Mormon Therapist on Internet Infidelity

John Dehlin Mormon 71 Comments

I have been happily married for 7 years. I recently came across this anonymous chat website that lets you chat with a random stranger at the click of a button. It has become almost an addiction for me. I have problems making friends because of shyness, self-esteem issues but I am able to be freely and truly myself on this silly website. However, several of the best conversations I’ve had have been with men. I find it thrilling to know that they find me interesting and even sexy. The only one I’ve ever felt I could do this for is my husband. He was my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my only lover. Talking to other men like this makes me feel powerful and it makes me feel sexier. I have not told my husband that I chat like this. Three times now I have begun chatting/emailing certain men outside of this random arena who I’ve had very deep and meaningful conversations with. We’ve even exchanged pictures. Two of the “relationships” have had sexual questions posed and answered. I feel like I’m cheating on my husband, but I wonder what your opinion would be? I realize that the world of the internet poses many perception distortions – I know only what these men choose reveal and I have not built a life with them and they are not of my faith. But if this helps me feel better about myself and there is no real harm in it, is it okay? I never plan to meet, speak with on the phone, interact with on camera or interact any other way with them outside of chat and email. It has led to increased sex with my husband because I feel more self-confident that I really am attractive and sexy, not just to him. Is this the same as flirting with co-workers or receiving compliments or appreciation from the opposite sex about your ideas and personality? My husband goes out to work and has many interactions with women. Am I not just searching for the same type of validation?

This is a great question. So many people are finding themselves in similar situations building relationships and friendships on the internet. My short answer is this: I feel you are treading on dangerous ground. Even ground that could be considered unfaithful from an “emotional affair” standpoint. Here are some thoughts:

  • The red flags that go up for me are the same ones that seem to be going up for you: the fact that you are being dishonest with your husband about your internet behavior and the people you are chatting with – the fact that you feel “different” or “freer” with this venue than you do in real life (uninhibiting your actions) – the fact that you are no longer anonymous and are sharing more personal information such as email address and photographs – the fact that conversations including sexual content are taking place – the fact that you are having “deep and meaningful” conversations with someone other than your husband without him knowing about it. It is OK to have deep and meaningful conversations with all kinds of people in your life, but something about how you state this leaves the impression that these conversations are encroaching on ones you could be having with your husband instead – therefore, impacting your emotional intimacy with him.
  • It is natural to feel the emotions you describe in this type of situation – more empowered, more in control, sexier, more attractive, etc. It is obviously flattering for others to take notice of us, to like us and to find what we have to say valuable. Your increased surge in sexuality is a positive side effect.  At the same time, this is part of what is so seductive about new relationships -especially with the opposite sex when you are heterosexual. There is little that can match the emotions attached to the flirtation and hormonal surges that occur in the beginning of an emotionally and sexually charged relationship. This is why we see so many cases of infidelity to begin with. You are especially vulnerable to this since you did not have the chance to have many of these opportunities before getting married. The sense of “having missed out” is a normal one for those who marry their first love. Yet, there are many wonderful aspects of having married this man you are with that will be important for you to acknowledge and keep on greater standing than any regrets.
  • I understand that your husband comes into contact with many people (both male and female) who offer him validation and challenge in the work place. This dynamic more than likely helps his ego, self-esteem, and intellectual capacity. However, I would hope that he is not having “deep and meaningful” conversations with these co-workers that include sexual content and that would make him question his emotional fidelity to you.
  • It is important to recognize the powerful forces attached to the infamous “slippery slope.” Most people don’t wake up one morning and say, “it feels like a good day to have an affair.” Affairs are usually preceded by months if not years of issues, thoughts and behavior that slowly build up to the problem. You may have the best of intentions to not allow these relationships to go further, but it will only be naturally harder for you to keep those boundaries as you continue. They will become more meaningful to you over time and the temptation to go farther will increase.

Here is my advice as to how to proceed:

  • Tell your husband at least what you’ve told me if not more. Decide together whether or not this is something you want to discuss with the bishop. Your husband’s reaction will be important. If he blows it off and doesn’t think it’s a big deal then that’s one thing, but if he’s legitimately hurt and feels betrayed then you need to respect those feelings and provide restitution in ways he deems important.
  • Only continue internet relationships that both you and your husband are comfortable with.
  • Wireless capacity has made the counsel of keeping the computer in your home in an open area somewhat obsolete. With laptops and cell phones, the internet is much more accessible in all types of locations. However, you can still set personal parameters and limits that both you and your husband are comfortable with.
  • You have already recognized what may be some social weaknesses for you. Challenge yourself by starting individual therapy to address some of these issues and to set goals of things you’d like to change. Why is it, for example, that you can be a different person in front of the computer than you are face-to-face? This is a social problem that many of us are currently facing.
  • If you need a venue where you can be social and find personal satisfaction, find ones that are more appropriate and that force you towards personal progression: a college course, a club of some sort, a volunteer service within the community, etc. You should enjoy the same sense of self-empowerment that you are currently discovering but in a safer and more appropriate setting.
I hope that you can continue the process of feeling better about yourself in a way that does not leave you feeling guilty or dishonest with your husband. You deserve that and you can achieve it.
MM readers:
Do you agree or disagree with my advice?
Would you consider these types of internet relationships as being “unfaithful”?
Are there any personal experiences you are comfortable sharing where you were faced with similar temptations or where your spouse/significant other found themselves in a similar position?
Since most of us on Mormon Matters are obviously comfortable with internet usage, do you see any issues with your computer usage and your personal, “live” relationships?  Is someone in your life complaining that you’re on the computer too much?
What are your thoughts on church council regarding computer usage?
What are your thoughts on the term “slippery slope?”

Comments

comments

Comments 71

  1. “Do you agree or disagree with my advice?”
    I agree wholeheartedly. If you are doing something that you feel you need to keep hidden from your spouse you should stop doing it. If it’s something you feel is serious enough, you need to tell your spouse about it as well. Opening up (or keeping open) those lines of communication is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship. Together you can decide if further action (bishop, etc.) is necessary.

    “Would you consider these types of internet relationships as being “unfaithful”?”
    I’m going to say yes on this one, but I feel I need to qualify that it’s a tentative yes, as I’m no expert. The unfaithfulness, as I see it, comes largely from the secrecy, and partially from the subject matter as well. The male acquaintances make her feel “sexy” and value her thoughts enough to have “deep and meaningful conversations. There’s a danger under all that allure, and she needs to safeguard herself. For example, I maintain several internet relationships (facebook with friends and family and a special interest community forum), but everything that I say or is said to me is readable by several people. There is nothing secretive in any of these interactions, and if anything sexual or illicit were to come up in any of them everyone would know about it. Private messaging is strictly prohibited. Thus any such dangers are kept in check and the internet stays happy and safe! 🙂

    “Are there any personal experiences you are comfortable sharing where you were faced with similar temptations or where your spouse/significant other found themselves in a similar position?”

    I met my wife on an internet dating site, so I can’t say the things have no value, but I also saw a lot of scary things, including within myself. Many people join up on these things because they are obviously lonely, and are looking for companionship. Unfortunately, there are also those who are interested in much more fleeting and less wholesome interactions, if you get my drift. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing out there, expert at playing to the vulnerabilities of others through compliments and “deep conversations,” slowly lulling people into comfort and complacency. I frightened myself when I found my own thoughts drifting into this predatory realm.

