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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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My husband went on a business trip with a female coworker

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My husband went on a business trip with a female coworker that I knew he really got along well with and enjoyed his working relationship with her. It's a trip he takes every year and many coworkers go, but he and this particular woman were going 1 day ahead of the others so they could be in time for a meeting the next day with a customer. The day before the trip, I noticed some things that were different from the norm - he was lifting weights, he seemed to be checking himself out in the mirror shirtless, etc. Small things but they caught my attention. Earlier he told me the 2 of them would be going to dinner and a show and I said I was fine with it but to be careful how it could appear, that it could appear like a date. He insisted it wouldn't - just a "thank you" to her and he would "put it through" on his expense report. He had taken his secretary and another employee out to dinner and a show the year before. It would be easy for him to find someone he knew who also got there early, so I suggested he bring a customer so it would't appear inappropriate. He said, "I don't think anyone will know." several times. This gave me the creeps. He insisted he couldn't expense more than just the 2 of them, which is hard to believe when they spend so much on those trips.
So all this led me to feel uneasy, I spoke to him about it on the phone when he was there and he angrily offered to cancel on her, but that he had already bought the tickets, etc.. I was torn. I felt like a crazy, accusing person, so I said for them to go ahead and please don't mention this to her.
I knew where he was staying so I ended up calling his hotel room at a time that would be 6 hours after he went out to dinner. No answer - left a message. I called his cell phone and he answered with a panicky voice. He seemed to be shocked at hearing from me. I don't usually call late when he is on a business trip. I asked him what he was doing, etc. And his panic voice did not subside. He was saying, "I can talk. I can talk..." and his answers were clipped. I asked him if he was in his room and he said yes. UGH. So I chatted for about 5 minutes then hung up and quickly called the hotel room again. No answer. So I left a message and said, "I was just talking to you and you're not there - BUSTED." He called me back about 5 minutes after that and I did not answer the phone. He left 2 messages.
He called relentlessly the next day and wrote me emails insisting that "nothing bad happened" and "I can explain the fib". I did not speak to him until the following day. He insisted that he "fibbed" that he was in his room but he was in the elevator bank saying goodnight to his co-worker. He said I called right at that moment. He said the only reason he lied was because I sounded angry and he panicked and he didn't want her to know I sounded angry, didn't want to make her uncomfortable. I wanted to believe him but was really confused. I remembered I had access to his work email, so I went and looked at it. UGH. Quite a few flirtatious emails between the 2 of them over several months. Nothing really incriminating though, but inappropriate for a business relationship. Too cozy and close feeling.
After he returned, somehow we reconciled for a week or 2 and things were pretty good. I felt that whatever it was, it was over. But I couldn't let go of that panicky voice I heard and I kept telling him there was no reason to lie to me. Why didn't he say, "We just got back, I'll call you in a minute when I'm back at my room."? I just said I want to believe you but things don't make sense to me. In the meantime, he confessed he had been unhappy for a long time; he was having doubts if he married the right person because we were fighting a lot; he couldn't talk to me because it always turned into a fight; I knew how he felt because he had told me "we're done" when we argued a little while before the trip; he had confessed his despair over our relationship to a male friend many months before; he had confided in several female co-workers. I was deeply hurt. I felt like he had a lot of secrets and he was keeping his real feelings from me for years. He insisted he couldn't talk to me.
So finally, I made him swear on his children's lives that he was telling me everything, which he did. Then he felt guilty, moped around one day all day, and confessed that night that there was a reason why he his voice was panicky and he lied. He said he was actually giving his co-worker a backrub when I called and had just told her that he didn't want to do that in the hall, so if she wanted to come to his room, he would do it there. UGH UGH UGH. I have been in a tailspin ever since.
We are seeing a counselor but he insists that he meant nothing more than a backrub. I
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.

Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

The real issue is that your husband is cheating on you---slowly revealing the details of it. Whether he and the co-worker had sex may be immaterial because it is clearly an emotional affair ('of the heart'). He was doing sexual/emotional things with another woman that he promised he would only do with you when you agreed to marry. Also, when a man confides to female coworkers that he is having a rough spot in his marriage this is often an advertisement that he is open to the idea of receiving 'female consolation' from someone other than his wife.

