit paranoid... ?!

I have cheated before and honestly, the same stuff you say he's been saying came out of my mouth too while I was doing the dirty. In my case I never slept with the object of my obsession, but I got close. And it was the "just talking" that got me there.

That, and a lot of booze to numb the pain.

He's full of it. If you're asking this question that means part of you knows what's going on isn't right.
posted by gerls at 9:24 PM on July 17, 2007

yes, it's cheating.

a party to a relationship has the obligation to his/her partner not only to remain faithful, but to maintain the appearance of faithfulness. this is precisely analogous to a public official's duty not only to avoid graft, but to avoid the appearance of graft.
posted by bruce at 9:39 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Who cares if it's typical or not, or what other people think about it? The more important question is how do you feel about it?

You say you can see these things coming, and you openly label them as infatuations. Moreover, he presumably tells you about them, so all in all you must have ample opportunity to discuss his actions & express your misgivings, if you have any. The limits of your husband's behaviour are entirely up for negotiation between you and him & therefore your questions "Is this typical? Is it cheating? What IS cheating? Would you be okay with it?" are 100% irrelevant chatfilter.

(aside from that, why has relationshipfilter seemingly become so overrun with trolls recently?)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:47 PM on July 17, 2007

Yep, it's about trust.

My most recent ex did this exact same thing, and it made me incredibly unhappy, to the point that I started thinking I was crazy and doubting my judgment, wondering why I was so bothered by his incredibly intimate and massively crushed out relationships with women. It seemed that he couldn't meet a woman who did his sort of work without falling all over them, text messaging constantly, going dancing with them, falling asleep in their homes, going on ski trips with them.

On the surface all of that seems fairly innocent, and any time I broached it he made me feel like a jealous heel. But here's the crux of it: he was ignoring me for these other women and I sensed his intentions. (I saw it coming too, by the way--he would always start by telling me how much money they made).

On the other hand, my current lover makes me feel completely safe and I have never felt even a twinge from his close female friendships. He's a great guy and he wants to share his friendships with me, not keep them to gloat and fantasize over in private.

Is it typical? Well, my ex-lover was the only guy I've ever dated who behaved like that. None of the women I've ever dated have behaved that way. So in my experience, no, it's not typical.

Do I think it's cheating? Emotionally, hell yes. I don't trust it for a second, and it's often hard to pin down. Trust your gut. I hope you manage to work things out. Best of luck.
posted by digitalis at 10:04 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

The correct answer is: if you confront him saying, "This is cheating," it's going to turn into a question of semantics. He'll say, "No, it's not cheating," and you will say "But cheating is only a breach of trust," and then he'll say, "But nothing happened!" And then: "But it's still cheating!" and repeat.

In the end, it doesn't matter if it can appropriately be called cheating or not. What matters is just that you are not happy with it, and it makes you uncomfortable. I probably wouldn't be comfortable with it. And, while I'm not sure if I'd call it cheating, I certainly would want it to stop.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:12 PM on July 17, 2007

For an affair, select any two:

Infatuation+long, intimate conversations+private time.

It strikes me that your husband - and apparently you yourself - have created a thought process that largely makes his behavior okay because it doesn't involve sexytime. Which I think is a mistake.

Accidental long conversations in parked cars with your mutual crush tends to lead to accidental making out in the back seat with your mutual crush.

When I was younger and a lot dumber, I WAS THE GIRL IN THE CAR. Trust me here. This doesn't end well. No one in that hotel room/car/apartment is thinking about what a great, yet totally platonic and innocent connection they have.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:29 PM on July 17, 2007

I don't think MiffyCLB means "finds himself in bed," but rather, "finds himself ON a bed" --- as in, sitting on a hotel room bed together with one of these awesome women, chatting.

Chatting ever so innocently.
posted by jayder at 10:36 PM on July 17, 2007

What would he have had to say to these women to get to the point where they are on a bed or in a hotel room with him? Think about that for a bit. He sounds like a manipulator to me - he would have to be in order to get these women into these compromising positions with him, and it sounds like he's manipulating you too, and making you doubt your instincts which are, I think, spot on. I would consider this cheating, yes.

Probably therapy is going to be the only way to get to the bottom of this behavior and figure out whether he can stop this, and whether he can be worth trusting again. If he won't go to therapy with you, it's probably because he knows very well that what he's doing is wrong but he is unwilling to try to stop doing it. If he won't go with you, go by yourself.
posted by hazyjane at 11:18 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cheating is this :

If you're doing something you wouldn't approve of your partner doing (unless you two have agreed upon it in advance, of course) then it's cheating. That's why it's called cheating. Because it's unfair.

So, if he wouldn't mind YOU doing the same thing - then it's not cheating. If he would - then it is.

I won't go into my personal view of how I feel about your particular situation, because it would be wildly unfair, but I thought I'd at least clear up the definition.
posted by revmitcz at 12:07 AM on July 18, 2007

It occurs to me that you can get a better idea of of the truth. If hubby comes home from such situations, dying to get you in bed, then you need not worry. If his libido seems reduced, go ahead and be suspicious.

