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I cheated on my wife a few years ago and we’ve been working hard to fix our marriage. I’m caught in a snag right now because she is upset that I changed my password on my phone and my email account. The reason I did this is because I have two best friends who are currently having affairs and haven’t told their wives. They are confiding in me about their lives in texts and emails. My wife knows these guys and their wives and it would be a huge disaster for everyone if she found out what was going on. My wife is becoming suspicious that I’m cheating again now that I won’t let her have access anymore to my email and texts. I’m totally caught in the middle between their privacy and my wife’s demands.
You’ve got a tough situation and I’ve got some tough points for you to consider. When all is said and done, if you want a strong marriage, your wife deserves your complete loyalty. This means that you forsake all others, including your friends.
Your wife is understandably terrified of the unknown. You’ve kept secrets from her in the past that badly injured your marriage. If she is going to feel trusting and secure, she needs full transparency from you, including access to your texts and emails. While it’s fair for any friend to need a private space to work out personal problems, there is a huge difference between requesting privacy and keeping secrets.
Privacy is about keeping good boundaries while you work out things that only pertain to certain people who have a right to know. When it comes to marriage, your friend’s wives have a right to know what’s going on with these affairs. If they’re not coming to you to get help so they can stop the affairs and confess to their wives, then it’s not privacy they’re seeking. They want you to keep secrets. Secrets are more destructive because the motivation is to keep anyone from finding out. Secrets are dark, hidden, and ultimately a dead end.
If you have truly healed from your indiscretions and rebuilt trust with your wife, why would you spend time back in the world of deception, distorted thinking, denial, blame, and secrets? I would hope that this dysfunctional world would be repulsive to you after all it did to destroy the trust between you and your wife. How are you able to stay in this place with your friends without leading them to a better place? If your friends are not ready to give up their secret lives, then why would you stay there with them? It’s not your job to force their hand, but you can certainly pull yourself out of the position they’ve put you in as their secret-keeper.
I want to invite you to think about what it means for you to be a friend. True friendship requires loyalty to not only the friend, but also to the ideals your friend holds dear. If he’s strayed from his own ideals, then a true friend has an opportunity to courageously remind him of what’s most important to him. The For the Strength of Youth guide reminds us that, “[friends] will influence how you think and act, and even help determine the person you will become.”[i] Don’t believe the lie that your only option with your friend is to passively listen to the train wreck they’re creating in their lives. What have you learned from your experience? How have you grown? What can you tell them to help them?
Please recognize that they aren’t being good friends to you if they’re putting you in this situation. If these men were true friends, they would want you to protect your marriage and never create a dilemma like this. However, they aren’t currently protecting their own marriages, so it’s going to be impossible for them to care what happens to yours.
I encourage you to unlock your emails and texts so your wife can have access. Her safety comes first. You can let your friends know that you want to help them, but your commitment is to growth, healing, light, and transparency. If they want to reach to you for support and counsel to move toward a better place, then your wife will most likely feel more secure knowing that they’re headed to a better place. And, it will allow her to be a source of support to these other women. They can choose if they want to keep communicating about their secret lives. If they know you are committed to your marriage and won’t enable them to destroy theirs, then they can decide how you can best support them.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.