    Now understand that this was not a pornographic dating site (as I understand those are out there too), but after introspection and discussions with my bishop I came to understand that even the perusal of innocent imagery can– for some– lead to that same desensitizing objectification that threatens to let more heinous thoughts and deeds come about. I curtailed my internet activity until these inappropriate thoughts were gone, and was eventually blessed with a wonderful wife because I returned to the dating scene (even online) with a renewed understanding of many pitfalls.

    “Since most of us on Mormon Matters are obviously comfortable with internet usage, do you see any issues with your computer usage and your personal, “live” relationships?”

    I believe that in order for a relationship to be fully “live” there must be a physical aspect to it. No, I’m not talking about sexuality, but physicality. You look into the eyes of your spouse, you do activities with you friends. These are real, shared experiences. Internet interactions are done with two people, typically in two different places, and apart from using a computer can be doing very different things. Thus the interaction isn’t complete, at least not as much as if the two were physically in the same place.

    If I may be bold, I’d say this problem often extends beyond computer usage. Is it appropriate when spending time with friends and family to answer a call on a cell phone? What if it’s not an emergency call, or otherwise important? May answer is no. With few exceptions, physical, immediate interactions should take priority over those based on technology.

    “Is someone in your life complaining that you’re on the computer too much?”

    My wife used to, but she’s spending so much time writing a novel on her own computer that she doesn’t want to call the kettle black. We spend time together, and ensure that each other is happy and satisfied before engaging in such solitary activity.

    “What are your thoughts on church council regarding computer usage?”

    From what I know of it it’s sound advice. There are many wonderful things we can do with so much information at our fingertips, but unfortunately there are also things that can prevent us from growing intellectually and spiritually. Our focus, as ever, should be on praiseworthy material.

    “What are your thoughts on the term “slippery slope?””

    On the term itself? I think it’s an appropriate metaphor for the slow psychological twists we take that eventually become justifying somersaults and even outright denial. If you think of a slope or slide, when something starts a trip down it there is not much speed, and stopping is relatively easy. But as it builds momentum it requires a lot more effort to stop or change.

  2. She has already had an affair- I don’t care that there has been no physical intimacy- she exchanged pictures, and engaged in sexual “chats” with unknown men. Does she do it in front of her husband? Would she be proud if her husband found out? It doesn’t matter that he gets more sex out of it, you have still cheated on him. “Sexual relations” are more than just physical acts.

  3. I would also suggest as part of her therapy that she find something constructive that she can do involving a group of other people like a club or some such. If she can make stained glass, garden, build furniture, knit, paint or something like that, and share it with others who can admire it, she can get the same sort of confidence-building chemical highs without the infidelity aspect. Self-confidence doesn’t have to be built within sexual attraction to translate to increased feelings of confidence in sexual matters.

    In fact, I wager the feelings of confidence will be greater and longer lasting because they will be built in reality, not in fairy tales and illusions.

  4. Natasha, I think your advice is great.

    Years ago I had a close friend who began an internet relationship with a woman in another city — “innocently” at first. That relationship finally grew over time to his planning to pay a visit to her. His wife discovered the email with the plans for teh visit shortly before it happened. It was a devastating blow to her, and became very embarrassing to him. He fully admitted at the outset he had no intention of letting it go “too far.”

    I have another friend whose perspective is that he should do nothing that he wouldn’t be proud to have his wife see him do. That seems to work well for him, and I have tried to adopt that approach in my life, too.

  5. I’m not a therapist, so I don’t know what the best advice is for this person as to what she should DO. But I can easily see this much. 1) She is positioning herself to have an affair. 2) she knows it. 3) She is scared of it because she either feels guilty, or at least recognizes the irrationality of it when comparing the short term ego trip against the long-term hurt, and overall damage pursing this course will inevitably cause. 3) she feels that she cannot talk to her husband about it, at least yet, so she is seeking a mediator to help her stop. 4) Ultimately she knows she needs to stop, and now she needs helping wanting to stop.

    Sweethart, stop!

  6. I must be on a pro-Mormon kick today:

    Neal A. Maxwell at his finest –

    “There are so many ways to keep the shielding seventh commandment firmly in place. Instructively, for instance, David’s fall, at least in part, was facilitated because he was not where duty lay: “It came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, . . . David tarried still at Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 11:1). Then, as you know, came the lustful view from the roof and all the sadness that followed. Implicit, therefore, in the instruction “Stand ye in holy places” is to avoid indulgent tarrying (D&C 87:8; see also Matt. 24:15).”

    The Seventh Commandment: A Shield, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, October 2001 General Conference

    Dallin H. Oaks –

    “Third, do all that you can to avoid pornography. If you ever find yourself in its presence—which can happen to anyone in the world in which we live—follow the example of Joseph of Egypt. When temptation caught him in her grip, he left temptation and “got him out” (Gen. 39:12)…”

    Pornography, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, April 2005 General Conference

  7. Natasha–“Tell your husband at least what you’ve told me if not more.”

    At what point do you normally counsel people to do this? What is the downside of her not telling her husband?

    I think the first question I would ask myself (if I really wanted to evaluate what happened) is how I would feel if my spouse did exactly the same thing. Next, what would I want my spouse to do about it. Continue? Quit? Tell me? If I could be honest in those evaluations, I probably would know what to do.

  8. Natasha: I think I’m headed where Holden C may be. The one bit of advice I questioned is whether or not she should tell her husband, and whether or not she should tell her bishop. My advice in this situation would probably depend on factors we don’t know from the letter. I would tell her to get her berries back in her basket before she goes popping off to her husband about it (much less her bishop). I would also tell her to take into account what she wants from telling him about it, what he will likely do as a result, etc. What if her DH is possessive, controlling or demeaning and that’s an unknown but contributing factor? What if he’s emotionally immature? Is it likely he will discover it anyway or may already have seen it? I’d just be careful in disclosing, especially if she can get this thing under control and stop the secretive sexual discussions, which is the top priority.

    I absolutely loved your advice to get out there and build her self-worth through positive interactions IRL! I agree with SilverRain that it’s much better than building self-worth based on fantasy and supposition.

    My own personal guidelines for internet usage: 1) always keep laptops in public areas, 2) don’t say/do anything secretive or that you wouldn’t want your spouse to see, 3) bear in mind that even if you think you’re talking to Brad Pitt, you’re probably really talking to some 400 lb. bald dude with facial moles and bad breath or worse (!), and 4) be extremely thoughtful about disclosing your identity, and always keep your spouse in the loop on that. You don’t want some wacko stalking you or messing up your real life.

  9. I think I’m with Hawkgrrrl on this and question whether or not she should tell her husband about this. I think she should ask herself just what she would hope to accomplish by telling him and what effect it would have on him and their marriage. Clearly, she needs to end the online relationships and get away from that chat group, setting clear boundaries for herself. Can she do that on her own? Maybe not. Maybe she does need the help of her husband and bishop. Only she can decide that. I think, however, if I were in the reverse position, if my husband were having these online relationships and now decided on his own to end them, I would rather not know about it. But then, I’ve been married for thirty-seven years, not seven, which may make a difference in my perspective.

  10. I think the value in telling the spouse is that there is a truth that has seen the light of day. Secrets (beyond that planned birthday surprise or anniversary gift) are generally not healthy in a marriage.

