Do I let my wife's baseless jealousy interfere with my career?
June 14, 2012 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Setting: My wife is (IMO irrationally) jealous, and thinks that a co-worker of mine likes me. There is nothing there, and I have told her she is worrying needlessly, but she is still suspicious. Complication: A position recently came up at work, in an area I prefer over my current job and with better job security. BUT, this co-worker is on the team. Resolution: ???

As stated my wife is worrying needlessly; I have zero interest in this other woman (or, for that matter, any woman but my wife!) She brought up her jealousy on this topic to me a few times, and I have reassured her (extensively) that there was nothing to worry about. She (says she) trusts me when I say that I have no feelings for this co-worker; my wife's go-to line is that she doesn't trust her (the co-worker). This makes no sense to me. Clearly anything that could possibly threaten my wife would require my involvement too, wouldn't it?

Conversations with my wife on this topic have become rather heated, largely because I don't know what else to say; I have no feelings for this woman, and my wife says she accepts and believes that! She has in fact repeated this several times, and I believe that she does trust me on this. There is also only tenuous evidence at the best that this coworker even has feelings for me. The only conclusion I can come to is that my wife is being unreasonable, but clearly she hasn't changed her mind on this topic.

Ultimately convincing my wife that there is nothing to be worried about is the long-term goal. I'm working on that.

But, in the short term I have this complication: what should I do about this job opportunity? I feel that this would only be adding fuel to an already simmering fire, no matter how illogical this fire's origin may be. At the same time, I am frustrated that my wife's (irrational) jealousy is interfering with my career. Is it foolish to even think about exploring this job opportunity given my personal circumstances? Or should I expect my wife to be more reasonable about this topic, and trust that she'll get more comfortable with time?
posted by Arandia to Human Relations (66 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you discussed the job opportunity with your wife? What did she say?
posted by J. Wilson at 5:28 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

How does your wife know about your coworker?
posted by ifandonlyif at 5:32 PM on June 14, 2012 [19 favorites]

I am frustrated that my wife's (irrational) jealousy is interfering with my career

Your career hasn't been interfered with yet. Have you even been offered the position? It's not clear to me what is actually going on in these discussions. You say they are getting heated - why? In what way? What does your wife want to happen here, if anything?

I guess I'm wondering if your wife just wants to express her feelings (rational or not) and you feel like you must respond by getting her to "see reason" (nothing can happen if you don't participate in it!). Why does she have to "change her mind" on the topic?

Tell your wife you want to try for this position and be frank that it will mean more contact at work with this person. If she balks then you have an actual problem. If she's not happy about it but acknowledges that it is right for your to pursue your career goals then you don't actually have a problem, and consider, when your wife expresses jealous feelings to you, that your job is not to convince your wife to be reasonable but to give her reassurance that she is the only woman in the world you have any interest in.
posted by nanojath at 5:36 PM on June 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

I think you should take the job and also possibly talk to a marriage counselor maybe on a short-term basis. It really helps to have an unbiased outsider in situations like this one. It's helpful in so many situations that I just tell people to do it if they are in a rough patch. Your marriage will be stronger for it, and it'll definitely help you resolve issues like this in the future.

In the mean time, try to make your wife understand that she is saying she doesn't trust you. Or that she thinks you are completely powerless to the seduction of an untrustworthy female. But what's the difference? You are a grown-ass man who has a wife and presumably your own moral code which doesn't include adultery. Your wife should know that! Why doesn't she know that? She should also know that you are a strong, grown-ass man who doesn't get tempted by every flirtatious female he meets.

posted by two lights above the sea at 5:36 PM on June 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

What is the tenuous evidence?

Taking the job offer will guaranteed make your wife more insecure, if you go that route be prepared to deal with that. If her jealousy is getting in the way of your career, and it's truly 100% unfounded, marriage counselling is totally called for.
posted by Dynex at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

She is not jealous, she's competing with this other woman. As she's told you, it really has nothing to do with you at all. It's about her need to "win" (make the other woman look bad, restrict her contact with you and other people your wife values, make people like her less, drive her out of the village basically). This is a major glitch in your wife's system and she needs to deal with it. Having been on the receiving end of this I can tell you that your wife is only making herself look bad and if ANY of this gets back to your coworker its going to be bad for you professionally.

Women are allowed to like respect and be liked and respected by their make colleagues without having said colleagues wives cause a shitstorm.
posted by fshgrl at 5:49 PM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

What's the nature of all this? I mean, how did your wife find about about this woman? Is there anything the coworker did to make your wife concerned?

Because, OK, playing devil's advocate and thinking about your wife's side of the story, what if, say, your coworker made a blatant pass at you at the office Christmas party? Sure, you feel nothing for Coworker and there is zero chance that anything reciprocated is ever going to happen there. But if I were your wife? I would still be squicked out it and want minimal contact between the two of you. Or at least to be able to give voice to my concerns. Because the point is not that YOU are going to cheat, but that Coworker is maybe going to behave inappropriately. And that is still upsetting to me, your wife.

Which is not to say whether you should or shouldn't pursue this other postion on Coworker's team. That's for the two of you to decide together. I just don't think you should immediately jump to framing this as being a problem with your irrational wife, or whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 5:49 PM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

How does she even know about the other woman?

Has your wife ever experienced mental health issues in the past?
posted by KokuRyu at 5:50 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only conclusion I can come to is that my wife is being unreasonable, but clearly she hasn't changed her mind on this topic.

