The following conversation occurred in the Save My Marriage private Facebook group. All identifying information has been removed.

“I thought things were going really well with my husband and I… then this morning he forgot his phone and this is what I found…. What do I do? Do I confront him and take a thousand steps back, do I ask him if he’s got something going on and play dumb or do I leave it alone and work like crazy to keep him? She’s in Colorado…

In my mind he’s had 2 affairs already. Both were via text/email. None of them got physical…but I see this ending very badly. However, he has a tendency to pick people to “cheat” on me with that he knows won’t get physical. Like this one – we are in one midwest state and she is in a completely different one, so he thinks it’s safe. And of course most of the messages were from a few weeks ago, when we were still very questionable.

Since that time, he has come back home. The only messages he sent since coming home were telling the other woman that he was starting his day shift “tomorrow.” Of course he followed it up with “being able to see you again might be easier” and asked if that is something she would like. She said it would be nice and he said, “Yes. Very nice.” I’m so lost and torn.

Joe Beam what advice do you have for me, as a man who has been there? This week has been really good for us. We are spending a lot of time together, talking, laughing, and he’s working his new schedule out to go on vacation with us at the end of the month. It seems like he’s really trying – but also maybe wanting to keep this thing going with the old flame on the side.”

As we always say, you have to make your own decision as to what to do.

If I understand correctly what you wrote above, the offending texts were written weeks before you found them when he left his phone at home. I assume that means that you looked through his phone and that’s how you found them. In other words, the texts weren’t there on the screen so that you inadvertently saw them. You searched through the phone. That actually makes a difference.

Our experience working with couples indicates that if he feels you were snooping and invading his privacy, the conversation won’t be about the things they wrote but about you going through his phone. If that occurs, usually only bad things happen. The focus moves from what he/she wrote to what you did and things degenerate quickly. We often tell people that if they choose to take actions such as planting a GPS in the car, secretly looking through emails or phone, and the like, they should be ready to divorce because those actions rarely lead to making things better and typically make things worse.

If you had stumbled across the texts innocently – you picked up his phone that he left and there those texts were right on the screen – then asking him about them would be in order. Even then, I would suggest that it not be in the form of an attack “I CAUGHT YOU” but in the form of personal hurt “I didn’t mean to see this and it hurts that I did.” That can lead to the person not responding in defensiveness but in compassion to your hurt.

Again, if I read correctly what you wrote, you say that the texts were sent before matters between the two of you began to improve. That’s significant. If it were I, I would not mention the texts and keep everything moving in the positive direction you now have. Later, when your marriage is better, some of the other issues you mentioned will very likely need to be dealt with (his not viewing texting as cheating, etc.) but I suggest you leave those to a time when the relationship between the two of you is much stronger.

And I end as I began. It is your choice as to how to proceed. None of us can tell you what to do. May God grant you wisdom and courage.

Someone else chimed in:
And he said “to start seeing you again?” That’s definitely cheating! I’d text her and let her know he’s your husband!

My response to that:
There’s an old adage, “Do you want to win the battle or win the war?” I think that definitely applies here.

Contacting the other woman or making an issue out of this under the circumstances would have a very strong possibility of stopping progress and ending this marriage. If he is involved with this woman still – remember those messages were BEFORE things got better with the husband- then it will come out and should be dealt with then. Bringing them up now – after they’ve made progress since the texts were sent – will very likely create a firestorm.

I understand hurt and anger. However, we always suggest people think 10-10-10. How are you going to feel about this – and what will the consequences be – in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years? Popping her or him might make you feel like you won, but for how long? Will you in 10 months wish that you had focused on the progress made after the texts rather than moving backward and focusing on the texts?

She has to make her own decision. You are free to share your opinion, just as am I. I truly hope she focuses on the present and not throw a bomb into this over what they texted before he started moving in the right direction in his marriage.

What Can You Learn From This?

1. Don’t Snoop!

If you don’t walk away with anything else, at least remember this: snooping brings more harm than good. It seems that the main reason that people snoop is to soothe their own conscience. “Is my spouse doing something he or she is not supposed to?”

First, if your marriage is rocky and/or your spouse is straying, then likely your spouse is doing something he or she is not supposed to. If you snoop and find something bad, it will only taint your stance on standing for your marriage and make things harder. If you snoop and find nothing, it could lead to false hope as well. The only time that “spying” on your spouse is appropriate is during the reconciliation/accountability stage of saving your marriage, or if you and your spouse are doing well and have agreed that both of you can look freely through the others belongings.

2. Think long-term, not short-term

In the short-term, when finding out surprising information, you may be likely to respond in an attacking and defensive state. Don’t trust your gut reaction. Take some time to take deep breaths, think about what has happened, and arrange a long-term plan that will help you save your marriage, not make it worse.

3. Be careful who you listen to

People mean well. However, some people want you to react the way that they have reacted in the past. Many times…that does not lead people down a helpful road. Be careful who you seek advice from. More importantly, be careful how much advice you seek.