    But I agree with HG that advice to tell the husband should be offered with a clear awareness of what she expects / hopes to happen as a result, and what she will do if it does not. In the end, she will have no control over her spouse’s reaction, but must live with it. (I’m not advocating that she not tell him, but that she might need help preparing to deal with his reaction.)

    As for involving the bishop, again it’s her choice (and maybe theirs, if they believe counseling with him might be helpful for their marriage, though maybe a competant therapist might be as useful for the marriage). Ultimately she (and not her husband) will need to decide if she needs to see the bishop for reasons of repentance.

  11. CatherineWO – I think that’s what I was thinking too. I’m not sure I would want to know, so long as he had ended what he was doing. Maybe I would rather know once he had it under control and it was pretty far in the rear view mirror. That’s me talking at 19 years of marriage. Because as the wife, what could I do? Express disappointment? At best, be supportive? I think it makes it tougher to deal with rather than easier by bringing in the other spouse’s reaction, not just the first spouse’s weakness. I think it’s likely that a spouse will become angry/defensive/domineering/suspicious, and that those behaviors will further erode trust.

  12. One thought that had occurred to me is that it might be good to evaluate her relationship with her husband before counseling her to confide in him.

    If he is abusive to any degree at all, that could be a huge problem.

  13. The question of whether she should confess to her husband is a really tough one. I actually just put up a post about that today.

    In this case, it could potentially really improve her marriage, but it could also be the wedge that creates an unsealable fissure. It really depends on her husband, and sometimes you just can’t tell which way he’ll go.

    She’s feeling bad about being bad and she needs to stop. If she can’t do it on her own, her husband should certainly be the first person to help her, but he might not be able to handle it properly.

    I also liked what E. Black said about getting away from the internet until he could get his baser instincts under control. When you’re trying to stop something, you don’t stop by moderation. You stop completely until you’ve stabilized, and once you’re in control you can go back and try moderation (if you want to risk it).

  14. “In this case, it could potentially really improve her marriage, but it could also be the wedge that creates an unsealable fissure.”

    I’m glad others see it this way too. Admittedly, I didn’t want to suggest that she “lie” to her husband (even if only by not telling him), but I think it might do more harm than good. On one hand, honesty is essential in marriage. On the other hand, seeing as how right now she is only on course for a collision, she is probably better off changing course and then keeping that to herself – rather than overcorrecting just to collide with a different vehicle in another lane.

  15. I am sort of in agreement that telling the husband may not be a good thing. I think the first step is for her to stop what she is doing,invest that time in working on her marriage and the issues she has that led up to this behavior. If you are really happily married in every sense of the work, you are not doing this stuff.

    If that does not work, then i think a confession is in order because she now needs other’s help in resolving the problem.

    The only time I think the Bishop needs to be involved is if the photos that she exchanged are inappropriate. then I think that is a bigger problem.

  16. Cowboy–“Admittedly, I didn’t want to suggest that she “lie” to her husband (even if only by not telling him), but I think it might do more harm than good.”

    That’s really why I asked Natasha why she recommends telling her husband. Natasha undoubtedly sees similar situations and has seen disclosure work. Looking forward to her perspective.

    My wife of 35 years is so good at dealing with any “off the reservation” behavior of our kids (and my disaffection from the church) but I just don’t see myself telling her and I don’t think I’d want to know if my wife had been involved but not doing it anymore. I can see talking to the husband if it is a problem won’t go away because it’s only going to escalate if not dealth with. If I somehow came across information and learned on my own that my spouse was either involved currently or previously, I would definitely feel betrayed. Maybe that’s where Natasha is coming from.

  17. I agree with those that have questioned if she should tell her husband. definitely she should cease and desist. I think she is not as happily married as she thinks she is (and is probably decieving herself with that statement.) why can’t she try to flirt with her husband like she does with these men? I suspect her husband would appreciate her flirtation if it was directed at him.

    I think telling her husband is a recipe for disaster. if my wife was doing this and stopped, I would rather not know. (if she had no plans to stop, then I would like to know because this sounds like an affair waiting to happen, and if she is that unhappy with me, then I would rather find someone else to be happy with.)

    when I was in a singles ward, there was a guy in the ward I respected. one day, he came up to me and apologized for saying terrible things about me to his friends. I had no idea. from that point on, it was really awkward to be around him. if he had not said anything, I would have continued to respect him. he eroded my trust by the admission, and I would really rather to not know, especially since he told me he quit.

    I see nothing productive by telling the husband. at best, he won’t care; at worst, it will undermine trust in the marriage. I urge her to just quit chatting online. any time you start talking intimately about sex in a non clinical setting, it is simply a recipe for disaster. but don’t make it worse by telling the husband.

  18. If its a ‘marriage’ then there shouldn’t be these sorts of secrets between them, secrets kept because she knows it will probably bring on trouble. So I’d be on the side of telling the husband when possible as the first step to moving on and becoming a proper celestial marriage. She will need forgiveness from him, which shouldn’t be difficult given what little she’s done and that it helped their sex life.

    Do you agree or disagree with my advice? Definitely agree.

    Would you consider these types of internet relationships as being “unfaithful”?

    To an extent yes. I think the line is drawn on physical contact, as in if there is contact then there will be church discipline but before that it would be covered by the D&C scripture of one lusting after others causing a loss of the spirit’s company (I forget what section)

    What are your thoughts on church council regarding computer usage? probably aimed more at youth and those with addiction.

    What are your thoughts on the term “slippery slope?” Aren’t all sins a ‘slippery slope’ situation? we start with small ones then go on to bigger ones if one doesn’t stop and repent after the small one.

  19. I’ll wait to hear from Natasha as well, but I think perhaps telling the husband is part of the healing process for the woman in question. She has been hiding something from her husband despite her better judgment, and perhaps the only way to get away from the feelings of guilt that come from having done so is to clear the waters with the person from whom she has withheld her thoughts, feelings, and actions. Sure, the guy probably doesn’t want/need to hear that his wife has been psychologically unfaithful to him, especially if she has ceased the offending activity. Sure, if he never knew of the offense he might be better off for it. But the woman will not. She needs to unburden herself from the guilt of her thoughts and actions, and the only way to do that so that they don’t become a stumbling block for her in her relationship with her husband is to be completely honest about what she’s done. If the guy is worth having, he wont fly into a jealous rage or harbor long-term malice toward her for her actions; he’ll recognize his wife’s mistakes and desire to help her overcome them. My $.02.