So it is a good thing you are going to counseling to try to repair this marriage. You are not stupid and in all probability, put all of the clues together in a proper and accurate manner. Almost no man will outright tell the truth about what really happens in these situations, but will fudge, maybe disclose enough to appease their wife and affirm her fears, but knowing that they have to admit to at least some things in order to quiet their discontent. What sorts of things are you now working on in couples therapy? Is there a specific question I can answer for you?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you so much for the quick reply. I am seeking individual counseling as well because I basically don't believe my husband now. Because he lied originally, I am doubtful that I know everything or ever will. The counselor we are seeing now keeps saying to me, "But does it make a difference?You still want to work things out, right?" and this is frustrating to me. I have said several times I need to know the truth. My husband insists he did not have an emotional affair or any other affair. He is annoyed at me for not believing him. He says I am asking the same questions over and over and that he has already answered them. I say his actions (backrub offer) were outside our marriage vows, he says not because you can pay for a backrub so is that cheating? I am desperate for answers and find my self obsessively checking his email, etc.
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.

Nonsense, of course he had an emotional affair. Giving other women backrubs, offering to do it in one's motel room is cheating. How do you know? He would NEVER consider doing these behaviors with you present!!! If the woman needed a backrub, there are licensed massage therapists at every hotel who will do a better job than a co-worker. Also, if it was purely innocent, he would have offered to do the backrub in public, down by the swimming pool or gym area----not in a hotel room.

The best test of what constitutes cheating with another women? Saying or doing things you would not be proud to have your spouse see you do with someone else. Certainly, you will never know whether he had sex with the co-worker. he won't divulge any more details of what happened. It was clear that he didn't want other co-workers to know they were spending one-on-one time together, and attempted to keep this fact a secret. In summary, as I said before, you are most certainly not naive and stupid; you are sensitive to picking up obvious clues when something isn't right; you have sound intuition, and you put together accurately the fact that he was doing things with another woman he would NEVER have wanted you to know he did. You are also smart enough to realize that you will never know how far the relationship went. I think a key worry of yours is whether it is continuing, however, is it not? A rule of thumb to follow if of course, to not base future trust on anything your husband says, but on what he DOES. In other words, if he is going to win back your trust, it would seem that he has to engage in enough trustworthy behavior to convince you over the next couple of years that he is worthy of your trust---he has to earn your trust through his actions. What sorts of actions would, to your satisfaction, help to prove he is trustworthy? For instance, some women would place high value on what could be called 'transparency' actions i.e., no secret accounts, passwords, subscriptions, web site memberships, money management, etc. Everything is 100% open to review and discussion with one's spouse. No more one-on-one trips for business; the guy takes his wife along instead, or there are always three along on the trip with the men or the women rooming together, and with all non-work contacts being group contacts/activities e.g., dinners, meals, etc. I think you see what I'm getting at. If a man is sincere in trying to build trust, he won't balk terrifically at these behaviors. A guy who wants to maintain privacy and cheating "options" will fight such suggestions, and displace the 'blame'onto the spouse i.e., they refusing to try to trust, are being unreasonable, are invading my 'personal space' excessively, etc. What do you think?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

The real issue is part of me wants to move forward with my husband but I am not able to until I feel I have been told the truth. But how will I ever know if I have all the facts?

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.

