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by Abigail Van Buren

Husband's Double Life Online Leaves Wife Feeling Betrayed

DEAR ABBY: I am a 53-year-old woman who never thought she would be writing to you. I have been married 33 years. The past several years have not been the happiest.

I found out at the beginning of this year that, for the past several years, my husband has been talking online to gay men. He would be on the computer in our home office, supposedly working, while actually "instant messaging" someone. When I'd walk into the room, he would delete the instant message. This went on for several weeks.

I thought in the beginning that he was having an affair with a woman, so when he was gone one afternoon, I decided to log onto his laptop and investigate. That's when I found his "gay name" for himself, and lots of names on his buddy list. I wrote down all the names so I could look them up later.

For the next few months I followed him online. One time I even made up a gay name for myself, and he and I instant-messaged each other. I made copies of everything and finally confronted him.

He swore he never did anything but talk; he never met any of the men on his buddy list, or the ones he talked to online. However, when he and I messaged each other, he gave me the name of his hotel and the room number where he was staying. I asked him why. He said he was very unhappy in our marriage, because he didn't think I loved him anymore. He promised he would stop, and deleted everything from his computer. He even closed his private Internet access account and began using the one from our computer at home.

Today, while checking our e-mail, I found a message from a man on the buddy list saying he was sorry he missed my husband's call. I was going to delete it, but left it there to see what my husband would do. When I went back online, it had been deleted.

Abby, I don't know what to do. We should go to counseling, but he is rarely in town. -- BETRAYED WIFE IN TAMPA

DEAR BETRAYED: Make an appointment with your physician to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Although your husband is trying to blame his straying on you (the best defense is a good offense), do not accept it. While unhappily married men sometimes seek relationships outside of marriage, most of them do not do so with other men. Your husband is bisexual, and how long he has been cheating is anybody's guess.

You should definitely get professional counseling. If your husband cannot or will not get it with you, I urge you to go alone. It will help you to decide whether your marriage is worth continuing, knowing what you now know about your spouse.