The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: A suspicious e-mail, suspiciously deleted


Adapted from recent online discussions.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My wife is friends with a former co-worker (also married). I have always supported their friendship and never thought much of it, until one night when I saw an e-mail from him that read, “Can I see you tonight?” Immediately something struck me as off — the wording of the e-mail . . . it just didn’t strike me as a “friend” tone. I thought if it was nothing (i.e., just getting together to chat about work), then my wife would mention it to me, but she didn’t.

I went into her e-mail later to see her reply, and found the message deleted from her inbox, as well as her trash folder, which made me think it was something she didn’t want seen. Later I looked at our phone bill and found she was making multiple texts and calls to him on an almost daily basis — so much so it rivaled what she and I make day-to-day.

I brought it up with my wife, who claimed she had no idea it was so much, that they are simply friends, and that it’s not a big deal. Am I reading too much into this? I just can’t shake the feeling something is going on outside of being just friends.


It sure appears as if you have something to worry about; people don’t double-delete innocent e-mails. Presumably there were other e-mails from the same dates in her trash folder that hadn’t been wiped out?

I think you need to go back to her and say that you’ve thought about it, that you want to believe it’s nothing, but that you can’t shake the feeling that she’s not telling you the truth. Cite the double-delete and whatever else you’ve seen that doesn’t track with “simply friends.” Then say you’d rather have a bad truth here than false reassurance.

Of course, if she decides to stick to her story, you do hit a wall; you either get to act on the evidence you have, twiddle your thumbs waiting for something to happen — unappealing options, both — or you become a chronic snoop, which is among the lower roads to travel.

Until you hit that wall — and in the interest of avoiding it — I suggest you make telling you the truth as palatable for her as possible, whatever that truth may be.

Hi, Carolyn:

The boyfriend and I broke up just the other week. I completely agree that it was the right thing to do because we needed and wanted different futures. But I cry every day! I was crazy about him and miss his company.

I don’t want to get back together. What can I do to help my heart catch up to my head in getting over this?

Heartbreak Hotel

Hearts are notoriously resistant to help with these things. Which is the great thing about hearts — if they could just switch themselves on and off, what would be the point?

So just give yourself time to cry. If you don’t force yourself into a million distractions, then your cry phase will run its course naturally, the tears will taper off, you’ll even get sick of them, and you’ll surprise yourself by finding you have room for other feelings again. There’s just no substitute for time. I’m sorry.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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