Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Husband Wished His Female Colleague a Happy Valentine’s Day Before He Wished Me One”

My husband and I have been married for 15 years. He recently started a new job as a flooring manager, and one of his responsibilities is ordering supplies either over the phone or in emails with multiple companies and sometimes different sales representatives. I noticed that he kept mentioning one particular female sales rep whom he said he had to speak or email with several times a week. I didn’t have an issue until one night he mentioned her name in his sleep and started giggling. Then she sent him a friend invite on Facebook. Later my husband and I were sitting on the sofa as he started showing me a video of two kids dumping water on each other; I asked whose kids they were and he said the sales rep’s. I asked why he was showing me this and then asked why they were friends on social media. He said she sent him a friend request because she wanted a face to the name. I said it was unprofessional, explaining it makes me feel weird because he mentioned her name in his sleep. He told me it was because they talk daily. (They’ve never met and she lives in a different state.)

He unfriended her and I didn’t hear any more about it until I decided to snoop (I know, I know — it’s wrong but I did it anyway). I checked his business email and that’s where I discovered conversations between them about her sending another friend request and talking about her kid’s birthday party, and I even found emails just to wish her a happy Valentine’s Day, etc. (not business-related). The time on the Valentine’s Day email was before he even wished me a happy Valentine’s Day.

Flash forward: His company sent us to a flooring convention and, as we were checking in, the sales rep was there, and my husband never introduced me while she said hello and asked if he was having a good time. We argued about this and he said it’s nothing, and then he brought up past issues to use as his justification. Now I believe he was having an emotional crush/affair. What do you think? — Crushed

I think that this isn’t about the sales rep; this is about your relationship with your husband. The sales rep is just a distraction — for both of you — from the fracture(s) in your marriage that existed likely well before the sales rep ever entered the picture. I mean, yeah, maybe your husband does have a little crush on her, but friending a colleague on Facebook, and exchanging a few pleasantries within business calls and emails, hardly constitutes an affair! It was rude of your husband not to introduce you to the sales rep at the convention, and I can appreciate how hearing him say her name while he was sleeping would be unnerving. But, again, none of this suggests an affair — a crush, yeah maybe, but not an affair (not even an emotional affair, which demands, by definition, far deeper and more intimate conversations than plans for a kid’s birthday party).

What all of this — your husband’s seeming interest in this woman and your disproportionate jealousy — DOES suggest is that there are cracks and fractures in your marriage that need immediate addressing. Why is there such a lack of trust? Is there a history of cheating between you? Have you felt him pulling away for a while? Can you remember the last time you spent quality, loving time together? I don’t know what your specific issues are — maybe you don’t either — but I do know that the sales rep isn’t in the top five; she is simply a distraction for you both, keeping you from putting in the effort and work and time and emotional investment to deal with the real issues. Quit sweeping them under the rug! Get yourselves into some marriage counseling and work this shit out because, while it doesn’t sound at all like this current distraction is anything more than that, if you continue pushing each other away like you have been, the distractions you’re seeking WILL lead to much more serious issues and potentially destroy your marriage.

I read the advice you gave a young lady who was engaged to a guy who kept his wedding pictures from his first marriage. Thanks for the analogy you gave about the before and after picture. I’m in a similar situation. My wife of three years still has her old wedding pictures. She and her ex were married for five or six years and had no children together. She said it started out awesome but ended horribly. He was cheating on her and ended up having kids with other women during the marriage. I absolutely believe that she’s done with him, but it does bother me that the picture album made it to our new house. It doesn’t help any that he is a body-builder and looks like a model.

I believe that what I’m dealing with is mostly my own insecurities. If your significant other had an album from his or her first marriage and the former spouse looked like a model, how would you handle it? Would it bother you? If he or she described the ex to a friend and spoke about how horrible the relationship was but happened to mention in front of you that the ex was beautiful, what would you say or do? Even though my wife and I are an awesome couple, when she said that, I felt nothing but fire pumping through my veins. Smh.

