Marriage has porous borders

Dear Amy: 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 that I read his messages, and we talked about it. He said that he no longer considers her “a friend.”

I am still reading his messages because I don’t trust him, and today I read a reply from him to her where he said he would “love to see her.” He hasn’t told me about it. Hmmm. They aren’t friends? I don’t believe him.

We have a close and intimate partnership otherwise, and I never make him feel unsafe with his issues.

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. What now?

— Upset Wife

Dear Wife: Your husband isn’t the only member of your household who has boundary issues. Your own choice to continue to violate his privacy is leaping over an important personal boundary that is affecting your relationship. Stop it.

Yes, he erred when he confided in his friend at work about your relationship and private life. His choice to do that denotes the possible first stages of an “emotional affair,” fostering emotional intimacy with someone other than his spouse.

Not to excuse his choice, but you might ask yourself why your husband confided in someone else when he was going through a tough time. You don’t mention what inspired you to monitor his communication in the first place, but you must explore how your behavior might be connected with his. You suggest that your relationship is otherwise great, but a next step might be for you to admit that — right now — it isn’t.

You are both vulnerable. Your husband “can’t be honest” with you and you can’t seem to be honest with him. You aren’t the bad guy here, but maybe he isn’t, either.

Honesty entails more than just admitting that you caught him doing something you don’t want him to do. Tell him that you would like to work as an equal, flawed, and vulnerable partner to rebuild trust — together.

You are each in therapy; you should definitely be in therapy together. Perhaps his therapist would agree to let you sit in for a session in order to communicate about this openly and in a mediated discussion.

Dear Amy: I was lucky enough to meet my spouse on a dating site.

We’ve enjoyed 11 years together (married for eight), and we are still going strong, even as the pandemic rolls along and we are together 24/7.

Here are my tips for online dating, passed on to me by all my other friends who did it before me:

Don’t give them your address or phone number if you can avoid it until you meet in person.

Meet in public and tell them you have an event later, so you have an “out” if you need it.

You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.

Don’t give up! The right one is out there!

– Met my Match on OKC

Dear Met my Match: I appreciate your tips.

During my own phase of online matching, I reframed the experience by thinking of it as “practice.” This seemed to turn down the anxiety-volume enough for me to simply embrace meeting new people.

Dear Amy: I share your column regularly with my 11-year-old daughter.

She also happens to be a fashionista, and after reading the question from “Copied,” who was annoyed by her co-worker copying all of her outfits, my daughter suggested this solution: Why not do the nicest thing and offer to take this woman shopping?

Help her find and develop her OWN style. She is clearly trying to fit in, and has not had any assistance. This way both women gain!

– Shopping in California

Dear Shopping: I’ve received a high volume of responses to this question — most of them agreeing with your daughter: This presents an opportunity to be nice.