can I get my wife’s ex-boyfriend’s company to send me the emails they sent each other?

A reader writes:

I just found that my wife has been talking to an ex-boyfriend through her work email and his work email as well. I saw that there were 23 messages among them, but I only got to page 3 before she deleted them. She says he contacted her after 10 years and admits to getting caught up in all the attention and memories. He lives in Missouri, but just from the few emails I could see it was leading to trouble.

Now my question. My wife says that at no time did she ever want to meet him or was anything going to come of this. But since I could not read the remaining 20 pages of emails, who knows.

Do you think I should contact his IT Dept and ask them if they could get me those emails he was sending from his work? I do not want to go through my wife’s work as I know them all.

No, you should not do that.

First of all, why on earth would his IT department release his emails to anyone other than his manager, let alone to a complete stranger from outside the company? They’re going to say no, and you’re going to look really crazy in the process.

But more importantly, your issue is about your trust in your wife. If you don’t trust her, you don’t fix that by reading through her emails. You fix that by some serious soul-searching, both jointly with her and on your own. Because otherwise that’s how you end up in a marriage where you’re searching through each other’s emails and phones and getting suspicious when the other person gets home late from work and so forth. So deal with whatever the core issue is, not just this one symptom.

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. Kristinyc*

    This sounds like a questions more for Dear Prudie or maybe Dan Savage…. (although I agree with Alison’s response)

    Any accusations of cheating aside – I’d kind of question the wife’s judgment on using a work email account for such personal communication… that just seems like a really bad idea.

    1. fposte*

      Maybe he just sent it to a bunch of different columnists.

      I’m thinking what it would be like to be the IT person getting this request, and I’m looking forward to hearing Jamie respond from that POV.

      And OP, you’re way, way overfocusing on the wrong thing here. If you can’t believe your wife without seeing the emails, that’s the problem, not that you can’t see the emails.

      1. Clobbered*

        I run IT departments for a living. There is ZERO chance I would release any internal data, including emails, to anyone without a warrant. As no crime has been committed, there ain’t no warrant likely in this case. And yes, I would regard any person making such a request as unhinged.

        1. Under Stand*

          Actually with a lawsuit against the boyfriend for alienation of affection, the emails would be required in discovery and their would be a court order for them.

          On the other hand, is it really worth your marriage to go down that road?

          1. fposte*

            There are only a single-digit handful of states that even allow action for alienation of affection anyway nowadays, and even they’re heading toward its abolition.

          2. Elizabeth*

            Wow, today I learned that such as thing as suing someone for “alienation of affection” exists.

            It’s a civil suit, though, not a crime – are there actually court orders to third parties (like the ex-boyfriend’s employer) in cases like that?

            1. fposte*

              Stuff gets subpoenaed for civil suits all the time as part of the discovery process. It’s just a question of how much money the plaintiff wants to spend, whether the court will grant it, and whether the third party fights it.

        2. anonymous*

          I work in information security, and my company has an initiative to change their remote tokens (the access keys that allow them to work from home) from physical tokens to software they access on their mobile device. One user I was working with asked me to call his wife, since she had the phone. I asked if the wife worked for the company as well (it’s a large company, so not unheard of), and he said no. What’s more, it was a personal phone, not even one the company provided. I told him I could help him get the token on the phone, but it would have have to be him doing it. I would not work with someone who wasn’t even working for the company.

          So, long story short, you’re correct…there’s no way in hell an IT person worth his/her salt would provide that type of information to someone outside the company.

      2. Jamie*

        Thanks fposte – how could I resist?

        If I was contacted about this I would find it ridiculously amusing. Sure, total stranger …nothing would please me more than to give you illegal access to personal communication. You’d then have the ammo with which to confront your wife. Then she’d tell her boyfriend who would report me to my boss. Losing my job and destroying my professional reputation – not to mention the risk of legal action – that’s not too much to ask!

        When I forward those emails why don’t I just give you all my network passwords and my personal bank account information? If I had a street address I could send my car keys.

        Seriously, the only thing I’d do…after I stopped laughing…would be to warn my co-worker that he needs to watch his back. That anyone would be desperate enough to make this request is really unsettling.

      3. saro*

        My cousin runs an IT department and let me tell you what happens: He says no and then proceeds to tell us at family dinners. We all then laugh at the person.

        It’s mean but really, why would you put IT in a position like that? They’re human too and don’t want to be involved in anyone’s marital drama.

    2. Natalie*

      Every one in a while I see work-related questions on Dear Prudence or some other column, and I think to myself “I wonder what AAM would say?” I feel like I’ve stepped into the bizarro version of my normal life.

        1. Long Time Admin*

          I totally agree! I don’t think any advice columnist has ever really worked in the trenches, and if they have, they are completely out of touch with the way things are today, business-wise.

        2. Natalie*

          Is it an advice columnist faux pas to give your own opinion on another columnist’s letters? If not, I would totally read a short-answer day of letters to other advice columnists.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ve actually thought a few times of commenting here about the advice given on work-related questions in other columns, but felt a little weird about it …. although if something is ever really egregious, I may not be able to resist!

  2. Marie*

    Whoa, seriously, man. It doesn’t even matter what’s in those emails. Once you’ve decided that reading through your spouse’s work emails is a reasonable way to behave, you already know everything you need to about the state of your marriage. You don’t need confirmation that your wife is cheating on you to know that you have no trust in her whatsoever, and that’s good enough reason to act. You don’t need some kind of validated “proof” to say, “I’m unhappy and our marriage needs to change if I’m going to be happy”; being unhappy is enough.

    I do want to let you know that the few details you’ve put out here are also the kind of things abusive partners do. I’m not saying you are an abuser; I’m saying this because you’re obviously so wrapped up in your emotional reaction here that you’ve lost perspective of how deeply creepy and unreasonable your behavior is. Don’t let yourself develop these invasive, boundary-crossing habits, or they’ll creep into your other personal relationships, too.

    1. Chile, Please!*


      Holy cow! Would you kindly release your lips from tge columnist’s backside?!

      The husband, though wrong, is confused & hurt. Way to kick someone when they’re down.