Just an FYI, my wife has no idea it bothers me because I haven’t said anything to her. I figured it would be a phase that would eventually go away. I was married for 10 years prior and I have a daughter. As soon as I got into a serious relationship, I erased a lot of pictures. Almost all of them. It hurt me, but it was out of respect for my new relationship. — Not a Model

 
Well, since you read the advice I gave the woman in a similar situation and mention the analogy I used — how a wedding album from a marriage that ended up very toxic and unhappy might serve as a physical reminder to someone for how far he or she has come — I assume it resonated with you in some way. In that column, I also suggest moving an album like that somewhere out of sight – a parent’s home, the basement, a storage unit. You could ask your wife to do that, you know. And you could ask her why she’s even holding on to the album in the first place – maybe it’s not something she’s aware is even in her possession or maybe she has some reasons that would help you understand her position. But instead of talking to her about it, you’re keeping quiet and stewing over it.

It sounds like you’re stewing not because you’re worried your wife still has feelings for her ex or fantasizes about getting back together with him; no, you believe fully that she’s done with him. You just don’t like that he’s more built than you are. This is entirely YOUR issue and not your wife’s. Even her mentioning to a friend that he was attractive – if that happened? — doesn’t mean anything. Or, if it means anything at all, it might be an explanation for what attracted her to someone she now sees is a really toxic person. It doesn’t mean she prefers his looks or wishes you looked like him! That’s all in YOUR head, not hers, and it’s something you have to work through (maybe therapy would help or maybe prioritizing your fitness if you feel insecure about the way you look?).

Talk to your wife about how it makes you feel that the wedding album is in your house, but frame it around your feelings and not hers, because this isn’t about her feelings at all. Her feelings are with YOU. Her feelings for her ex are DONE. If she does actually discuss his looks in front of you in a way that feels disrespectful to you, then do mention that to her, but don’t attach it to the photo album. If his being a hunk is the only/main reason you’re uncomfortable with the photos, that says so much more about you and your insecurities than about her behavior. When the issue is yours, like this is, YOU are the one who has to make some changes. So get to work!

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

6 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Ange January 28, 2020, 4:37 pm

    A sales rep being personable and friendly to client? No way!

    I had sales reps from jobs as friends when I was younger as well. You have to talk to them all the time, it’s natural to build some kind of rapport if they’re nice people. I wouldn’t friend them these days but I know my boundaries aren’t anyone else’s and people seem to add people they work with regularly.

    LW2 it’s interesting that you deleted a bunch of photos without being asked then wonder why your partner doesn’t do the same. I’d say it’s because you alone seem to have all these ideas in your head about what people should do in new relationships and you’ve never checked in about whether or not anyone else feels the same way. You hurt yourself there and now your kid has lost a bunch of memories they might have enjoyed.

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  • avatar

    Sea Witch January 28, 2020, 6:02 pm

    LW2: would you be okay with the photos if the previous spouse didn’t look like a model? Really, looks have nothing to do with whether a person is a good spouse, so this is the last thing that you should worry about.
    The pictures show a part of her life. She can’t erase that part of her life, so why should she get rid of pictures of it?

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  • avatar

    brise January 28, 2020, 6:52 pm

    LW1: I wouldn’t like it either. He didn’t even introduce you to her? That is impolite. I don’t think you have really to worry here, but the blurred lines between work and personal life is not so professional. I would tease him about this sales rep, this is just transactional and he is flattered, he has his little crush, and so on, but not on an angry tone, just to have him take some distance. Work on your marriage too, make it romantic. Don’t act jealous but in love.
    LW2: nobody asked you to destroy your old pictures. If you did it, as some sort of sacrifice to make your new marriage work better, well, that is your choice, but you shouldn’t expect your wife to do the same. This is part of her history, of who she is. Don’t make such a mountain about nothing. Just give her this album and ask her to store it in a place that you won’t see when you are on your couch. And let it go! Focus on the present, on your relationship with her, don’t fight will the mills of the past, or with an image. This is really a no-problem.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros January 28, 2020, 9:28 pm

    LW2: If you truly only care about this because he’s a model, then I guess I have to wonder if you have an understanding that relationships are about more than looks. He was a terrible partner, so you clearly have a leg up on him since you both are seemingly happy (other than this, hopefully). People are going to have exes and sometimes they are attractive, or have other good qualities. You can also have good qualities. It’s not a finite thing. That person being attractive doesn’t change anything about you or your relationship. I don’t know that I’d agree about simply asking why she kept it because that sounds sort of accusatory. I think instead of putting the onus on her to deal with YOUR jealousy, it would be nice for you to say, “Hey, I know this is kind of silly, but sometimes when I think about your wedding album, I get insecure because he was a model.” Then have a conversation about it. I assume that she’ll reinforce what we’re saying here — you have good qualities and she finds you attractive and that is really unrelated to what her ex was like.

