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Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Mistrust

Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Mistrust
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

I have finally done something that I never thought possible: invade my husband’s privacy. While he was in the shower, I heard his cell phone beep. Something prompted me to pick it up and read the message: “Can’t make it tonight.” I later went on to read the chain of messages between him and this mysterious person.

The messages didn’t say anything explicit, but the tone seemed a little too playful (even intimate) for a colleague or client. What’s more, although they shared a history and a great degree of familiarity in their back and forth messages, this person was not on my husband’s contact list.

Trust is something we both feel is extremely important in maintaining our relationship. We have never hidden our phone or Internet passcodes, etc. from one another because of the trust we share. What’s more, I have never even considered doing anything like this since the advent of these new technologies. Unfortunately, I have broken our bond of trust and now I am faced with nagging doubts about my husband’s fidelity.

Now I have two options:

  1. Confront my husband and jeopardize our mutual trust and possibly our relationship
  2. Let it go and continue to believe my husband is faithful.

While I know the latter is the better option, I am more inclined to choose the former. Please advise me on how I should deal with this problem.


Mrs. Mistrust

Dear Mrs. Mistrust,

Emotions and suspicions make us do all sorts of things we wouldn’t normally do. While they can get the better of us, it is always best to hold true to our integrity. If your relationship with your husband is built on trust, then you should continue that trust until you have just cause to suspend it. Was there anything in those messages that gives you just cause to doubt your husband is faithful?

While the tone of the text messages may be playful, tone can be a tricky thing to determine without the proper context. Tone in and of itself should not be the basis of your suspicions. The fact that this person was not a contact on your husband’s list could be evidence that he is hiding something. However, if he is trying to hide evidence of this alleged affair, why wouldn’t he erase the messages as well? He may have aptly assumed you wouldn’t look or simply forgot to erase those messages. Stranger things have happened as we grapple with privacy issues in today’s information age.

If you’re suspicions are strong enough, you may need to invade your husband’s privacy further. Whether justified or not, this invasion may have dire consequences for your relationship. If you do choose to confront him, you had better treat this situation delicately. Trying to trick him into a confession or outright accusation should be avoided at all costs. Be prepared to admit your own guilt for having breached your bond of trust. If he understands it comes from love, he may be more willing to understand why you felt compelled to check his cell phone.

Before approaching your husband, though, please consider this: Is calling your husband’s attention to your suspicions worth destroying the trust your relationship is built on? If there is a plausible explanation for these messages, will your husband forgive you for invading his privacy when it is all said and done? And if there isn’t, will your husband confess to an extra-marital affair? And, if so, how will you respond to this revelation? Bottom line: You should truly understand the ramifications of the answers you’re seeking and be prepared to handle them.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which option to choose. My advice would have been to leave your husband’s cell phone where it was from the beginning. However, now that you have opened your relationship to a world of doubt, you must decide your course of action. Making that call requires a thorough knowledge of your relationship and of your husband. You alone have that knowledge. You alone can deem whether your reaction is appropriate. Just be prepared for the consequences.

I wish you the best of luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix

Dr. Stanwix encourages letters from our readers about relationship issues.  If you would like advice about a problem with your significant other, please send an email to I will do my best to provide you insightful and useful advice as soon as possible.




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