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Monday, May 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Examine motive for sneaking

By Carolyn Hax Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: Due to the marvels of Internet an old friend contacted me online. I have not seen him in 25 years. Although we dated for a short time in our teens, we were friends for several years after. We lost touch when I married and moved away.

We agreed to meet for a drink, talk, share old photos, etc. There was no mention or hint of romance in the “etc.” and none anticipated. I have always been faithful and take my commitment to remain so seriously.

I told my husband about the contact when it first occurred, but unfortunately I did not tell him as plans to meet evolved. It was always my intention to tell him, I just never found the right moment. A few days prior to the planned get-together my husband found out on his own while using my computer. As a result he thinks I lied, and although it didn’t feel like it at the time, he’s right.

He was extremely upset and told me flat-out that if I did not agree to ending communication that he would move out. I agreed, and I feel awful. I love my husband, but I also miss my old friend. I will not go back on my word, but I’m feeling controlled and that my husband is being unreasonable. Can you see an amicable outcome here? – D.

By “amicable,” I’m afraid you mean “fairy tale.” You want your husband to cool off, apologize for overreacting, accept your apology and explanation, and send you off to see your friend with his blessing.

I don’t see that happening. Not with this husband, and not with this friend.

While his threat to move out (!) was an overreaction, I can certainly see why your husband feared an affair; regardless of what kind of “etc.” you had in mind, you were arranging to meet a former love behind your current love’s back.

As it happens, though, your insistence that you had no intention of being unfaithful is credible. That’s because unfaithfulness isn’t the only reason people sneak. Sometimes, they sneak because they expect someone to misread their motives, disapprove and shut them down – and they fear both the sting of disapproval and the emotional confinement of being told what to do. Imagine a child sneaking candy to dodge strict parents.

Some people develop this habit in a restrictive adult relationship; sometimes they carry it into adult relationships from childhood.

So I’m thinking you “never found the right moment” because there was no such thing. You expected your husband would freak.

The only question – which only you can answer – is whether you correctly anticipated his reaction because you (1) know he’s possessive/jealous/controlling; (2) were feeling some romantic twinges; (3) underestimated him, and his anger reflects secret-fatigue; (4) a blend of the above.

The candy-sneaking dynamic, as it happens, inflates both the appeal of the thing one is sneaking off to do, and the perceived obstacles to being honest. If your husband is normally secure and trusting, then severing the tie to your old friend closes the issue properly, however sadly.

But if this is just the latest episode of your life as facade-keeper, for whatever reason, then please give careful thought to other ways you’ve gone “underground” to toe some invisible line.

Chat with Hax online at 9 a.m. Pacific time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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