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Trying to keep the story brief:

TLDR:

I discovered an emotional affair between my wife and a "practically part of the family" friend who lives with her brother and sister-in-law. When confronted, everything was denied but she eventually admitted to an emotional affair with a 3-4 episodes of sexting including photos and 1 video.

I have found other evidence that she had every opportunity to turn it physical, and that he tried (she stayed the night at the brothers house once and stayed over until 2am once -> and confirmed that she and OM sat in her car for an hour and a half in the middle of the night unsupervised, but claiming that nothing physical happened).

I have INSISTED that I need to read the instagram messages between him and her (which have been deleted but can be recovered). She won't go through the process of recovering the messages so we can read them and see if she is telling the truth. She insists it will hurt her too much to read them and that I will "find things to interpret the wrong way".

We have a counselor friend saying I should not worry about the details, and just forgive her and move on, but I do not trust that she has told me everything because she has lied before about big things.

Also many parts of her story do not add up, and many questions I had to her she says "I can't remember", "I don't want to think about it", and "I was drunk when I wrote it I don't know what I said" -> I feel very uneasy and have a gut feeling she is hiding something but could be overreacting.

Do I put my foot down and say I can't move forward without reading the messages, or do I let it go and try to trust that what she's told me is all that happened?

The Details:

This 25 year old guy rents a room from my brother in-law and his wife (platonically). They treat him like a brother / son. He is at all family events and treated like a part of the family.

My wife is close to her brother and sister-in-law and sometimes hangs out with them without me (including staying over late), but I trust them, so never thought anything of it.
She recently stayed the night with them when we were in a rough spot (just before Thanksgiving). And stayed over until around 2am after I had already gone to sleep to hang out.

The next Saturday at a family event, I noticed VERY suspicious behavior between him and my wife, RED FLAG. Wondered, but moved on.

I checked my wifes phone the next day and noticed very very very inappropriate instagram messages between them the whole day, but all prior messages had been deleted. I love you I am yours, Hey Baby I miss you, etc. Nothing overtly sexual except an inappropriate joke or too about "knowing how to use your tool".

I went to check again 2 days later, and all messages between them had been deleted, even though I had noticed her trying to hide obvious messaging.

I confronted her, she denied everything but eventually admitted they were friends that flirted but at the same time was saying she would not talk to me and if I exposed what was happening our marriage was over and she would protect him because he was "innocent" and a "good guy".

I pressed very hard into the subject, because I knew she was lying and eventually exposed the messages to her Brother to get her to admit. She relented and a trickle of truths began to come out that they had been flirting and friendly about a month, and she was wrapped up in the relationship but knew it wasn't going anywhere... and they talked about my sex life with my wife, she thought about him when we were having sex, they talked about our sex, and they fantasized about sex together over Instagram including photos but nothing physical happened.

There were several opportunities she had to have sex with him, because of his closeness to the family (she stayed the night at her brothers once when we were not doing well), and she hung out with him alone between 12:30am and 2:00am in her car while everyone else was asleep - but claims they were just talking and they were just friends at the time (though this is right before I discovered everything).

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Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
Do I put my foot down and say I can't move forward without reading the messages, or do I let it go and try to trust that what she's told me is all that happened?
Welcome to MB. I'm sorry to hear about these events in your marriage.

What does "putting your foot down" really mean? if she has not let you read the messages so far, what action can you take to make her do so?

I don't think that either of those is the correct course of action. The correct course is for you to know that this was a physical affair, and to proceed on that basis. Her silly story does not hold water, and you shouldn't waste any more time trying to see if it could be true. That does not mean that you shouldn't keep trying to read the messages, but use stealthy means to get them, and don't let your search delay or deter you from everything else that needs to be done.

The first step is to expose what you know to significant family members, on your side and on hers. Are her parents at hand? Who else is there in her family, apart from this brother and his wife? What about on your side? And do you have children? How old? They must be told.

When you expose, you tell them that you do not have proof of a physical affair, but you've seen the critical messages and they are proof of an affair of some kind. Physical or emotional, both are wrong and both are harmful to your marriage.

If you decide to try and rebuild the marriage, you need to work with your wife, She needs to want to rebuild also, and that means that she can never see this man again. There are a number of other steps that you need to take together, but nothing else can work without complete cessation of contact with OM.

If you decide to end the marriage - well you must know what that involves, but even if you decide this, the affair should be exposed.


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Hi - thank you for your response and concern.

Originally Posted by SugarCane
What does "putting your foot down" really mean? if she has not let you read the messages so far, what action can you take to make her do so?