I can totally relate to the problem of becoming infatuated with certain sorts. Been there, done that! There is a thrill in pushing against boundaries and inviting temptation. A clever person can use this to enhance their love life at home.

The trouble is, such situations are running the risk of destroying a marriage. Not because of breach of trust, but due to love's fickle nature. You fall in love with person #2, you fall out of love with person #1! A married person ought not to run that risk.

I speak as a person that considers monogamy an unnatural state, quite possibly a a rediculous ideal and source of much evil. But also I consider monogamy a security device, both for the heart as well as health. And I can say from experience: It's easier to handle as one ages.
posted by Goofyy at 12:31 AM on July 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

He says "nothing happened".

Ask him exactly what happened.

When he tells you, how do you feel? If you don't feel calm and at ease with the world, he is cheating on you and/or lying. If he's lying he's cheating on you. If you think there is another possible answer, an answer that means he really cares for you and wasn't cheating on you, then you are lying to yourself, because if he loves you and cares about you he will tell you the truth and it won't be fishy. Which it obviously is or you wouldn't be asking strangers on the 'net about it.

As a (reasonably honest) man "nothing happened" means "Nothing I want you to know about happened" 99% of the time. It's the response of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
posted by Ookseer at 12:56 AM on July 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter what we think about it. If it freaks you out that your husband eats eggs, and we all tell you that we don't mind eggs at all - it's still reasonable for you to be freaked out, and to ask your husband to help you find some arrangement that doesn't freak you out.

If he was openly screwing the neighbours, and this didn't bother you at all, it wouldn't matter how many people there are on askme saying they wouldn't be happy with that arrangement. If you, your husband and the neighbours are happy with it, that's enough.

As a datapoint - I would be perfectly OK with the behaviour you've described. Judging from all the articles I have been reading about "emotional affairs", lots of people out there are not OK with it. You have to make your own decision.
posted by emilyw at 2:12 AM on July 18, 2007

If you are uncomfortable with it, you should challenge him.

IME, whereever your "cheat threshold" is, if he hasn't passed it yet, he is going to do so in the future, because he was never challenged before.
posted by SpacemanRed at 4:59 AM on July 18, 2007

To me, that's" emotional cheating." Does he fall into situations like this with men? or just women?
posted by Carol Anne at 5:12 AM on July 18, 2007

Best answer: There is a lot of good advice here. I just want to reiterate that you have EVERY right to be uncomfortable in this situation. It almost seems like you need your feelings validated to make sure that you are not being overly suspicious ... and you're not. Regardless of whether this is cheating or not cheating or whether he is telling you the truth or lying, if this makes you uncomfortable, you have every RIGHT to be uncomfortable and to ask him to stop or try and work with him to help him avoid these situations.

Unlike emilyw's example of if his eating eggs freaked you out, what he is doing now is, in my experience, very abnormal. This is not something that everyone's husbands wind up doing, this is not something many people would accept. If you were comfortable with it, then it wouldn't be a big deal, but you are clearly not. And it's your husband's responsibility to respect that and back off.

Remember, as Dr. Judy (sex therapist & radio host) used to say: "Things don't just happen. People MAKE them happen."

This is good to remember if he goes on about how this just happens and he just "finds" himself in these situations. No one is just walking about and "oops!" finds themself in a hotel room or in/on bed with a member of the opposite sex.
posted by tastybrains at 5:49 AM on July 18, 2007

He "finds himself" there? How'd that happen?
posted by mendel at 6:11 AM on July 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

So, if he wouldn't mind YOU doing the same thing - then it's not cheating. If he would - then it is.

revmitcz -- the upshot of your assertion here is that, if a husband has a cuckold fetish and would love it if his wife cheated on him even though she has no desire to and even though she expects him to be faithful, then he can cheat to his heart's content. That doesn't jibe with common sense.

So, your strange definition of "cheating" is not likely to be accepted by MiffyCLB.
posted by jayder at 6:30 AM on July 18, 2007

jayder -- don't you think it would be better for the OP to know this about her husband?
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 6:50 AM on July 18, 2007

To me, that's" emotional cheating." Does he fall into situations like this with men? or just women?

yeah, this one seems important to me. Is it really the deep important discussion that's the centerpoint here? then why on a bed or in a hotel room? Why not just talk in your sitting room, even with you present? seems kinda off to me.
posted by mdn at 7:56 AM on July 18, 2007

i wouldn't be ok with it at all. he is craving attention from people other than his spouse. this is a problem. if it hasn't led to sex yet, it will. i have watched it happen in my work place.

if my husband came home and confessed that he kept ending up "innocently chatting" with women in secluded places all the time, i would think he is playing "offense". in other words, he is telling me before i find out some other way so he looks like the oh so innocent and honest husband instead of a man who got caught doing something with someone he shouldn't. Think about it. if a friend said they saw him going in a hotel room with another woman, would your first reaction be "nothing happened"?

unless you don't mind sharing, nothing good can come of his pal-y crushes.
posted by domino at 7:58 AM on July 18, 2007

He "finds himself" in inappropriate situations with women who are not his wife?