      Careful: you reap what you sow (judgment).

      1. Anonymous*

        Sometimes judgement needs to be made. I love how frequently people misinterpret this line of scripture.

      2. fposte*

        People who shoot up coworkers are confused and hurt, too. It’s still appropriate to condemn them.

        The OP has gone beyond confused and hurt to behavior that suggests dangerous lack of judgment and stability. I’m hoping that hearing that straight from objective commenters will give him a wakeup call about how disordered his thinking has become and he’ll find a much less destructive route to dealing with the situation.

        1. mishsmom*

          @Chile, Please!, i find it interesting that you are judging ‘Milicent’ but ask us not to judge the OP…

  3. Anonymous*

    First, how were you in your wife’s work email to begin with?

    Second, why in the world would anyone’s IT department give out their property to someone completely random? Because that’s what those emails are – their property.

    Do people even think before they write in anymore?

    1. Emily*

      Honestly, I think the worst part is how much thought clearly went into this email. “I do not want to go through my wife’s work as I know them all.” It’s like he anticipated the suggestion that he make this ludicrous request of his wife’s employer instead of her correspondant’s, so he preemptively explained why he’d already ruled out that plan of attack.

      OP—I know that emotional turmoil can turn perfectly rational people into jealous, desperate, irrational people. I hope this plan and this email came about in an impulsive spell of mania, and that when it passes, you’ll have some honest conversations with yourself and with your wife. Any fissures in your relationship are between the two of you; they don’t have any relationship to the IT department, or really even the former boyfriend.

      1. Mike Koontz*


        It’s really refreshing to see that people can actually respond to the OP with compassion. It’s easy to judge, and much harder to be thoughtful.

  4. Marie*


    Honestly, my first thought was that she used her work email because her husband is already reading her personal email.

    1. Kristinyc*

      Hah, yeah, that’s probably the case with this one. Wow.

      I hope the wife sees this post realizes how ridiculous her husband is acting. I’m also kind of wondering how he saw the first few emails too…

    2. Anonymous*

      Well, in fairness, if she were carrying on an affair, she may have been concealing it by using her work email rather than her home email…

        1. Jamie*

          She probably had it on her phone, iPad, or pulled up on her laptop. If my husband were so inclined he could pick any number of ways to read my work email.

          However, he as no interest in pouring through threads about ISO documentation, and screen shots of code settings sent to our ERP vendor, or discussions between me and a couple of co-workers about what we’re doing for lunch. For me that’s as exciting as my email gets.

          1. Nichole*

            Whether this matters definitely depends on her job. I don’t think I’ve ever had a work e-mail address where the majority of what I received could be protected by either FERPA, HIPPA, or other laws. My husband reading my e-mail would be a very big deal, whether he hacked me or I was just too trusting to assume he wouldn’t do that. I leave my e-mail and Facebook logged in, but I don’t even sit on the same side of the room if I’m checking work stuff.

          2. Under Stand*

            This. She probably left it up, he saw it, read a little and saw something that worried her. He sorted by sender and started reading more from the start and it really got him concerned. She walks in, “what are you doing?”, big fight because what he read makes it seem like something is going on (we do not know if something was or was not, but it struck him that way), she says nothing is going on but deletes all those emails so that he cannot read and see that he misunderstood, now he feels she is hiding things and having an affair. All could have been prevented if she had let him read.

            Or maybe she was having an affair and the emails would have proven it. No way to know.

            As for the comment that he should just believe her, maybe she has already been caught in a lie…

    3. Anonymous*

      BINGO. And he figured out how to access her work email, he clearly thinks it’s his right to continue to access her work correspondence, and he knows all of the people she works with . . . I agree these behaviors are indicative of a controlling if not abusive spouse (possibly the reason she’s communicating with someone else to start with?). Hopefully he’s just coming across as irrational b/c of the situation and this is not his usual demeanor. It’s not a good path to start down . . .

  5. Interviewer*

    I know this is a scary and confusing time. But do not ever involve any IT person in any of your marital issues. If you can get through the next few days, weeks, months by remembering that, first and foremost, and concentrating on working with her to fix this problem, you will be better off.

    Good luck to you.

    1. Jamie*

      This. Many of us in IT don’t even like being involved in our own marital issues. I personally avoid problems I can’t solve with a patch, a new video card, or a tweak to a couple of lines of code.

  6. Amy*

    I kind of want him to email the guy and ask for them, this seems so dramatic! I want to know the insane outcome. He should email his wife and the guy and say one of you send me the emails because I am filming a reality show about insecure husbands!

    1. Anonymous*

      No kidding. This has controlling abuser written all over it. I give this marriage six months, and that includes the time it will take to finish court proceedings. A normal, sane man would know that asking her work for this information is beyond weird…this guy just doesn’t seem to be the least bit stable.

      Although I must say that it is nice to see that AAM is filling the void left by all those cancelled soap operas!

      1. Scott Woode*

        I was totally thinking of this post as some twisted version of “As The Office Turns” and this was it’s latest installment. Glad I’m not the only one.

        1. Scott Woode*

          Sorry, “it’s” should be “its.” Teach me to comment without first having a sip of coffee.

  7. AG*

    “My wife says that at no time did she ever want to meet him or was anything going to come of this. But since I could not read the remaining 20 pages of emails, who knows.”

    Yes, you do know. You know because your wife told you. And if that’s not good enough then your marriage is in serious trouble.

  8. Pam G*

    Let’s not rush to paint the husband with the ‘suspicious creep who overzealously monitors his wife’s every move’ brush just yet. For all we know, she left her laptop on the kitchen table with her work email open, and he wandered past, glanced at it and saw something dodgy and looked closer.

    On the other hand, it sounds like she wasn’t exactly volunteering this information until found out. If she really wants to prove that there’s nothing going on, it would be easy enough for her to retrieve the deleted emails (or ask her work IT dept to help her recover deleted items from the last X period of time) and print them out for her husband. That’s how I’d repair the damage if I was the wife. I’d be suspicious too if my husband said “Oh, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about… but I’m not showing you the emails.” Why delete them if there’s nothing to hide?