By "Putting my foot down" I mean telling her I will end our marriage unless I can read the messages and confirm what she's telling the truth. I explained that if it was physical their messages (which were all-day every-day and after I went to bed and she stayed up drunk) would most certainly reveal the truth.

Originally Posted by SugarCane
The correct course is for you to know that this was a physical affair, and to proceed on that basis. Her silly story does not hold water, and you shouldn't waste any more time trying to see if it could be true.

I guess I struggle with "knowing its a physical affair" and proceeding on that basis, while she adamantly denies that. Any actions that I take based on that knowing are seen as over-reactions in her eyes. I did already tell her I can forgive a physical affair, but not if she denies it and I only find out sometime later.

Originally Posted by SugarCane
The first step is to expose what you know to significant family members, on your side and on hers. Are her parents at hand? Who else is there in her family, apart from this brother and his wife? What about on your side? And do you have children? How old? They must be told.

She just met her parents yesterday to tell them. For now they say OM has to go, but that may change after her brother starts working them with his side. BIL and SIL are adamant he is now a part of the family and not going anywhere, and I need to get over it because of my past misdeeds.

We have a 17 year old daughter, who does not know and my wife does not want to tell.

Originally Posted by SugarCane
When you expose, you tell them that you do not have proof of a physical affair, but you've seen the critical messages and they are proof of an affair of some kind. Physical or emotional, both are wrong and both are harmful to your marriage.

She has admitted to the emotional affair, both to myself, her brother, and parents. But says it was only 4 weeks (which I have evidence to suggest otherwise) - but since they were already friends I don't think that matters - things build quickly when you already know and trust someone.

Originally Posted by SugarCane
If you decide to try and rebuild the marriage, you need to work with your wife, She needs to want to rebuild also, and that means that she can never see this man again. There are a number of other steps that you need to take together, but nothing else can work without complete cessation of contact with OM.
I have been saying this but she has been arguing that we can give it to God and shouldn't let it control our lives.

Her parents mostly agree with what I have said - and think it is insane to expect him to stay apart of the family and us to be around him after what happened. I was mainly thinking I couldn't handle seeing him, must it recently dawned on me that she is currently going through withdraw from the loss of the relationship and being around him makes it too easy to start things back up the next time things aren't going so well in our marriage.

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One thing to know about people having an affair is that there will nearly always be lying about the extent of it. You can assume you can heed what your instincts and brains are telling you - that it is a physical affair. If it wasn't physical, there's really no reason to hide the texts; they are likely damning and she knows it and wants to keep them hidden.

You are the one who should be exposing, not her, so the story can't be "spun." It's not up to the wayward spouse who knows; it's up to you. And the family and your closest friends should know, including your daughter. Your daughter is smart enough to detect tension and it's fair that she should know the source of the tension. Exposure means that everything your wife has done will have the light of day shone on it. Exposure will speed things along, whether divorce or reconciliation.

"Giving it to God" is a particularly egregious thing to say in light of the situation. Adultery destroys marriages. Your wife should certainly never see this other man again.

What are these "misdeeds?" There really is nothing that justifies the pain and cruelty of an affair, but sometimes the condition of the marriage can make an affair attractive and/or possible. Have you eliminated all your love busters? I don't mean that you shouldn't continue to expose. Are you generally demanding, judgmental, or angry?


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Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
By "Putting my foot down" I mean telling her I will end our marriage unless I can read the messages and confirm what she's telling the truth. I explained that if it was physical their messages (which were all-day every-day and after I went to bed and she stayed up drunk) would most certainly reveal the truth.
Well, you can do this, of course. You can end your marriage over any aspect of this affair, including her not revealing the details you want to know. Just be sure that if you issue such an ultimatum, ending the marriage is really what you want if she does not show the messages. If your assumption is that her refusal to show the messages is because they show a physical affair, and if you would end your marriage over a physical affair, then that's fine. But that seems to contradict what you say below.

Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
I guess I struggle with "knowing its a physical affair" and proceeding on that basis, while she adamantly denies that. Any actions that I take based on that knowing are seen as over-reactions in her eyes. I did already tell her I can forgive a physical affair, but not if she denies it and I only find out sometime later.
It doesn't matter whether your actions seem like over-reactions to her. She doesn't get to judge the proportionality of your response to her affair. You are not trying to appease her by managing your response. If your response is to end the marriage, you have the right to do that.

