Dear Dr. Jory,
My husband and I have been together seven years, married for five. Yesterday, Matt sat me down, took out his phone, and showed me a top-less, bra-less nudie of a woman who works in his company. He says he didn’t ask her to send it and was shocked to get it. He admits he sat next to her at an after-work office get-together and had been “maybe too flirtatious.” He showed me the messages and they were more cozy than I would have liked, but nothing overtly sexual. Little innuendoes. It did seem that the nudie kinda came out of nowhere with the caption, “Just so you know what you’re missing.” Matt responded, “Please don’t send me pictures like that,” and their chat ended on that note.
Matt says he came to me because we have a “total honesty” policy and he wanted to honor our relationship and not keep secrets. After our talk, Matt deleted the conversation and blocked her number with me watching. He doesn’t want to turn her in at work, and promised no further contact with her except what is necessary to get the job done.
Matt is an attractive guy (that’s why I scooped him up), and I can picture women lusting after him with little effort on his part. But another part of me has a hard time believing this woman would have sent this pic without his encouragement.
Dr. Jory, is Matt a hero for coming clean or did I let him off too easy?
Signed, Queasy Stomach
You and Matt are both heroes for having the total honesty policy in the first place. Deceptions and secrets wreck relationships more than infidelity. Honesty is the best policy even when the truth hurts.
Maybe Matt made a mistake, but that doesn’t mean he is a mistake. You have to let the total honesty policy do its job to make you stronger together. If all is on the up and up, the policy is already working: Matt reigned in something that could have spiraled out of control. I suspect he knew the further he went with this woman, the more he would have to confess, so he nipped it in the bud. That doesn’t make him a hero, but it does make him a loyal partner—one worth keeping around. Hopefully.
As for you, Queasy, only time will tell. Matt could be lying—he wouldn’t be the first to concoct a cover story for cheating. You have to decide whether to trust him or not. Trusting him doesn’t make you stupid, but trusting him blindly might. Keep your eyes open. If he cheats in the future, you’re not the stupid one—he is. If he is smart, he learned something from this and your bond will strengthen. Keep talking about what happened and why. Try to understand it. Stay in a constant state of learning about one another. When the learning stops, so does the love.
— Dr. Jory
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About Brian Jory, Ph.D.
Brian Jory is the Director of the Family Studies Program at Berry College, near Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and has dedicated his career to counseling couples, teaching about intimacy, researching relationships.
He is the author of “Cupid on Trial – What We Learn About Love When Loving Gets Tough,” and has been featured on numerous television shows, blogs, and podcasts including Bustle, Romper, Elite Daily, NBC, PBS, and Good Sex, Bad Sex.