*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Finding out your spouse is looking for someone else is a very difficult moment, and when you notice that yourself instead of being told by someone who saw them, it can get even more complicated. In between arguments and confusion, you can start wondering if there's any love left and whether one of the spouses is actually overreacting and shouldn't be so harsh when no actual meeting took place.
What's the limit to trust between partners, and how far can one of them go in talking to someone else even if there hasn't been a date just yet?
My friend Nina has been married to her husband Ryan for nine years. They have one daughter together, and she's a stay-at-home mom.
"I wasn't too happy about being a housewife in the beginning, but it was better than leaving our little girl with a babysitter. I didn't like that at all. I got stressed and sometimes bored in the first few months, but then I realized full-time moms have a lot to do, and I got busy looking after Diana and keeping the house neat while trying out different dishes for lunch and dinner," Nina said.
As their daughter grew up, Ryan kept working in the office in Phoenix, Arizona, and sometimes did overtime to make sure all their bills were covered and he could afford to buy presents for his wife and daughter.
"We still went out on dates from time to time, so that was nice. But he was usually so tired that we couldn't be out late, not even if his mom or mine offered to look after Diana. I understood he was the one earning money, but I kept missing the first part of our relationship when we were so in love," Nina said.
As the weeks went by with no change, Nina felt like her husband only saw her as the mother of his daughter. And even on dates, he was more friendly and not particularly romantic.
"It just wasn't what I needed. No compliments, no fun, no sweet words. We went out, we had dinner, and we came back. That's not really romantic. And sometimes, I wondered if he thought it was an obligation, not what he wanted to do. He was committed to me as the father of my baby. But I didn't just want to be parents together. We were still a couple. And he neglected that part of our relationship," Nina said.
She saw no change in her husband, and she still felt sad at times, so she began checking out social media a lot more than usual. And that's how she started chatting with Daniel.
"It was just one or two messages in the beginning, then we moved on to writing frequently, sometimes up to eight hours every day. I wasn't ignoring what my daughter needed; I just wrote to him in between making meals, doing chores, playing with Diana, or driving her to kindergarten. I didn't feel I was doing anything unusual; Daniel was an online friend. And anyone can make new friends. It doesn't matter if you're married," Nina said.
That was how they began, as friends. But after one month, their chats turned into a new direction. And Daniel let her know he wanted a lot more and that he was interested in her.
"It was nice to be told I was attractive again, and the messages became more personal, but we never said we wanted to meet. It was like complimenting from a distance," Nina said.
Unfortunately, as she got more absorbed in her talks to Daniel, she started to reply to his messages when her husband was at home too. And one weekend, she wasn't careful, and he looked at her screen and saw a particularly romantic part of their discussion.
"He took the phone away from me and read some more. And then he scrolled to previous days of chatting and saw what we were saying to each other. He was annoyed and asked me if I was having an affair," Nina said.
She told him she wasn't because she hadn't met the man. Ryan was still upset because their talks were no longer simply friendly. They called each other "baby," and they talked for hours, until late at night. Sometimes throughout the night too.
They argued on that day as Nina tried to explain her talks with Daniel didn't mean much. And the following morning, Ryan told her he wanted to end their marriage.
"He caught me texting another man; it was romantic, but we haven't met. He wants a divorce. He's just overreacting. He didn't see that much after all, and I didn't even send pictures or anything. I don't get why he's so upset. Did he really expect me to look at the walls while he worked 12 hours a day?" Nina said.
She apologized several times and promised not to talk to Daniel again, but Ryan said he couldn't trust her after seeing what he'd seen. And he won't change his mind, not even for their daughter Diana.
What do you think about this situation? Is Ryan overreacting, and should he give Nina a second chance despite her talks with Daniel? Is it fair to ask for a divorce just one day after seeing the romantic chats, or is it a logical reaction to finding out you can't trust your spouse any longer?
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