I would try to take a somewhat different approach. It may indeed be true that your wife's jealous feelings are not based in anything specific or logical or obvious in terms of anything you are doing or saying or otherwise indicating to your wife. At the same time, it may also be true that there is something specific in your wife's life that is triggering your wife's feelings vis-a-vis her suspicions about your coworker. (For example -- and this is just off the top of my head; not saying that this is in fact what's happening -- perhaps your coworker unconsciously reminds your wife of someone that hurt her in the past?)

The thing to do, I think, is not to dismiss your wife's feelings as merely "unreasonable," but rather to see if they may be signalling to something else that you can both reasonably address. There was another thread a few days ago about jealousy, and I mentioned that one way of looking at jealousy is seeing it as a combination of hurt, anger, and fear. I think it's worth asking her about where she thinks this sense of hurt, anger, and/or fear is coming from -- and then, as much as you can, really listen to her.

This does not mean her feelings accurately reflect the "reality" of your situation with your coworker, nor that they are your fault or responsibility, nor -- and this is key -- that you are obliged to limit your career because she's being unreasonable. It does mean, though, that you both take the responsibility to find some common ground to talk about this in a way that allows your needs and her needs to be heard and to coexist -- ideally, in a way that provides you with the means to pursue this advancement in your career while she finds a way to work with her feelings in a productive manner.
posted by scody at 5:52 PM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: J.Wilson: I've talked about this job opportunity with my wife, but it only recently became apparent that this team was the one with this co-worker on it. I have not yet had a chance to tell this to her, but I know she will not react positively to this news.

Ifandonlyif: met at the Christmas party. My wife felt weirded-out by the interaction, and by how she perceived my reaction to them meeting. I was actually a little off, because in that moment I was having trouble remembering the co-worker's name (!). This has been discussed, and my wife accepted this as reasonable. However, the jealousy has grown from there, from things like my wife asking me if she is joining me at lunch-time soccer (she does occasionally), to her getting concerned when I suggest get involved with the social comity at work (which this co-worker is on).

nanojath: Correct, it hasn't yet. However I feel that this is limiting my options. I'm not sure what my wife wants out of these situations, save for me to avoid as much contact with this co-worker as possible. So far this has been easy (if somewhat irritating); if she was on my team this would be impossible.

I can't see what alternative there is to her 'changing her mind'; her suspicions are groundless. Avoidance of this co-worker can only go so long, regardless of this job opportunity. As stated I am working to reassure her on this topic, but that takes time that this opportunity doesn't have.

two lights: I've been contemplating counseling. Might be best to proceed down that route. But thanks for the pointers.

"Right?" -- Most definitely.

more answers for the torrent coming...
posted by Arandia at 5:58 PM on June 14, 2012

It seems key to me that all of these interactions that your wife is concerned about revolve around social events that are tangential to your work itself. Is that maybe a trigger for your wife's concerns? That now suddenly you want to do all these work-related social activities, and they all happen to be things Coworker is involved with? And, I would assume, they are all activities that your wife can't be a part of?

Because that sort of thing would worry me a lot more than who my partner's immediate team members were.
posted by Sara C. at 6:08 PM on June 14, 2012 [12 favorites]

be really open and upfront with your communications with your colleague. Demonstrate that there is nothing to hide.
posted by mattoxic at 6:10 PM on June 14, 2012

Your wife is feeling insecure for some reason. There is some chain of reasoning that led her to this emotional place, even if all of it has been invisible to you. It seems like she's having difficulty articulating her reasoning herself, so counseling is probably your best bet for revealing the cause for her feelings. You're feeling pretty defensive and insulted, but commanding her to change her mind about this is obviously going nowhere.

If you don't have time to see a counselor before you have to make a decision about this job opportunity, I'd suggest just sitting down with her and giving her the floor for a few hours. Don't interrupt, don't defend yourself, don't problem solve. Just ask lots of clarifying questions and listen hard. She feels neglected or disrespected for some reason you don't understand yet, so give her lots of room to open up. Tell her that you have a job opportunity with the teammate, but before making any decisions you want to do what's best for your marriage and get to the bottom of her jealousy.

Here are some reasons I can think of for insecurity that might apply and help you consider her perspective:

You seem to be going to places at work. Is she stagnating in her own career and perhaps worrying that you'll leave her behind?

Does she have any reason to feel less attractive? Obviously you think she's attractive, but if she's gone through some physical changes recently she might be feeling unhappy about it and taking it out on you.

Have you become more attractive? More fit, more confident, more social? Maybe she's feeling like she doesn't know you as well as she thought and is wondering about her position with you.

Were you recently married? Maybe she feels less attractive because she's no longer in the dating pool.

Did the two of you move somewhere where she has fewer friends? Do you spend a lot of time away from her at work? In other words--has she become more lonely and isolated recently? Maybe she feels like she's losing you to work, and is choosing this woman as the focal point for her anxiety.

Good luck! This is a communication issue, not a right-or-wrong issue. If she's coming from a place of love, she'll respect your opinion when you show her that you will respect hers. So show her that you do.
posted by rhythm and booze at 6:22 PM on June 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

You and your wife are speaking different languages. When she gets jealous, you respond to her feelings with a refutation of the scenario you think she's perceiving; what she's probably hoping for is a more supportive emotional response from you, rather than a logical rebuttal of the very validity of her feelings.

Here's a suggestion:

Start talking shit about your co-worker with your wife. Tell your wife about something dumb that she said or did, or wore, or whatever. It doesn't have to be a real thing, even. Do something to make your wife feel like you and her have your own private world that nobody else is invited to.