    That said, I totally agree with AAM that asking the ex-boyfriend’s work to forward to the husband his private emails is all kinds of crazy!

    1. jmkenrick*

      I’m with you that there’s too little information in this letter to decide that either husband or wife is the ‘bad guy’ in this situation. But regardless – you should keep IT out of it!

    2. Ellen M.*

      “Why delete them if there’s nothing to hide?” Because she doesn’t want to fuel and enable her husband’s craziness, maybe?

      I dunno if she is cheating, or considering it; maybe she is. I dunno the content of the deleted messages. But the husband’s suspicions won’t be put to rest if he reads all the messages (and are there 20 plus messages or 20 PAGES plus?), he’ll just think she is hiding something else. Just the facts that he is so suspicious, doesn’t believe her, reads her e-mail and WANTS TO GET A HOLD OF THE DELETED E-MAILS VIA THE EX-BF’S EMPLOYER (ffs!), send up all kids of red flags – we don’t know or need to know if she’s a devil or an angel, but the guy here is loco and the marriage is in serious trouble, for sure.

      Time for serious counseling for these two, and maybe a divorce lawyer as well.

      This Q is not really about managing or jobs or workplaces but it sure is an interesting diversion.

      1. Anonymous*

        Yes. My ex was like this. He was always was paranoid and upset about something. Trying to engage him in conversation when he was acting like that only made things much worse. I sincerely hope the OP is just having an off day and not thinking clearly but it’s obvious that their marriage can’t go on like this. There needs to be some kind of open and honest communication and right now that isn’t happening.

    3. Jamie*

      “(or ask her work IT dept to help her recover deleted items from the last X period of time)”

      No way. Unless her IT department is so overstaffed that they are sitting around just waiting for something to do (in other words, a completely apocryphal IT department) then they have better things to do than pull up personal emails which she shouldn’t have been sending from her work account, anyway.

      Unless you have once rescued one of your ITs children from a burning building don’t ask for personal favors at work. This concludes my PSA for today.

  9. Anonymous*

    I’m still good friends with an ex-boyfriend. He emails me from time to time with the usual updates. My wonderful husband doesn’t worry because he has nothing to worry about. I can’t even imagine my husband going through my email, let alone asking my IT department for access. Hubby OP sounds like a controlling nutcase. I hope the wife knows a good divorce attorney.

    1. A*

      Yeah that’s not inappropriate. Why in the hell would you still keep in contact with you ex, especially now that you’re married? And don’t give me that he’s just a friend crap.

      1. Anonymous*

        I know this may sound really crazy and out there but, men and women can be friends without there being any underlying sexual or romantic inclinations involved. People can even be friends with their exes as well.

      2. Anonymous*

        A lot of people stay on good terms or even *gasp* friends with exes. One of my closest friends is an ex from college. Both of my parents are lifelong friends with a woman who dated my dad back in high school. If you have a marriage where this is automatically a problem, then its likely that the marriage isn’t very stable. It’s 2012, not 1812.

        1. A*

          Its about respect. Hey honey, let me introduce you to the person I used to bang. Or, hey junior this is my friend who almost became your mom. Thats just off the wall. Exes are exes for a reason. You didn’t get together to be platonic friends. You got together to be life partners. I doubt anyone if given the choice would prefer their current SO to be “buddies” with their ex. You’ll learn when you mature. You know it’s funny how lots of women think its okay to be friends with their ex but don’t think it’s okay for the man to.

          1. fposte*

            It’s not about maturity, it’s about how you conduct your relationships. If it’s a deal-breaker for you, then that’s fine, you get to make it one. But it’s really not an issue for a lot of people, women as well as men, if their spouse remains friends with somebody they cared for. Honestly, there’s nothing like being romantically involved with somebody to demonstrate you’re better off just being friends :-).

            1. Anonymous*

              Well, perhaps this is completely “inappropriate”, but my husband is friends with an ex from many years ago and I have no problem with it. She’s a lovely woman who I also like and I know without question that my husband and her have nothing going on but a friendship. I suppose I could suddenly turn into a paranoid nutcase and demand he never speak to her again, but who wants to be married to someone like that?

              As for “maturity”, we’ve been married for quite a while, are in our 30s, and have a child and a very stable and happy home life. I think we meet all the criteria for maturity.

            1. A*

              No pity necessary. I actually think its quite sad when someone can’t let go of their ex. And anonymous 11:36, I feel sorry that you’re having to defend the relationship your husband has with his ex. You dont deserve that.

              1. A*

                Interesting that you would resort to labeling my views bizarre just because you and a few of your readers disagree. Obviously you’re entitled to your opinion, but what’s the point of calling my views bizarre other than to insinuate that your view is the correct one.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m not going to get into this because this isn’t the place for it, but being confident that you know better about this commenter’s marriage/husband than she does, based on a couple of sentences, does indeed seem bizarre. And now I’ll drop it.

            2. Cruella*

              Wow….so no one splits up amicably in your world? How sad.

              A good friend of ours stayed such good friends with his ex, that his current wife is now the ex’s best friend! They’ve taken their last three family vacations together (with all children in tow)! While it’s kind of odd, that’s really how it should be. Everyone getting along for the children.

              I really envy that because my husband’s parents, (divorced when he was small), are still so nasty to each other it makes a two hour birthday party for my children very uncomfortable. I don’t even want to discuss what happened at our wedding.

              1. A*

                I’m the sad one? And you think it’s healthy for exes to tag along on a family vacation? And you envy that? I think your story speaks for itself.

            3. Theater B.*

              Why don’t you go to 5th period and learn how to respond to peoples’ posts professionally instead of making snap judgements on how they handle past relationships?

              I’ll be in gym class if anyone wants to insult me based off my post . . .

      3. Liz T*

        Hilarious! My boyfriend of two years dated my former roommate, and once went on a few dates with my sister. Obviously, we’ve cut off all contact with them because WHAT IF. Ha. If he’d cut off contact with his exes, we wouldn’t be dating, because I got to know him well as my roommate’s FRIEND. (Her exes are all friends with each other, not just with her.) An ex of mine from another country stays with us when he’s in town, and we’re friendly with another of my exes. (I’ve cut off contact with a third ex, but it’s due to dislike rather than sexual threat.) A best friend of mine runs a theater company with her ex–involving her new boyfriend and his new girlfriend. I know some people who are close friends with their exes from HIGH SCHOOL, etc.

