My husband and I have been married for five years and have two young children. My husband is a good provider and wonderful father and claims to be faithful.
My problem is his friendship with an ex-employee of his, and current coworker of mine. I believe their relationship is completely wrong. First of all, the girl is only 21 years old (my husband is 31), she is very immature and obviously doesn't know enough about the consequences of her actions.
She and my husband used to talk on the phone constantly, at all hours of the night. He would call her on his cell phone or from work or when I was at work. He would always lie about it. He claims it's just harmless conversation, and he lies so he doesn't have to deal with me.
When my husband recently changed jobs, she purchased him a $200.00 piece of jewelry, which he happily accepted and continues to wear. This friendship has caused so much strain on our relationship and it has made me paranoid. I am constantly checking his phone records and always doubt what he tells me.
He tells me that I am pathetic and need help. He tells me that I cannot dictate who he can be friends with. He recently went away on a three-day business trip and only found the time to call home once, but two weeks later, when his credit card bill came, there were three phone calls to her house. Again, he told me that he just felt like calling her and I should just get over it.
The constant arguing over this is starting to really affect our children. What should I do? I don't want to throw away my marriage, and he absolutely refuses to go to counseling because he doesn't feel this is a problem.
When we are together as a family or just my husband and I, things are wonderful. We are all very loving, but as soon as I see her at work, or I find out he has called her, my husband and I fight and it's slowly tearing apart our family.
Scared About Husband's Friendship
It's easy to see by your letter that this situation is causing you great distress. The picture is complicated by the fact that you work with the young woman in question and therefore feel her presence both there and in your home. Although it may not feel like it now, you do have some options.
First, although you may feel like making an ultimatum such as, "You have to choose between her or me," this would not be the wisest course of action at this time. Your husband states that he and this woman are not having an affair, and though phone calls and expensive gifts are upsetting to you, they are not definitive proof that he has been unfaithful to you.
Secondly, even if he is having an affair, it is not necessarily the death knell to your marriage. If he is having an affair, then you may need to make the decision to stay or leave the marriage based upon a variety of factors. Some of them might be your religious beliefs, your feelings toward your husband, the effect of divorce upon your children and many other issues, information about which I do not have. I don't believe that this particular scenario should be your immediate concern.
For the present time I would suggest that you find a therapist and enter therapy even if your husband is unwilling to join you in the sessions. The therapist will be able to help you sort out your feelings and provide you with some emotional support. She or he can help improve your own sense of self-worth and explore possible connections that this situation may be bringing up for you. A therapist can help you to get some clarity on this.
I read once that sexual infidelity by itself is not what's most disturbing to women -- it's the betrayal of intimacy. When a couple has two small children, it's not uncommon for there to be no time for each other, so the fact that he finds the time to talk with this other women is upsetting, aggravating, and frightening. To you it may feel that he is pulling away from the family and this leaves you feeling vulnerable to possible abandonment.
But women aren't the only ones who feel changed by the experience of having children. Men can also feel that they are less interesting or sexually desirable. Your husband is probably flattered by this other woman's attention, as the interest that you once focused on him is now taken up by your children.
A first step towards reconnecting with your husband would be to get a babysitter on a regular basis so that the two of you can go out for dinner or a movie. Or have the sitter take the children out so that you two can have the time to be intimate without small children barging into the bedroom or both of you passing out from sheer exhaustion at the end of a day of work and family responsibilities. Make the time for each other. Having children means that spontaneity must now be scheduled.
In your letter, you had an insight into this young woman's behavior. She is probably too young to realize the effect that her actions are having on your marriage. Be friendly to her at work and don't overreact when she calls. Be patient with yourself and get the support that I suggested so that you have someone to talk to who can help you to find other ways to deal with the stress that this situation is causing in your life.
Dr. Louise Klein, PsyD