The seed is planted

Article: I found out my husband is sexually attracted to my sister. I don’t know what to do.

This one’s a doozy. First, let’s give an executive summary.

The letter writer (LW) has been married to her husband for four years, together for eight, with two children. LW’s father and younger sister stayed with them for a couple days, after which LW said something seemed “off” about her husband’s behavior. When she confronted him about it, he got defensive, and she started suspecting infidelity even though there was no evidence of it.

And much of the letter is written from a perspective where it seems she’s convinced herself he is cheating on her.

So yeah, this one’s going to be interesting.

I’ll say up front that my wife knows that I find one of her two older sisters to be attractive. (No, the sister herself doesn’t know.) And I haven’t been quiet about it with my wife because 1. it’s not a huge deal, and 2. I have no reason to not be honest with her about it. Because my wife knows I’m not about to even try to sleep with her sister. 1. She’s married and 2. so am I.

It’s about the same as the fact that I flirt with other women. I have no need to be secretive about it, and my wife doesn’t get offended that I do it. Flirting with a woman doesn’t mean I will sleep with her, or even that I actually want to sleep with her. Something I’ve discussed on this blog. At length. Twice. Plus I’m a photographer, and I’ve photographed a lot of women. Flirting is just part of it.

But for some reason there are a lot of women who get very jealous or insecure about the fact their significant others or spouses find other women attractive, even sexually attractive. And that’s the problem here. But who ultimately has the problem: the letter writer or the husband? Well I guess you can say “both”, since her problem became his problem when she confronted him.

My husband and younger sister have always been pretty close; some people have told me a little too close, but I trusted him and always thought they had a brother/sister relationship.

Having a close relationship with another woman isn’t a problem. While I personally don’t have any close relationships with any other women, I know other men who do. Whether that can become a problem all boils down to a little thing called “self control”.

[Father and sister] were only here for two days, but after they left things felt off. My husband, who likes to write music, kept complimenting me a lot. It almost felt like he was also trying to convince himself of the compliments.

Sudden changes in behavior do need to be noted. But her interpretation of his actions is a little troubling. I wonder how she’d react if he suddenly started doing this after he was openly flirting with another woman other than her sister. Actually it’s plainly obvious she’d get mad at him and territorial if she saw him flirting with other women. Probably jumping into that catastrophic thinking of believing he’s a cheater who just hasn’t been caught yet. Her later statements show this is how she’d interpret things.

The compliments obviously came from a little bit of a high from being around the younger sister. There’s likely a mutual attraction there. (And, again, whether that is a problem depends on how well they control themselves.) But to automatically think the compliments are not genuine is a bit odd, to say the least. He took whatever emotional or sexual high he got from being around the sister and channeled it to his wife. That doesn’t mean his compliments aren’t genuine.

Instead marriages have this… rather common problem of falling into ruts. In my article on flirting while married, quoting Rose Maura Lorre, the idea that you will only be having sex with your spouse can easily turn into your spouse is the only one who will have sex with you. So getting validation from someone else that you’re still sexually attractive to others, especially where there is a mutual attraction, can be a great boost to one’s self-esteem. Especially if your marriage or relationship has fallen into a rut.

A little playful flirting can be a healthy thing. And, again, self control is what keeps that from turning into a problem.

I felt like he might have been cheating or at the very least hiding something from me. I had a pit in my stomach that wouldn’t go away, so I finally mustered enough courage to say something. He got defensive, saying I was acting crazy and that it made him feel bad being accused of something he didn’t do. Then I cried because I thought he was right.

I know it’s going to make me sound bad, but I couldn’t take his word for it, and the fact that he got defensive instead of comforting me rubbed me the wrong way.

Of course he got defensive. She basically jumped to the worst interpretation of his actions: he’s cheating. That is catastrophic thinking or “worst first” thinking.

And we all will naturally get defensive in the face of… any accusation, whether justified or not. That’s just part of our psychology. She’d likely get defensive if he accused her of anything since, again, that’s how we’re wired.

So instead of accepting the fact she just might be incorrect, that her suspicion might be unreasonable, she tried to confirm her suspicions. By… looking through his phone. You know, even though my wife knows the passcode to my phone, she doesn’t just go looking through it at a whim.

