BRENT STOLLER

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Advice for the Modern Man: How Do I Save My Marriage?

Troubled couple

Trouble in life or love?

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(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)

My wife and I have been married for many years. Recently, she received a phone call from an old boyfriend, the guy she almost married before she met me. I could tell she was thrilled to hear from him after so many years. After about a week, I asked if she’d talked to him again, and she assured me it had been a one-time thing.

But a few weeks later, I became suspicious when I had three missed calls on my cell from this guy. I checked my wife’s phone and was dismayed to find she’d called him repeatedly. I looked up the dates and times and saw they’d been talking when she left the house to go shopping or run errands.

When I confronted her, she first denied she’d been in contact with her ex, but once I mentioned the phone records, she said the conversations were innocent, and the only reason she hadn’t told me was because she didn’t want me to worry that something more was going on. She promised there’d be no further contact between them, but unfortunately, that has been another lie.

I never thought I would face a situation like this. Could there be truth to her explanation that she didn’t tell me because she didn’t want me to worry? Is it time for us to see a marriage counselor?
–Tony; Buffalo, NY

Is it possible your wife didn’t tell you what was going on because she didn’t want you to worry? Anything’s possible, but I doubt it. I doubt she’s doing anything with your best interest in mind, at least when it comes to this situation.

That’s harsh, but let’s look at all she’s done. She reconnected with an old boyfriend behind your back (after the initial call) and lied about it. Repeatedly. When you confronted her about it, she refused to admit to it until faced with hard evidence.

But even that didn’t stop her, as she continued talking to her ex and continued lying about it.

She may have been a model wife before, but in this case, her word has proved to be worthless. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, her actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear what she’s saying.

You probably shouldn’t listen either, because odds are she’s not protecting you; she’s protecting herself. If she had nothing to hide, why is she hiding so much?

Her explanation of secrecy could have held up initially. After all, we’ve all withheld information with the best of intentions. Maybe we’ve done it when dealing with a minor pain in our knee or an issue at work. Before allowing our loved ones to worry, we want to first make sure there’s something to worry about. So we don’t say anything.

It’s a strategy that almost always backfires — the cover-up is worse than the crime — and I wouldn’t have agreed with her using it. But I would have at least followed her rationale.

The second she started lying, though, that explanation lost all logic. At that point, you had made it known you viewed her relationship with her old boyfriend as a threat to your marriage. Your concern was obvious.

She could see that keeping you in the dark wasn’t keeping you from worry, meaning she no longer had a reason to hide. Yet she continued to do so, all the while ramping up the interactions with her ex.

Secret phone calls. Undisclosed rendezvous. Lies that not only deceive and deflect, but also paint her as the caring wife. That’s manipulation maximized. She’s conducted herself as somebody who is contemplating — or is already — having an affair.

And her ex was calling your phone? How did that happen? How did he have your number? It’s almost as if she wanted to get caught.

Which tells me there’s something deeper going on here.

While it seems like this (emotional, if not physical) affair came out of nowhere, my guess is your wife has been harboring dissatisfaction with your marriage for some time. It’s likely been simmering beneath the surface, and her ex reappearing provided the right combination of frustration and temptation, causing it to combust.

Understandably, this has all come as a shock to you. Few things rattle a person’s equilibrium as thoroughly as (potential) infidelity. It takes everything you know for certain and turns it on its head.

I cannot imagine the pain/anger/disbelief you’re experiencing, and I know you don’t want to believe your wife could be so calculating, so manipulative, so dishonest. When you love someone — and even more so when you don’t want something to be true — you’re willing to rationalize just about anything if it means not having to face reality.

But the two of you have myriad issues to work through — not only in terms of this situation with her ex, but with whatever led her to pursue it in the first place. Meaning this is absolutely the time to get help from a marriage counselor.

My only hope is that it’s not too late.

What do you think? What advice would you give this reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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