Because it's really hard to tell exactly what your wife is upset about, and frankly, the way you talk about it makes her feelings seem utterly dismissed. I guarantee you that she notices that.
posted by clockzero at 6:26 PM on June 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: General answers:
Tenuous Evidence + 'how does my wife know of':
* Weirded-out feeling at office Christmas party + my slightly-awkward reaction (see above).
* The coworker is friends with some of my friends at work; she once suggested that (a bunch of us) go grab a drink after work. I ended up not going with them, but mentioned the incident to my wife.

Possible triggers:
* Discussing incidents of jealousy in the past, my wife has told me that she was betrayed in a former relationship. This was many years ago, in highschool, but it seems to have had a major impact on her.
* Former mental illness: NO.

I've certainly tried listening to her. I've tried to include her in social activities, but opportunities at this are somewhat limited. There's not much else to go on -- see tenuous evidence. But I'll try asking her in more concrete terms why she is jealous -- maybe it will help to have more of a root-cause discussion on this.

Sara C.: You make a good point about her being worried about tangential activities being a major cause of this; I largely agree. As mentioned I've suggested trying to involve my wife in these activities where possible, but this is somewhat limited due to their work-focused nature. She has told me that she feels 'cut out' of my life at work, and I have been working long hours. There is only so much that can be done about these two things.
posted by Arandia at 6:26 PM on June 14, 2012

Some couples start out with a three strikes program. Each of you get to block 3 people in your entire marriage that you don't want your spouse to interact with. And you don't have to give any rational explanation for how you feel.

So then you could ask your wife - do you really want to spend one of your strikes on this woman? And you have to be willing to drop a friend she doesn't like.

And then I would placate her with this - say "OK if you want to use your strike on her I will promise never to socialize alone with this woman, that is, never be in a car alone with her or go to dinner alone with her or help her move or any of that kind of thing." To not take a job with her is out of line in my opinion. I think that's too far.

If she doesn't accept that you agree not to be alone with the woman then I would seek marriage counseling.
posted by cda at 6:32 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your wife is feeling insecure for some reason. There is some chain of reasoning that led her to this emotional place, even if all of it has been invisible to you. It seems like she's having difficulty articulating her reasoning herself, so counseling is probably your best bet for revealing the cause for her feelings. You're feeling pretty defensive and insulted, but commanding her to change her mind about this is obviously going nowhere.

I totally agree. On preview, I see that your wife feels "cut out" of your work life and you've been working long hours- there's the base for her "baseless" jealously! She's worried she's losing you to the office dark side! She misses you! This isn't really about that other woman at all (she trusts you're not going to cheat, after all), she's just the mascot for the whole issue of not getting enough time/attention from you. The two of you need to figure out a way to better balance your lives so your job isn't a third wheel in your marriage. Maybe it involves having more dedicated "date" time, maybe it involves you or she or both cutting back on work hours to strengthen your marriage, maybe something else you could figure out by exploring this issue with a counselor.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:36 PM on June 14, 2012 [18 favorites]

She has told me that she feels 'cut out' of my life at work, and I have been working long hours. There is only so much that can be done about these two things.

I just wanted to pipe in with some long term suggestions for this particular problem. I am a workaholic who dates workaholics, and I only feel cut-off and sad when a partner doesn't tell me anything about their work life. The relationships I've been in where "oh, that's boring. I just do my work." is the beginning and end of the conversation have ended pretty quickly, because it means there's a huge, 60 hour/week chunk of their life I'm not hearing anything about.

Do you talk about your life at work with her? Do you let her help you problem solve? She will feel much more connected if you are open with her about your successes, anxieties, and failures at work, even if she doesn't fully understand them. Tell her stories about your life at work. I am a workaholic who dates workaholics. It really helps me feel connected when I hear about office in jokes, the latest deadline, and start to feel like I "know" everyone in the office. It is even better when I start to know these things well enough to chat with coworkers at the office party and to know what kind of little gifts to send during long deadlines (beer? ribald jokes? cat videos?) that will help cement my status as Awesome Girlfriend.
posted by rhythm and booze at 6:42 PM on June 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Start talking shit about your co-worker with your wife. Tell your wife about something dumb that she said or did, or wore, or whatever

Please do not do this, this is a terrible idea particularly as you have friends I'm common and anything you say may go further than you think. Your coworker has not done anything wrong and treating her like this is f'ed up.
posted by fshgrl at 6:42 PM on June 14, 2012 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: Rhythm: "Your wife is feeling insecure for some reason. There is some chain of reasoning that led her to this emotional place, even if all of it has been invisible to you. It seems like she's having difficulty articulating her reasoning herself, so counseling is probably your best bet for revealing the cause for her feelings. You're feeling pretty defensive and insulted, but commanding her to change her mind about this is obviously going nowhere.

I totally agree here too.

Pink: Very valid points, and things for me to work on in the upcoming weeks/months. However I don't feel that this explains everything -- the hours have only gotten really long in the past few months, and this concern over my co-worker has been brought up (albeit to a less-severe degree) before that. And of course I need to make a decision about said job soon; even if this coworker is merely a mascot for insecurities, she's still a focal point for my wife's ire.
posted by Arandia at 6:44 PM on June 14, 2012

In a recent relationship, I dealt with a similar situation, which lasted for months and never was satisfactorily resolved before the relationship itself ended. One thing that seemed to help was to introduce my girlfriend into my social circle a bit. She then became close enough with one of my good friends (a woman, but not the one she felt threatened by) to ask what was up with me and this other person, which was duly explained (not much).

I don't know if the operative factor was just letting her become more involved in my social life in general, or whether it was specifically the opportunity to do a little opposition research among my female friends*, but it did noticeably dull (though not eliminate) the constant insecure complaints.