I decided to go through his phone to put my mind at ease.

What if she didn’t find anything? Would that have put her mind at ease? Likely not. As I’ve said before, once that seed is planted in your mind that your significant other or spouse might be cheating, it begins to grow like a weed.

Once that seed is planted in your mind, it becomes like a weed, always coming back until you eradicate it at the root. Provided that’s even possible.

Along with the mere allegation [of cheating], the seed being planted, will come confirmation bias, wherein you will look for anything proving your allegation true. “He never lets me see his phone. He talks a lot about Heather, his co-worker.” Which will demonstrate you no longer trust your significant other.

It’s been said that a rape accusation can be worse if it’s unsubstantiated or false than if it’s genuine and true. Just the allegation of rape can and has destroyed lives. By extension the mere allegation of cheating can be enough to destroy a relationship by completely washing away any trust. The mere thought or insinuation that your significant other is cheating can be enough to completely erode your trust in them.

They, in turn, will lose their trust in you with the mere allegation and their defense against it. Because now your partner will wonder how anything he does will be interpreted by you. And you’ll likely always be interpreting any little action by your significant other as a “micro cheat” or a sign your partner is being unfaithful.

And clearly the letter writer is beyond this point. Since in looking through his phone, she finds… song lyrics. Yes, song lyrics. Leading to more confrontation and more defensive posturing on his part.

I went to his notes app looking for a password and found a bunch of songs he had written. I saw one titled “Girl I think about you.” I stupidly thought it was about me but I quickly realized it wasn’t. It talked about thinking about a girl he’s not supposed to, how he undresses her with his eyes, finds excuses to touch her and much more. I honestly was in shock and confronted him, and he tried to get defensive asking me why I went through his phone.

And he had reason to get defensive. It’s about the same as if a police officer just willy-nilly started going through his phone looking for whatever. And part of the psychological tendency to get defensive comes the tendency to not be able to think straight on your feet. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, just being accused of something can get you acting like you’re guilty. It’s something we’ve seen time and time and time again with police interrogations, and being confronted by a spouse or significant other is little different.

The trust between us is completely broken. I know he didn’t technically do anything, but it’s still bad, right?

Well, yeah, the trust was destroyed the moment she started thinking her husband was cheating. The moment she let catastrophic thinking take over and control her thoughts and actions.

The big question is simply: why did she immediately suspect he was cheating? There’s more to this than is being given by the letter writer. And I’m thinking she’s been cheated on in the past by a previous significant other. There’s also no mention in the letter on whether there was a previous marriage that ended due to infidelity. Something about her past caused her to immediately jump to the conclusion he’s cheating.

Note that this wasn’t just an allegation. She accused him of cheating as if she was certain of it. Even if she didn’t flat out ask him – likely in a fit of rage – “are you cheating on me?” or “did you sleep with my sister?”

There are two concepts that come to mind here. First is the presumption of innocence, which I previously wrote about in regard to relationships a couple years ago.

Then there’s simply this: if she was certain he was cheating as she actually thought, she’d be filing for divorce. She confronted him trying to get a confession. When she didn’t get that, she doubled down, operated as if her allegation was true and went seeking evidence to confirm it. Not finding anything concrete, though, she doubled down more in her next confrontation with him, interpreting his defensiveness as if it’s as good as a confession.

One thing I’ve said about the police: if they had evidence to arrest you, they wouldn’t knock on your door wanting “to just talk”. They’d knock on your door to arrest you. And they want you to talk in the hopes you’ll unwittingly give them what they need to arrest you.

Here it’s much the same with the letter writer. As said, she confronted him looking for a confession. Looking for confirmation that she was right. But she didn’t get that. So rather than thinking she just might be wrong, she’s continuing to operate as if she’s correct. And it’s effectively destroyed her marriage.

She can’t trust her husband, and certainly can’t trust him around her sister. The seed is planted. The weed has sprouted. And I don’t think there’s any way to keep it from coming back. All it’d take is just one mutual smile between the sister and husband and those thoughts of infidelity are likely to come roaring back.

My advice to the letter writer is to just end the marriage.