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Carolyn Hax: Show wife data on her affair

Wed., Feb. 25, 2009, midnight

Dear Carolyn: Here goes: Discovered wife was having a lengthy affair. She says it was with Guy X and that it’s over.

I believe it’s with Guy Y – and that it may not be over.

I base this on: extensive review of phone records, wherein Guy Y’s number makes up about 25 percent of all the calls; the time of the calls (always early morning when the wife goes to work, late afternoon when she leaves, and evenings/weekends when I’m out of the house); cross-referencing calls with Guy Y to dates that I’ve been able to confirm my wife rented a hotel room; the fact that Guy Y’s numbers were listed under Guy X’s initials on my wife’s phone contacts list; and a playlist named with Guy Y’s initials on her MP3 player.

Oh, and I’ve found nothing like this on Guy X – no phone calls, notes, e-mails, etc.

My question is: Do I tell Guy Y’s wife about my suspicions? I’m really conflicted. On the one hand, I feel like I’ve got enough information, despite all the denials, but on the other, I would hate to be wrong and create trouble in a marriage. – Really Confused

You have more than enough trouble in your own marriage to keep you busy.

In other words, if the outcome could be entirely within your control, what would you want to happen with your marriage? Separation, divorce, a full and abject confession, reconciliation, status quo?

The data-gathering phase may have given you a sense of purpose and solidity while your emotions were in free-fall. But data-gathering doesn’t stand alone as a goal; eventually you need to do something with it. Parachuting into this other marriage sounds like just another way to postpone addressing your own.

If you feel too lost to deal with it, too caught up in anger and pain and frustration, then there’s a sure way to narrow your choices: Show your wife what you’ve found, and see what you get. Even if her response offers you zero satisfaction, that can turn out to be the most useful answer of all. When you’re down to two choices – staying in the marriage on her terms, or leaving it on yours – it has a way of cutting through the emotional noise.

As for Guy Y’s wife, she’s a side issue, but an issue nonetheless. Some people believe firmly that such suspicions should be shared, as a matter of health. There are also those who resent the idea of hearing about their own marriage from any outsider besides, say, a close friend. If talking to your wife doesn’t resolve anything, you can walk the line with Wife Y by sharing only the hotel dates, thus allowing her at least to rule out, and possibly confirm, that her husband is seeing your wife.

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