You probably won't ever know the truth, unfortunately. But, I realize I'm just offering you words here----there will come a point where you will realize for yourself that you may never know whether there is more to the story than what he has told you. What the heck do you do with that quandry? This is a very big conflict for you. I think you'd like to 'move forward' on the one hand, but on the other, on what basis can you move forward if you don't know the truth? I think this is the main conflict you are experiencing---rolling around in your head, is it not? I understand how frustrated you probably feel because you experienced him lying in the midst of his episode of the misbehavior. I hope you can take some time to have an internal 'debate' with yourself about this conflict---one train of thought says, 'you'll never know the truth so if you want the marriage to continue, you'd better move on; and the conflicting train of thought says, 'for my emotional and mentlal well-being, I've just got to know the truth or I don't know if I can 'move on'!" How are you struggling to reconcile this conflictt? What is happening inside your head about this? What do you think?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
i was checking my email instead of here, so i missed the previous comment before I replied)Well, I asked God for a sign of what to do a few weeks back. I said, The next word I think of will come from his mouth tomorrow if I should move forward with him. The word was 'balloon'. Nothing happened the next day. The day after that we were driving home from swim lessons for our kids, driving along a road I drive on every day and we came upon a giant, colorful hot air balloon being blown up in a field! After we pulled over to watch it inflate, I burst into tears because I remembered what I had asked. But now I am trying to move forward but feel stuck because of what my gut is telling me - that he will never be totally honest with me. I'm trying to force myself to move on, but failing mentally.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I have asked him for access to his work credit card. He said yes, he has nothing to hide. I asked for passwords to his frequent flyer accounts b/c the statements don't come here - found nothing suspicious. I check his cell phone texts, but he admitted he deletes them. He just told me the other day, that I'm going to be mad because he's going to the Houston Rodeo in 2 weeks because of a business meeting. It came up at the last minute. I told him I'm uneasy and it hurts my feelings that he would go on an optional trip while we are dealing with these issues. I felt it was optional because I found the email where he was invited, and the prupose of the trip was to go to the rodeo, then they later added a quick meeting earlier in the day. The emails showed he replied yes in December, so it didn't come up at the last minute, as he said.
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.

First, if there is a 'smoking gun' to be found, it will be in the text messages he deleted. You should talk to the internet service provider and try to get copies of the text messages for the 1-2 weeks prior to his last business trip, as well as the week afterward. If his work pays his cell service, you may be out of luck, but might still insist that your husband have the service provider mail the deleted texts to you directly from their offices. Service providers will tell you they can' retrieve deleted text messages but believe me, they can; you can tell them you'll pay them a fee if necessary to retrieve them. Talk to upper supervisors, and management at the cell phone offices if necessary to get some action.

I got your last two posts and upon reading them, wish to spend some time thinking about them before I respond again. I'll write back tonight or tomorrow a.m., if that is o.k. with you.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
That is fine. I appreciate your helpful words. I had the exact same idea about the text messages, but yes, his phone is a company phone but it is Verizon so I may be in luck. I'll check later.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Also wanted you to know that when I'm with him, I feel like I still love him most times as long as we are not talking about the issues. Then we fight like cats and dogs. But I have to admit, I feel better when we are together doing regular things. I feel that he is trying to move us forward, together as quickly as possible. I do not sense that he is continuing the cheating or is conflicted about her at this point. And my checking of emails, etc. is lining up with what he tells me now.

Some items of concern...after the business trip, his admin assistant has transferred to another department. He says her reason was "she didn't feel like part of the team". I know and like her and don't suspect any trouble there but I believe if he was having an affair she would know because she does his expense reports, travel booking, etc. and she seems pretty perceptive to me. Also, the affair co-worker just asked to be transferred as well. He says her reasons are it would make life easier for HIM (she knows I'm upset, but he says she thinks what happened is no big deal) and she has to work with some difficult people in her current job.

Some other random facts: a month or two before the trip, he told me that she was being a pain, very needy (work wise). Shortly after that, he said she told him she has an illness and that she has about 4 years to live. I really hadn't had a bad thought about her until he told me this. I just thought she sounded like an overly ambitious or possibly manipulative person, but I also thought it could be true. I had forgotten about it but he brought it up the day before the trip, saying sometimes he wondered if she was playing him but if he doubted her, he'd look callous. rambling on...

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
Your posts suggest that you are in fact, very slowly trying to 'move on'. Your husband sounds as if he is working to prove to you that he isn't going to see this other woman any longer on a social basis. It is a very wise thing for her to transfer to another department; I would suspect as you do, that his admin asst. is transferring at least in part, because she would rather not get caught in the middle of any extra-curricular relations, have to possibly act in ways that supported it, etc. So the departure of these two women may sort of 'wipe the slate clean' for your husband at work; I hope he recognizes how fortunate he is that nothing significant came of this so far; after all, it would only take one woman to complain that she had a relationship with him, and then he did something to offend her or not cooperate with her wishes; and, she could have easily filed a retaliation or sexual harassment complaint against him. Your husband probably realizes (at least one would hope) that such a relationship is deadly to one's career, if it progresses.