        But whatever, I won’t convince you. I’ve always had guy friends, since I was a little kid, and there’ve always been people convinced that they understood those friendships better than I did. It doesn’t bother me; it makes me feel happy about the life I’ve led that I can know those people are wrong.

    2. Eric*

      If you are still “friends” with an ex and you are female, he still wants to bang you. Your husband knows this.

      1. James*

        Why is it chicks cant figure this out? Every guy I know knows exes that are still in the picture will hit it in a minute.

        1. fposte*

          I think you’ve watched too many chick flicks.

          Or to put it another way, there are plenty of people we all see on a regular basis who would have sex with us, and vice versa, but we don’t, because our genitals aren’t drawn together like neodymium magnets and we’ve got other stuff going on in our lives. Exes are nothing special in that respect.

          1. James*

            Exes are baggage. They’re dtf, even more so if they’re single. If you think they’re not give em a few adult beverages and then try to lie to me. If you can convince your S O otherwise gimme a fist bump!!!!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              James, you’ve been posting these sorts of comments under several different names, I assume in an attempt to make it look like there are multiple people pushing this viewpoint when it’s actually just you. I don’t like those types of shenanigans here, so please stop that.

          1. Anonymous*

            I’m guessing “A” too since she said several different names. I love AAM’s calm response. That woman really is a class act.

        2. krzystoff*

          so true…
          any semi-potent male, will always make time for another round with their old flame, just ‘for old times sake’.
          if there is no past between the two, the friendship continues only in the vain hope they might make the fabled transition from friends to friends-with-benefits,
          @fposte — this usually the subject of teenage boys’ comedies, rather than chick flicks — that highlights the fact that this discussion is irreparably divided, clearly Venus cannot admit the truth about Mars.

  10. Satia*

    I’m honestly surprised that nobody else has suggested that this man and his wife seek marital counseling. There’s obviously something going on within the relationship that has made it vulnerable and assuming the wife hasn’t done anything (I see no reason to disbelieve her), the time to work on the marriage is now, before one or both of you do something that is irreparable. Counseling may not necessarily salvage the relationship but it will bring the underlying issues to the surface so that they can be addressed. Once the truth is out on the table, everyone can make a decision that is, if not pain-free, at least with only a limited amount of anguish.

    1. jmkenrick*

      I agree with you that marital counseling could be useful for any relationship going through a problem.

      What’s confusing to me about this discussion is all the diagnostics going on about this man & his marriage. Maybe I lack perspective here, but I don’t feel like his question gives me enough to figure out what the marriage’s problem is. IE: maybe he’s overly paranoid, maybe she has a history of cheating, maybe this is a Fight Club situation and his wife IS HIM. *spoiler alert*

      However, it is clear to me that he needs to not involve any company’s IT department. That I feel confident about.

  11. Piper*

    I’m sorry. I’ve had a rough day (week, month, year) and this just made me laugh out of total disbelief. How does a scheme like this even cross someone’s mind?

    OP, step away from the IT department and go have a heart-to-heart with your wife.

  12. anon-2*

    The answer to this question is, hell, no.

    The only way, as someone else said, that those could be divulged is via a court order of some type — which would ONLY be obtainable if there was either litigation or a criminal investigation.

    And even then, most companies routinely purge e-mails after a set, and reasonable period of time, for their own protection — especially in cases like this.

    Yeah, this question does have creepiness written all over it.

  13. Anonymous*

    This reminds me so much of my literally insane first “husband” that I am shaking. If this isn’t an abusive situation, it’s a just plain bizarre situation. No marriage should break down to the point where amateur espionage comes into play. I think these two need to separate from each other, and depending on the situation they then need to cool off and head to counseling or seek a divorce.

    1. Cruella*

      Unfortunately, the wife didn’t seek AAM’s advice. The controlling nutbag husband did.

      (To the Husband)
      Hey Pal! It’s obvious you have some trust issues! Give your wife a break. She SAID it was nothing. Why don’t you believe her? Or are you unhappy and looking for something to blame it on when your marriage heads South?

    1. Anonymous*

      This is good advice. I think they need some serious marriage counseling and the husband needs to sit down with a therapist to discuss why he ever thought this course of action might be a good idea. At my last company, someone making a request like that would have triggered some big time questions about security and I can almost guarantee that outside law enforcement would have been contacted. This is exactly the type of situation that leads to workplace violence.

    2. Jamie*

      “Get help. Professional help. Not IT professional help, though.”

      I love this – I want to stitch it on a sampler and hang it in my office.

  14. Editor*

    Unless I am actively working on my computer at home, it isn’t possible to access my work or home email because that stuff is password protected, and I always put the passwords in manually.

    In part, this is to retain my privacy. But it’s also because the passwords for work have to be changed several times a year. I do have a moderately discreet place where I write down parts of my passwords so I can remember what they are, but I have a couple of prefixes and suffixes I use with passwords so I don’t have to write down everything. (In case of emergency or death, at least family members can use the notes to get into the accounts if necessary.)

    After a joint email account proved to be difficult for us to manage, because the experience of sharing it was akin to having one’s spouse open one’s personal snail mail, we separated our email accounts and put in separate passwords so we logged onto our own desktops, which we also managed quite differently. Marital peace and privacy was restored.

    People in the family razzed us about having separate email addresses and our requests that both addresses be used for emails that were going the rounds. But it worked out much better for us that way.

    OP shouldn’t be reading his spouse’s letters and she shouldn’t be reading his, whether they come in envelopes or in email. And he should not bring the marital drama into any workplace — his wife’s, his own, or that of some other person — as many have said repeatedly.

