Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas


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My husband and I have a joint email account, and the other day I was checking to see if I'd sent an email when I came across an email my husband had written to a friend. It read: "Thank you for listening to all my woes. This has, as you can imagine, been the most terrible worry for me, and you are the only person I can confide in." I have no idea what he was talking about – my husband doesn't have any worries that I know of. Do you think I should tackle him about it and find out what the problem is? Yours sincerely, Elisa

Virginia says... There is a common fantasy that people in relationships have to be completely open with one another. Each must lay all their cards on the table and blurt out all their thoughts, hopes and fears. No matter how grisly, even their pasts must be laid bare. Otherwise, it's claimed, there's no "trust".

But trust is a funny thing. Because while we want to be able to trust our partners, that doesn't necessarily involve knowing all their secrets. And certainly I'd like a man who I could trust to be selective in what he tells me. I don't want a man who worries me sick by telling me every anxiety that flits across his head at any given moment.

Let's consider what this "terrible worry" might have been. Let's say your husband had had one single gay experience when he was young, and now has an irrational phobia that he's got AIDS. Would you really like to know that? Mightn't this knowledge draw you into a panic, too? And would you ever be able to see him talking to a bloke at a party without it flitting across your mind that he fancied him? Might you not take his worry and run with it... run with it in all kinds of completely loopy directions?

What about if, whenever he saw your mother, your husband, despite himself, became incredibly aroused sexually. Do you really want to know this? He's not going to do anything about it. But his body just behaves against his will. Would you really want to know this? Surely this information would make your life impossible whenever your mother came round.

Now, it could be that he has a gambling addiction, that he's made a girl at work pregnant, or that he's slowly going bankrupt. In those circumstances, you need to be told. But can't you trust your husband enough to know that if it were a big worry like that he would tell you?

If I were you I'd decide to say nothing for at least three months. During those three months it might be that the worry emerges naturally. Or it could be that it's clear that there's nothing going on. Or it could be that this email haunts you so much that you find it impossible to forget and decide to ask him what it was about. In the meantime, I'd simply drop one hint. I'd say: "Do you ever accidentally read the emails I send out when you're searching for something you've sent?" He will then ask the same question back. And you can say: "Sometimes. It's difficult not to." And leave it at that.


Readers say...

Confront him

I think that you should bring this to your husband's notice. The fact that he used a shared email to send this shows that he knew you would see it and wanted you to know. Something is bothering him and he doesn't want to be the one to bring it up. It's not like he can accuse you of spying, as you both use the address .

Claire, York


He wants you to ask

You have a joint email account. Therefore your husband knows you can see his emails, and was at the least careless as to whether you saw this or not. It's a strong possibility, though, that he actually wanted you to see it and ask what was up. I remember when I was a child, decades ago, if I wanted my mother to know something was troubling me I would act being unhappy just so that she would ask...

Josquine, By email


Keep it private

This is just one of the reasons I'd never have joint email!

Stuart Morrish, By (password-protected) email


Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, For three years I had an affair with a man in our village. We're both married. Then I left my husband to go off with this man, but after a couple of months we both realised it was a mistake. I'm now back with my husband – happier than ever, oddly – but my ex-lover's wife is causing no end of trouble. I work in the village shop and last week she came in and threw a bucket of water over me. Sometimes she comes in and screams at me. My ex-lover says there's nothing he can do. And I'm too ashamed to go to the police. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Megan

What would you advise Megan to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent., or go to independent. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (