Flaming E-Mails

3 Aug

Letterbalm Secret EmailDear LetterBalm: This is so complicated and so hurtful. My husband and I have been married for almost 45 years. Our children are grown and have children of their own. Last year, without my knowledge, my husband decided to contact his high school girlfriend whom he hadn’t seen for more than 50 years. He had to make a big effort to find her contact information. He enlisted our son to use his computer, and my husband and the woman conducted a flirty online conversation for months, even making plans to meet. My daughter-in-law accidentally found the e-mail thread, and, furious, confronted her husband and father-in-law. She said if her father-in-law didn’t tell me, she would (I was oblivious to all this). My husband told me all, I read the e-mails and got really upset. I’m angry and disillusioned. My husband maintains it was nothing, that “you women” are overreacting; my son isn’t apologetic about his role, either. I thought we had a good marriage – some rough spots, sure, but I want to know why, after so many years, my husband thought it was such a good idea to get in touch with an old girlfriend and why my son thought it was O.K. to help him. And, what do I do about all this?

–Not Sure I Can Trust Him Again

Indeed, this is a complicated situation – and Ms. L.B. wants to know what possessed the old girlfriend to embark on the sneaky, romantic e-mail adventure. Leave your heroic daughter-in-law to sort things out with your fallible son. It does seem that the two men fell off the moral cliff, doesn’t it? First, you need to be reasonably sure that your spouse isn’t suffering from reduced mental acuity or a physical or neurological condition. Did he actually know what he was doing? Well, he did it in secret, so he must have known that if his actions were to come to light they would bother you. And, he’s infuriatingly unrepentant and blaming you for dramatizing. Enlist the help of a good marriage counselor and go together, or go yourself if your husband won’t. Why did he think it was such a good idea? What was he trying to prove? Why did he feel the need to reach out to a long-ago love? The therapist will help you thread through these questions, the state of your marriage and the implications therein. All this notwithstanding, you should consider having a conversation with your son. He’s not too old for a maternal talking-to:

Logan, I won’t belabor this with you, and I won’t bring it up again. But I need to tell you this in no uncertain terms: What you did to help your dad get in touch with his old girlfriend Marlene was wrong. It was dishonest and cruel. You helped your dad keep a secret from his wife, your mother. Whatever his motivations, whatever the state of your parents’ marriage, you did something wrong. Susan and I are not overreacting in our outrage. I think you know all this in your heart of hearts. And, I think you’re a little ashamed that everything was found out. I will always love you, Logan, but you made a mistake. I think you owe your wife and your mother a huge apology.

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