* I'm not one for gender essentialism or battle of the sexes type stuff, but it seemed important to my girlfriend that she, my reassuring friend, and my threatening friend were all women. I don't know how to explain it further than that, and perhaps a close guy friend of yours could also play the role of placator.
posted by dendrochronologizer at 6:45 PM on June 14, 2012

I'm the odd duck--I think your wife needs to grow up and/or get over this. There will always be members of the opposite sex in the world. Unless she's going to chain you to the bed or put a Stasi op on your trail, she really has no way of knowing what you do every hour of the day when you're apart. And thus, she can either opt for trusting you and believing that you love her and are faithful and true or she can chose to think you're a lying, cheating horndog. I know how I'd rather live. You can't control her reactions to your co-worker or your explanations of events. You could both go to therapy, but she's the one who needs to examine her own feelings, I think.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:02 PM on June 14, 2012 [14 favorites]

I've been in the situation where my boyfriend was clearly, to me, being persued by another girl. He could not see it but it was plain as day to me (I am pretty perceptive about people). I think a lot of women recognise little "tells" that some men miss, like a glance that lingers a second too long. This is a valid concern of your wife's and you should take her seriously. If it becomes a pattern, that EVERY woman you work with is perceived by her to want to jump your bones, then she is the problem; but if she is focusing on just one woman then I would say you should probably turn down the job unless she gives you explicit permission to work with that woman.

Since part of the problem is your wife feeling excluded from your work life (and it sounds like you spend more time with your co-workers than your wife) you need to integrate her more, if you are working late you need to let her know that you would appreciate her stopping by for a public hug and greet in the office and you two grab a quick snack before you head back to work. If possible, encourage her to meet you for lunch in the office and walk out of there with your arm around her. You should have photos of the two of you at your desk, as well as any cards she has sent you to clearly show you are taken. If you are a guy that sometimes doesn't wear his wedding ring you have to start always wearing it now. It may seem silly to you, but if she is feeling insecure your job as her partner is to shore up her self-confidence and not cause any further erosion. Good luck.
posted by saucysault at 7:14 PM on June 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

Sometimes people work long hours. And, yeah, unless spouses work together, they're not part of each other's work lives. I would find your wife's attitude unacceptable, but that's me.

If she's displacing logical concerns she has about your marriage (whatever those might be) onto this illogical preoccupation with your co-worker, maybe counseling can help you guys work through this.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:14 PM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

So your hours at work have increased, and you're also on the social committee, and you play soccer with coworkers, and maybe other stuff that you haven't explicitly mentioned?

I'd feel lonely and cut out of your life, too.

Obviously you're very ambitious and take your work seriously (and I'm a workaholic from way back), but is it possible to make a little more room in your life for your marriage?

I think it's telling, too, that when asked about this, your first impulse is, "well, I can't make her a part of work social events," rather than "I can't get out of work social events" or "I can't mesh professional networking with my relationship with my wife in any other way," or even "I can't find any extra free time to devote to my wife."
posted by Sara C. at 7:15 PM on June 14, 2012 [16 favorites]

I think your wife needs to grow up and/or get over this.

Sure. But for many people, the way to grow up and get over something like this is precisely to get to the root of why it's happening. Merely putting a lid on feelings rarely results in those feelings going away; it just makes them come out sideways.

Barring a serious personality disorder or other mental illness, as others have said, these feelings for the OP's wife are coming from somewhere. Demystifying them, rather than denying them, is the key to getting over them.
posted by scody at 7:16 PM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sorry, forgot to respond to this from the OP:

But I'll try asking her in more concrete terms why she is jealous -- maybe it will help to have more of a root-cause discussion on this.

If I may suggest some phrasings that might lend themselves to a more productive conversation, I would really avoid saying anything like "why, concretely, are you so jealous?" (which will get you back to Square 1, either in the form of "because she wants you" or "I don't know") in favor of more open-ended questions, like "what is it about this situation that's hurting you?" or "what is it about [Coworker] or my interactions with [Coworker] that's triggering this fear?"

Presenting yourself as genuinely curious about her feelings and interested what she's experiencing is almost certainly going to be more helpful than simply being confused or exasperated and wanting her to provide you with an explanation. The fact is, she may not have a good explanation right now as to why she's doing this. But all that means is that this is a problem for both of you to solve together.

The key is to find a way to position yourselves as being on the same side with this problem, not to position yourself in opposition to each other where she's on one side and you're on the other.
posted by scody at 7:28 PM on June 14, 2012 [12 favorites]

my wife's go-to line is that she doesn't trust her (the co-worker)

maybe it would be helpful to talk through the scenarios your wife sees, and you can explain how you would react. for example:

you: so what do you suspect she'll do?
wife: idk ... kiss you when you two have a private moment together?
you: ohhh, i see ... if she tried anything like that i'd turn her down and report it to a manager IMMEDIATELY.

or kind of the same thing scody just said.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:33 PM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

My first thought was what saucysalt mentioned: I've found that women are often perceptive about little signs that men miss. This might not be a popular opinion, but I'd be willing to bet that your wife is right and your coworker does have a thing for you. (Another possibility is that your coworker is very attractive - at least your wife thinks she is - and your wife feels threatened.)

My point is that it's unlikely your wife's jealousy is coming out of the clear blue sky. I think it would be helpful to spend more time with her and include her in work happy hours and such (to the extent possible, of course). As far as the new job goes, you really have to talk to her and see how she feels about it, then go from there.
posted by whitelily at 7:39 PM on June 14, 2012 [11 favorites]

Presumably, your wife's interests are aligned with yours. From a career standpoint she would want you to have a more stable job that you like more. That is what I would focus on in any discussion with her. Now, this situation is going to cause an issue regardless of the outcome. If you apply for and get the new position, you are dealing with the jealousy described above. If you don't apply because of the potential conflict with your wife, you will have resentment and anger. Sadly, the best outcome would be for your wife to be ok with you applying and then you do but don't get the job.

