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Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.

A reader writes: I have been married for three years to a woman 15 years younger. I was previously in a 10-year common-law relationship, which ended several years before I met my wife. For years I had no contact with my ex, but recently (I can't recall who initiated it) we arranged to meet for a drink, during which we caught up and talked about our kids (from previous marriages). My wife found out and she's furious. She did this by somehow accessing my e-mail. I have never been unfaithful to her or to any previous partner, although I had another female friend, entirely platonic, with whom she insisted I cease all contact. I already did that. What do I do now?

Look at your marriage

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You apologize and explain yourself. Why were you keeping it a secret if it was innocent? Why did your wife feel she had to go through your e-mail? If friendship with women is an issue, it may be time to look at your marriage. If your wife was confident in your friendship she might not feel threatened by your other female friends.

Surinder Singh, Montreal

Apologize profusely

You met your ex for a drink without: a) inviting your current wife; or b) telling your current wife about it – and you wonder why she's upset? Buddy, wake up and smell the divorce papers – you cheated. Beg her forgiveness and stop all contact with the ex. And pray that your current Mrs. doesn't kick you to the curb.

Judy Warren, Ottawa

Get your wife help

Your wife has a problem. She demonstrated it by forcing you to end a platonic friendship. You shouldn't have caved in then. I used to be jealous until my sister said: What a waste of energy. Either this man loves me, in which case I have nothing to worry about. Or he doesn't, in which case the sooner I find out the better. My partner has two exes; one attends family events with us. This couple is in a vicious circle: He is secretive, she feels threatened and attacks, he becomes more secretive. Her jealousy needs to be addressed professionally.

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Marcia Stromsmoe, Victoria

THE FINAL WORD

What you do now is you sit down with your wife and say, "Honey, we have a problem, and together I hope we can get to the heart of it. Here are the symptoms: I lied and you snooped.

"There has to be a good reason for those two things (you'll go on to say). There has to be a reason I went out for drinks with my ex and neglected to tell you. Clearly I suspected you'd be upset and I wanted to avoid a confrontation. But if I knew you wouldn't like it, why did I go ahead? Maybe I felt like it wasn't such a big deal. Since I've never cheated, why shouldn't I have a drink with an old friend who happens to have been a sexual partner?

"I recognize now that this was moronic of me. If it truly was so innocent, why wouldn't I have told you? (Insert sincere and unconditional apology here before continuing.)

"The fact that you snooped in my e-mail is a red flag. It says you don't trust me and now you feel like you have good reason for that (maybe a quick apology recap here).

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"Here's what I think we should do. Let's agree to forgive each other for these infractions on the condition that we now have as ruthlessly honest a conversation as we can stand. You are going to tell me why you mistrust me to the point of snooping, and I'm going to listen without being defensive. Then, it's my turn. I'm going to explain why I did what I did. I'm not going to sugarcoat it."

Before you take this step with your wife, however, you have to take it with yourself. The real question: Is your wife irrationally jealous or is she, in fact, rationally jealous? Only one of you knows the answer.

Lynn Coady is the author of novels The Antagonist, Mean Boy and Strange Heaven .

NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION

A reader writes: We are having our daughter baptized, followed by a catered brunch in our home to celebrate her baptism and first birthday. We have invited close friends only, at most 30 people. One atheist couple RSVPed they would attend the brunch only – because they would "burst into flames upon entering the church." My husband and I find this disrespectful and intolerant. We feel like asking them not to bother attending at all, but although the relationship has been soured we don't want to be confrontational. Thoughts?

Let's hear from you

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E-mail us at grouptherapy@globeandmail.com. All questions are published anonymously, but we'll include your name and hometown if we use your response (it will be edited).

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