He has also enjoyed many friendships with women. All of his life (even during his first marriage) he has gone to coffee with colleagues, etc. We have only been together for four years and I told him I thought it was a strange concept but as long as he asked me first and we agreed to when and where it was OK. There was only one woman I told him he could not go to coffee with: “Jane”. I know she is his “theme” for masturbation – he told me this when he confessed his skype affair with the ex. I demanded complete transparency about everything (including his themes, and he complied). She is his physical ideal – beautiful face and body and very sexy. He sees her occasionally in the community or at work (maybe every three months or so) and she is his friend on facebook. I know he looks at her photos at least twice a week – probably more (I check his search history). Occasionally they email about some work/community issue and he will ask if he can go to coffee with “Jane” to discuss something or the other and I always say no, never.
Sometimes I feel like I should just let him meet her for coffee and get it out of his system – if he is going to cheat, let it happen already and we can move on. If he is not going to cheat, is there any harm? I get sick of being a policewoman of his boundaries. Other times, I read on this site about women who will not let their husbands even talk to other women, etc. and I think maybe it’s a good idea – don’t let him get tempted, why let him put their marriage in danger, etc. But shouldn’t they be guarding their boundaries themselves? Are we supposed to continue policing them for the rest of their lives? Don’t you get sick of it? I just get so frustrated with his infatuation of this woman, that I want it to stop (either by his seeing that she is not so great, or if he thinks she is “the one”, by doing something about it already). Does that make sense? What do you think?
From everything I've read, I would caution you to consider his true "whys" for the cheating and what you need to heal. It seems that every couple gas their own journey and own comfort levels with boundaries. Policing IS exhausting. What can you live with? What do you need to rebuild trust?
I believe it is the job of the WS to make the BS feel safe. If you are not ok with his female friends, it is absolutely ok to tell him so. A remorseful WS will understand that while things may have "always been" a certain way, that many things will have to change after dday. Friends of the opposite sex are one of them. And a remorseful WS will do so willingly.
The friend that he is jacking it to? He needs to NC her. That he sees her occasionally...checks out her pics weekly..and has told you when he jacks off, it's HER he is thinking about?
If he wants to cheat, like you said, he has to stop himself. Telling him "no" won't stop him. But it's ok to tell him what you will and won't accept, and expect him to respect that. Don't look at it as policing him. Look at it as protecting yourself.
..that feeling you get in your stomach, when you heart's broken. It's like all the butterflies just died.
My boundaries changed after DDay #2 (where was my backbone after DDay #1 IDK but I’m glad it grew in place). My boundaries are not ultimatums; they are what I need to be engaged in the M. I can’t feel safe, trust and build intimacy if the boundaries are not respected.
edit to add - I have never considered an open relationship
[This message edited by foundoutlater at 5:12 PM, April 28th (Monday)]
My husband and I have agreed that from now on when we are apart for his work, he will go out with friends to dinner, but not to bars or anywhere else after. And that he is not to have conversations with women past what's necessary to not be rude. (As in one word answers, not engaging them in conversation, etc). (His ONS was with a girl at a house party post-bar closing while we were apart for his job). So anyway, those are the things I told him I need from him in order to feel OK with him being gone, and it is his job to honor that. And he is OK with the new "rules" because he knows that he lost my trust because of what he did. And he knows he has a lot of work to do to earn it back.
I agree that I don't want to police my guy the rest of my life, but after his EA's, I am going to watch closely until he has PROVEN to me that he is changing and he is doing everything in his power to make me feel secure, loved, and his priority. Maybe it shouldn't have to be this way, but life doesn't really follow any certain script, and this is how it is for me right now (and him if he wants to be with me). Since his EA's back in December, he has worked hard on his boundaries, and almost every day we discuss his interactions with females. Then we discuss the motives, how we feel about them, and what he gets out of his interactions.
He was looking for cheap ego stroking. So, since that is the trigger, we are careful that he finds other ways to feel good about himself. I suspect your guy is ego stroking himself with other females also. It is up to you if you feel comfortable with that, but for me, nope. I would rather be alone than not be his #1 female.
And honestly, when we are intimate, I want him there and present....not fantasizing about the flavor of the month. He is in this relationship with ME. He needs to be here and present with me.
[This message edited by NaiveAgain at 6:07 PM, April 28th (Monday)]
The thing about setting boundaries is that you have to understand that your spouse has a choice whether or not to follow them. If he chooses not to, you should have consequences in place for that. In our case, my husband fought to maintain a friendship with the OW (I didn't know at the time that they'd been sleeping together). I told him that if he wanted to remain married to me, there would be no friendships with women unless they were friends of our marriage. He argued that I was trying to choose his friends. I told him I was choosing what I needed to be safe in our marriage. He could have all the friends he wanted. He just couldn't be friends with women and be married to me so, really, the choice was his. Had he chosen the women, I'd have filed for divorce.
No matter how much you love someone, if you are constantly having to second guess relationships with other people because of his/her behavior around them, you will never feel safe in the relationship. To me, having to watch someone else's every move around other people is no way to live. I can be single and happy.
I have plenty of male friends, some of them very close. My husband has no problem with me hanging out with them, and even hanging out with them when he's not present. I'm clear on my boundaries. No romance, nothing sexual, no emotional or physical intimacy with anyone that is not my husband.
I used to have no problem with him having female friends. Because I assumed his boundaries were the same as mine. Turned out they weren't. And most of his female friendships are totally benign, just normal healthy friendships that pose no threat to our marriage. Well, actually, deep down his boundaries were pretty similar to mine, but he managed to ignore them, twist them and overstep them, and try to justify it. He ended up flirting with someone and saying things to her as if our marriage didn't exist.
I don't expect him or myself to never look at another person, never to find another person attractive... but then to act on that feeling or impulse, that is where it goes wrong. I expect a mature adult to be able to control their actions in that regard (but maybe this is an unrealistic expectation since so many appear unable to? - but then again, infidelity is a CHOICE).
So now, those remain the boundaries for me and him. Show respectfulness toward others. Genuine platonic friendship is a good thing, and in many cases we have mutual friends. If you find yourself sexually or emotionally attracted to someone, you need to do whatever it takes to ensure your actions (including words you speak, or type, or text) never cross the line of propriety, never disrespect your marriage. Even if that means cutting off contact with that person.
I can't watch him 24/7. I don't want to police him, or prevent him from relating to other human beings. He's a very social person and isolation would be horrible for him. He has to step up to behaving with respect, honour and dignity towards others and himself. He has the opportunity to prove to me that he can do it. If he eventually proves he can't do it, he may have to suffer the consequence of me choosing not to hang around. He says he wants me around, so I hope this is motivation enough.
I don't think it is respectful (to himself, to his wife, or to the other women) for a man to ogle other women - to sexually assess their physical attributes. I mean, sometimes you can't help noticing if someone is very attractive, but it's a bad habit in our culture, which is reinforced by media, for men to see women primarily as a sex object which can be undressed with the eyes. And often, our culture encourages girls and women to play along with this, emphasising the message that the most important aspect of a woman is her appearance. IMO we should primarily relate to others as fellow human beings, rather than our first concern being whether we find them sexy or not.
Motives count for so much - and these relate to boundaries (self-imposed). I recall travelling in India as a solo young woman. Some men would approach me giving me a look up and down and saying 'hello pussycat' with a lecherous leer. And yet, others, the more well-brought up ones (!!!) would approach me with the utmost respect, dignity and courtesy and no hint or suggestion of trying to hook up with me. They would treat me as a sister or aunt, often quite protectively - wanting to ensure that the young visitor to their country had a safe and enjoyable journey. Not all men are bastards or crude animals. Their motives and the boundaries they set for themselves make all the difference.
There is a growing trend for people to think that women seeing men as sex objects is somehow a positive, because that's what men do (half-naked firefighter calendars as an equivalent of calendar girls etc). Gender equality doesn't mean that women should imitate men's mistakes and shortcomings! To me this is ridiculous - placing so much emphasis on physical attributes and 'sexiness' while ignoring qualities that really count like kindness, generosity, patience, humour etc. We can all do better, and teach our sons and daughters to relate to others in healthy, respectful, more holistic ways. Sexuality will still be there and it can be special instead of sleazy and in your face. Sorry for the rant, but I do think these are major issues in society which tie in to abusive relationships, pornography etc.
When we first got together, my husband set a boundary for me that I must never contact any ex boyfriends. He felt jealous and insecure, because he had been cheated on in the past, not because he didn't trust me. I didn't like this boundary, because I felt comfortable trusting myself, but I agreed to it to help him feel safe.
How ironic was it that the OW he cheated on me with was an old flame of his? I actually told him in the aftermath of discovering it that he had no right to expect me to not ever contact any exes after this. He actually agreed. The thing is, whether I ever contact or accidentally bump into any exes, I still have no intention of cheating on him. Dammit!
I guess there are externally imposed boundaries, and then there are the ones that come from inside, your ethics, your values and morals. I would prefer the fidelity of our marriage to ultimately rest on those intrinsic moral values rather than externally enforced rules. Although I acknowledge there are times when external boundaries are called for. Thanks for raising such a thought-provoking question!
While I used to feel ok about him having a normal, casual, platonic conversation with his exes, now after what he's done I don't like it, because it's a trigger. Now I would prefer he avoid any contact beyond the minimum polite 'hello, how are you'.
