NOTE: This archive only contains Carolyn Hax columns through March 2011. Her more recent columns are located here.

Carolyn Hax: Source of wife's distrust might not lie with husband

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo    

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Carolyn Hax
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dear Carolyn:

My husband of 10 years, who is retired, calls me at work one morning and tells me he had just gotten out of the shower when our female next-door neighbor rang the doorbell in her nightclothes, stating that she got locked out when she took out the trash. My husband then says he invited her in to use the phone and stay until someone came to let her in (about 30-45 minutes).

I ask him, "Why would you invite a half-dressed woman into our home when I am not present?" He could have helped her by offering his cellphone and a robe while she sat on her porch.

I ask him to present this situation to his male friends. He responds, "Yeah, they will say, 'You are stupid for even sharing that with your wife.' " I was very disappointed with how he handled this situation. He says he would do it again exactly the same way, even if it upsets me, and says I am insecure. Any suggestions?

E.

Your husband is retired and home. You are employed and at work. If your husband wanted to cheat on you, he wouldn't need to wait for opportunity to come knocking in her nightie.

There are a lot of people out there -- okay, me, but I can't be alone in this -- who would be horrified if spouse's response to a nightied neighbor in need were to strand said neighbor on the front porch. Have you ever been caught in public in your skivvies? Offering shelter is the compassionate thing to do.

And her 45 minutes of shelter didn't cost you anything -- not unless it led to a tryst. And if it led to a tryst, then that says your distress over this incident is misplaced: It's your marriage that needs your full and sustained attention.

In other words, if you trust your husband not to boink the neighbor only if she doesn't ask to use your phone, then you can't call that trust. Believing your husband is just one robe away from cheating is, yes, insecurity.

And as with any serious problem, it's essential to trace insecurity's source and root it out. Is your marriage shaky/husband out prowling? Then don't nibble at the edges of the problem by fussing over neighbors. Admit you don't trust him, lay out the evidence supporting your skepticism, then see where that conversation takes you.

I suspect instead that your husband hasn't done anything sketchy, and you merely regard infidelity as a real and constant threat. (Yes, that's the get-counseling light flashing.) If so, you owe it to both of you to admit how corrosive this outlook can be. It motivates you to doubt him no matter how faithful or devoted -- or transparent -- he is.

Often, too, such fear acts as a negative filter through which you view everything. Your husband helped someone! Told you about it! And you punished him for it! How many times, in how many ways, has that defensive pessimism played out? How many bad things have you exaggerated, how many good things have you questioned?

Unfounded suspicion is about you, founded suspicion is about him, but the approach is the same with both: Lay out the facts for your husband, and see where the discussion goes.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile