Advice From the Trenches

Texting Treachery: Should this reader confront her husband?

Dear C and Dr. B;

My cell phone died and I had to text my daughter, so I borrowed my husband Paul’s phone – he’d left it in the car. I got the shock of my life when I saw my husband’s last message to a co-worker. The subject was “the smokin’ hot” new receptionist at their office, who apparently has “an ass that won’t quit.” The conversation goes on to describe what he’d like to do to her. His co-worker makes several suggestions that were downright obscene, and my husband responds with “if only!” and a drooling emoji. 

Now I don’t know what to do. It seemed more like locker room talk than an affair going on, but I have NEVER seen that side of Paul and it was seriously disturbing. Paul has been nothing but polite and friendly toward women in my presence. Now it looks like he turns into a sex crazed adolescent behind my back. What the hell? I’m torn between walking out – or flushing his head down the toilet. 

In Shock 

Dr. B says: Men and woman act differently when among groups of same-sex friends. Not all man talk follows Trump’s “Grabbing Pussies,”  but much does, just as many women, when among their peers, will compare “pull toys.” There is a difference between saying these things in the locker room and saying the same things publicly or on Facebook. The locker room involves gender-specific bonding. You describe your husband as fully appropriate socially, respectful to you and other women when he is with you or in public. If it is consistent, then it is true. It is also true that he is a male and of the human animal. What he does on his own time in privacy with his friends is really his business. I agree the culture will never be woke so long as these types of activities continue, but I am pretty sure the culture isn’t going to be fully woke in mine, yours or our grandkids lifetimes. Besides – reading his messages is a boundary violation and it is he who should be pissed at you.

C says: I see this in a very different light. Consistent social behavior isn’t necessarily “true.” It can also be nothing but a consistant act covering up a very different truth.

Back in the day, I played bass in a punk band, and I was skinny with muscular arms and a crew cut. I was often mistaken for a boy if I sat in the back of the dressing room and kept my mouth shut, so I would hear lots of guys act sweet as pie in front of their girlfriends, then talk crude trash about them behind their backs. True, a lot of it was just showing off, but I noticed something else – the men who were lewd and disrespectful behind closed doors also went through a lot of girlfriends – and the women they left behind had been hurt in the process because the guys didn’t really have any respect for them. The men who did NOT degrade women in private had better relationship outcomes, and although they didn’t criticize the men who bragged, neither did they join in.

People can’t express thoughts that they do not have. Sometimes talking trash is just a game people fall into under the influence of others, but if someone I knew was consistently respectful to Black people in social situations, but I overheard him using the n-word with his buddies, I wouldn’t write it off as “just being one of the guys.” I’d write it off as being a racist hypocrite. We all have different personalities we pull out depending on the company we are in. For instance, I would never express my true thoughts about Trump at a Proud Boys rally – I don’t have a death wish. But I would most certainly NOT chime in and mimic their opinions just to fit in. 

I’d sit down and have a good long talk with your husband and I wouldn’t worry that you accidentally “invaded his privacy.” You weren’t snooping through his pockets – in these days of social media, what we all say in private can easily become public domain. If Paul’s pissed that his privacy was invaded, I’d ask him this: “What if your daughter had found the texts?” Ya gotta wonder how he’d explain it to her.

Paul isn’t a swinging bachelor, he’s part of a family. Hold him accountable.

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