Originally published in our advice column The Laudable Life in the Lakelands Leader
Q: My wife has struck up a friendship with a guy at work…she insists it’s completely innocent and yet I’m feeling uncomfortable with it. I have tried to explain this to her, but she brushes off my concerns as paranoia or suggests I’m being controlling or Victorian in my views on male/female relationships. I know this guy isn’t looking for a friend, but how do I get her to see that?
A: It is very reasonable for you to be troubled by the relationship that your wife and her coworker are developing. Unfortunately what so often begins as a completely innocent platonic workplace friendship too often can devolve into a physical or emotional affair. Let’s start by thinking about your relationship with your wife in general. Are there other ways in which you feel that your concerns are dismissed or discounted? If so, I would recommend that you find a good couples therapist. It is critical you meet with a therapist who has at least some experience in dealing with affairs. That’s because the naiveté you fear may be held by your wife regarding mixed gender friendships, cannot also be held by your therapist. Don’t worry, just because you consult with a therapist about this specific concern does not mean that you two will be in therapy for life; a few sessions may be all it takes to learn how to navigate through this issue.
There are two red flags that may suggest this office friendship could mean danger for your marriage: 1) are they talking about her marital concerns/complaints with the new friend rather than with you? 2) Is she keeping communications or meetings with this another person a secret from you because, for whatever stated reason, she feel more comfortable doing so? If you are seeing these red flags in your relationship, it may be helpful for a therapist to speak individually with each person so that they may understand fully the status of the relationship before embarking on a couple’s therapy format.
Though you’ve voiced your concerns, your wife may not fully understand the inherent risks involved with what she is doing and how it is affecting you. Consider asking her if she would be willing to read a book Not “Just Friends” by Dr. Shirley P. Glass. This author may be able to explain how you are feeling better than you can. Don’t be afraid to insist that you two sort this out early before something develops further which is much more difficult to repair.