IMO, your husband is exiting this relationship in a very lucky, fortunate state, and again, I hope he realizes it. I also think you are smart enough to attempt to normalize your relationship, but to 'trust but verify' everything. I wish you luck in obtaining the erased text messages; you might want to talk to a private detective if you are strongly desirous of getting them. They can usually figure out how to do such things. I believe you realize that there won't be any quick or easily relief or final resolution of this matter---frankly, it will probably take several years of very consistent, trustworthy behavior on your husband's part to very gradually win back your trust. I think you probably realize this and are gradually coming to accept the need to simply be very, very patient, willing to take minor emotional risks, but again, 'trust but verify' as much as you can. If you become suspicious in the future, you can take some additional steps such as place a GPS tracking device in your family car and monitor where it travels, how long it stops at particular addresses, etc. You can temporarily pull the unit from a hidden location e.g., in the trunk, download the info from the unit every few days and recharge the batteries, and resume tracking. I think the more 'tools' you feel you have to glean the truth going forward, the more secure you will start to feel. There are dozens of internet sites that can educate you about the technology that is available if you really want to know something about your husband's activities.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Feel free to share some or all if this exchange with your husband if you feel it might be helpful. And let me know if I can be of help or support in the future. Please hit the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
Dr. Michael and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hello Just wanted to give you an update....I was miraculasly able to find a few texts on my husbands phone from several months ago. Even though they were deleted, I could see about 5 texts from her during their trip together. Of course, nothing definitive and I couldn't see what he had written back, but didn't look good either. The night I saw was the last night they were away and at this point with other co-workers. I had previously seen an email where she had said "sorry about last night" and when I questioned my husband he said it was because he had gone back to the hotel and she was texting him to stay out and have drinks with a few of them. The texts from her said, "He left" "You suck" "Actually u dont suck. You are awesome. Thank you. I really mean that." "Im in my room" "She was awful" "Huh, what means alot to u? Saving u from the beast."

So, cant really tell anything but nervous about her saying she was in her room. I tried not to say anything but blurted out that I had seen these in our counseling yesterday. He just shrugs his shoulders and has a quick nonsensical explantion for everything, or says he cant remember.

Its clear he will never tell me the truth so I guess I have try to stop dwelling on it. I am praying that God will guide me in the right path to take. I don't feel he is doing anything now, just obsessed at getting the truth from him about what happened. Making myself sick over this.

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
You are correct; there isn't a true 'smoking gun' text message here. The one that strikes me as most worrisome is her declaration that, "I'm in my room". That is an overt invitation to him to visit her in her room----again; women don't say such things unless they are open to sharing some intimate time with someone. Additionally, it is pretty clear that the texts go well beyond what co-workers say to one another as they are quite personal, though not overtly romantic in content. I think where you sit on this is that you at least have good evidence that this woman has strong, personal feelings toward your husband. Co-workers DO NOT give one another back rubs in hotel rooms if they are merely co-workers.

So you may want to tell your husband that based on his behavior and the text messages you have read, you have now resigned yourself to the idea that he in the least, he has had a fairly significant emotional affair with another woman---the evidence seems inescapable to you. This will communicate to him that after all is said and done, you carry with you some concerns about his trustworthiness and honesty. You don't have to say anything more about it at after this. Don't explain, don't justify or defend how or why you concluded this. I would simply let him carry around the message in his mind that, "My wife has pretty much figured this out and doesn't trust me at this time"; if he is a halfway decent guy, he will then make plans to do things to try to reassure you that he is devoted to you.

