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Retired Husband Slips Into Online Relationship

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I have been married to my husband for seven years. He recently retired from the military. He is pretty typical -- multiple deployments and overseas posts during his career, previously married. 

My husband was single for many years prior to our marriage and like most military, and men in general probably, spent time online chatting with women. I recently came across a conversation that he had with an old friend of a sexual nature. 

I am overly sensitive to these types of things due to a prior civilian relationship. I do not see any signs of a physical relationship outside our marriage but am obviously concerned about the online conversation. 

There is no evidence that this has been going on for very long; I believe that it is very recent and addressed it immediately. I outlined that I had serious concerns and that he had lost my trust. 

I told him that I believed he might have a problem and that we needed to explore this issue. If this was something that he needed, then we should separate because I would never be OK with it. I would prefer to end things as friends for the sake of our two-year-old son. 

I love my husband and am committed to working through this issue if he is. I truly believe that we can get through anything and can't imagine spending my life without him. 

But hard work in a relationship requires both sides to participate. My husband apologized and admitted that he fell back into old habits and was stupid. 

I have done extensive counseling in my life and suggested that approach. He has done none and is not comfortable with it. He would like to work through it ourselves if possible, and has asked me to make a list of things that he can do to earn back my trust.

I believe that these types of things grab ahold of men especially. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on books, resources, etc. that are alternatives to counseling. I don't feel that just making a list is sufficient in addressing the issue.

I don't know if this is an addiction or a momentary lapse, and I'm not sure if he even understands himself. I appreciate your thoughts and/or suggestions.

Sincerely,
Melanie

Dear Melanie,

I can see why you would be concerned. There are many relationships that are started online with a little chit-chat here and there. The next thing you know, the two people are hooking up.

I won’t say your husband has an addiction because he is doing something that is so common given our culture of social networking. I applaud you for trying to set some boundaries with your husband and online chatting with other women.

Your husband has to realize that it’s unacceptable to have conversations with other women in person or online that have a sexual tone or one that causes you to question his honesty. Hopefully, it won’t happen again and was a temporary lapse in judgment on his part.

I respect that you believe in seeking therapy or counseling. There are many servicemembers who agree to therapy, and I know many who have initiated therapy with me.

Your husband is not at this point yet. He may indeed believe that your concerns can be resolved as a couple and without a therapist, and they could. On the other hand, you can still visit with a therapist on your own for support and insight.

Your husband has made a big transition with retirement. It can leave men feeling a loss of importance, a loss of self-esteem and a lack of self-worth. Your husband should know that he may be feeling vulnerable right now, and he could be chatting with other women to make him feel important.

In the meantime, you cannot become the checker and start checking his every move to make sure he is not falling back to his old behavior. Checking will make you lose your self-esteem and I wouldn’t want that. If your marriage is going to work, you have to trust him until he proves you wrong.

Lastly, I have seen many marriages survive these concerns and emerge stronger. This is no reason to throw in the towel.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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