    1. Anonymous*

      So off topic, I know, but it seems really odd to me that people would comment on you having separate email addresses! It’s the joint ones that freak me out. I hire people, and to be honest, seeing mrandmrssmith@whatever is probably more of a put off than the people who have ‘funny’ email addresses. If I’m communicating with you about something professionally, I want to communicate with you, not your spouse. And no, I don’t want to put in the subject who I’m communicating with – that’s the point of the address.

      1. Natalie*

        Ugh, I hate shared email addresses. We have actually run across some companies (of more than 1 person!) that all share an email address. It’s ridiculous.

    2. Jen M.*

      Well said.

      My boyfriend and I (we have been together for five years) maintain separate bank accounts and separate computers, down to having separate logins. We also have separate email addresses.

      We have no secrets from one another–it just makes everything easier. He doesn’t want all of my emails about art, animal rescue, and running a small business, and I’m not interested in all of the technical stuff that he gets. Why clutter up one account with all of that stuff?

  15. Emily Too*

    No, OP, you shouldn’t ask your wife’s lover’s–I mean, ex-boyfriend’s–company to release the emails to you. She’s obviously already called him to tell him to delete his copies as well. Maybe if you check the phone records you’ll find some calls to Missouri. You might have to ask her workplace for her phone records there, too. Honestly, are you really that bad up for the income? If she stayed at home she wouldn’t have a place to hide her affair in the first place.

    Confidential to OP’s Wife: You deserve better treatment. From him or from someone else.

  16. Anonymous*

    20 plus emails between them!! Wow, I certainly be worried…Don’t like it. Instead of contacting IT, CONTACT YOUR WIFE!!!! Get Real!!!

    1. X2*

      The OP said 20 “pages” of email, which I assume would amount to over 100 individual emails! But whether it is 2 emails, 20 emails, or 200 emails shouldn’t really matter because the OP doesn’t trust his wife, period.

  17. Scott Woode*

    Honestly, this sounds like a clear-cut case of poor self-esteem mixed with some serious marital and psychological issues. OP, please seek professional help. A licensed social worker or psychologist will help you to work through this behavior and the reason(s) behind it, but don’t involve the IT department; your wife’s or her ex’s.

  18. Anonymous*

    Just because everyone is saying no way in hell would an IT department do this… At the company I used to work at, the IT department actually helped the HR Director install tracking software on her husband’s cellphone and computer so she could know where he was at all times and see everything he did on his computer. It was a very odd company, but just saying— it happens!

  19. Anonymous*

    I mean honestly, I don’t see why she would refuse to let him see the e-mails unless she was up to something. My husband doesn’t read my work e-mails but I wouldn’t care if he did either, because I have nothing to hide. She obviously deleted the e-mails because even if she didn’t have an affair, she was clearly doing/saying things she is ashamed of and she knows are inappropriate and will upset her husband. There is always two sides to a story and everyone here is calling him an abuser when it sounds more to me like an emotionally fragile person who stumbled upon secretive e-mails his wife was having with an ex-lover. It would be one thing if she was like “Oh, guess who e-mailed me today, my ex-boyfriend. Weird catching up after all of these years.” It would be another thing if I found out they were both e-mailing each other secretly from work accounts (as opposed to personal, which are more likely to be seen my significant others). Yes, contacting the IT department of the boyfriend is irrational— but emotionally distraught people think irrationally. If my husband was that upset I’d just let him read the e-mail in question– I’d be angry he wouldn’t take my word, but perhaps she has done something in the past to try his trust in her. Just saying, people are throwing a lot of judgements around here and we don’t know the half of what is going on.

    AAMs advice is spot on, though!

    1. Natalie*

      “She obviously deleted the e-mails because even if she didn’t have an affair, she was clearly doing/saying things she is ashamed of and she knows are inappropriate and will upset her husband.”

      Or she knows he is paranoid and jealous and is trying to protect herself.

      1. Anonymous*

        Then why not calm the paranoia/jealousy and just let him read them so it is clear nothing fishy was going on? I really just don’t get it. If she said anything that she thinks will make him upset, why did say it in the first place?

        1. Diane*

          She could have just said some things she didn’t want her husband to read that aren’t related to having an affair – maybe she was talking to her friend about problems in the marriage for example. Or his birthday present.

        2. Anonymous*

          Why not calm the paranoia? Because nothing will EVER calm the paranoia. Believe me, even if she said nothing at all to be ashamed of, he’d create it in his head.

          1. Me too*

            This. She’ll quickly find herself indulging every jealous, paranoid idea he has, because if she refuses, she’s “hiding something.” It leads to spending every waking moment second guessing yourself to keep from having to explain why you hung up the phone or closed an e-mail window, and he will find something anyway. Get help, OP, or it will only get worse for both of you.

        3. Anonymous*

          Because a healthy relationship is not one where your partner’s obsessive, irrational need to know every detail of your personal relationships with other people is indulged. Why do people think you have to give up your right to some privacy just because you’re in a relationship? It doesn’t matter why she wanted the privacy, she has a right to it even if only on principle, regardless of the content of the emails. I would delete an email that said, “Can you check to see if this website is down?” just out of spite if my partner thought he could force me to let him read it.

          1. X2*

            I agreed with you until “delete an email that said, “just out of spite if my partner thought he could force me to let him read it.”

            That doesn’t sound too healthy a relationship either…

            1. Anon again*

              What can I say, I have no tolerance for jealousy and possessiveness. I was with a possessive/jealous abuser in the past and now I draw my line in indelible ink and make it clear from the start that I have sovereignty over my personal life. If a guy won’t trust that *I* will make decisions that respect him and our relationship without him monitoring or making the decisions for me, I’ll DTMFA anyway, so he won’t have to put up with my shenanigans for long.

              1. Anonymous*

                I am sorry you also had to go through an abusive relationship. I also posted about having been through a relationship like this and how hard it was. Reading that there are others who endured this makes me feel so much better as I often feel like I am alone in this experience. I am now in a supportive, loving, trust-based relationship and I wish the same for you.

    2. The Other Diane*

      You know, I used to be married to a guy whose screaming fits were so unsettling that I did all sorts of things to avoid upsetting him, even if I wasn’t doing anything that a normal, sane, stable person would consider wrong. It’s a path to an unhappy, fearful life dictated by someone else’s instability.