  20. I’m really interested in the direction the comments have gone as to whether or not this woman should confide in her husband. So, here are some of my thoughts which you are all welcome to challenge:
    – First of all, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge the fact that she believes she is in a happy marriage. I saw this more as she has met some of her needs outside of her marriage (which is usually appropriate to do) and has crossed a line that is no longer healthy. And it is because of her feeling generally positive about her relationship, and the fact that they seem to be enjoying themselves sexually, that I felt comfortable in offering this piece of advice. I did not pick up on any “red flags” that this husband could be an abuser. If I had, then I would have spoken of disclosing in a “safe” setting.
    – I see secrecy at the foundation of almost all problems I deal with. Why is secrecy such an issue? Because the underlying feeling that usually accompanies secrecy is shame. And shame erodes our confidence, our self-esteem, and our sense of intimacy with another. And in a marriage, levels of intimacy are greatly affected by how vulnerable and honest we can be with this “other” we have chosen to connect ourselves to. It always fascinates me that we seem much more willing to bare our nudity of the body (a highly sacred act) than our nudity of the soul.
    -I have also found, with most people that I work with, that secrecy at some point or another comes to an end. And unless you put it in your court, it ends through more destructive means now out of your control (i.e. someone else discloses the secret for you, evidence is found against you, etc.). When this happens, the fall-out is much more destructive and damaging than if one would have been able to talk about things to begin with (i.e. spouse feels betrayed, trust is severely damaged, etc.).
    -The process of keeping secrets and worrying about them takes a lot of negative energy and time that, again, depletes your own inner strength.
    -I have found that if a couple comes in to me where one has “confessed” to having an affair vs the situation where one has been “found out,” the progress I can make with the first scenario goes much faster. Trust is restored quicker, both are more willing to take responsibility for their relationship, mutual respect is usually higher, etc. This is because at some level, the betrayed spouse recognizes that the perpetrator of the affair did not HAVE to disclose – they chose to. This is braver than being conflict-avoidant, and even if only at the unconscious level, the betrayed spouse recognizes this. Being honest is also a step that can be easily construed as “choosing the relationship” vs “the easy way out.”
    -I understand that there is fear regarding the response when we disclose. I’m sure if this woman tells her husband, they will struggle for a while. He will more than likely feel hurt and angry, etc. However, is this fear and his immediate reaction worth the price of what I speak above? Do we want fear to be the primary driver in the relationship with our spouse?
    – I also found it interesting that so many of you agreed that if you were in the position of the husband in this scenario, you would not want to know. I do not want my comments to come off as judgmental, and I appreciate this honesty, but I would encourage all of you who feel this way to step back for a minute and rethink this. Because I DO want to know my husband’s weaknesses, struggles, sins, temptations, misgivings, doubts, self-esteem issues, insecurities, etc. Not in order to judge him, be angry with him, or throw them in his face – but because I want to know about ALL of him. I want to love ALL of him – even in spite of his crap. This isn’t necessarily because I’m such a wonderful person, but because I want him to love ALL of me – even in spite of all of my crap. I want to edify and be edified in this pivotal relationship called “helpmeet.” How can we do this if we feel unsafe in calling upon each other, relying on each other, and being able to disclose our darkest corners to each other? Do I want to be with someone who only knows my strengths and be left feeling that if he knew my other stuff, I would be less loved – less valued – less worth it somehow?
    – My experience has been that the initial fall-out usually acts as a catalyst. It gets the couple talking and thinking about things never previously broached within the relationship. This inherently will increase the overall intimacy the couple can have together – making it all worthwhile in the end.

    Does this all sound too “fairy taleish” to be true. 🙂
    Maybe, but I stand firmly behind it. I have seen too much, from too many wonderful people who were brave enough to take the risk of honesty, to think otherwise.

  21. From her own email, the following make me more sure that she needs to tell her husband (and if I were her Bishop I’d be telling her to do so as the first step in the repentance process, process which would only be informal):

    “I find it thrilling to know that they find me interesting and even sexy.” Question is why her husband doesn’t do this or she doesn’t feel that way coming from her husband.

    “Three times now I have begun chatting/emailing certain men outside of this random arena who I’ve had very deep and meaningful conversations with. We’ve even exchanged pictures” Which is just adultery without the physical contact and the first step to repent of adultery is to accept the truth, come clean, and confess the sin before making restitution.

    “I feel like I’m cheating on my husband” …this statement of guilt also points to adultery albeit without physical contact.

    There is deception in the marriage and all of the above screams out to me that the first step to fully change this situation is face reality with an open and honest confession to all those concerned: Lord first and then her husband, and then lastly her church.

    jmho!

  22. On the point ‘to tell or not to tell’, I agree that we don’t know enough about the individual personalitites to make a clear assessment of risk. But as someone who had been on the other side of the fence, there are a few things that lean me closer to the ‘tell him’ option.

    Firstly, if it comes to light down the track and she hasn’t divulged it, the ramifications may be far worse.

    Secondly, as a person who has been cheated on I hated the damage to trust that the knowledge brought, but I would have far preferred my spouse telling me than finding out on my own. It would have shown a committment to our relationship and bolstered my faith in the subsequent professions of love and remorse.

    Thirdly, at least he wouldn’t be operating blind. As someone has already said, there has been an aspect of infidelity here already. He’s oblivious to that and perhaps to the part he could play in supporting his wife in other attempts to build a wider social structure. He should have the chance, with all the cards on the table.

    She messed up, even if the mess is currently secret. If she wants to clear up the mess and be committed to the marriage, she needs to be honest.

  23. If it were my wife I’d want to know and here’s why. I think in the end this situation could strength their marriage. Despite what someone else said about her already having had an affair — she hasn’t. Her husband is way more likely to be able to deal with this now, then her actually having an affair. I’m sure you can find a scripture that disagrees with me on this — in fact I know of one — but in real world where most of live this isn’t an affair. The cause of this is probably the same that causes people to have affairs but I’d rather find out now then risk her continuing to indulge in this behavior, and bury the guilt, and be stunted in her development.

    The truth will set them free. It will hurt. It will cause pain. But it will begin a process where they can figure out how to increase their intimacy and change not only this behavior but the very desire for it — and without that you ain’t be happy.

  24. Being the typical emotionally-challenged male, talking it out all sounds good to me. But then I also know I should eat vegetables.

  25. Cowboy-

    Are you seriously quoting Neal A. Maxwell and Dallin H. Oaks? I’ve been gone toooooo long!!! 🙂

    I believe this dear lady is in trouble and she knows it. At this point she is looking for someone to help her feel better about what she is doing so she can justify continuing to do it or she is trying to feel better about what she has already done and can’t take back. Trust is already broken in the marital relationship, I know I would feel betrayed if my husband was doing that behind my back. I think she needs to break off all relations with those men and get herself together, then talk to her husband about it if it is a safe marriage to do so. Everyone has their weaknesses and as she recognizes hers she can work now to strengthen herself in healthier ways.

  26. Natasha – I think some of my view is colored by the fact that I’m not as prone to idealize intimacy, which is why you are a therapist and I’m a business woman. I would rather have intimacy happen over time with maturity, and I would worry about their readiness to deal with this. I do fear the possible outcome of an immature spouse’s response, especially if they are not in professional couple’s counseling. Under the counsel of a professional therapist, they can probably get through it. But on their own, most 20-something husbands will probably screw this up (IMO), and the wife has already demonstrated insecurity and immaturity. As to the sex being an indicator of their marital happiness, I thought that was just a byproduct of the sexy internet chat – she gets hot and bothered, DH is on hand, voila – more sex. I had read that’s also common when a spouse has an affair.

  27. I also believe this type of communication to be quite risky. Having said that, I want you to know that I have quite a large circle of LDS (male) friends. I am now going to address a very troubling problem that has been going on for quite some time and is NEVER EVER addressed…to the women. 98% of my close LDS male friends are married in the Temple and are faithful Priesthood holders, BUT… are living with a spouse who would treat a total stranger with more respect and dignity than she does to her eternal companion. For some reason, these women feel justified in being completely disrespectful and unkind, on many levels, to their mate. (This absolutely doesn’t excuse or justify an actual affair, meaning a physical/sexual relationship). All of these couples of whom I am speaking RARELY engage in sexual activity and the wife feels that “hey, we’re not doing that”. These women think it’s just an extra-curricular activity that the man can live without. WRONG!! How about if the husband says “hey, I’m not going to bring home a paycheck”. That sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it is THAT important to a man…it really is. I think it would be safe to say that most men walk on eggshells when their wife is having her “monthly mayhem”. Well, men are “wired” such that the sex thing is rolling around in their head just about 24/7. Is PMS a woman’s fault? Is the man’s sexual libido his fault? No and No. But for some reason, the woman gets to act like a completely wicked & ruthless person while she is dealing with HER monthly thing when the man, who is dealing with his ongoing desires, is told to “forget about it”.

    I know of one couple who are going on their 10th year of a sexless marriage. Yes, 10 years!!!!! The man in that relationship has told me that he will be gone when the children are grown. The amazing thing is…these women who verbally abuse (whether they know their doing it or not) and deny their partner an intimate relationship feel that they’re worthy church members!! Sorry, but I don’t think so! The withholding of sex, respect, adoration, communication and genuine love from your partner is also a very slippery slope.

    So, you women who fall into this category might need to cut your mate some slack if you’ve found out that he’s chatting with someone online (unless he’s talking sexually). That sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it? Well, I’m sorry to say, this abuse, (verbal, emotional and sexual) is a real problem and women who are treating their ETERNAL COMPANION this way need to wake up and fix things!! Because NOW we live in a different world and there’s technology out there for your hubby to get “validated”. You certainly don’t want him to look for the respect and validation he NEEDS outside of the home.

    He really needs it and probably wouldn’t be doing this if he was getting it at home. Someone has said, “If you aren’t taking care of your man, someone else will”.

    So, go give your man a kiss and tell him you love him and if it leads to something else later tonight, act like you care and are enjoying it.

  28. Another caveat to what I said, though. She has been pretty indiscreet, and it could honestly come to light through other means. She does need to tell him so he doesn’t jump to the worst possible conclusion if/when it does.

    Also, I would say that it’s a lot easier to forget your mistakes and move on if you don’t leave some huge trail of bread crumbs. To the extent she already has, the horse is out of the barn, but this is going to alter his perception of her for the rest of their marriage. I would just have her proceed with caution in light of that.

    I agree she is seeking justification to some extent, and Natasha very clearly debunks some of that for her.

  29. Neil-

    Just one thing to think about……if you are getting all your information about your friend’s wives from them, remember there is ALWAYS two sides to a story. Men complain about women and women complain about men. If you just hear one side of a story all the time you need to be careful to recognize that their perceptions of what is going on aren’t going to 100 percent correct on either side. That is why men and women have to work together to make a relationship work. I am always a bit leery when a women friend complains about her husband, only because I know that there is another side of the story that I will probably never hear. Having grown up in a home where my father seemed like a fabulous man outside of our home but was abusive inside of it, I know that you have to be careful not to believe everything you hear or see on the outside.

  30. I agree with Hawkgrrrl. Yes I do think Natasha describes a bit of a fairy tale, and I do think there are few people on the planet that have the type of relationship she describes. From the letter, it’s not clear if the couple is in therapy–my guess is they are not. In order to have the type of intimacy Natasha describes, I think the only safe environment is in therapy–and I have questions about whether therapy actually does any good.

    I’ve been to 2 marriage counselors, both licensed by the state. The first one was so bad that my wife and I mutually agreed not to return after 2 visits (LDS Social Services). The second was a private practice that was approved my our insurance company. After a few months with him, divorce actually seemed more palatable to me than before I started (and I know that wasn’t his intention.) I fired him, and kept my marriage.

    Now I did meet a wonderful grief counselor when my brother died–she was awesome and I still remember some things she said, so not all counseling is bad. However, the 33% success rate has much to be desired, IMO. If she is not seeing a FABULOUS marriage counselor, I absolutely think it is a mistake to approach her husband. And even if she is seeing a counselor, I’m not sure this advice is good. Certainly I’ve seen my fair share of poor counseling.

  31. I don’t think complete knowledge is always helpful, and let me give you a personal example.

    I remember hearing someone discuss the death of a loved one due to a car accident. This friend told me that he viewed the wreckage of the car, and he wishes he had not seen the car. The memories of the scene left an indelible memory that he can’t erase.

    My brother died in a car accident 4 years ago. My dad and another relative wanted to see the wrecked vehicle. Remembering this conversation, I declined. My dad and the relative both described seeing blood on the roof of the vehicle, and said it was a very difficult thing to see. I’m glad I did not go. I do not have to wipe memories out of my mind. It isn’t always good to have knowledge of certain things.

    I’m a statistician by training, and know a bit about probability. I view the probability of things turning out bad for this woman (by telling her husband) as extremely high, the probability of neutral outcome poor, and the probability of anything good coming as infinitesimally small. This is a bad bet, and I wouldn’t gamble my marriage on this advice.

    I’m not really a Dr Laura fan, but I have heard her talk to people that have a need to spill their guts about a previous indiscretion. She always counsels them not to do it, because it will do more harm than good. I completely agree. Maybe she can spin the roulette wheel and win the jackpot and have a good outcome, but my money is with the casino on this one.

  32. The woman who wrote this letter said that she knows her husband finds her attractive and sexy, she basically said it’s nice to know that others see her that way, not just her husband. I agree with Natasha that, from the little information provided here, it seems like her marriage is ok. But, it seems like it could also be better. If my husband were doing what this wife is doing, I would want him to stop and I would want him to tell me. It would hurt and make me angry. But I hope that after dealing with some of that I would start to work with him to figure out what else I could do to help him feel validated, loved, and attractive, etc. I would want to know for the reasons Natasha listed in her follow-up comment (b/c I want to know ALL of him) and b/c I would want the chance to improve in my role as a wife. Reading all the comments from marriage veterans that said they wouldn’t want to know had me wondering if knowing vs. not knowing has something to do with how long one has been married. I’ve barely been married 5 years. So maybe I’m naive. But I trust that, if my husband and I were in a similar situation, we’d be able to work through it and come out a stronger and more bonded couple.

    Neil – though it’s a threadjack I can’t help but comment. I mostly agree with you – there are women who do not treat their husbands well and many who do not think that sex is important. I wonder, at least in some of these cases, how these women have been treated sexually by their husbands. Meaning, have these husbands made their wives’ sexual fulfillment a priority? I’m not asking for a response or for any details. But to go along with what Jen (#34) said…in some of these cases, there may be reasons why some of these wives can give up sex so easily. Just a thought.

  33. Nifty, I don’t think knowing/not knowing has any bearing on how long one was married. Every marriage is unique, so every marriage will have a different answer.

    Natasha, I did a post on Marriage Fitness earlier this year. I will tell you that Mort Fertel is not a fan of any marriage counselors (even though Jim Gray “Men are from Mars” endorsed his book.) I have found Fertel’s approach more useful than any counselors I have visited in person. I’m curious if you have heard of him. I don’t know how he would react to this situation.

  34. There are 3 sides to every story.
    His, Hers, and the truth!
    Heck, he might be hiding a porn addiction on the Internet while she is hiding an Internet affair.
    Perhaps they are both needy?
    Eternity is a long time to not address problems in a marriage.
    They will be experiencing really challenging opportunities in marriage that will pale to this.
    Start to talk now!
    There is no such thing as a secret!