However, I don't think you should be telling her as early as this that you can forgive a physical affair. Forgiveness at the outset of recovery is not necessarily a good thing. It lets the offender off the hook and she is excused the debt that she owes you. She needs to first compensate you for your loss, and only when you begin to feel recovered should you tell her that she is forgiven, if you genuinely feel that you have forgiven her. You need to read what Dr Harley says about when to forgive an affair, and what he calls "just compensation".

Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
She just met her parents yesterday to tell them. For now they say OM has to go, but that may change after her brother starts working them with his side. BIL and SIL are adamant he is now a part of the family and not going anywhere, and I need to get over it because of my past misdeeds.

We have a 17 year old daughter, who does not know and my wife does not want to tell.
First: you should be exposing this affair, not her. You have no idea how she has spun it to her parents, nor how she might spin it to her brother. You need to read about why you need to expose, and how, and to whom. The details are on this website. I won't bombard you with links yet, because I have some articles that I want you to read first.

Second: If your in-laws are adamant that OM is not going anywhere, then if your marriage is to recover, you must (both) cut contact with them too. This might make you really sad, because they would be choosing OM over their own sister (she would have to cut ties too, of course), but you can't recover your marriage with any chance of the affair reigniting.

Third: you (not your wife) need to tell your daughter. Your wife does not need to agree to this; she should not be asked about it. You should not try and negotiate with your wife about whether certain steps should be taken to end and recover from this affair. She is the offender in this situation; of course she does not want you to tell your daughter. But there are good reasons why your daughter needs to know, and your wife does not get a say in this.

Fourth: what are your past misdeeds? Do they include affairs?

Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
She has admitted to the emotional affair, both to myself, her brother, and parents. But says it was only 4 weeks (which I have evidence to suggest otherwise) - but since they were already friends I don't think that matters - things build quickly when you already know and trust someone.
As I said, you need to let people know it is your belief that this was much more than a crush lasting a few weeks, but that even an emotional affair is destructive. You need to follow the steps to recovery regardless of how physical this was or was not. There needs to be no contact between your wife and OM for life.

Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
I have been saying this but she has been arguing that we can give it to God and shouldn't let it control our lives.
Is she saying that she refuses to cut contact with him - that she is refusing to take the actions that would ensure she never sees him again?

Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
Her parents mostly agree with what I have said - and think it is insane to expect him to stay apart of the family and us to be around him after what happened. I was mainly thinking I couldn't handle seeing him, must it recently dawned on me that she is currently going through withdraw from the loss of the relationship and being around him makes it too easy to start things back up the next time things aren't going so well in our marriage.
I'm not sure if you realise that the Marriage Builders forum gives guidance based on the research and writings of Dr Harley, the founder. His methods are not always supported by other therapists, but those like me who advise here regularly do so because, having read Dr Harley's work, it provides the solutions to affair problems that nobody else's methods provide.

I think it would help you greatly to read the free materials on this website, to understand why anyone that replies to you will suggest the same sort of actions that I have suggested.

Could you please begin with this series of articles about how affairs begin and should end.


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In addition to the other articles that were suggested to you, please read Exposure 101.


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Quote
I guess I struggle with "knowing its a physical affair" and proceeding on that basis, while she adamantly denies that.
Everybody here reading what your wife has said and done knows without a doubt that it is a physical affair. There are too many red flags for it not to be.

But, regardless, in the end it doesn't matter if it is physical or emotional -- both are destructive to marriages.

Quote
Any actions that I take based on that knowing are seen as over-reactions in her eyes.

She is going to paint everything you say or do as an overreaction -- this is what waywards do. You are endangering her affair, and she wants you to back off.

Quote
I did already tell her I can forgive a physical affair, but not if she denies it and I only find out sometime later.

All waywards lie. She is lying now. She likely will continue to lie for some time.

Your marriage can survive her lies. It can't survive her continued affair. You need to expose her affair, using the words Sugarcane gave you:
Quote
When you expose, you tell them that you do not have proof of a physical affair, but you've seen the critical messages and they are proof of an affair of some kind. Physical or emotional, both are wrong and both are harmful to your marriage.


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Originally Posted by SugarCane
She needs to first compensate you for your loss, and only when you begin to feel recovered should you tell her that she is forgiven, if you genuinely feel that you have forgiven her. You need to read what Dr Harley says about when to forgive an affair, and what he calls "just compensation".

Just Compensation in a Nutshell:
1. Ending all contact with the affair partner for life
Examples: NC letter, phone number changed, email changed ...

2. Removing the conditions that led to the affair (Extraordinary Precautions).
Examples: Facebook shutdown, Radical Honesty (no secret second life), job change, no more nights apart ...