      I would never advise someone in that situation to just show the emails / produce the panties to sniff. Because someone looking for wrongdoing will always always find it, in the worst way, whether it’s there or not.

    1. Anonymous*

      That is sometimes true, it is also true that one might be mistrusting if that trust has been broken in the past.

  20. Anonymous*

    I’ve been in a relationship like this, as the woman. I was accused of everything under the sun and was threatened to the point where I was afraid that if I left the relationship, he would kill himself (that was his favorite threat- I finally left, he’s still alive). I’m sure people thought terrible and untrue things about me based on his paranoid statements. Arguing or trying to reason with him only made things much worse to the point of violence. I’m not saying this is necessarially the situation here, just that I have a tale from the other side.

  21. Tara*

    I seriously can’t even wrap my head around this… Not that he will ever respond after we questioned his sanity but I would love to know
    (1) how did he access his wifes work messages, and know that there were 23 messages between wife and ex. IT IS NOT NORMAL to read your spouses work email.
    (2) How did his wife “delete” the messages, if he was on Page 3 then she must have known he had accessed the messages and freaked and deleted them OR did he break into her email account somehow and the connection got cut when someone realized he had hacked it.
    (3) Why would any logical, professional person think that either his work or her work would release personal email messages off of work systems. I don’t think I could even get MY OWN personal email from my work account if I lost it somehow.

    Ugh… this person just doesn’t seem rational, aside from possiblity of a cheating wife (who obviously had a conversation about the emails because “the jig was up” with her husband)

    1. Anonymous*

      Or the scenario that I think Under Stand put above – sees emails at a glance, reads them because of ex’s names, huge fight ensues, she deletes emails.. we end up at this question.
      On his end, it MAY be fishy that he saw them and it certainly isn’t okay for him to ask for access to them (but hey, he asked for advice first! So maybe he realizes that he’s overreacting).
      But on her end, it’s fishy that she had a pretty extensive undisclosed relationship with an ex that she put, intentionally or not, on an e-mail account that her SO was unlikely to see.
      Point is, we don’t know enough to place him as an abusive or mentally messed up person or just someone who’s been badly hurt and is temporarily acting irrationally. Nor do we know enough to place her as victim or repeat cheater/chronic liar (maybe she has cheated before and that’s why there’s such a strong reaction .) I think beyond saying there’s some trust/communication issues in this relationship, we can’t judge.

  22. anon-2*

    While this is a lurid tale, and amusing to some, what does this have to do with management and the workplace?

    Any fool knows that a company cannot divulge these e-mails, and would scoff at such a request from both a privacy AND a legal standpoint.

  23. anon-2*

    OK, I have to admit, I was amused — but it does beg another issue on employee privacy.

    Flashback 40 years ago — I worked in a gas station, where we had to pump the gas. And we employed a dozen people. Some of us were entrusted to do some of the station’s managerial functions, such as payroll.

    Mind you – there wasn’t much “confidential stuff”. Everyone made $2 an hour. No bennies.

    This husband wanting to see his wife’s e-mail reminded me of an employee’s mother — who wanted her 19 year old son to not only be paid in cash — but wanted the envelope handed over to HER!

    She couldn’t understand why we couldn’t do that. Then she asked if we could have his paychecks made out to HER. Nope. And we had to hand HIS check to HIM and no one else. No, ma’am, you cannot pick up his check. This is similar. Just creepier.

      1. A Current College Student*

        Oops – reread your post a moment after posting my reply. Yes, I understand minimum wage laws were far different 40 years ago…

        1. anon-2*

          $2 an hour was good. Considering the minimum wage was $1.80 – $2 was good. This was 1972.

          We had a great boss, and we had fun there. We were all high school or college kids and none of us were going to be gas pump jockeys for a career. The boss was appreciative of that, and also was appreciative of us.

          He asked us — for Christmas Day — can we each come in for 2 hours to cover? We get there, he bought beer, soda, and a huge turkey buffet dinner was catered. I went in for 2 hours, stayed five… it was a working party. Good times.

  24. Kerry*

    One thing that I’m finding weird about this whole thing is this:

    Isn’t pretty much everyone in some form of contact with most of their exes?

    I mean, this is the age of Facebook. We’re all connected to lots of people from our past. In the olden days, being in touch with an ex may have meant that you or he put some serious effort into tracking one another down…but no more.

    I’m in touch with people I dated going all the way back to junior high school, because of Facebook (and my husband could not care less). I thought most everyone else was too. Am I the only one?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I am too and agree it’s really common.

      I know some people do feel differently about staying in touch with their exes, which is totally fine too — but it’s when they start assuming there’s something wrong with doing it that I get suspicious/concerned.

    2. Eric*

      No, you are not the only one, but it is common for women to think it is “no big deal”. Most guys know better.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve never dated a guy who had an issue with me still being in touch with some of my exes. And if he did, I’d consider that a big red flag. Either he trusts me or he doesn’t, and I’m not interested in being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t. (And it doesn’t matter what the ex’s hidden intentions might be — I don’t think they have any, but even if they did, it takes two for something to come of that.)

        1. fposte*

          And why is the focus just on exes, anyway? Most of us know and socialize with many people of the opposite or relevant sex. Most relationships, cheating or otherwise, start with new people, not with people we already have been with. Not to make crazy people even more annoying, but this is just illogical.

          1. Jamie*

            ” the opposite or relevant sex.”

            I’ve never seen it phrased that way. That’s all kinds of awesome.

            Your comment reminded me of a scene from Frasier where he’s meeting an ex and Niles says something to the effect that if she doesn’t want to rekindle their relationship Frasier can’t say it’s because she doesn’t know what she’s missing. She knows – she just doesn’t miss it.

        2. Anonymous*

          But trust has to be built first. I also understand when people who’ve been cheated on are weary of all exes.

        3. jmkenrick*

          To me, the red flag there is also that if they don’t think I’m capable of maintaining a platonic relationship with an ex, I wonder if it’s because THEY’RE not capable of maintaining a platonic relationship with an ex.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes! Being so untrusting is like announcing that you’re not trustworthy yourself. (Unless, of course, the person has given you reason not to trust them, in which case you need to find a way to resolve that or get out of the relationship.)