  35. I know this comment has nothing to do with your post, but I just wanted to let you know that I ran into your blog post dated Sept.1,2009 regarding Mormon Mysticism and the Tarot.
    Excellent reading! I am a convert of 14 years and feel that mysticism has unfortunately been striped from the mainstream church. Luckily, our bodies are also temples, along with the exterior Temple which is completely Mystical, so mysticism is alive and well in some members. I have studied many of the esoteric mystery schools and feel that LDS theology circumscribes the truths of many of these schools into one great whole.
    I look forward to searching your blog since it seems we are like minded.
    -Diemazz

  36. MH:
    Loved the Leah/Rachel piece you wrote on!
    From what I know of Mort Fertel, I think his approach is definitely useful – systems oriented and taking responsibility for self. As far as stats on marriage counseling, the numbers are actually quite high on the success rate as long as the therapists are specifically trained in systems theory, are not pathologizing the clients/relationship, are not choosing sides and are not actively endorsing separation/divorce.

  37. Neil:
    I agree that this is a problem in some marriages – sometimes with legitimate reasons behind them and other times not. Some of this has to do with how we define the term “abuse.” Some of this has to do with culture and the history of gender issues. This would be a very interesting topic to explore on its own. I write about “sexless marriage” often on my blog. And I make my stance clear, that withdrawing from physical intimacy as a long-term position without being willing to work on the underlying issues is not appropriate or healthy within a marriage. I do believe this constitutes abuse in the definition of neglect, stonewalling, inflexibility, etc.

  38. 32 Neil — 98%? You have some sad friends. It’s unlikely to me that they are doing nothing to contribute to their sexless marriages. As Natasha has pointed out in the OP and in her comments here, intimacy if far more than the sexual relationship.

    As for telling / not telling: the woman in the OP was concerned enough to seek advice, which suggests to me that she is unsettled. Her unsettled feeling may come from guilt, from an inante warning that she’s on the wrong path, as Natasha suggests in her OP and as many of you have commented.

    My experience is that if a person can deal with that guilt individually, that may be ok, but if the guilt festers, it will likely do more damage in the long run.

    It’s true that hubby’s response is unpredictable, and I agree that sharing in the safety of a counseling setting may make more sense, but the original correspondent must determine if not sharing ultimately will be more or less painful to both partners than sharing.

    I agree with Natasha that the sharing (even of mistakes) is important to intimacy, and if emotional intimacy is nurtured, then the issues that Neil highlights are less likely to occur.

  39. “If I had, then I would have spoken of disclosing in a “safe” setting.”

    This jumped out at me, Natasha, even though it is not ostensibly part of this specific scenario. Do you really think there is such a thing as a “safe” setting for disclosure to an abusive spouse?

    I fully grant that I’m 100% biased because the only serious relationship I’ve ever had became abusive. I don’t know what a healthy romantic relationship would look or feel like. But I can say that “one “purpose” of disclosure within marriage . . . is increased intimacy through vulnerability” gives me a visceral, nauseating gut clench. I suppose I subscribe more to hawkgrrl’s natural growth theory of intimacy, rather than intimacy grown in a hot house.

    I believed in full disclosure, which led to increased vulnerability, which led to increased abuse. So I guess if I were in your shoes, I’d have to get a lot more reassurance than a “lack of evidence so far” before I’d counsel her to disclose her husband in ANY setting, EVER. To me, just the fact that she doesn’t feel enough value within her marriage could be a very tiny red flag which I’d want to explore more deeply before recommending anything that might put her in danger.

  40. And, just for another side to the “sexless” marriage, imagine my surprise when he brought up in our temporary custody hearing that our marriage was “sexless” when I made great effort at sometimes painful personal sacrifice to make sure he was taken care of at least once per week for most of the five years of marriage (barring only the six weeks after childbirth or when he was not willing to touch me.) Minimum. For much of the time, it was more often than that.

    Maybe TMI and off-topic, but worth a mention to corroborate what others are saying.

  41. Yes, if we are talking about an “abusive” relationship (i.e. domestic violence, chronic verbal belittling, sexual coercion, physical intimidation, etc.) then disclosure would not be on my agenda as something to do or even worry about. There are much more pressing issues (i.e. like leaving the relationship). And if she was in an abusive relationship then her being on the internet getting her needs met would have much different underlying reasons. I did not perceive this to be the case in this scenario and not what the OP was asking my advice on. In hindsight, maybe I should have put in a blanket statement that if one is in an abusive relationship then disclosure could escalate abuse and hinder safety. Especially since others read this advice and might apply it to their own relationships which could be abusive. So, I’ll go back and change that on my blog. See how helpful this process is!? 🙂

    SilverRain:
    A “sexless marriage” is loosely defined as having sex less than 10 times a year (taking into account illness, handicap, childbirth, etc.). This doesn’t sound like what you are describing and unfortunately people do throw terms such as these around to provoke, blame, get their way, etc.

  42. Just out of curiosity:
    If this had been a man who wrote me with the same letter, and I had given him the advice to be upfront and tell his wife, would those of you who brought up concerns of disclosure had the same response?
    I’m just wondering if gender plays a role in this or not…

  43. Re: telling her husband- its not fair that her husband does not have all the information. He may be wondering what is going on and why she acts the way she does, and be killing himself as to what his has done wrong. He has certain expectaions, especially in the church setting, that get blown out of the water by her behavior. She needs to own up to it and let the chips fall where they may. My wife had an affair and for the longest time I didn’t know what in the Hell was wrong, up to the point of her even compteplating suicide. Finially through a series of events I found out her history. Sure would have explained a lot of things and saved me from critical self-evaluation and blaming myself for why things didn’t feel right in the marriage. The thing that gets me is that she would have never told me, if I didn’t find out. She said it was over and why should I know about it? Maybe women are different that way- they can live with such a terrible thing and justify it.

  44. Two years ago, while working together on a 30th reunion, I became a bit obsessed over a former h.s. love. And it was during a rough patch in my marriage. Probably six months passed before I was entirely back on board with my marriage, which is now very good again. Sharing my obsessive thoughts with ANYone, let alone my spouse, would have been damaging. I spent a lot of time on my knees and God gave me a changed heart. How would hurting my spouse have made anything better?

  45. natasha, if gender roles were reversed, my advice would be exactly the same. I will give another personal example. about 10-15 years ago, my dad confessed something to the bishop. he asked my mom if she wanted to know. my mom said ‘no’. then he told us children that he had confessed something to the bishop. when he started telling me, I almost expected him to tell me I had a new sibling from an unknown relationship. instead, he told me mom’s reaction.

    I still don’t know what he told the bishop, and I don’t want to know. all I know is that he is relieved of a 30 year burden of guilt. that is great. I don’t think this woman needs to confess anything to the bishop because I don’t think this offense rises to that level of seriousness (yet), but if confessing to her bishop gives her spiritual healing for herself, then I would rather she tell her bishop than her husband.

    maybe i’m wrong. perhaps natasha has more expertise than me and is able to get the fairy tale ending, but I have talked to plenty of experts that are wrong about certain things. outside of a fabulous marriage therapist, I think my advice is pretty solid.

    this woman has to decide for herself if natasha’s advice is good for her, and she needs to be prepared for the consequences, and not blame natasha if this turns out poorly. in the end, whatever advice she follows, she needs to be comfortable with it. and she needs to feel empowered to fire her therapist if the therapist is giving bad advice. we need to take responsibility for our own choices. it is nice to consult with experts, but realize that you have to make the choice to confess and live with the consequences. natasha has much less at stake in this woman’s marriage (which is both good and bad.)

    at least you see that I am very consistent in my reasoning.