DD #1 26 August 2013 - EA on FB and phone with a former flame OW#2 for about 8 months
DD #2 30 April 2014 - EA/PA for 10 months in 2011 with OW#1
Hoping for R
Edited to say: this post seems to have double-posted. How to get rid of one?
[This message edited by Branca at 11:35 PM, April 28th (Monday)]
He states that all men look at women, just that some of them sneak the look or look when their wives are not around. He sees absolutely nothing wrong with looking, just that he is appreciating “beauty” and that he is not being sneaky about it.
What gets me about people is that they believe because something is a certain way in their head, it is the same for everyone else, especially of the same gender.
In your shoes, I would not want to "police" him forever. However, your idea of letting him go and he is going to cheat, well let him get it out of his system is NOT GOING TO WORK. If he does it once with few or no consequences, it is almost guaranteed to happen again and again. This is just my opinion based on what you have shared here so far, but it sounds like you need much stronger boundaries and you need to get very tough with him. It should not really be about policing him. He needs to understand that if these boundaries are not acceptable to him, then he needs to go, and I mean permanently. It is so disrespectful to know he masturbates to a certain woman he knows in real life, and that is just one of the alarming things you shared.
For some people, boundaries have to be learned. Especially for someone that may have been SA as a child or had their boundaries breached earlier in life. So, they need to learn and practice with boundaries, because they may truly not understand how to maintain proper boundaries. So, while they are learning, that is the time period where they need to be very open, very careful, and with my guy, that is why he talks to me about his female interactions. He truly wants to learn to have platonic relationships with the opposite sex. But right now, why would I trust him? And how would I expect him to just magically figure this out? He is in counseling and we read "not just friends" together. He is taking that advice seriously. He is learning that you can't talk about intimate things with a female and not build some type of bond. He really had no idea before. He didn't understand healthy boundaries. He is improving.
And having healthy boundaries doesn't mean you can't notice an attractive person. I am sure everyone notices, but you notice, you may think "very pretty hair, very nice eyes, etc..." and then you move on. Like a beautiful sunset or a cool car. There is a difference between a passing glance and ogling. Ogling means you are imprinting that vision to take home with you. Noticing is normal.
He states that all men look at women, just that some of them sneak the look or look when their wives are not around.
[This message edited by NaiveAgain at 6:25 AM, April 29th (Tuesday)]
I agree that the boundary control needs to come from within them, so your WH needs to understand first what your boundaries are and then discuss them. I don't think people can change overnight, so it will take effort on his part to change how he behaves. He might think its a harmless coffee with someone and then the conversation may turn to discussing some personal issue. So you would need to explore his thoughts about that and how he would politely steer the conversation away. He may be able to control his boundaries but what about the other person?
I have discussed this at length with my WBF because he has always had boundary issues. He sees his ex-wife but I have never met her. Talking about all friends being friends of our marriage (relationship) made me think whether she is or not.
One of my boundaries is 'sex only with my W' and 'no fantasies except with my W'. As a straight male with ADD, I notice everybody, but I especially notice women. I enjoy the view, but that's as far as I go.
I used to have women friends at work (I'm basically retired now, and what work I do is on my own); some were extremely attractive. My boundary with women friends was something like 'never say or do anything that I wouldn't want my W to see and hear'.
I don't like it when my boundaries conflict with another person's. 'No' can be hard to hear, but sometimes life just isn't fair.
Not just in marriage, in life.
I watch my boundaries and try to respect the people around me.I respect myself and my marriage while out with others, and alone. Having a lack of boundaries also affects the people around you. Remarks about men/women, sexual undertones, words and conversations that are inappropriate can make other people uncomfortable.
NaiveAgain - yes, he is ego-stroking himself with flirting with other women but I know he wouldn't go beyond a certain point. I'm not really worried so much about that aspect but it is so annoying! Like Sisoon and others said, a good rule is to never say or do anything you wouldn't want your spouse to do: well, when I tell him I am annoyed with his flirting he says I should try it and that he wouldn't mind if I flirt or go to coffee with men -- that he trusts me and I should trust him, etc.
Branca, your comment, " If you find yourself sexually or emotionally attracted to someone, you need to do whatever it takes to ensure your actions (including words you speak, or type, or text) never cross the line of propriety, never disrespect your marriage. Even if that means cutting off contact with that person." is very useful and I will bring this up with my husband the next time he mentions her.
NaiveAgain, your other comment, "Everyone looks at everyone. You have to notice other people. But, if he is looking in a sexual way, no....not everyone does that. I notice attractive men but I don't want to talk to them or touch them or anything like that. It is the way he has trained his brain. He can rewire it with a lot of work (counseling!) But he has to actively work on it. " is great. I was thinking this myself but you phrased it perfectly.
THanks everyone again. I really appreciate this site and all your thoughtful replies.