3. Creating a romantic relationship using Marriage Builders concepts.
Examples: Eliminate Lovebusters, POJA, PORH, meet EN, UA time each week ...


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Hi All,

Thanks for the feedback and replies.

Originally Posted by SugarCane
Well, you can do this, of course. You can end your marriage over any aspect of this affair, including her not revealing the details you want to know. Just be sure that if you issue such an ultimatum, ending the marriage is really what you want if she does not show the messages. If your assumption is that her refusal to show the messages is because they show a physical affair, and if you would end your marriage over a physical affair, then that's fine. But that seems to contradict what you say below.

I told her I *could* forgive something physical, but I can't forgive something I don't know about. The issue for me is "knowing" she is lying about it and expecting me to build trust with her on top of that. Our marriage was in a really bad spot before this affair happened.

Originally Posted by SugarCane
However, I don't think you should be telling her as early as this that you can forgive a physical affair. Forgiveness at the outset of recovery is not necessarily a good thing. It lets the offender off the hook and she is excused the debt that she owes you. She needs to first compensate you for your loss, and only when you begin to feel recovered should you tell her that she is forgiven, if you genuinely feel that you have forgiven her. You need to read what Dr Harley says about when to forgive an affair, and what he calls "just compensation".

This is a good point that I did not think about - I was hoping if she knew I could forgive her, she would be more willing to open up about everything that happened

Originally Posted by SugarCane
Fourth: what are your past misdeeds? Do they include affairs?

To avoid getting into too much detail - 6 years ago I had a physical-only affair with a woman. I moved out of the house and said things were through (not because of the affair but because of how bad things were, the affair started after that). I didn't excuse or justify it. I came to my senses and told her everything asked for forgiveness even if she didn't want me back and ended up walking through all the steps of reconciliation and trust building (everything this site talks about and more).

Originally Posted by SugarCane
Is she saying that she refuses to cut contact with him - that she is refusing to take the actions that would ensure she never sees him again?

Yes and no - she is saying 1) she understands why I want him out and 2) this was not that big a deal 3) God can make it work out 3) her brother and SIL don't want him gone so what can we do

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As an update - and sorry for the very long post in advance.

She is always calm, and happy as long as I don't bring up looking at the messages. She holds my hand, tells me how much she loves me, initiates sex, and is generally kind loving and patient.

EXCEPT when I say I need to see the messages as a part of reconciliation, trust building, and healing.

Yesterday I told her that I needed to see the messages for reconciliation, to know she's telling the truth. And the messages only stay around after being deleted for 30 days, so she needed to request them now - even if we don't look at them now, so they will be there for us.

She became unconsolably irate - telling me I don't deserve to see them, I don't deserve the truth, and that I deserve to wonder and suffer and not know if she's telling the truth. That she hates me, and doesn't believe I love her, that I don't care about her. That the messages were personal and private and intimate and weren't intended for anyone else but him. She said she wasn't okay with me seeing the photos she sent him (she claims she just sent a couple topless photos - I pointed this out and said its not that big a deal, but she said it was to her, which makes no sense to me).

She started bringing up how hurt and lonely she was and how she felt single and like I didn't care when this was going on, and that she thought things were over between us

Obviously none of this makes sense as an argument to why she shouldn't share the messages, it's actually stuff that confirms what I already know - that there is something she is desperately trying to hide, worst that what she's already told me (that is was an emotional affair with sexting, photos, and many other intimate things).

As she calmed down she started saying she was telling the truth, and she shouldn't have to show the messages to prove it - I should trust her, and what am I going to do to rebuild things on my side (since feeling lonely and alone was what drove her to this).

Some background info that may help things:

What she means by the marriage being bad is that she hasn't felt an emotional connection to me and "safety" (like I'm the spiritual leader etc) for she says a year or so. She brought this up last December, I tried various things to connect with her and build that safety, but nothing was good enough. In August I told her I couldn't handle it (she was doing a bunch of love busters on her side) and I couldn't see it working. We had a long (10+ hour) talk, where she apologized for only focusing on her feelings, and not knowing how much I was hurting. I told her about Marriage Builders and we agreed to do the at-home program. I started out enthusiastically, but she could never get past the first step of the first lesson (listing out what she needed to deposit love units), she never asked me what I needed, and I waited in limbo for 3 months as she said she was trying to come up with stuff but felt nothing I did would be genuine if I didn't come up with it myself (even though me coming up with stuff on my own never seems to work). I gradually became distant and around mid-November I told her I wanted a divorce again because it didn't seem like she cared. We had another 10+ hour talk where she convinced me that we had everything we needed and just needed to both work on the marriage program, and I agreed again. We actually met with her brother and SIL at that time and told them what was going on (she said she needed their support), and both agreed to each other and them that we wanted to make it work and would try again. I was still hurt, but was trying.