            1. Eric*

              It’s easy to trust your girl. It’s hard to trust the guy she is friends with. We know what is on their mind. Girls are oblivious.

              You probably thought your “best guy friend” in high school didn’t want in your pants either.

              If your current knows you are talking to an ex, its filed in the back of their head somewhere. Go ask your guys. They’ll tell you. It’s not that we are angered, just aware. Go ask your husbands. If they say they don’t think about it, they’re lying.

              1. fposte*

                James/Eric/Dude, what you’re not getting is that much of the adult world, male and female, is, as you charmingly put it, dtf. It’s not unique to an ex. So if you’re so worried about other men having impure thoughts about your girlfriend, why are you limiting your anxiety to the exes? It’s like you think you’re less dumped if she leaves you for a new co-worker.

              2. Anonymous*

                I think that “Eric” talking about trust when he keeps making up new names to post under is awfully ironic. Also, she isn’t “your” girl. She belongs to herself.

              3. Anonymous*

                Wow, it’s good to know that my ex from high school who is married with kids to a girl he’s been with for five years still wants in my pants, even though we only dated for six months then.

                Also, I’ll inform my ex who turned out gay that he still wants me, even though he’s gay.

                What a narrow point of view.

    3. X2*

      I think it really does depend on the relationships in question. When things have ended badly, I’ve felt like “I’m done with you, you need not exist” and ceased all contact with them. When things ended amicably, I’ve kept in touch.

      1. khilde*

        Yes! It’s funny to see such extreme views (and I don’t mean bad, just on very far ends of the spectrum) regarding the whole keeping-in-touch with exes. I personally have no desire to keep in touch with any of my exes. They are all nice guys and I wish them well. I just don’t have a desire for them to be part of my life. They weren’t the right fit for my life then and probably won’t be now. Now that I’m happily married to someone who does fit in well. On the other hand, I have not had the experience of finding genuine friendship with someone who did not turn out to be a romantic fit. So, I can also see how people in those situations would enjoy keeping up with someone whom you still esteem and would like to keep in touch with. This has been a highly entertaining post!

    4. Anonymous*

      I’m not but I’ve had a very…rocky history. I’d guess if they’d been different people (or I had) I’d still be in touch. But I do think that there are quite of few people who have have relationships that pretty much require cutting that person out of your life entirely. An abusive and jealous ex for example is much more likely to be cut out of your life (you hope) than someone who just didn’t jive well with you. So someone who fit that profile might not understand that yes it is possible to still be in touch in a very platonic way, for realsies.

    5. Jamie*

      “Isn’t pretty much everyone in some form of contact with most of their exes?

      I mean, this is the age of Facebook”

      Most people, absolutely. I’m not, but I’m not much of a people person and I don’t have the greatest track record of friendly goodbyes.

      Then again, I’ve been known to pretend to be someone else when I ran into an old friend from school in the grocery store who seemed very happy to see me. I’m of the mindset that if I still wanted to be in touch, we would be – so save the stamp when sending out invites to reunions.

      Seriously, though – Kerry is right. In the age of Facebook if people are going to get bent out of shape because of some casual contact, then they are in for a bumpy ride. Might I suggest one of those cults that cut off contact with the outside world and still practice shunning.

      1. krzystoff*

        Facebook/MySpace/etc are largely superficial networking tools with the emphasis on sharing your daily life to your clique, whereas email, texts, phonecalls, are typically more intimate forms of communication.
        Just to spell things out:
        if your SO is has several hundred Fu*#book ‘friends’ that’s mostly harmless time wasting; however, if you SO has regular, lengthy personal communiqués with a member of the opposite sex, it may be a concern; if the two of them had an intimate history together, it is likely a concern; if the two of them have been communicating more, or had more contact with each other than you have had with your SO, you should seek relationship counselling, and/or discuss with your partner a major adjustment to the terms of your relationship;
        if they also have had many inexplicable absences, you should seek legal counsel / private investigator.

  25. Sandrine*

    To give my two cents on the “in contact with exes” side of things, well… I met my first BF at 19. We stayed together a little over 6 years and were engaged. Two or three years after we met he met his best male friend.

    Three months after we finally broke up for good, the Ex asked his best girl friend out, stung for a minute, all is fine now.

    Two years after we finally broke up fod good, guess who I ended up being with ? Yup, the ex’s best male friend. We’re all still friends, and very much so. Even spent New Year’s Eve together.

    It IS possible to be “just friends” with both sexes. I work with gorgeous men, my BF knows it, we’re all friendly and sometimes have the worst humor ever, and no harm done because there is no cheating going on and everyone knows what is happening.

    As far as the original question goes, I actually think it’s work related enough to be posted, because it poses the problem of external people accessing company resources (the wife’s e-mail) or contacting a company to get information about an employee.

  26. Eric*

    I have only been posting under Eric. I am not James or anybody else. I wish Allison had been more discrete with her discipline.

  27. There'sAnotherPerspective*

    I would be concerned to if my SO had rekindled a relationship (whether platonic or not) with an ex, had extensive correspondance (either pages of conversation or 23 individual messages), and also claimed to have got “caught up with the attention and memories…” AND then deleted the majority of their correspondance without letting me read it, AFTER I had read some things that caught me as red flags. Ummm yea, my SO saying “trust me! I don’t want to meet my ex again!” would not cut it, short of me seeing the emails.
    I can’t believe many people are labelling him as a possible abuser, or a man with low self-esteem and trust issues, because he won’t take his wife at her word that nothing has/will happen. She DELETED the emails. I think that if her desire for privacy trumps her husbands concern for trust in the marriage, then they do need councelling, but not because the hunsband is nosy and insecure, but because the wife desires her privacy over her husbands trust. That to me is a red flag.

    1. Jen M.*

      It would me, too, but I would not go so far as to read all of my bf’s emails and then demand he produce more. We would discuss my concerns, and I would ask him what was up. I trust him to tell me the truth. I do not feel I have to violate his boundaries and bully him into getting the truth.