The bigger issue is that your wife either doesn't trust you or has her own mental issues of jealousy that you have no rational way of addressing. Good luck with that.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:51 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that you need to at least consider there may be some basis for your wife feeling this way, especially if this issue doesn't come up with regard to other female co-workers. We males are usually quite clueless about such things, but it's entirely possible that your co-worker is attracted to you and you are the only one that doesn't know it. The fact that you keep denying that there is anything between the two of you would only add to your wife's insecurity, because she can clearly see that there is something going on even if she can't figure out what it is. Is it possible to ask her about this scenario?
posted by dg at 7:51 PM on June 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

oh, and one more thing. I think it would help if you immediately drop all references to her jealousy being "irrational," "baseless," "unreasonable," etc. Even if that's factually true -- and for argument's sake, I am willing to accept completely that it is -- that sort of language is going to be heard by your wife as judgmental and dismissive. It pathologizes her, which actually counteracts any idea that she's capable of understanding her feelings and modifying that behavior.

So I think it would be more helpful if you simply accept the present fact that, like it or not, your wife is feeling jealous. Period, full stop. This doesn't mean that the jealousy isn't causing problems (because it is) or that you don't want her to find a way to manage the jealousy (because you do). But -- to be very logical and reasonable about it -- has labeling it as irrational, baseless, unreasonable, etc. thus far actually solved the problem or made her feel reassured? No, it actually hasn't. So stop doing it. Accept that she's jealous the same way you would accept that she's broken her ankle (or whatever). It's a problem that currently exists that you guys can find a way to fix.

Let go of how you think things/feelings "should" or "shouldn't" be; that doesn't actually get either of you any closer to changing the situation. It's seemingly paradoxical, but accepting how things really, truly are in the present moment is often the the first step toward making a healthy change for the future.
posted by scody at 7:59 PM on June 14, 2012 [32 favorites]

When I've felt insecure about women my husband was friendly with, it usually centers around not the fear that he'll cheat with them but the perception that they're acting in a way that's somehow not respectful of the relationship I have with my husband. One woman, for example, turned my husband away from me at a party to talk to him one on one while touching his arm a lot and doing other subtle, little, non-verbal things to make it clear that she felt she had some kind of claim there and while also excluding me from the interaction. And I'm a much better reader of these social situations that he is. He's usually entirely clueless.

That might sound crazy, I guess, but for me reassurance has been much more about feeling like it's clear that I'm the woman in his life, not just sexually, but in other, (perhaps) more important ways, too. And making it clear to others in our social circle, too. You don't have to say anything. It's all about non-verbal communication and how you make your wife feel included and like a part of things. You need to set down boundaries and communicate to all parties involved where your priorities are and also to not let someone else try and insinuate themselves between you and the wife.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:00 PM on June 14, 2012 [31 favorites]

It sounds like you've been responding to your wife's fears by telling her "there's nothing going on!" and leaving it at that. Instead, ask her what's been setting off her radar. If this is the only woman your wife has felt threatened by, figure out why.

I agree that men very often miss the cues that women send to indicate sexual interest, but other women almost never do! There have been a few times when I've told my husband that so-and-so was probably going to call him soon for a drink, oh just for a drink, just to talk, and that I would appreciate it if he did not go have this drink. And he has been like "wuh?" and then of course two weeks later the call comes.

So ask her what's up. Tell her you know that she wouldn't be making accusations at random. Encourage her to tell you what's set her off, even if it seems small.

And then remind her that you love her, would never ever cheat on her, and that even if what she saw is there, it doesn't matter because this woman will never get an opening and that when she sees how loyal you are to your wife she'll move on to more fertile ground.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:03 PM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

I agree with saucysault, whitelily, dg, etc. Don't assume that there's no basis to what your wife is saying. Sure, you know for sure that you are not attracted to this woman, and you're pretty sure that this woman is not pursuing you, but in a way, that is not really the point... The point is that you need to SHOW your wife that you respect her intuitions and consequently her. Don't just dismiss her as being irrational and jealous and get us to help you pretend to respect her to placate her, actually try and see what she sees. For whatever reason, your wife has determined that this woman is no good, and REALLY wants you to understand that. I'm not saying that you should hate this woman or treat her badly, but I think that if you trusted and listened to your wide, you'd see reasons to set healthy boundaries between you and this women. Once your wive feel trusted and respected, she will trust you.
posted by lalalana at 8:06 PM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

There is also only tenuous evidence at the best that this coworker even has feelings for me.

What exactly is this evidence?
posted by cairdeas at 8:07 PM on June 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

From the way you refer to your wife and her feelings, it sounds like you may be extremely dismissive and/or patronizing about her concerns when she brings them up. Even if they are completely baseless, when you tell her she's being irrational, childish, needs to grow up, etc, that sends the message to your wife that you don't think much of her and can actually increase feelings of insecurity.

Which line of conversation sounds more like how you guys discuss this issue:
"Honey, you're being silly and irrational, there's nothing there, don't worry about it."

"I can assure you my commitment is only to you, but can you talk to me about why you feel the way you do? What strategies can we take to address this?"

