My wife and I have professional careers that demand a lot of our time. My wife is very social and is focused on her large family. I am also quite social, however, I do not have any family and rely more on a network of friends.
Many of my friends are women, and many are younger than myself—mainly because I work in an industry where young people predominate and I am seen as their mentor/senior.
My wife prefers I do not see my female friends. She suggests when I have lunch or dinner with friends (generally in a group, although occasionally alone) these are “dates” and thus inappropriate.
Even when I share conversations with my friends, my wife makes me feel I am dishonest or hiding something. But if I didn’t do this, I would eat alone most days.
I travel for work, as does my wife, and never question who she has lunch or dinner with, yet she grills me on every meal I have with a friend, male or female.
I am totally baffled. I am happy in my marriage and have never given her any reason to doubt my fidelity. My wife and kids have always come first.
Chad, we might construct a scale to measure your wife’s intentions. On the left side of the scale we’ll put the innocent, dewy-eyed explanations. On the right side, we’ll put the worst case scenarios.
Starting from the left, there’s a simple explanation. Your wife is feeling her age. Your younger female colleagues make her nervous.
Moving a bit to the right on our scale, your wife has discovered a coworker of hers is cheating. Now, for the first time, she wonders, Could Chad be cheating?
Still moving to the right, it could be a control thing. You don’t have family. It’s always been her and her family, not you and your people. Could her implied accusations be a way to hold you tight within her family group?
Finally, we arrive at the far end of the scale. Your wife is cheating. Like many cheaters she accuses you of what she is doing. It’s a defense mechanism which preserves her belief in herself as a good person. “If he’s doing it, then I cannot be a bad person for doing it, too.”
There isn’t enough information in your letter to decide where your wife falls on the scale. So what do we suggest? Act from the one principle which applies to all innocent victims of jealousy.
When someone acts jealous for no good reason, you cannot give in to it. A jealous person is not an impartial jury. They have decided. Either you have done it, are still doing it, or will do it in the future. That is their verdict.
A jealous person doesn’t deal from reality, but from what they believe. Logic and reason are not part of their equation. Dealing with jealous people is like dealing with zealots. There is no point in arguing with them.
There’s one final issue. Could your wife want out of the marriage? If she makes accusations and shares them with her friends or family, she may be setting herself up as the innocent party in the event of divorce.
First and foremost, tell your wife unequivocally nothing is going on and unequivocally state you will not be subject to false accusations. You can never play along with a jealous person for the same reason you would never tell someone who is hearing voices that you hear them, too.
Since you are not doing anything wrong, act in a way appropriate for someone in your workplace. If you act otherwise, your wife will take that as proof you are guilty.
In fact, she is the guilty one. Either guilty of a mistaken belief, guilty of cheating, or guilty of a mental imbalance which needs psychological treatment.
Column for the week of June 1, 2015
~ Wayne & Tamara