I can relate. Why, just the other day, I "found myself" hollering at my boss at the top of my lungs and hurling every cussword in the English language in her general direction.

The day before that, i "found myself" shoplifting a jar of honey from the supermarket. I know . . . isn't that something? My hand just sort of grabbed it and when I came to my senses I was walking out the door with the stolen goods in my pocket.

Come on! If your husband was old enough to sign a marriage license in your jurisdiction, he's a grownup. Grownups exercise control. Grownups make choices about their behavior. They don't just "find themselves" doing things.

You ask: Is this cheating?

Yes. Absolutely. You don't need physical contact for cheating to have occurred. Emotional infidelity is still infidelity.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:25 AM on July 18, 2007

My boss "finds himself" in this situation often. He works and lives 3 hours away from his wife during the week and goes home for the weekend (it's a long story why he does this but it actually makes financial sense). He's living the swinging bachelor lifestyle Monday thru Friday (drinking and running around) while his wife stays at home in the evenings with their child and he sees absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario.

He recently developed a close friendship with a younger, very attractive co-worker who, coincidentally, is now having marital problems and just kicked out her husband. Obsession isn't really a strong enough term for his feelings towards her. If they were both single and dating, people would probably still make comments about his obsession with her (it's that bad). He's in her office a good portion of the day and they go to lunch (and sometimes dinner) alone every day. She has definitely replaced his wife as his confidant and best friend. It's hard to say whether he's sleeping with her (he' not very attractive so it's hard to imagine that he is), but I'm sure his wife would be devastated if she knew the extent of their friendship regardless. And, of course, everyone at work is talking about it non-stop so I'm sure his wife would be thrilled about that as well. Their positions at work have nothing to do with each other so there's no "legitimate" reason for them spending time together during the day.

I can't speak for your husband, but it's obvious with my boss that it's all about his ego. Maybe it's a mid-life crisis thing. He was actually happy when he first heard rumors were spreading about him and this co-worker sleeping together. And he often makes comments to me about how flattering it is when they go to lunch and strangers assume they're a couple.

If it doesn't bother you, that's fine. Only you can judge your own feelings. My concern would be that you're not getting the full story here. Even if there's no sex right now, the groundwork has already been laid (no pun intended) for it to happen when the opportunity presents itself.
posted by bda1972 at 9:52 AM on July 18, 2007

Your husband routinely puts himself in situations where sexual infidelity is likely (bed???). Your husband routinely develops intimate relationships outside your marriage. Any specific instance might not be classed as cheating, but this is a pattern that leads him away from intimacy within the marriage, and leads him towards outside relationships, any one of which could be the one that ends the marriage. If he wants your marriage to be successful, this is a really bad idea.

Don't let him muddy the issue by insisting that any given occasion was not technically cheating. If he wants to be married, he needs to put his time and energy into the marriage. Sure, he will have some female friends, but this pattern is not good.
posted by theora55 at 9:55 AM on July 18, 2007

Response by poster: Me again. You have all been really helpful - I marked a few answers that seem most relevant to my situation but really they're all awesome and I will no doubt return to this thread for perspective and support.

I really like tastybrains' quote: "Things don't just happen. People MAKE them happen."

I do believe this. Thank you everyone, I am well prepared for our discussion!
posted by MiffyCLB at 11:44 AM on July 18, 2007

jayder -- Despite how it might seem that I'm not considering all sides of the argument I presented, I'm actually saying exactly that.

In your example, I think it's best if the other party knew of her husband's cuckold fetish. If she's upset by it and isn't interested - then they're clearly not compatible, and that's good information to know. But, it isn't cheating. It's incompatibility.
posted by revmitcz at 12:52 PM on July 18, 2007

Ok a lot of noise above as far as I am concerned. He is telling you that nothing happened because that is what he knows you want to hear.
Of course things happened, things that made him feel alive, attractive again to the opposite sex, things that frankly rock his boat. What you are not saying is, does any of this affect his feelingS FOR YOU???

When he is with you, is he really with YOU? Does he still make you feel cherished, loved, needed, attractive?
If not show him the door. Do NOT pass go, do not try counselling, it's not going to work and you deserve better than a half assed marriage.

IF he still rocks your boat when with you and these are incidental to your marraige then think again about how you will react.

No-one really knows what goes on between two people, even less between people who have stayed together a long time. There is so much more to marriage than sexual fidelity, even emotional fidelity if it is small, incidental and is not making inroads into his care for you.

If you are noticing that this is becoming increasingly an issue, and not just the odd thing then leave him.
posted by Wilder at 12:58 PM on July 19, 2007

A teacher once told me:

Accidents happen. But the way that you tell it was an accident is that the person who did it will bend over backwards to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Hope that helps you as much as it has me over the years.
posted by anaelith at 8:11 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

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