Please get over the idea that your wife's emotions are wrong and instead approach the situation from a more empathetic point of view: her emotions are her emotions and thus valid for her. Your job here is not to try to squash or control her emotions, but to help her work through them and find ways to mitigate their effects on your lives and relationship.
posted by Anonymous at 8:09 PM on June 14, 2012

Oh, and as for what she might be afraid of even if she doesn't think you'll cheat: humiliation is a big one. It's embarrassing when eeeeveryone at the office knows Julie has a crush on your husband and he's sweet and clueless and a little flattered but is dismissing you as being an irrational crazylady, or whatever. When this has come up with me and my husband, he usually just hears me out and eventually agrees that the lady is being a little flirty. That acknowledgement goes a long way into diffusing tension about it for me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:10 PM on June 14, 2012 [14 favorites]

Is your wife employed? Unemployed? Does she have enough going on in her own life to keep her interested and occupied? It sounds like she's a homebody, but you haven't specified as such.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:11 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

And depending on what your co-worker is doing, and your response, it may not be "irrational" for your wife to be irritated or jealous.

I once dated a guy whose ex, despite dumping him, was doing everything in her power to interfere in our relationship. She sent him lovey emails containing bikini shots and photos of her bare midriff from six different angles. She would call up his mom and pass on messages to him. She asked him out for drinks. She kept calling the house needing him to comfort her from one crisis or another. She trash talked me to his friends and said shockingly vicious things about me.

My boyfriend did absolutely nothing about this. He didn't tell her to stop sending the emails to him. He didn't tell her to quit calling his mom. He didn't tell her to stop talking shit about me. In fact, he "comforted" her when she called on the phone. He declined drinks with her but yet met up with her for a "platonic" coffee.

His argument was similar to yours, that if he wasn't reciprocating, and he wasn't doing anything non-platonic, then none of it should bother me.

But it did bother me because this was a person who was very openly trying to hurt me and damage our relationship, and he did nothing to put a stop to that. He continued to associate with a person who was trying to hurt me. He didn't object to it at all. THAT is what bothered me. There is nothing irrational about wanting your partner to object, rather than just going along with it when someone is trying to hurt you or take something from you.
posted by cairdeas at 8:14 PM on June 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

Also, I sort of get what fshgrl is saying, but honestly, you have no reason to worry about protecting or defending this woman or her feelings from your wife. Your wife is your wife, and *her* feelings are more important than those of a random coworker. Obviously, DO NOT start drama in your workplace and DO NOT be mean to this woman, but if you begin to see that your wife is right about your her (perhaps that she is desperate to be the center or attention or is needy with men or has female competition issues of her own), go ahead and talk shit about her in the privacy of your own home. (But only if it occurs naturally-- don't make up stuff.) It will make your wife feel better because it will show her that you are inhabiting the same reality. Furthermore, if for whatever reason, this woman has triggered your wife's competition issues, go ahead and show her that when it comes to you, 110%, she would win. You're her husband. These are the kind of things that can occur in committed, intimate relationships.
posted by lalalana at 8:18 PM on June 14, 2012

Ah never mind, missed where you updated above with the details of the situation.
posted by cairdeas at 8:20 PM on June 14, 2012

Concurring with saucysault, whitelily, dg, and lalalana. Especially since your wife doesn't have a history of mental illness. I have picked up on those vibes from other women before (not with my husband, but previous boyfriends), and the men involved have either been genuinely clueless, or faking cluelessness while getting a kick out of the interaction. It has driven me crazy when these guys would play off my intuition as "jealousy". It really wasn't -- it was about specific women who were giving off flirtatious signals, not women in general, and about my boyfriends treating me like a harpy.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:32 PM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Promise to call her from work often and make audible smoochy noises in front of the co-worker.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:39 PM on June 14, 2012

I think your wife needs to deal with it, but I really think you need to not be involved in extra curricular activities that this person is involved with, if it can be avoided at all.

I suspect that your wife is feeling lonely and resentful because you are spending more time with coworkers than her, even when you don't have to.
posted by empath at 8:40 PM on June 14, 2012

The bigger issue is that your wife either doesn't trust you or has her own mental issues of jealousy that you have no rational way of addressing.

I really don't think this is necessarily the case. She may just be feeling taken for granted or whatever and looking for a cause. This is not the kind of thing couples argue about when their marriage is going great. If it were me in his situation, I'd be looking for ways to make my wife happier in general, so she doesn't have time to sit and stew about what I'm doing with coworkers while she's home alone.
posted by empath at 8:48 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

if/when you talk to your wife about this (which is a very good idea), LISTEN to her. Don't just dismiss it as irrational fear or crazy talk or what have have you. I'm not the jealous type, but it drives me up the wall if I try to point out to my partner that someone is interested in him and he dismisses it. I trust him completely. I merely pointed it out to him, no accusations or anything. But his acting like it's crazy talk makes me feel that he (A) thinks I'm crazy for seeing things that aren't there, and (B) implies that he thinks I'm unintelligent for interpreting the situation incorrectly (which is really hurtful!). And if I were the jealous and/or stubborn type, I'd probably stick to my guns to prove that I was right about the situation.
She's seeing the situation from a different angle than you are. This doesn't mean that it's an incorrect or invalid angle. Allow her to not be a fan of what she saw or how she felt about it, your trying to prove her otherwise will only fan the flames of suspicion (or if she's like me, stubbornness).

On preview: I really like empath's advice
posted by Neekee at 8:56 PM on June 14, 2012

my wife's go-to line is that she doesn't trust her (the co-worker).

Okay then. Go with this. Don't fight it. "Honey, you might be right about the crush. I'm kind of clueless about these things. What would you like me to do about it? You know that anything that happened would have to involve me. What's the worst case scenario you're imagining?"