  46. “Especially since others read this advice and might apply it to their own relationships which could be abusive.”

    Thanks, Natasha. This is really the reason I bother commenting on abuse in these sorts of threads. I did that . . . still do it, actually, beating myself up with guilt until I catch myself at it. Even though I feel like a broken record, and know (hope) that my comments aren’t applicable to the majority, I hope also that they will keep at least one person from continuing in the cycle of self-blame and over-responsibility.

    As far as gender goes, my advice probably would change. I find there to be a marked difference in abuse styles between men and women. Abused men have the same or similar psychological damage, true, but they are much less likely to be in imminent physical danger.

    I would also like to add that leaving the relationship is not always the best decision for every person in an abusive relationship. Situations are not usually as cut-and-dry as we’d like to think.

  47. Natasha, your comment 22 is really sweet. If it weren’t for all the other things you’ve written, I’d think you were naive, but I know that isn’t the case. How you can be a therapist and an idealist at the same time I don’t know, but somehow it gives me that “the world can be a beautiful place” sort of feeling. I think it’s awesome.

  48. I too love your 22,Natasha,but with another caveat that doesn’t seem to have figured so far,and that is that people’s desire for intimacy differs.It’s not a done deal that he would want to know,or that this would draw them closer together.I get that is the desirable outcome,but what are the capacities of the individuals concerned,and would this damage trust, without furthering intimacy.Some of the work here may be about accepting the limitations of the relationship.We really aren’t all the same.

    The need of one partner to confess may not be greater than the other’s need not to know.

  49. Paul 43 – You’re right!!!! I DO have some very sad friends!!! They are sad because their wife’s treat them as if they hate them! These men that I speak of are good men. I realize that nobody’s perfect, far from it. My question to you is, do you have any friends that REALLY open up to you? I find that many LDS folk do not do this because, and possibly rightly so, feel that it is inappropriate, evil or wrong to discuss such things with anyone other than their spouse. Well, that’s a hard thing to do if your spouse is giving you the “treatment” we’ve been speaking about. My guess is that you only talk to your friends about the “fluff” stuff. I’m talking about real honest and frank discussions. Certainly there are many men who are just plain idiots and possibly deserve to be treated poorly. But I’m not talking about those kinds of men. I’m talking about good honest men who are trying the best they can to make home a happy place. I don’t know….I just don’t get it.

    I DO know that there are WONDERFUL women in the Church!!There’s NO question about that. I just think that these wonderful women should be more plentiful since they have the restored gospel.

    I just feel that there are a whole lot of women who are unhappy for some reason and that maybe they don’t “get” the good news of the gospel and are chronically unhappy.

    I hope I’m wrong about that.

  50. Neil,

    I FEEL YOU BRO!!

    You make a strong case for polygamy back there in #32.

    Or maybe Hawkgrrl has the answer for those brethren you know: “sexy internet chat – she gets hot and bothered, DH is on hand, voila – more sex.” !! (#31)

    Yeah, you should tell 98% of your friends that sexy internet chattin can help em get some.

  51. 53:
    For me it isn’t about one’s need being greater than the needs of another. It’s about the needs of the relationship – the health of the system as a whole.

    52:
    Thanks, I think. 🙂
    Sometimes I miss naive. I am an optimist, however. I fully confess to that. And maybe, even naively so. But I cannot do what I do without believing in the best of people. Even the best of myself. It’s been through my own heartbreaks, and witnessing much sorrow, trial, error and risk in my own life and others that I can sincerely come up with #22.

    Consider the following written in the book “Flow” (one I highly recommend)
    “To be enjoyable, a relationship must become more complex. To become more complex, the partners must discover new potentialities in themselves and in each other. To discover these, they must invest attention in each other – so that they can learn what thoughts and feelings, what dreams reside in their partner’s mind. This in itself is a never-ending process, a lifetime’s task.
    “Any aspect of life, can be made enjoyable if we are willing to take control of it, and cultivate it in the direction of greater complexity.”

    To me, the couple in the OP are at a juncture where things could get wonderfully complex. This complexity, albeit painful, has the potential to catapult them somewhere previously not existent. And therein, IMO, lies the beautiful paradox of sin. Without sin, these growth spurts are not possible. But now I’m waxing too philosophical. 🙂

    I understand that some are not interested or vested in the idea of greater intimacy. The risk and vulnerability required seem like “too much work,” “not worth the time,” and even unwanted. Because with greater intimacy comes the possibility of greater pain. And we all naturally avoid pain. However, the risk of not moving towards intimacy is ultimately moving us in the other direction – disaffection. Because whether we like it or not, we are continually moving somewhere. And so this too, is a risk. I see too many couples that have allowed years of small resentments, misunderstandings, secret/shame keeping, or the inability to find out about each other because it somehow threatens their own personal paradigm, lead to feelings of “falling out of love,” being bitter, and generally unsatisfied with the status quo.

    I leave you with the following poems by Freya Manfred:

    1. One True Thing

    She reaches a point where she wants to say one true thing:
    To stay alive, she swims in blue-green lakes and red wine,
    pretends she’s four or four hundred, reads books,
    and imagines herself dying.

    She fears she has no family or friends who will take her in.
    No one who will join her in the place she needs to go
    to heal and understand –

    the place where she will hear one true thing.

    2. The Nemesis

    To calm myself, I imagine I’m cradled by invisible arms while I seek some deeper truth.
    Truth: that thing he cannot speak when it’s all I ask of him.

    3.

    What could we have said, that we did not?
    Everything that made our story more true.

    What could we have given, that we did not?
    Only what we couldn’t give to ourselves.

    What can we say or do, now?

  52. I want to recommend the book “NOT Just Friends” by Dr. Shirley Glass (who happens to be the mother of Ira Glass, of “This American Life” fame). The red flag is indeed that she’s keeping this secret from her husband. I think she needs to stop immediately anything she can’t tell to her husband.

    It’s quite possible that the marriage is perfectly fine. This actually happens to good marriages very frequently. Many people accidentally get into affairs when they felt sure they were completely safe from such, because of gradually closing doors to their spouse and opening doors to an outsider. The process can happen so slowly over time that at no point is it obvious that a real step has been taken. The tell-tale threshold, though, is when a person feels the need not to tell their spouse the truth about their other friendships.

    My suggestion is to terminate the other friendships immediately, and try to renew the connection with the spouse through a retreat, a vacation, a second honeymoon, or some other means. I wouldn’t tell the spouse or the bishop what happened, since it doesn’t seem to have reached that level of seriousness at this point. I would just cut off completely any friendships that she doesn’t feel free to tell her spouse about, and also make very sure it doesn’t happen in the future. This is a mistake that catches many people unawares, and it’s great that she stopped herself before things went any further.

    Don’t destroy a good marriage inadvertently. Divorce is like a death in the family. People who divorce and remarry, also, often have poor outcomes. It doesn’t tend to fix anything and can make things a lot worse. Save your first marriage if at all possible, unless it’s abusive, predatory, or your spouse is unfaithful or an addict.

