Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Conversation needs to be had about secret online chatting
Q: I think my husband is on the verge or in the middle of having at least two emotional affairs via online chatting.
We share a computer, and before I realized the Facebook account I saw wasn't mine, I saw "wife" (i.e., me) and "sex" referring to our sex life. I otherwise wouldn't have kept reading, but how do you not when you see those words? In the other chat I saw, he confided in another woman feelings about my family that he not only did not share with me, but that he also said he needed to keep from me. Then, he shared something with her that's meant to be a secret between the two of us.
I don't know either of these women and have never heard their names in conversation. (We've been married five years.) He's otherwise been a nice guy, though sometimes quiet, bordering on distant. It's shocking to me that he's been so forthcoming with these women online. Part of me feels like he doesn't know he's doing anything wrong, but in the past he's cornered me about normal interactions with men I've worked with that I would bring up as part the rundown of my day.
Am I going to have to confront him to get a resolution, even though I "invaded" his space by seeing his chat history? I don't even know what to say. Even in quietly deciding how to proceed, I'm incredibly sad — which he notices — and I just have no clue what to do next.
Shaken, Stirred and Sad
A: There's an old theory that people accuse others of things they're guilty of themselves — and while it doesn't always apply, it sure seems to here.
Your "quiet bordering on distant" husband appears to have serious intimacy problems, and questions your "normal interactions" with opposite-sex colleagues because he doesn't have those himself.
Instead, he hides from you, his intimate partner, while sharing inappropriately with strangers from a safe online distance. (Presumably until they start to get close, at which point he moves on.) His imagination doesn't have to leap too far to imagine you're doing this, too.
So, yes, you do have to confront him. Don't let him turn the blame on you, though, for reading these exchanges. The damning words were in plain view, and you reasonably kept reading.
Don't expect miracles, either; this talk will likely be the exact emotional situation he dreads most. You can make it as easy as possible for him — in fact, even prove to him that sharing with someone close is not a scary or dangerous thing — by being a safe place for him to tell his truth. That means no interrupting, yelling, threats or name-calling. That means expressing your feelings as well as your preference for the truth, no matter what it is: "I am not angry that you feel this way about my family; I only feel sad that you didn't tell me, and didn't think you could."
After all, the best outcome is that you both guide your relationship onto a healthy path. If he refuses his part, then counseling is the next step, and if he refuses that, then you have a decision to make: a don't-ask-don't-tell marriage, or no marriage at all.