Dear Bartender and Priestess,
I don’t know what to do. I just discovered that my wife was registered with Ashley Madison.
B & P: Wow, we’re so sorry. This is a difficult moment for anyone to face.
B: But first things first: Go to the doctor. Get fully checked for STDs. Make sure your physical health is not compromised. This way, if you have anything, you’re catching it as early as you can, which can in turn make treatment easier.
P: As you’re spinning around, there are so many things you need to check into even before you start to deal with the emotional aspects of this. Hopefully, since sign up was free to women, you are unlikely to have been infected with STFD (Sexually Transmitted Financial Debacle). But I would want to check. You haven’t said whether or not you’ve confronted her, but even so, she has not been particularly trustworthy lately. I would want to know that my finances were not exposed. All of which is added insult to injury, I know. I’m sorry.
B: Weird, Ann, you’re the practical one, and I’m the feely one today. Back to you, dear letter writer, you also need to get yourself — with or without your wife — to a family counselor. STAT. Honestly? I would suggest you go alone first, to try and separate out the feelings you have in response to your discovery, vs. the feelings you have about your wife. There is so much you need to sort out. Do you still love her? Do you want to try and make this work? Are you ready to make a break? Because — let’s face it — this may be game over for the two of you. But I think you owe it to yourself to explore your own feelings without having the conflict and pressure of “couples” counseling. I think you need to understand what you need next from this relationship. The first set of feelings you need to be concerned with right now are your own.
P: You may not know yet what you really want from this marriage given that you’re probably still stunned by this revelation. But, since Terri’s handing the therapist part so well, I’d advise that you check with a divorce lawyer so you know what your rights are. We don’t know your family situation or your work situations, you may not know exactly what you want, but it’s good to at least have the information about what’s what.
Your wife can’t say that she fell into a relationship with someone, which would have been painful enough. But she deliberately sought this out and kept it from you. She’s been saying one thing for a while and doing another.
B: Because it seems like you went fishing for information on the hacksite. Your letter is super-short, so there’s a lot we’re surmising due to lack of information. But you say you “discovered” her registry, which indicates to me that you went looking. Which indicates to me that you suspected her in the first place. Which indicates to me that you (at the very least) sense (but may not know) that something is terribly wrong with your marriage. Like Ann said, protecting yourself in this situation is key, but you don’t mention any additional players in this game. Do you have children? If so, then they need protection, too. This situation is going to require a difficult mix of delicacy and honesty if you have kids you need to shelter from this fallout. Actually, just gird your loins for an onslaught of honesty. I’m afraid you can’t get away from it after this.
P: I’ve realized that this site, now revealed, is a lot like the Wednesday Afternoon Hotel in small towns. People would cruise by and see who was having sex with whom. You’re not alone, although this is a particularly personal assault on your heart and relationship. Apparently there are only 3 zip codes in the US where someone isn’t registered. With 32 million people involved, you’re probably not alone even among people you know.
One of the things you’ve probably done, since you’re human, is told someone; your mom, your brother, your friend. Word will get out and it will get back to her, so you need to decide what you want to do, how you want to work on this.
B & P: Despite all the other people you’ve spoken with — despite the therapist, and your mom, and a lawyer, and so on — you still need to have a conversation with your wife. It’s going to be hard, but you have to have that conversation. She needs to know that you know. And you need to not be preoccupied with checking up on your wife’s behavior by reading her texts when she’s out of the room, or going through her emails, or cruising her computer history to see what else turns up. That’s no way to have a relationship. That’s no way to live a life.
Again, we are so, so sorry you have to handle this thing that’s been ingloriously thrust upon you. But you need to manage your family situation. And you need to remember, despite her actions, or any accusations she may hurl at you, her decision to register with Ashley Madison is not your fault. She may not have been happy. You might not have been communicating successfully. You may have both grown apart, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But her decision to pursue a (potential: we don’t know if anything came of her registry) affair is entirely on her. Adults discuss problems; they don’t deceive. I’m sure you’ll have to face hard questions as you address the fracture in your marriage, and you’ll probably have to face ownership of some of that. But don’t you dare take ownership of Ashley Madison. Good luck.
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