Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Why Is My Husband Lying To Me About His “Friend”?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m looking for some perspective. My husband of 13 years is having boundary issues with a colleague. They became close when he had a depressive episode last year and confided in her instead of me. He said a lot of things to her that made me uncomfortable, including comments about our relationship and our finances. I read his messages and have proof. I confessed to him what I saw and we had a talk and he now says he “doesn’t consider her a friend”. Yet, today he is having lunch with her, because he “would love to see” her (yes, I am still reading his messages because I don’t trust him) and hasn’t told me about it.

People who don’t consider someone their friend don’t say things like that.

We have a close and intimate partnership otherwise, and he frequently tells me that I never make him feel unsafe with his issues. But he has also white-lied to me in other little ways when it was totally unnecessary. I know they don’t have a physical relationship, but I am sick of being lied to and don’t understand why he can’t just be open with me.

We both have therapists but can’t afford therapy together. I feel like I’ve already done the nuclear option and now I don’t know what else to do. I also know what I am doing is very bad but I can’t just stop, knowing all this. I don’t like being an undercover agent but I also need to protect myself. What now?


DEAR PARANOID: Well you asked, but I don’t think you’re gonna like the answer.

I don’t think your husband is the one with boundary issues here, Paranoid. Pretty sure the person snooping through his messages and keeping tabs of his relationships with other people is the one who’s having issues with boundaries.

Why is your husband confiding in someone besides you? Well… because sometimes folks need to talk to someone besides their partner. It’s good to have friends outside of your marriage, including emotionally close, intimate friendships. After all, one person can’t and shouldn’t be all things to someone else. Even under the best of circumstances, that puts an intolerable strain on the entire relationship. Sometimes what a person needs is a sympathetic ear with someone who isn’t also neck-deep in their problems or concerns. Especially if their partner is part of the concerns. People have a right to talk with their friends about their relationships, especially if they need to vent or get an outside perspective. The same goes for their finances. If he has worries and wants to discuss things with somebody who might have a fresh perspective — or who he hasn’t gone round and round about them before with no resolution — then it’s entirely understandable that he’d talk to his friend about it.

Why has he lied about her “not being a friend”? Well… because frankly, it’s because you were snooping and telling him not to have perfectly normal and acceptable conversations with his friend. He’s lying to smooth your ruffled feathers and try to keep the peace while also maintaining a friendship that’s clearly important to him. The fact that you’re upset about it — especially when you know that they’re not crossing boundaries or getting physical — is the bigger issue here than “he has a friend of the opposite sex”. He’s trying to appease you while maintaining a friendship that provides emotional support. The reason why he’s lying about it is because, frankly, from this end of things it seems like you’re getting upset about it to a degree that doesn’t seem warranted. Like, at all.

But there’s also the fact that you are continuing to violate his privacy by snooping on him and his messages. That, quite frankly, is a much bigger violation of trust than the fact that he has a friend. If you don’t trust him — even knowing that there’s nothing untoward going on — that’s on you and something YOU need to be working on, not him. Because, straight talk: what you’re doing isn’t going to save your marriage or fix things. Your monitoring him and snooping in his messages isn’t going to stop him from cheating if he were going to cheat. What it will do is drive him the f--k away… quite possibly even into the arms of someone else who isn’t violating his privacy or giving him s--t about perfectly acceptable behavior.

If you can’t work on your own lack of trust, your unwillingness to STOP invading his privacy and to not treat “having a friend” as some huge sin, then your marriage is going to come to a screeching halt and no amount of spying and snooping is going to save it.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m not exactly one for reaching out for help on the internet (or in general), but at this point I’ll take advice wherever I can get it.

As you can probably tell, this isn’t my area of expertise. I’ve had very little experience with dating despite the fact that I’m heading into the second half of my twenties.

Recently, after a few months of building up courage and trying not to psych myself out, I finally asked out a girl I liked, and she said yes.

For about a month, things were going pretty great. It wasn’t anything serious, but we were having a good time. Until one night, I screwed everything up. I had an awkward moment where I accidentally said something that basically implied I thought some other girl we know was “out of my league.” I apologized for it, and she sad it was alright, but after that she seemed to sour on the whole thing and decided to call it off.

That was two months ago, and I cannot seem to let it go. I tried apologizing more, and asking her to give me another chance (which probably hurt more than it helped), but she said that she just wants to be “friends”. I want to respect that, but I just can’t stop beating myself up over the way things ended. I know it was barely a month-long relationship, but I feel like any confidence I had has been completely shattered by this experience. (It’s not helped by the fact that I still have to see spend five hours once a week in the same room as her at work). Common sense says I have to move on, but that just seems so difficult right now.

Any advice?

Foot In Mouth Disease

DEAR FOOT IN MOUTH DISEASE: here’s what happened, FIMD: you accidentally told your girlfriend that her biggest plus was that she was attainable. That is pretty decidedly not what women want to hear from someone they’re dating; there’s little that’s less romantic than being told “well, you’re the best I could get.”

Not really surprising that she didn’t want to keep seeing you afterwards. But all the apologizing and begging for another chance? That’s not helping. Begging’s not a good look on anyone to begin with, and you’re going so overboard with your apologies that it’s starting to be about you, not about the fact that you insulted her. You’re no longer trying to make amends, you’re making a spectacle of yourself by demanding that she forgive you because you need it. I’m not exactly surprised she’s not chomping at the bit to see you again.

So what do you do? Well you start working on your social intelligence by letting this go. Seriously man, constantly dwelling on it and indulging in this self-flagellation isn’t helpful. It’s the emotional equivalent of Dobby beating himself because he got Harry Potter’s Starbucks order wrong. It’s awkward for everyone around you and it’s counterproductive. You said something stupid. It sucks, but it happens, especially when you’re relatively new to dating. Jamming your foot deep down your mouth is part of the learning process. Beating yourself up over a rookie mistake just means you’re never going to get better. You have to be willing to accept that yes, you f--ked up and resolve not to make the same mistake in the future.

Here’s the phrase you need to repeat to yourself: it is what it is. You made a mistake. It sucks, but it is what it is. Now it’s time to cowboy up, dust yourself off and learn from it. 

Good luck.

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