Q: Dear Meredith,
My wife and I have been married for seven years in what for the most part has been a happy marriage. About a year ago I took a new job, which I love, at a small office with about 12 employees. I have come to develop professional friendships with many of my coworkers, some of whom are single women. These relationships have remained very professional and have in no way ever been inappropriate. My coworkers, including my boss, are a very social bunch, and every six weeks or so have some form of work outing. These outings have including ski trips, drinks after work, or an evening of bowling. Spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends are always invited and these are generally fun times.
The problem is my wife's insecurities about my young, female co-workers. She is becoming increasingly rude to them, making obvious backhanded compliments and catty comments. It is very embarrassing to me and to anyone else who happens to overhear. It has reached the point where I have stopped including my wife, and myself, in any after-work excursions. Although I miss these social occasions, I would rather save myself the embarrassment of my wife's rudeness.
I am starting to feel like an outcast at work, and I think my boss is offended that I have been turning down the invitations (he often picks up the bill at these events). I love my wife and respect our marriage, but this has affected my work relationships and could even affect my career. Advice?
– Caught Between Work and My Wife's Insecurities, South Shore
A: You know, CBWAMWI, I'm not convinced that your wife is jealous of these women. I think she might be jealous of you.
You have a new group of friends. You have inside jokes. You have people who share your passion for a profession. I'm not sure what her community is like outside of your marriage, but she probably doesn't have what you have.
This problem calls for a mix of validation and tough love. The tough love is telling her that she's embarrassing herself (and you) with her mean one-liners. Quote her. Give examples. The validation comes next. Tell her that she's awesome and that you want her around as much as possible. Let her know that she's your best friend. You want her to be a part of the group. You want to share this part of your life with her. She shares her "outside friends" with you, right?
It'll also help to tell her some personal information about the so-called "competition." Maybe if she sees these women as real humans -- with boyfriends, families, pets, and personalities -- she'll stop assuming that they're husband-stealing vixens out to get her man.
Marriages -- even the good ones -- feel a bit fragile every time there's a big change, whether it's a new job, a new home, a new neighborhood, or a new kid. Sometimes it takes a while to adjust to the differences. But please, keep going to events, even if it's without her. Isolating yourself isn't going to help anyone.
Readers? Is he allowed to go to these events without his wife? What can he do to make her less jealous? Am I right to say that she's jealous of him? How do you think she'll respond if he criticizes her behavior? What does this problem say about their marriage? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.