April 5, 2010 | 6:56 am
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
My husband and I have been together almost 5 years. When we first met, my husband was embarrassed to admit he’d married his college sweetheart – a marriage that lasted about a year – so he described her as a girlfriend until his big, dark secret was exposed.
I was pissed, naturally, and forbade further contact with her. If he was unable to be honest about the complexity of their relationship then of course he lost his rights to pursuing any further relationship or communication with her. I’m sure she’s a nice enough lady – heck, she doesn’t even live in this country, but she needs to buy a
clue. She knows what happened, knows I’m uncomfortable with her attempts to communicate with him (including attempts within the past few weeks) yet continues to try to make this pair a threesome. No thank you. My husband has no ill will towards her and they share a number of mutual friends, but I don’t care. I come first and am allowed to be selfish about this one. He denies contact with her – which for the most part I believe, yet her subtle ways of trying to engage him in her life have become unbearable for me. She has even gone so far as to friend all of my husband’s siblings on Facebook – some of which were children during the time of their relationship. I know the harsh words of ENOUGH need to come from my husband, but if he’s unwilling say anything to keep the peace, well then what should I do? Is there the possibility that I’ve lost the battle on this win…should I hang my white flag high and let these two have their friendship, but he loses our marriage in the process?
-Down and Out
Dear Down and Out,
This situation has turned into a poorly directed spiral of jealousy, control and deception. When it comes to maintaining an honest relationship, it takes two. One person needs to be open enough for the other to want to share, and vice-versa. You say “I was pissed, naturally” but your anger sounds misdirected. You put it all on this other woman, turning your hurt into jealousy, rather than addressing the rift in honesty in your relationship. Jealousy does not foster this openness.
In the 2.2.04 Psychology Today article, “Advice, A Jealous Fiancée,” Hara Estroff Marano writes:
“A little jealousy is reassuring and may even be programmed into us. It’s very common. A lot of jealousy is scary, and has driven people to some very dangerous behavior. There’s no reason to believe that jealousy will improve with time or marriage … Because jealousy goes right to the core of the self and its roots are deep, it is not something that can be banished by wishful thinking.”
From all the angst in this question I have to wonder first about your own relationship with your husband. Ok, so he married a woman he said he dated. Is he still married to her? No. He left her, found you, and vowed he would be yours until he died. If you don’t trust that vow then you need to revisit your relationship.
You need to search yourself and your partnership for answers, rather than trying to control this woman’s need for reconnection. It sounds like that lie your husband told really hurt you and ruined some sense of security for your marriage. How about starting by addressing that? Click here for help.
It is one thing to be insecure while dating, but marriage is a whole other ball game. It is a partnership that takes sincere long-term investment. And unlike dating, this investment comes from deep within each spouse, rather than deflecting drama to outside parties. It sounds like rather than obsessing over this other woman, who may or may not be a threat, you should start by focusing on the things you can actually impact, which are the communication, honesty, and general feeling of love and safety in your present relationship.
For more help try: Love Busters: Protecting Your Marriage from Habits that Destroy Romantic Love, or His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, both by Willard Harley of MarriageBuilders.com.
Couples counseling should come long before Facebook stalking. There are more complex questions to evaluate, like why did your husband feel embarrassed about that first wedding, and moreso, why in front of YOU, his supposed most intimate partner? Also, why won’t he close this woman out of his life? Is it possible that she is an important friend to both him and his family? And that, at the same exact time, so are you? Can’t a man have a woman friend and a wife without it being infidelity? After all, he left her and found you. And finally, let’s say he seeks more from her and is betraying you, you have to wonder why he looks in her direction not yours. Instead of hating her, you need a Cinderella-esque mirror on the wall to explain to you why you might not be, at present, with all this jealousy and controlling fearful behavior, the fairest of them all.
If it seems like I am picking on you, don’t get me wrong, it is only because you wrote in. It sounds like your husband deserves a real talking to and also has some major work to do.
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