    This is a good lesson about acknowledging that every relationship issue is typically related to both parties and just because you feel jealous doesn’t mean the other person is doing something wrong. It’s OK to not like the album, but it doesn’t mean that it means more than simply someone keeping photos of a different time in their life and it doesn’t mean that the best way to alleviate your jealousy is to make her get rid of it. It’s a good life lesson on how to work through feelings, share them with your partner, and accept them.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy January 30, 2020, 5:02 pm

    From LW1:

    “Thanks for the reply and yes there was a cheating on his side right in the begin of the relationship but I was un aware of it until 7 yrs later when my so call friend decided to facebook me a msg and told me that him and her had hooked up one time. Short after they hooked up he asked me to marry him and I said yes, remind you this is the same friend I asked to be my maid of honor and she said yes! 6 months before the wedding the friend went ghost!!! Heard through other friends that she moved to a different state. Until the friend request on Facebook to a msg and the confession. Her reason of telling me was because she found jesus and needed to set the truth free. So yes I’m still guarded, I mean he proposal with this lie and carried it for 7 yrs, what else is he capable of. It took me a few yrs to get over this hurt, betrayal from them both. I’m afraid of being naive again. Then 4 yrs after that I found out that him and his high school girlfriend were playing words with friends, no big deal…right. until a msg comes thru of her replying to him. He tell her he still care about her and wishes he could had have another chance to be with her..wtf! Her reply was he is marry and should focus on his wife. I was crushed!!! Yes another repair in this marriage, I feel disrespected and not value in his eyes but he said it’s not true, that he loves me and only me and that he has not cheated since we been married. I want to trust him and believe him…I feel my trust has been broken to much and now I freak out of the littles new female friendship in fear it will lead to cheating. Maybe this is where my insecurities comes from with the sale rep. AM I BEYOND DAMAGED?”

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  • avatar

    mellanthe January 30, 2020, 6:35 pm

    LW1: He might not be having an affair, but with his history, it’d be hard to trust him.

    It’s more than rude not to introduce the wife, and I don’t think it was an accident. When people noticeably obscure the fact they are with someone, it’s hurtful – there’s no reason a partner would hide that they were with you to a platonic friend. It reads as him wanting to appear available. Perhaps he has a little crush, and perhaps she, doing her sales rep thing is flattering his ego. Even if he doesn’t want to action it, he isn’t exactly being fair to his wife, either. If he agreed to delete her because it weirded out his wife, there’s no need to re-add each other on FB. He should have told her he needed to keep some professional boundaries, and carried on.

    I find it weird for him to get so hung up over one colleague he recently met. I meet a lot of people at work who I have to have a great rapport with (it’s healthcare, you bond over the trauma), but I don’t often feel I have to talk to friends from work that frequently, nor would I put them above making a partner feel loved.

    Social media doesn’t have to be a problem, it really depends on how people interact, and how trustworthy they are. I have a ton of male friends and colleagues on facebook who matter to me not 1/10000th as much as my BF. It’d be irrational of him to be mad about that, or for me to be mad he has female friends. But if, say those men were messaging me constantly, or interactions looked flirty, I can see why it would hurt – it’d be the same both ways.

    It’s also completely unnecessary to wish her a happy valentine’s day, even as a ‘friend’.

    LW2: it sounds like you need to discuss what’s acceptable together with your new partner, and how it makes you feel. And why. Personally, I’d have a rule that said pics of ex Gfs and wives might be OK as long as they are kept privately away, and I don’t get the impression they are sitting there mooning over them or talking about them constantly. I wouldn’t expect someone to bin every single memory. But I would draw the line at having them on public display. Your house is a space you are building together, filling it with pictures of past relationships . But it’s up to what you both can agree is right for you.

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