  53. natasha, I admire your idealism. I consider myself very much a pragmatist. as I mentioned before, mort fertel talks about having a phenomenal love, and it is something I would like to have. however, it is apparent that my wife is not comfortable with that level of intimacy. so what am I to do? to continue to force this level of intimacy is not only counter-productive, but probably damaging.

    so I can keep the ideal, but work slowly toward it. I frankly do not think it will be accomplished in my lifetime. exposing me or my wife’s vulnerabilities at this stage of intimacy just seems like a disaster to me, even within therapy. a therapist is going to need to be exceptional for me to even dare to try to reach that level of intimacy. while it is a laudable goal, I think the risks are so great that the benefits of such vulnerability will not happen. rather, distrust and decreased intimacy seems to be the more likely outcome. as I said before, the therapist doesn’t have to live with the consequences if this fails. the risk of failure seems far greater than the risk of success.

  54. MH, you raise an interesting point (which others have also alluded to). I intially favored the idea of telling the husband to allow for honesty and the intimacy it fosters. But (as in 12-step programs) maybe making amends is better not done when it will do more harm than good. The tough part is making that judgement on behalf of the other spouse.

    President Kimball used to teach the best marriages are when each spouse looks out for the others’ needs instead of his own; that sentiment seems consistent with your comment.

  55. I know that if someone was deciding for me what was best for me, I would feel like I was being treated like a child. I could understand the protective intentions, but I still wouldn’t choose to give up my voice in exchange for blissful ignorance. And what’s so blissful about ignorance anyway? I would want to be trusted more than that. I’m a big girl. I can take it.

    51:
    I totally agree that not all abusive relationships need to end. However, they do all need intervention. And if a person’s physical safety is at risk then leaving, even if on a temporary basis, is almost always a necessary step. The problems come about on the “how” to leave. Many fear the repercussions of leaving, and with good cause. Leaving can be the provocation that the abuser then “punishes” with violence, threats, kidnapping of children, etc., etc. Hopefully people can come up with safety plans, visit the web for help, tap into resources such as their local domestic violence shelter, etc. so that their safety is protected.

  56. Natasha has given me pause on this intimacy thing. I’m revising my stance somewhat, but not entirely. I do feel there’s opportunity here to share vulnerability without disclosing just how brainless she’s been. I think it’s helpful for her to move on if she’s not tied to full disclosure on her thoughtless actions and self-justification so long as she really does learn from that and change it. I also find that disclosure is easier when I have a little more perspective.

    I had recommended she not disclose (but then revised to say she has to disclose something because she has been so indiscreet that it’s likely to come to light through other means). I think it’s perfectly well-advised to talk about the insecurities she feels and her need for validation and possibly even some sexy talk from her husband.

  57. every marriage is different, and each spouse will feel different about this information. I am a big boy too. if my wife were doing this, I could probably handle it without flying off the handle, but as a big boy, I would still rather not know.

    (if only my wife started sexy chat with me, I would be thrilled.)

  58. I want to point out that my main disagreement with natasha is the default rule to tell the spouse. I would hope that a therapist would ascertain whether the spouse wanted to know the information before advising a client to divulge this information. I can see that for some couples this information could lead to greater intimacy. but I think the vast majority of couples would have decreased intimacy – perhaps disastrous results.

  59. 64 MH — your reason for assuming the “vast majority of couples would have decreased intimacy”? As Natasha pointed out, initially this might be so, but in the end, many couples could in fact have reconciliation and greater emotional intimacy.

  60. sure paul, you’re right. but how many of these couples will divorce because they can’t survive the strain of this information, especially without a counselor such as natasha helping them through the rough patch? I fear marriages breaking up, or at least severely strained as a result of this disclosure. the risks (especially outside of a competent counselor) far outweigh the rewards imo.

    natasha, on another note, you talked about a systems approach to counseling having a good success rate. how many counselors utilize a systems approach? I suspect the 2 counselors I went to did not, and I suspect the majority do not. I also suspect that counseling without a systems approach is poor.

  61. paul, let me put this another way. quite often, chemo is a useful cure for cancer, but often the cure is worse than the disease. we need to be careful when we administer these cures so we don’t inadvertently kill the patient.

    not too long ago, parker jensen was diagnosed with cancer and told that if he didn’t have chemo he would soon die. his parents disputed the doctor and sued so parker didn’t have to endure chemo, which has known to have side effects of sterility and stunted growth. parker is still alive, cancer free and normal, despite not participating in the ‘essential’ cure.

    when it comes to our lives, we need to take responsibility for our relationships and health and not abrogate these decisions to experts. I think natasha has great advice in nearly everything she has posted here, but this is one place where I think she is minimizing side effects of the cure, just as these doctors minimized to parker.

  62. Natasha,I completely agree with you about intimacy.It’s the greatest of human experience.What i see though is that many of us have a limited capacity for intimacy,often due to expectations and models learnt or experienced in childhood.This is not an absolute value for all people in all cultures,indeed I suggest it is really quite amerocentric.Love may include respecting the limitations of the other,painful as that may be.

  63. 67:
    Correct about the cultural piece.
    And yes, respecting limitation is part of this – in fact that is also an intimacy piece.

    66:
    Agreed, that “expert” opinions are just that – opinions. Hopefully well-founded opinions based on research and experience.
    And definitely agreed that people need to ultimately make these decisions for themselves. Hopefully I’m seen as a resource – not as the last authority on a subject.

  64. Wow what a good read this has been. I apologize for coming in late. There is too much to make direct comments so I will address the overall feeling of this subject.

    I believe this lady is looking for more than a relationship from either her husband or the men on the internet. She is looking for recognition in herself. Is she a stay at home mom? It sounds like she is. She needs to make some personal changes. There is a reason it is called the “7 yr. itch”. There should also be a 14 and 21 yr itch as well. We as people grow in seasons and so do our marriages. This lady sounds like her spirit is moving into a new season. It is telling her “I want to grow”, but she does not have an outlet for this to happen.

    I would say do not tell your husband…yet (do stop talking with these other men, they will eventually distort your reality)…dig deeper in intimate conversation with your husband. Talk to him about your feelings/dreams/need to get out and recognize your personal victories. Here is an idea…find some intimate time and then in the afterglow get intimate with feelings about him and his part in your dreams. Everyman likes to hear how they fit into their sweethearts dreams. We want to be the heroes it is part of our hard wiring. You may find he is supportive of your needs. He may have some needs that can benefit from your personal growth as well. (One need already has) Tell him that when you feel recognized outside the home it makes you feel sexy and whole. If you two can begin working together the time to tell him will open up later naturally and he will be ready to accept it.

    As men reading this post (including the 98% who are deprived) we may want to thank this lady for opening this door. If our wives are acting this way (I promise it is not a onetime thing) they may be going through the same kinds of “I want to grow feelings”. Stop complaining about no luvin’ and find out.

  65. I can ‘t even believe that you are questioning if this is cheating. SHE IS CHEATING! It is black and white in this arena. Talk to your Bishop now and then to your husband. What is sad is that you even have to be told this. Then the fact that it has made your sex life better and the therapist thinks this is good is morally wrong on so many levels. Your sex drive is being navigated by infidelity not an increased love for your husband.  Get off the computer and make yourself useful. Be a better wife, mother, cook, something that will legitamately boost your self esteem.
    M y life is in shambles because of the computer. This lead to infidelity and excommunication and all for what? A boost in self esteem!!! He had the best of everything but he became addicted to the computer, facebook, and all is history now. Talk about self esteem, you are ruining your husbands and your childrens. All because of your selfish desires. YOU ARE CHEATING!

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