Background on my situation. I have been with my husband for almost 10 years. We were together for 6 years before getting married. He is 46 and I am 42. About 20 years ago he asked a girlfriend to marry him. She turned him down..apparently she thought she could do better. Well they've remained in touch throughout all this time and I think they may have had a little back togetherness a few years before he met me, but I'm not exactly sure on those details. She lives about 40 minutes from where we do. Husband will bring up her name all the time for no reason like "I've had this jacket for over 20 years. I didn't really want this one but Jen thought it looked good" or "I never used to like this kind of food, but Jen introduced me to it". Things he says where there's no reason that he should have to add her name to the story. Even 3 years ago I accidently put this wool shirt of his in the washer and it shrank. The sleeves were already too short on it so it looked like it had been shrunk previously. He has a royal fit over it saying that it is a shirt that Jen's dad gave him and he's not upset because it had to do with her but because her dad thought enough of him to give it to him. He said Jen had shrunk it previous to that. He was so torn up over the shirt that I had to buy him an identical one for almost $100!
I snoop. He has no idea I snoop (or he would delete messages) but I do. I know his email password (he doesn't know I know it), I check our phone and text records online, he never logs out of Facebook on the laptop so I check that as well. I pretty much have all bases covered. He never emails her and the only time he ever calls her is when I'm gone for a long period or he is out without me (both of which are rare). I found messages on Facebook that were written 4 days before we got married. I didn't see them until after we got married but he had apparently ran into her when he was out for his bachelor party and she Facebooked him "Did you get my text" he says "no I don't have text enabled on my phone but do tell. It's the same old thing, can't get you out of my mind". Then she messaged "Great thanks for making me crazy. I was kind of hoping to see you again". Then it was sort of poo poo from her saying "I must have temporarily lost my mind. Go get married already. Do you need a ride to the airport?" He said no.
Within the past three years there's been a few messages on Facebook but he is always sending her little things that apparently only they would get on Facebook and is always liking this "I love Redheads" page and then forwarding things to her because she's a redhead. She never ever posts anything on his Facebook page and it's always through private messages. A year ago he went to visit a friend and I found out through a private message that he ran into her. Said it was nice to see her, but never mentioned to me that he ran into her even when I asked if he ran into anybody down there. There was a message on Facebook that he was going to ask her to dinner some night and a yes was expected. That never happened.
Well 2 weeks ago I met him down at a bar after he had a class. We left the bar at the same time to go home and it was snowing pretty good so roads were treacherous. I expected him to be home before me because he drives faster than I do. I got turned around and added an extra 10 minutes or so to my commute so when I got home and didn't see his car there I worried. I waited about 20 minutes and was just about to call him when he pulled in the driveway. In the back of my mind I was thinking 'I wonder if he drove by Jen's house", because I know she lives in the area we were in. Sure enough I check Facebook and he had sent a message to her of simply "hello" with no response. Check his phone and 3 minutes after he did that he had called her, apparently with no answer. He comes home and I asked why he was late and he said "Oh I was just driving around the neighborhood down there trying to sober up. I was going to go in and have a beer at this one bar I haven't been to in years but I drove by and nobody was there so I came home." So you were trying to sober up but you were going to stop and have a beer?? Yesterday was his birthday and all day I was just itching to get home and check his Facebook page on the laptop because I had bet anything that Jen had sent him a private birthday message. Sure enough, she had simply said happy birthday. Don't know why that couldn't have been posted on his page with everyone else saying happy birthday but it wasn't. Then I saw his response to that that said "I called you a couple of weeks ago. I was down in your area and wanted to see if you wanted to meet for a pint. I'll try again when I'm in the neighborhood". She responded with "I'd like that".
I am bursting at the seems to tell him I know all about his contacting her, but I can't. He would immediately accuse me of not trusting him (um yeah!) and then accuse me of spying on him and checking up on him when she's just a friend. Really? If she's just a friend then why don't you contact her when I'm with you? Why don't you try to see her when I'm with you? Why do you always happen to leave her out when mentioning what you were doing or what you did, even if you saw her by accident? He has always been so vehement about how his ex cheated on him and how awful it was and he would never do that. I don't know what to do. I know he will find a way to turn it all back on me and then I will question everything. If I ask why he never tells me about seeing her he'll go "We are just friends but I don't see any reason to tell you about it because it will just upset you but you have no reason to be upset. NOTHING is going on or ever would".
Both your husband and Jen are participating in a sort of subversive/thrilling "one who got away" scenario.
They are not friends. They are nostalgic exes.
