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Carolyn Hax: She knows he’s a liar, but is he cheating?

DEAR CAROLYN: I really need another opinion on my husband. I’m 29, three kids, have been married for 8 years, together 14 – since high school.

Basically I notice my husband texts with his co-worker early in the morning, midday and when he’s off. He has assured me it’s work-related, but my gut says it’s something more. How can I approach this? He has a history of not being truthful.

Anonymous

DEAR CAROLYN: That’s everything, isn’t it? He’s dishonest. So, a life with him means a heightened chance his “work” texts aren’t about work. You can clear up this round of suspicions and another one will be lined up, like Pez.

That means the issue for you isn’t really whether he’s being honest this time or the next or the next. This issue is whether you are ready to live your life honestly – and by that I mean, without the illusion that seems to be guiding you right now: that you have a marriage of honesty and fidelity until you get evidence otherwise.

You may have both honesty and fidelity right now, of course; I take no position on that. I’m talking about your attention to the trees (his texting this colleague) instead of the forest (his history of living by his own rules).

Living your life honestly, with this man as your husband, means accepting he is capable of having stuff on the side that he lies to you about. That means there’s at least a meaningful chance at any given time that he has a flirtation or affair going, or spent money you didn’t know about, or was off doing X when he said he’d be Y.

Yes, we all have to find a way to live with that chance of chaos without driving ourselves or our partners nuts. But you know your risk to be higher from his past dishonesty, so step back, see the forest, then choose what comes next from your available options.

▪  Stay with him and stay vigilant. This is roughly the path you’re on now, so you know its downsides – not only is it joyless to be your spouse’s hall monitor, but it’s also ultimately futile, since a leash is out of the question.

▪ Stay with him knowing that this is who he is; that you are the main person in his life, if sometimes not the only; and that you get enough of what you need from this arrangement to be a partner to it, witting and willing. This may also be where you are right now, in your more candid moments with yourself.

▪ Or leave, not because you finally prove he’s cheating, but because, after giving him every chance to be an honest partner, his words remain just words and words aren’t enough.

Hard choices all. So talk to him, to people you trust, to a counselor. Whatever you settle on, though, it beats hosting this constant battle between what your heart wants and your gut is trying to say.

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