* We took a family vacation including her parents, brother and SIL and OM to Florida at the end of June. I found out only after exposing this relationship with OM that at that when in Florida OM told my wife he had a crush on her. They were exchanging friendly slightly flirty but non-sexual text messages in July (which I only just found) - she deleted them and denied they were texted when I confronted her. I don't know for sure, but I believe her relationship started (maybe innocently) with OM in August and not November as she claims, and that is part of the reason she did not seem to take the marriage program seriously. I could be wrong though, this is not very hard evidence

At this point she said I betrayed her (by saying I wanted a divorce), and broke her, and according to her right after that is when all this affair stuff happened (though I have evidence that it may have started right after we started working on MB program).

Throughout all these years she has brought up multiple times that even though I did everything I needed to show trust after what I did 6 years ago, and she did feel that - that something has been missing (a "safety" / emotional connection / spiritual leadership) that has made her distant.

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I know you are trying to get the past messages, but do you have spyware on her devices now? You need to monitor everything now.


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Originally Posted by BrainHurts
I know you are trying to get the past messages, but do you have spyware on her devices now? You need to monitor everything now.

I do not. She doesn't want me around her computer or phone, because she thinks I'm going to request the messages without her permission, and she has been having private conversations with her brother and SIL about all this. At one point her brother told her to just let me see the messages so we can move on, but she convinced him I would somehow use them to hurt her.

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As an update, I had a phone coaching session with Steven Harley today, which was deeply helpful and informative. I have a much better perspective on how to handle the situation and at least the starting point of a course of action.

Thank you all for your input! God Bless.

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Would you mind please giving us the outline of what Steve said for you to do?


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Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
I do not. She doesn't want me around her computer or phone, because she thinks I'm going to request the messages without her permission, and she has been having private conversations with her brother and SIL about all this. At one point her brother told her to just let me see the messages so we can move on, but she convinced him I would somehow use them to hurt her.
You're clearly familiar with a lot of Dr Harley's work, so I find your responses to our suggestions odd.

The term "spyware" does not imply that you ask her permission to monitor her devices: it implies that you spy on her without her knowledge. Of course she is not going to want you to look at her devices. She has been having an affair, and possibly still is, and she does not want you to know the truth.

You need to spy on her not just to find out what she messaged in the past, but more importantly, to see whether there is any continuation of the affair.

I asked you to read Dr Harley articles, and you did not respond to that. Have you read any of the ones I linked? I think that if you understood Dr Harley's approach, you would not be giving us responses that, in essence, tell us that you can't do anything to end the affair because your wife won't give you permission to take the steps.


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Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
To avoid getting into too much detail - 6 years ago I had a physical-only affair with a woman. I moved out of the house and said things were through (not because of the affair but because of how bad things were, the affair started after that). I didn't excuse or justify it. I came to my senses and told her everything asked for forgiveness even if she didn't want me back and ended up walking through all the steps of reconciliation and trust building (everything this site talks about and more).
I think you do need to to get into more detail about this. This seems to be a major reason why your wife thinks you owe her, and why she isn't too upset about what she has done to you. She hasn't got over what you did to her.

It might not be the affair in itself, when you were separated, that has changed her, but the fact that you left her. Why did you leave? Why did she let you return? Where did you live? How did you meet the other woman, and how did you end the affair? What do you mean by "walking through all the steps of reconciliation and trust building (everything this site talks about and more)"? What were the actual steps that you took? Has there been any contact with this woman since you returned home? For example, do you work with her?
Originally Posted by Man in Dallas
- she is saying 1) she understands why I want him out and 2) this was not that big a deal 3) God can make it work out 3) her brother and SIL don't want him gone so what can we do
It would be nice if her brother and SIL would get rid of him, but they have the right to lead their lies the way they want to. The rebuilding of your marriage is not conditional on his being exiled by them. If they won't show him the door, what you and your wife must do is avoid any situation in which she could come into contact with OM, which probably means not seeing her brother and his wife. Is your wife willing to do that?

Has she come into contact with him in his role as "embedded in the family" since the affair supposedly ended?


BW
Married 1989
His PA 2003-2006
2 kids.

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