I doubt she wants to be with him. But she loves knowing he still "can't get you out of my mind." And she makes sure of that by these tiny, private intrusions "happy birthday," "I'd like that." She steers clear of making romantic overtures because their dynamic is that *she* is in the "power position," *she* is "the one who got away," *she* is the one being pined for. She gives him just enough to stay in that role, which must also provide some kind of either thrill or security blanket for her, or else, like most exes of 20 years, there would either be no contact or actual adult old-friends interactions (such as a friendly birthday wish on the public wall; the private messages reinforce a "special" connection even when their content is "harmless.")
As for your husband, I have direct experience with someone who does this. I have been in both the "wife" and "Jen" positions (with this same person). Here is my take: Your husband uses his connection with Jen to escape the emotional vulnerability and possibly terror of full commitment. He does not see himself as an unfaithful type, and probably experiences absolutely no hypocrisy when he talks about his awful cheating ex.
"Jen," although an actual real person, is actually largely symbolic at this point. I doubt he wants to be with her, either. What he does want is the reassurance that there is this alternate life he could have had. He likes hinting that they could have a drink (which never seems to work out, right?) I doubt he has anything more than a hazy idea of what would then transpire, because, actually, for both of them, really spending time together might kill this mutual nostalgia thing. It is actually almost kept alive by how sporadic it is, and by the fear, on both of their sides, that it could end at any time. So they intermittently ping one another just to make sure the other person is still playing.
If they did get together, and this may have been the dynamic the few times they ran into each other for real, it would be all wistful eye contact and heavy sighs and a kiss on the cheek "take good care of yourself," and one of them would say, "I'll always wonder what if…" and then later, when they got home, one of them would FB PM something like "I must have temporarily lost my mind. Go be sweet to your wife."
The problem for you is that he is carrying a torch and she is blowing some oxygen on it whenever it flickers.
But his torch has very little to do with her as a real person at this point.
Which means, imo, is that, paradoxically, Jen is not the issue. Your husband's use of nostalgia to escape the present and the life he has actually chosen is a much deeper issue.
It is for that reason that, contrary to prevailing SI advice, I don't think that confronting, asking him to go NC, etc. will really address what's going on. Because it is *the absence and can't-have* that she represents that he is addicted to.
It is almost as if, in your case, if you picked up on the next time he, on the flimsiest of pretexts, evokes her name, you said, oh, right, Jen, doesn't she live near here? Let's all go out for drinks next week since she seems to be important to you and I'd like to get to know her. In other words, if you made her into a real, normal person and in all innocence (ha!) trampled all over her gauzy shrine in his mind
at least something would change. If you all got together, the long-lost-lover fantasy would be overwritten with a real experience of you as wife and her as old friend.
This would take immense restraint on your part, as, neither before or during this event would you "confront" or tip your hand, or even give the slightest hint that you know they are in secret contact.
There are several possible results: it could simply burst the bubble entirely. Or they might exchange more private messages in the aftermath that would give you a clearer sense of how invested each is in continuing. Or one or both of them might figure out you know the score, and that might spoil the game and end it.
But the character issue within your husband that wants to have a secret space from you (I always think of men who do this as casting their wives in the "mommy" role, and they are hiding candy from mommy), that romanticizes an escape hatch, is and will be an issue regardless of Jen.
I actually suggest IC (therapy) for you around how this makes you feel and what actions you can take. In a healthy marriage, with a healthy partner, you'd be able to say, "Listen, you mention Jen a lot. She clearly was very important to you. I'm wondering if you sometimes fantasize about what your life would have been like with her." And then that would open up a space for actual communication, and then once Jen-as-symbol has been sort of "outed" within the marriage bond, the mirage will fade.
But what I suspect is that the whole, much deeper problem here, is that you can't have such a conversation in your marriage, because he is not capable of it and values his secrets like a kid with a private fort in the backyard. That he will become irritated and belligerent and want you to stop trampling on his romantic fantasy.
In IC you might be able to talk about how you want to approach this and if you want to accept that part of who your husband is involves juvenile secrets and external ego strokes.
I know this was long, but I just want to validate that this is a real, and significant problem. My sense is that if you confronted him with your evidence and gave a the-marriage-or-your-ex ultimatum, if would backfire and he would feel like you were taking away his favorite toy, and then you would be the big bad mommy and he would use that to reach out to her. I could be wrong, but this is not harmless, he is using it to escape commitment, and it has got to stop, but since it is about *longing and not having* to begin with, what it means for it to stop is a deep internal maturity and boundaries on the part of your husband.
Your husband is engaging in behavior that is very harmful to the relationship and to you. You don't feel safe with him, or trusting--why else would you snoop in his private correspondence? You probably have a lot of anxiety and underlying worry about him; since he gets in touch with her when you aren't there, you probably don't go out with friends alone or take trips on your own that you might otherwise do, because you fear what he might do left to his own devices. Am I right? I'm only guessing based on my own experience being with someone who said he loved me but behaved in ways that were very destabilizing for me; I always had a little pit of fear in my stomach when I waited for him to come home.
