DEAR AMY: I am 51 years old and my wife and I have been married for 25 years. My wife has a male colleague at work that she has been good friends with for more than 20 years. It has been bothering me for quite some time now, that they text each other after work and over the weekend. Nothing has ever led me to believe anything is going on, other than friendship. However, since it is bothering me, I did some research and there is evidence that many “affairs” start out as friendships and that texting can often lead to something more. I have shared my feelings on three different occasions and my wife tells me there is nothing to worry about. If it bothers me, shouldn’t that bother her? He is a great guy and I don’t think anything is going on, but I am concerned. Am I paranoid?
DEAR WORRIED: You admit to being at least a little paranoid about this long-standing friendship. The question is, why are you concerned about this relationship now? Is it because the off-hours texting is a new thing, or are you perceiving changes in your relationship with your wife that causes you to worry?
I agree with you that if this bothers you, it should bother your wife. It is definitely true that anyone engaging in an emotional affair would falsely reassure their spouse by saying they had nothing to worry about — as your wife has done. A perceptive and sensitive spouse would also recognize where the insecurity came from, and would take some very easy steps to remove the worry.
It would be easy for your wife to let you in, and also be reassuring, by telling you, “Oh — that text was from Jerry. He sent along a link to this hilarious video. Check it out. Should I tell him you say hi?”
What I’m getting at is that your wife could easily loop you into this friendship just enough so that it dispelled your worry. If she is sharing personal intimacies about your marriage with this friend, then that is a definite red flag.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for 12 years. When we met, one of the qualities that attracted me most was his desire to explore the country and not spend forever living in one place. Recently my husband accepted a job that allows us to live anywhere. This is the chance of a lifetime, but while I’m researching new areas to live in, he is suddenly set on staying right where we are. We are from different regions of the country and we have always lived very close to where he grew up. I have expressed my desire to move across the country for several years and he has always said that he would love to go, until now. Amy, I feel completely deceived. I never had any intention to live in this region forever and I thought he felt the same. Suddenly, I’m feeling lied to and trapped. How do I deal with him not only going back on everything he’s said, but also his selfishness in knowing that I don’t like living here and his refusal to leave?
DEAR WANDERING: You don’t disclose how deeply you have discussed this issue with your husband. You also characterize your husband’s change of heart as “lying.” Did he actively deceive you at the start of the relationship, or have his goals changed over time? There is a difference.
This is an important issue. You have the right to have your own needs and goals met without feeling trapped and lied to.
You two need to talk about this beyond you simply stating that you want to leave and him saying that he wants to stay. A counselor will help. So will this book: “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most,” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen (Penguin Books, 2010).
DEAR AMY: “Not Engaged” faced a tricky situation when her girlfriend asked her mother for her hand in marriage, and the mother basically hedged on offering her permission. My husband and I faced a similar engagement backfire when he asked my father for my hand. My father said, “I don’t own her hand and therefore can’t give it to you. You’ll have to ask her.” We got married, anyway, but this was a serious thunder-stealer.
DEAR MARRIED: Thanks, Dad.