      This husband’s patterns are unhealthy, regardless of what is going on with the wife. They are downright creepy, honestly.

      I’m sorry if their marriage is unhappy and she’s cheating on him–if she is–but what he is doing is wrong and points to some potentially serious issues.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly. If you can only trust him when there’s hard proof that he’s being honest, then you’ve got a huge problem. That’s not to say that you have to just take his word for it — but if you can’t, then that tells you that trust is ruined between you, and that’s what you need to figure out how to solve.

  28. Jen M.*

    Ok. I’m going to weigh in on the keeping-in-touch-with-exes thing.

    I do not keep in touch with most of my exes–at this time, I’m not in touch with ANY of them. Why? When our relationships ended, it was generally either on bad terms, or our relationship–on ANY level–had simply run its course. We no longer had the right things in common, so we both moved on with our lives. I have run into a couple of them in the past, and there was always a short, pleasant exchange, but no real desire to “get back in touch.”

    I DO have guy friends, but ever since I can remember, the kind of guys I hang out with and the kind of guys I date are very different. I don’t have “chemistry” with the kind of guys I befriend. I just don’t. We dont’ click that way. (Also, a lot of my guy friends are gay.)

    I just have never felt any desire to keep in touch. There is one ex who I will contact when his cat (she has lived with me for the past 16 years or so, since we broke up) passes away, because I feel he’d probably want to know, but I don’t foresee it becoming a new friendship. *shrug*

    Now, as far as my boyfriend goes (speaking generally, not specifically of my current boyfriend,) I will be honest and say I am not comfortable with it; however, I make this known to the men I date, I let them know I realize it is MY issue, and I keep an open mind.

    My current boyfriend WAS in touch with an ex, and I even met her. We went out to dinner when she was in town visiting once. Oddly, after that meeting, she stopped talking to my BF much. (She was never one to keep in constant touch, anyway, but she REALLY withdrew.) He wrote her after we hadn’t heard from her in a few months, and she sent him back this weird email about “not having time to be friends right now.” I told him I suspect she had still had feelings for him, and had felt discouraged after she met me, and he said he thought I was probably right.

    He was in touch with his most recent ex for a few months after we got together, but after a while when she’d keep emailing him about random stuff he was like, “Why is she still emailing me?”

    I really think it depends on the person. Some people stay friends with their exes, and some don’t. Sometimes it is a problem, and sometimes it is not. I think the key is to know yourself and your own preferences and to be open to discussing that with your partner. For some people, it absolutely IS a dealbreaker.

    Communication is important.

    This OP, though: Creepy. Needs to talk to his wife and needs help.

  29. Been there myself*

    From my experience I don’t see anything particulalry troubling about the OP’s post. Granted, I think it’s silly to think any IT dept would turn over personal email, especially as outlined in his scenario, but the rest of his post is rather tame, I think. He doesn’t sound threatening, just trying to make sense of this situation. He wants to know the truth, and he obviously doesn’t trust his wife. If she had nothing to hide she wouldn’t have deleted the emails. If truly innocent, showing them to him would have allayed his fears and the situation could have been a trust-BUILDING exercise instead of trust buster.

    To say he should take her word for it is naive. Early in my marriage I had a feeling my wife was cheating. I checked phone records and discovered calls to a number I didn’t recognize. Then I put a tape recorder on our land line (yes, I bugged my own phone) and confirmed my suspicions. I had asked her if there was anything going on before I resorted to those measures and she denied it. But I trusted my instincts more than I trusted her… after all, she had incentive to lie, but my instincts didn’t. Long story short, we worked through it and I trusted her for the next 15 years. Then I started getting suspicious again because of odd behavior (staying at work longer, putting her phone away when I entered the room, closing out her Facebook account when I’d come around, etc) We talked about it and it turned out there were reasons she was doing those things, but not cheating. We had some issues that we had avoided addressing, and she was talking to friends about it. So I trust her.

    But I know at least 3 guys at work who were all involved to some degree with a young woman in the office. She was sleeping with one guy, then started hitting on a couple others. The 2nd guy started having an affair with her, and she swore she never had anything going with the first guy. The 3rd guy dropped out when he realized how “popular” she was. The 2nd guy continued the relationship, but realized she was still seeing the 1st guy when he saw an email from him when he stopped by her desk one day. Anyway, she eventually confessed she had been sleeping with at least 6 guys, including her “real” bf over the course of the year. And guys 1 and 3 were screwing around with other girls. Guess what? Her “real” bf refused to believe she had been involved with the other guys. IMHO, it’s pathetic that he took her word for it, even after discovering the affair with guy 2. Guy 2 was the only one who admitted anything, so she denied all the other affairs (in spite of having admitted them in various emails). The bf didn’t want to believe she was capable of that much infidelity, I guess, so he accepted her ludicrous explanations for her email confessions (basically she said she did it so that guy 2 would stay with her because he told her he knew about the other guys. Really? What kind of person falsely implicates others just to placate a suspicious boyfriend?) I know, it’s hard to follow, but when you’re dealing with that much deception and twists and turns it gets tricky to keep up with.

    Point is, there a re LOTS of cheaters (statistics , and I would venture to say that the majority will deny the affair, especially if there’s no hard evidence. See this:

    If you’re not cheating, be transparent. If your SO is suspicious, you’re an idiot to do things like delete emails… unless you enjoy playing games and creating an atmosphere of distrust. Any BS about “drawing lines” at simple requests like his (to read the emails), is indicative of a much worse dysfunction than a SO asking their mate to show them there’s nothing to be suspicous of. When you realize how many people cheat in their lifetime it’s just dumb to assume you’re immune based solely on your partners word. But the more often the partner demonstrates trustworthiness, the more likely the other partner will be to extend trust in the future.

    Before you barrage me with flames, I know there are abusive types with unfounded suspicions, but they constitute a small majority. So trust your partner, but don’t ignore your instincts. Cheating is not rare, so don’t act like it’s absurd to be suspicious, especially in light of suspicious behavior by your mate.

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