It's no way to live. I don't know if he is in primarily an EA that he is clearly reliant on (for twenty years!) or if sometimes they have actually reconnected physically, but in some ways it doesn't matter. You do not have the relationship you need with him to feel secure.
Where you go with that knowledge is hard. But I want to validate your worrying. It really needs to be addressed. Maybe you could have him read the book 'Not Just Friends'? It is important that your husband learn to re-draw his boundaries to exclude his ex.
ETA: I think blindersoff's suggestion about suggesting you all meet up (and also the observation that she only represents a larger issue) is great. People can keep old GFs/BFs as friends IMO as long as they really ARE friends--just people you like seeing who you hang out with in normal, non-clandestine ways. Right now he's not behaving like she's a friend--he's behaving like she's a high he's allowed to be addicted to.
[This message edited by norabird at 10:18 AM, February 19th (Wednesday)]
I said to him once, after he had brought her name up numerous times in conversation, "Oh that good old Jen" very sarcastically. My stepdaughter was in the room at the time as well and after husband said "Oh you have nothing to worry about..it was a long time ago" and stepdaughter goes "Yeah he chose you over her so you should be happy". Really, who does that? Who consistently brings up an ex's name after being with someone else for 10 years!
The longest I was with someone before my husband was for 1 year about 5 years before I met my husband. We had a good connection and even went out on a few dates a couple years after we broke up, but nothing came of that. How would HE like it if I brought up Jason all the time and how we used to go here and how Jason did this one really cute thing for me one time? I am friends on Facebook with him, but I never post on his wall and I certainly never private message him. I do the occasional "Like" but that's it. I would love to have his profile up on screen sometime when husband walks in the room and see if he goes 'Who's that?" and I'll go "Oh that's the guy I told you I dated for a year before I met you" and see how he likes that!
I came very close to asking my husband after he mentioned Jen's name one time "So do you still have a thing for her" but I know he would immediately get defensive about the whole thing. And I would love to tell him about all the times I know he called her or texted her or met up with her. I would LOVE to see his face if I just blindsided him with that. But I can't and I won't. Maybe next time when he brings up her name, as you suggest, I should say "Maybe she could meet us at such and such a bar when we are down there next weekend. She lives down there right?" No way he would do that and probably no way I would ask that. She is single and has been single for as long as I've known and never been married. I bet if she was seeing someone he would stop the contact. Because then it's getting dangerous and she has other interests.
I do have extreme anxiety when I go away. I go visit family out of state for a week every year and I freak out the entire time I'm gone and check phone records to see if they've connected. Last year however I was gone the week his daughter was visiting so I knew he wouldn't do anything.
Do you have any suggestions as to what I can say to him the next time her name comes up, other than "Do you still have a thing for Jen" or asking if we could meet her at the bar (because that would just be a really weird request from me) without it sounding like I'm attacking him?
[This message edited by Mapper at 10:50 AM, February 19th (Wednesday)]
TIME TO PUT YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES ON!
You need to confront him. This is no way to live your life. He's been having an inappropriate relationship with his EX for you whole relationship. Its unacceptable.
Forget beating around the bush - you need to be completely honest with him about all you know. If you aren't honest, he might only be motivated to "confess or admit" to what he thinks you may know.
If he and his EX were really "just friends", he wouldn't lie about it. There would be no reason to lie.
If their relationship hasn't been physical already, its definitely headed in that direction. If I was you, I'd confront them both about their inappropriate facebook messages and texting.
The ball really is in your court, and life is short.
Together 8 years
DDay: June 24, 2013
A strong relationship is built on trust and communication.
Maybe you guys need counseling to address why he can't share these things with you?
I understand that you don't like confrontation, but you can't just let him have an affair right in front of your eyes and do nothing about it.
You can't let him blame you either. Its not your fault he is withholding information from you, and lying to you as well. You asked him where he was that night you left the bar, and he LIED straight to your face. This is not a healthy relationship.
Maybe one problem is that you never confront him? He's so used to lying to you and getting away with it that he probably does it with ease...
I just feel bad for you! :(
You deserve so much more than you are getting from your H.
For the most part this behavior stopped after I told him he could have his 'oh-so-important' friendships, but not while married to me. Next day he deleted his FB and as far as I can tell dropped contact with his female friends.
However, I think blinders_off REALLY hit the nail on the head. You should re-read that post.
Blinders_off, you just described my H to a T. In fact, almost every piece of the puzzle just clicked into place! I don't even know whether to refer to him as wh or H anymore after reading your post.
