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I don't trust my wife with her work friends

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  January 25, 2011 08:22 AM

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Q: Hello,

I am assuming the fact that I am happily married and wish to remain that way does not preclude me from using this forum.

I have an interesting problem, and yes, I recognize that the problem may be mine. I have been married for nearly 20 years. I love my wife more than anything else. More than this, I am in love with my wife. We have a great relationship, we do most things together, and we truly enjoy most of our time. I am not saying that we do not have our issues. We have arguments and fights. We mistreat each other at times, and take worldly frustrations out on each other. But, this is part of having a life together. We respect each other and apologize when necessary.

Ok, now here is the problem. Years ago (more than 15) things weren't quite as good. My wife had an affair. It was a long affair, over a year I think. During this time she would bring up social things that she and "the other man" would talk about, like common interests, along with problems that the other guy was having in his life and marriage. Now, the affair is long since over, and somehow we survived and I have forgiven her. We have both dramatically grown over the years, and as I said before, we are great. However, when my wife talks about social conversations she has with men at work I find myself immediately bothered to a great degree. I don't care who you are, or how much therapy you may go through, when a spouse has an affair it is always there.

Now I find myself telling my wife not to have social conversations with men at work and to keep topics solely professional. I have even explained why, citing a correlation between what she was telling me in a conversation to what she had told me from dialogues so many years before.

Am I going too far by asking her to not associate socially with men from work? Should she understand my position on this as someone with "post whatever syndrome" that will probably always be there?

– Extremely Happy, But…, Framingham

A: Are you going too far by asking her not to be social with men at work? Yeah, EHB.

It's really difficult not to make friends at work. It's sort of unnatural to ignore the people you're around all day. This affair -- it happened 15 years ago. And while you're allowed to have some post-traumatic stress, you're not helping anyone by making rules that are too easy to break. Is she supposed to sit silently at her desk (assuming she has a desk)? Is she supposed to avoid all outings with peers?

My advice is to set boundaries that make sense. Maybe it's not OK for her to go out alone with male co-workers. But is it really so bad for her to chat about movies with them by the water cooler? Also, can you meet these co-workers so you know what you're dealing with? Maybe they're just nice guys who love their own wives. Maybe they're interns who treat your wife like a mom. Tell your wife that if it's ever appropriate, you'd love to say a brief hello to these people. Be honest and explain that it'll help you calm your nerves.

You both learned plenty from what happened 15 years ago. Don't underestimate her. She made mistakes, but those mistakes went beyond simple social time in the office. You can't force her to wear blinders. Just tell her to practice the Golden Rule. Meaning, she shouldn't do anything behind your back that she wouldn't want you doing behind hers. That's the best you can do.

Readers? Am I wrong? What rules are acceptable? Is he setting her up to fail? Is it possible to avoid being social at work? What boundaries should he set? Should he meet her work friends? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

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.

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