I can't see what alternative there is to her 'changing her mind'

This is not a problem if you go along with the crush theory to see where it takes you. Look a your wife as a bunny and the jealousy over the crushing co-worker as a bunny trail that will lead you to a lovely (or at least interesting) carrot patch. To get to that carrot patch you have to follow bunny down its trail.

But I'll try asking her in more concrete terms why she is jealous -- maybe it will help to have more of a root-cause discussion on this.

Ack! Just follow the bunny. Asking her why feeds the you're being irrational parentheticals. She's jealous. It's a feeling. Feelings follow feeling logic, not rational logic. There is a reason she is feeling and acting the way she is. You just don't know what it is.

Basically I'm saying that the quickest way out of the She Has A Crush On You! You're Being Irrational! deadlock is to sincerely give up, give in, and concede that she is right. Not because you want simply want to stop the fight, but so you can get on to a more helpful conversation. Or at least a different fight. It may not solve the whole riddle, but it may help you both get closer to understanding what scary, angry, insecure or hurtful thing the crushing co-worker represents.

If the conversation can't shift away from the deadlock over the co-worker and you have to make a decision quickly about the job, get thee to a couples therapist. I don't think anyone here can advise you well about the job opportunity without you first knowing if your wife's concerns about the co-worker really are a stand in for something else and what that something else is.
posted by space_cookie at 9:11 PM on June 14, 2012

When I've felt insecure about women my husband was friendly with, it usually centers around not the fear that he'll cheat with them but the perception that they're acting in a way that's somehow not respectful of the relationship I have with my husband.When I've felt insecure about women my husband was friendly with, it usually centers around not the fear that he'll cheat with them but the perception that they're acting in a way that's somehow not respectful of the relationship I have with my husband. One woman, for example, turned my husband away from me at a party to talk to him one on one while touching his arm a lot and doing other subtle, little, non-verbal things to make it clear that she felt she had some kind of claim there and while also excluding me from the interaction. And I'm a much better reader of these social situations that he is. He's usually entirely clueless.

I concur with PhoBWanKenobi. Pay more attention to her, involve her as much as is possible at work, be her advocate, show her off and acknowledge her feelings are real. I've experienced this feeling as well and concluded in my situation that most decent people will be respectful if the person makes it clear and evident they are in a serious relationship. My partner may have wanted to keep our relationship private or casual sounding for an infinite amount of reasons, but it certainly opens the door for other woman to pursue him and that may be gratifying. Setting boundaries is very difficult for some people because they don't see they are doing anything wrong. The wrong is that they place the other person in the right and not acknowledge the fears of their partner. I think the person (in this case you) have to arrive at it on your own.
posted by i_wear_boots at 9:14 PM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

For all the people who are saying that women can sometimes tell that another woman is interested in their partner, before you start being incredibly suspicious of a co-worker's actions it's worth remembering that women (and also men for that matter) are also sometimes incredibly wrong about this, with predictably awkward results. If your wife really is convinced this woman is after you then she way well be suspicious of whatever you say about her; criticism might be construed as hiding your tracks or an interest in this woman that you're trying to fight. If we're talking about an impression from a Christmas party, when people are often acting anomalously, being taken seriously months and months after the event then like others I'd suspect her reaction has little to do with this particular person but is displaced from something else, perhaps jealousy of your work in general. I'd suggest trying to acknowledge her anxieties (which are real, even if they're not based on anything) and expanding the discussion to what else about your work and attitude to work is also sparking those anxieties. Because if this is part of a larger issue where she resents or she is unhappy about this part of your life it's only gong to reoccur even if you quell this particular problem.

Also, be as upfront as possible about everything to do with this opportunity at work as soon as you an. Including the fact that this woman would be a team member and that you know she maay have problems with that. There's a chance that by acknowledging in a non-critical way that she may have problems with this and her emotional well-being is important to you, negative reactions may be minimalised.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:18 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think this may be a "show, don't tell" situation. You've been verbally reassuring your wife that your coworker does not present a threat to your relationship, but that's not working, and from one perspective, your wife is right: this situation with your coworker has actually made you frustrated with your wife and your marriage, inclined to hide things from her, disdainful of her rational thinking skills.... It HAS created trouble in your marriage (and your career and your overall happiness), regardless of the goodness in your heart.

I'd recommend putting yourself in your wife's shoes and thinking of what would be the actions, not just the words, that would make YOU feel comfortable that your spouse is truly dedicated to doing whatever he/she can to get your marriage through this rocky patch, not just trying to convince you to stop worrying about the health of your marriage. I'd take a break from lunchtime soccer for the season, for example. And I'd talk honestly with your wife about what excites you about the new job opportunity, but that you don't know what to do about the presence of the coworker on (potential) your team. Ask your wife for her advice! Ask what she'd do if she were in YOUR shoes. Show that you respect and value her opinion.

And meanwhile, woo her some. It's probably easy for you both to take for granted that she's the only woman you want to sleep with, but that doesn't mean that she feels fully confident that you find her captivating and your marriage fulfilling... or that some of what you're seeking from being a "workaholic" isn't also social camaraderie and/or intelligent discussions among peers, and/or personal validation from people just like your coworker, not just the logical, rational advancement you're getting by working so hard.
posted by argonauta at 9:36 PM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think a lot of the answers here would make sense if the OP was voluntarily spending time with this woman or counted her as a friend. But she's a colleague. Expecting him to adopt a bad attitude towards her to make his wife feel better is too much and, again, if any of this talk gets back to her she is probably (rightfully) going to have a fit. Which is going to negatively impact the OP at work.