You cannot change history. So I guess the big question for you is HOW to trust this guy again---as I noted before he really needs to understand that his words mean little and that he needs to be DOING things to demonstrate trust over the next few years, actually. Another thing that you can yet say to him is that, "It is a certainty that based on the behavior that accompanied the sorts of text messages I've seen, and your behavior on this trip with this woman, your colleagues at work more or less believe you've been having an affair with this woman. You've probably damaged your reputation at work, so you will have to live with that consequence". Be sure you DO NOT explain why you think this or justify your statement. Just leave him to worry and grapple with the suggestion. Presumably, he will revisit some worries e.g., "has anyone seen me do anything, and if so, what might they have seen that looked bad?" I suggest this because if he even halfway buys into your assertion, he will be exceptionally careful about what he does on trips in the future.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

His explanations are that he probably asked her where she was and she simply answered I'm in my room. But the thing is that was never part of his original story. He had said she had texted him from the bar. My husband said I called him that nght, which makes me really upset if I'm the "she" they are refering to when they make the later 'awfu'l and 'beast' comments. But I doubt it because we didn't argue at all.

What I told the counselor yesterday, is all these wouldn't even concern me that much if he didn't tell me he was in this state of despair over our relationship. that he wasn't sure if he had married the wrong person, etc.and invited someone to his room. That combined with all this stuff is the problem.

We had each met with our counselor alone before meeting him together. When we are together, my husband said, "I'm not sure this is going to work" to the counselor a few times. Makes me wonder if he was told to definitely not tell me the details or that he did something sexual. I can see that there is a school of thought that this makes recovery worse. But I made it crystal clear to both of them that I need to know the truth to move on. I told them I was going to a different counselor on my own to sort this out and our counselor said, "Be careful because they will only hear one side of the story." I was a bit offended because I believe I am quoting my husband's words exactly. Made me feel like they both think I read into things too much - my husband always tells me that but I have other situations where I was totally right after he poopoo-ed my intuition.

The most maddening thing to me know is that he expects me to believe that he meant nothing more than a backrub. He insists that's the truth. I have a hard time not getting angry with him when he keeps saying that. Oh and by the way, he had told me he was a bit embarrassed the night they went out alone because he looked like he was with a prostitute!! She was dressed in high heeled boots and a short skirt. Clearly she had flirtation on her mind as well. He also told me a co-worker had commented that she has changed her work attire from conservative to boots/short skirts. So yes, people have noticed for sure.

Thanks for the advice. I will do that and just get on with my own life. It's time. I decided not to hire a detective or anything like that - I'm going to spend the money on myself instead!!

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
Very good. I hope this situation works itself out so that you become happier in the months ahead.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Hello Dr. Michael - So many months later and as I re-read the situation above I realize that I am still stuck. I went to counseling myself, my husband went maybe 3 times to his own counselor and we went to maybe 4 sessions with another couples counselor and I went to 3 or 4 alone with the couples counselor. You were accurate in saying that he is slowly revealing the details...but painfully slow. After 5 months, he finally admitted, "Of course, the thought of sex crossed my mind" about his inviting his co-worker back to his hotel room. Then when I wanted to talk further about that he would shut down, saying he never said that, or that he doesn't show remorse because I attack him (verbally).

In the mean time, his father passed away after a long illness, and I was able to support him through that. It was like taking a break from all our issues and me just being nice to him. He is still my husband, so I try to be as loving as I can but it's not easy.

The trouble with the couples couseling was he was so stressed out about leaving work to go. I didn't feel like we were making any progress because of this, so I said that I would go if he arranged the appointments so he wouldn't feel stressed. I even offered to find an evening hours counselor and get a babsitter. He has not done anything.

Essentially, he is frustrated with me for still being mad about this. I told him it's not resolved for me. He still works with her but they don't travel together anymore, due to him re-arranging her work responsibilities. There will be a team overnight meeting for a few days in a few weeks which they will both attend.

My problem is, I need complete honesty from him and I know I'm not getting it. This changes how I feel about him. How I view his character and what he is capabale of doing. I wish I could say I understand, he just desperately wants to save his marriage, but I can't. He insists there was no affair, no sexual contact. The couples counselor did tell me, after our first session together, there was definitely denial and indiscretions in play here, because he's seen it a million times.

As I re-read the orginal thread, the most painful thing was when you said, "you are smart enough to realize that you may never know what really happened". I can tell you for sure, I am not smart enough. The fact that I don't know what really happened bothers me tremendously. The idea that my husband possibly did have sex with someone else and has chosen not to tell me, hurts me to this day.

Please be blunt if you have any advice for me. Thanks.

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