Doesn't necessarily make the sitch better, maybe makes it worse. He definitely thrives on 'secrets' as a way to connect. Now makes sense why I never discovered anything that was actually inappropriate, yet it was kept a secret!
Still a trust of betrayal regardless, but now adds to it a 'creepiness' that's kind of making my skin crawl! The whole hiding candy from mommy thingy, so spot on! And so creepy!!!! And probably not fixable in regards to my marriage.
But I am so glad I read your post!
Mappers, I wish I had some advice for you, but I'm in the same predicament. I have confronted however, and for the most part got the responses u expect to get from your H. Well, until I told him he could be friends with whoever he wanted but not with me by his side. However, since he is a secret keeper, how would I know if he is doing otherwise. Either way it has pretty much killed my marriage, but again I think you should read Blinder_off post over and over. I think it just may describes your situation perfectly.
ETA: Please excuse the numerous typos and grammatical errors as I typed on my phone
[This message edited by OnTilt at 1:06 PM, February 19th (Wednesday)]
Can you guys get into a MC office? Say to him: "I feel vulnerable in this M because of your old flame. I'd like to talk about how we can solve this issue so I feel safe in the relationship and can trust you. Let's schedule an appointment with a couples counselor to work through this."
Making passive aggressive comments isn't going to resolve anything, you have to be direct. Open communication both ways is needed.
My H had an EA and PA with his ex, who is also called "Jen." Ugh I hate that name...
Is it possible for you to get into IC? There are several good codependency books out there.
I think you need to learn to love and respect yourself enough to demand better treatment from your husband. He's not going to figure this out on his own, so if you can't ask for it directly, I'm afraid you'll probably never get it.
The snarky hints won't ever work with him and will just end up frustrating you more. It will also cause more problems between you two (as you've seen). If you want him to be honest with you, you have to be honest with him as well.
[This message edited by BtraydWife at 1:21 PM, March 4th (Tuesday)]
I am so upset that I tell him I'm not going to work and go back to bed. 5 minutes later he comes in and says he just got a text from his partner saying that he saw him come in and leave and how there's no work. Gee how convenient! Then he starts going on and on about how many texts he has and how he should delete them. Then apparently he was looking at my phone (my non-smart phone) and starts saying "Oh do you delete your texts because I have so many texts". Then starts going on about how he plugged my phone in to recharge. Gee why because it was charging all night! Then says how it's odd how I have all these dating sights on my phone. Really? I didn't put them there as I never do anything but call or text since none of that other stuff is paid for on my phone. So I'm guessing since I called him out on looking at his bank account now he's going to try and call me out on going to
THEN we are sitting around while he is watching this video game chat and the guy mentions his wife and he goes "Yeah wives!. You can't get away with anything". Gee were you TRYING to get away with something?? Then he says that he was thinking of stopping by his buddies place while he was in the area where he got this coffee. Really? Your buddy is retired and doesn't get out of bed until 10AM but you were going to stop by and see him at 7AM?
None of what he told me makes any sense and he is trying really hard to put the point across about everything which just screams "I'm trying to hide stuff from you".
He is asking you to call him out on it and you are pissed but yet you said nothing!
None of this stops until you speak up. Be direct. Tell the truth.
Well I did my weekly checking of H's Facebook page on the laptop when he wasn't around and I see after a few weeks she finally posted something and it was actually a picture of her...well, it was her from about mid-thigh down. It was a picture taken by her sitting in a lounge chair and it was captioned "This is how a redhead sunbathes" and it showed her with leggings and her shoes on. Before I even got down to the comments I said to myself "I bet you anything H made some comment on it". Sure enough, not only did he comment on it, but he was the ONLY one who commented on it. He goes "LOL is that you?" She goes "Yup it sure is" he goes "I would have recognized those witchy shoes anywhere" she goes "You should see me with my broom". And of course he also "liked" both her comments to him as well! It's just these constant "likes" and little comments to her and of course the private messages with him saying he is going to ask her out for dinner and how he gave her a call when he was in the neighborhood to see if she wanted to have a drink that infuriate me! Like they have this little inside thing between them which of course he would see as nothing but friendship.
Would these little comments bother you?
You say you are tired of it but not enough to do anything about it. Why would you expect things to magically change on their own?
It will all continue (and has the potential to escalate into something more) until you speak up.
The other thing to consider is what someone else has so eloquently said. Though he is likely not ever going to have a PA with this woman, he is engaging in thinking and behaviour that leads to affairs. In my case, something allowed my husband to have this secret relationship. That same mindset allowed him to have three more affairs. I think it's important for you to address this mindset now before it becomes something more.
All the best.