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LOVE LETTERS

Can they just be friends?

His stay-at-home wife has a stay-at-home dad pal, and it’s ruining their marriage

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / August 20, 2011

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Q. My stay-at-home wife recently became friends with a stay-at-home dad (connected by our respective children). Initially, it was a play date here and there, but since the summer started, the frequency of play dates has increased and my wife has become friends with him and texts him often (very often). After a few days of feeling uneasy, I sat down with her and told her I was uncomfortable with the level of communication. She expressed her care for me and we moved forward.

The communication died down somewhat but after a recent long day together, I let her know how I was feeling, that I was still upset. After a long argument, we both said some hurtful things and I strongly advised that the communication with him cease. She now (of course) sees me as trying to control her. She is angrier at me than she has ever been and I am having an extremely hard time reconciling. She expressed the need for space but continues to make extremely hurtful comments. I am so afraid that this could potentially ruin our marriage.

I have attempted to move forward but she will not join me and shows no sign of doing it anytime soon. I am lost. I know she would never do anything physically but I felt that their connection was emotional and I was scared and threatened. She did tell me I have nothing to worry about, but I cannot change the way I feel. I felt awful when they were spending lots of time together, not just as a mom and dad - but as friends!

EXTREMELY UNCOMFY DAD, 93 North

A. I’m extremely uncomfy on your behalf. Really.

But let’s think for a minute about why your wife might want to maintain a friendship with this guy. Sure, maybe she likes the male attention, but maybe it’s more about having someone around who understands what it’s like to feel isolated with kids. Maybe they bond about how much they dislike the neighbors, or about traffic on the way to the playground, or about . . . well, the life they share as stay-at-home parents.

The trick isn’t to say, “Honey, this makes me feel jealous and I want you to cut him off.’’ I mean, you can say that a little. But it might be more productive to say, “We all need friends, but . . . is there anything I can do to be a better friend to you? Are you enjoying the stay-at-home lifestyle? Do you feel isolated? Are there things that we can do to preserve our friendship while you make new companions?’’

It sounds like you guys have been fighting too much about this man instead of being better friends to each other. My advice (and this is just a first step) is to ask her about her day-to-day and how the two of you can be more respectful in your marriage. It’ll take some work on both sides. And here’s a hint: Telling her that you’re scared is important. You want her to have friends, you just don’t want to lose her. Once she trusts your motives, you can set some boundaries together.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND

I’m trying hard to muster sympathy for you but I’m coming down on your wife’s side instead. I work from home and I can attest to the isolation factor (although it does give me plenty of time for Love Letters!). Your continued haranguing on her case is telling her that you DON’T trust her, and that you think she’s lying to you about the nature of her friendship with this guy. Try a different tactic. Hire a babysitter and go on a double date with this guy and his wife. Get to know the demon. You might like him. And get off your wife’s case.

THEREALJBAR

You dared give an ultimatum! Have you not read any of the previous letters on this site before? Never give an ultimatum. Especially to the person who takes care of you and your home. NUBIUS78

This situation is bad news. . . . The fact that she is angry and “won’t let it go’’ suggests that there was something “more’’ between her and this guy. It really sucks that she would put you in this situation and threaten your entire family. Why not hang out with a girlfriend? She’s being selfish, and needs to consider what’s at stake (i.e. kids security and stability). I’d suggest couples therapy at this point. Good luck. MOTYELOF

This is how affairs start. There’s an emotional connection and what follows is the sex. You are right to stand your ground if you want to save your marriage. She’s either your wife and your emotional partner or she isn’t.

BETHESBOB

Having been a stay-at-home mom when my sons were little, I can say that I would have been friends with any adult who was able to relate to what I was going through. It is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done. She made friends with a PERSON who could relate to the stressfulness of the job; someone she could vent to when it got really tough. The fact that this person happens to be a man shouldn’t be an issue.

SAIDWHAT

She’s cheating, or about to cheat. Her best defense is a good offense. TRUTHCZAR

Trust your gut. If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. I think her strong reaction is telling you something. I’ve been there buddy. Her anger will probably get worse until everything is finally all out on the table. Like a cornered rat. JDROTTEN

I see it as sort of a “work husband’’ thing. Most of us have work “spouses’’ that we meet up with every day for coffee, stop by their cubicles and chat, email all day long, etc. Being a stay-at-home parent is a job, and just like any other job, you need somebody who can truly relate to your job functions to commiserate with. I say that you need to trust your wife (and trust that the stay at home dad also wouldn’t want to cheat on his wife) and let her have a work friend.

ISSUESOFMYOWN

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.