My husband had an affair with a girl from school. I know this because last night she tracked me down on Facebook and sent me a message from a fake account. She explained that they had a relationship for about a year and a half. Once she found out he was married, she confronted him. He lied and said the marriage was open, but she didn’t believe him and broke it off.
There’s much to unpack here and a lot I need to work through with my husband. We’ve been together for twelve years and have been through emotional infidelity issues before. We were teenagers when we got together so we’ve been through a lot of growing pains. This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but it is the first time he was actually physical with another person outside our relationship. We’ve talked about opening our marriage before and what upsets me most about this whole situation is if he had just talked to me about wanting to date this girl at the time it was happening, I could have come to a place where I was okay with it. I think he has some serious insecurity issues and when I confronted him about her message, he agreed to go to couples therapy to work on this. But that’s not what I’m writing in about.
I feel bad for this young woman. My husband is a non-traditional student so he’s much older than the other undergrads he went to school with—he’s 29, she’s 21. In her message to me, she wrote that she’s “young and inexperienced but felt I had a right to know.” Which I understand, and if I were in her position at that age I might have done the same thing. But I know from listening to your show that more often than not, it’s better to keep your mouth shut because you don’t know what kind of an arrangement a couple has and you could be tossing a bomb into their relationship.
While I feel betrayed and hurt, I’m also a bit relieved because I think this would have been something we had to confront sooner or later. So this could have been much worse, for this young woman and for me. I think my husband owes her an apology. But I’m wondering how to respond to her message (or if I should). Do I write back and let her know that it’s not a great idea to insert yourself into other people’s relationships? If so, do I spare her the guilt of helping a married man cheat on his wife and tell her we do have an open marriage? Or tell her the truth? I feel some twisted form of your campsite rule applies here, but maybe I’m overthinking it to avoid dealing with everything else.
Should I Say Something
This girl—this 21-year-old, grown-ass woman—fucked an older, more experienced man who lied to her in order to get into her pants. Your husband lied to her by omission at first (neglecting to mention that he was married) and then, in an attempt to maintain access to the inside of her pants once she learned he was married, your husband lied to this woman by commission ("My wife and I are in an open relationship!"). She saw through the second lie because she isn't an idiot—if his marriage was open, why did he hide his wife from her for a year and a half?—and ended things.
Good on her, SISS.
She was probably pretty angry when it ended—a year and a half is a big emotional investment (and a big chronological one for a young person)—and like a lot of dumped/duped pieces on the side before her, she lashed out at her cheating ex by contacting the person her cheating ex was cheating on: the wife.
That you feel sorry for this young woman speaks well of your humanity and emotional maturity (way to put yourself in someone else's shoes, SISS), but now is not the time to let her know that she's Doing It All Wrong. Now is not the time to tell her that "it’s not a great idea to insert yourself into other people’s relationships." (If anyone inserted her into your relationship it was your husband.) And whatever else you decide to do, SISS, there will never come a good time lie to this woman yourself—don't tell her your marriage was open when it wasn't. That's some low-grade gaslighting shit, SISS, and that's not okay—and you don't want her to interpret "actually open all along!" as a green light to get back together with your husband, do you?
Considering that she didn't know about you the entire time she was fucking your husband, and considering that she immediately ended things when she found out you, it's possible that this young woman felt bad for you—she was duped by her ex-boyfriend, you were still being duped by your husband/her ex-boyfriend—and, being charitable here, that's 80% of the reason why she reached out. (Punishing her lying ex would be the other 20%. Again, a charitable estimate.)
But I do think you should write back to her. Tell her the truth: you didn't know about the affair, you genuinely feel bad for her, and you're grateful to her for telling you. Then sign off and try not to get drawn into an extended conversation—you want to move on with your husband, she needs to move on from him. That requires moving on from you too.
P.S. If anyone owes this woman an apology, SISS, it's your husband. He owes you one, too, of course.
P.S. You didn't ask me to address your marriage. But it sounds like you had been contemplating opening the marriage up and you might retroactively consent to this affair. (Retroactive consent is a thing, but it's a subpar and deficient thing. And it can only be granted, never sought. And anyone who requires or receives retroactive consent was doing something very, very wrong.) You wouldn't be the first couple who moved from a monogamous commitment to non-monogamous one in the wake of an affair. Here are two book recommendations just in case: The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel and Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino. Good luck.