It sounds like the OPs wife has only met her once and even if she did pick up a vibe from her at that time she needs to trust her husband to deal with it. I get hit on all the time because of the demographics of my job. And by pretty cool, interesting people for the most part. If my SO wanted me to refuse to work with anyone who had ever flirted or tried to get to know me better I'd have to to quit my job. Instead they trust me to deal with it in an adult manner, knowing that I have nothing to hide from them.
posted by fshgrl at 10:33 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

So she's getting bad vibes off this person for whatever reason. You tell her it's nothing repeatedly. Then she finds out said person sometimes joins you for soccer and is on a committee you're thinking of joining and may be your new coworker (if you actually tell her that). She's saying "Hey, don't get close to this person because I don't trust them" and you're saying "Nothing is happening", and to her outside eyes, it seems like you're trying to get closer and closer to this person she doesn't like and thinks is out to get you. Like you're being drawn into her web, you see?

Now, maybe nothing is happening, maybe she saw a flirty little gesture you're oblivious to, maybe your coworker really is the femme fatale looking for a rube like you to play patsy for her. Doesn't matter. You're not listening to your wife, not really. She is saying "I don't like this person for some reason" and you're going "Pfft, nothing is happening", then she finds out you're spending more and more time with this person and she gets more upset, but you still try to fight feelings with logic.

Just as my personal reading the tea leaves, I would say you're working too much and she's hearing about all these people you hang out with and have a good time with and you want to hang out and be social with more, which means she'd see you even less.

And it's not so much this woman, maybe, as she's sort of symbolic of everything your wife doesn't like about this situation, you know? And maybe this woman is threatening for some reason, maybe your wife thinks she's more attractive or more interesting or more...well, whatever would flip your switch. But I'd bet dollars to doughnuts the woman is just a symbol for your wife to put her anxieties on and that's the real root of the problem.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:51 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I similar AskMes from time to time and see this situation in real life from time to time: a male-type person is confused by a female-type person's jealousy, and about half the people side one way, and half the people side the other way.

I've come to understand over the years that this is actually similar to Ask vs Guess in terms of a complete differentiation in culture, rather than one person being right or wrong. It tends to center or depend on what individuals have been socialized to believe is appropriate in a relationship: and also, what is considered cheating. (This is also why some people believe in "emotional cheating" and others do not.)

For some people, cheating is actual physical sexy-time or romantic-time contact. This is where I tend to fall - I'd be furious to find out Mr. Corb was kissing some other girl, or going further. This is also where a lot of male-types tend to fall: not because they're inherently different, but because it's simple. It has clear, discernable rules, and you don't have to worry about social complexities.

For other people, cheating is about "prioritization" or "disrespect". Advice above is a really good example of this:
When I've felt insecure about women my husband was friendly with, it usually centers around not the fear that he'll cheat with them but the perception that they're acting in a way that's somehow not respectful of the relationship I have with my husband. One woman, for example, turned my husband away from me at a party to talk to him one on one while touching his arm a lot and doing other subtle, little, non-verbal things to make it clear that she felt she had some kind of claim there and while also excluding me from the interaction.

So, for example, a milder form of "cheating" in these relationships, for people who feel this way, could be other women sharing in-jokes with their male partners, or other women sharing experiences that they do not share with their male partners. These people often become furious not only at "physical cheating," but also at signs that their partner emotionally values or enjoys any other women or signs that women seek out their company. This emotional valuation doesn't necessarily have to be romantic. It could be, "Man, X woman is pretty funny." It could be, "I really respect Y person's competence." Or it could be, "X woman is flirtatious, and my partner doesn't see this as harmful." Sometimes, they also strongly don't want their partners associating with women who don't think much of them.

If two people have different beliefs on this, it is really, really hard for them to understand each other. The person who thinks only physical activity is cheating thinks, "This person is so crazy, and their jealousy is so unfounded! Of course I would never cheat on her!" Whereas the person who thinks of the possibilities of "emotional cheating" thinks, "I can't believe he's being so blind! She is obviously trying to have a closer relationship with him than I feel comfortable with!" And I suspect that this is what is going on with you and your wife. When she says "I trust you, but I don't trust her," she may be trying to say, "Of course I know that you would never physically cheat on me, but I think this woman really likes you. She might want to socialize with you without me. Or, she may not value me, and so when you talk about me, she might roll her eyes or imply that I am not a great wife. Then you would listen to that, and maybe it might eventually impact our relationship."

I think maybe it may be useful to keep this in mind the next time you have a talk with your wife. Don't frame the conversation about whether she's right or wrong that the coworker has inappropriate feelings, because that is a subjective valuation that you obviously disagree on. Frame the conversation as, "Hmm. What would be inappropriate behavior that you think she might display?" The answer to this will help you get a sense of where she's coming from on this culturally. And discussing this as a cultural difference between you might also help her understand that it's not that you devalue her opinions, but that you just have a really different viewpoint.

Then, from there, you both need to consider a compromise - not because either one of you is objectively wrong, but because you are married, you love your wife, and you presumably hope to be with her for a long time. It is unlikely that either one of you will change your complete cultural orientation around this. So you need to find a solution you both can live with. This is the crux of the problem, regardless of whether you work on this other team or not.
posted by corb at 12:34 AM on June 15, 2012 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, so many answers! Thanks everyone for all of the reasoned, well-thought-out advice. I hope I didn't drop out of the thread for too long here -- I had to, you know, go and spend some time with my wife!

ON WHICH TOPIC: she and I actually had a very productive talk about these things this evening.

1) Following some of the above advice, I brought up the topic with her and tried asking her directly about why she was feeling so jealous about my co-worker (not whether, or why she shouldn't be). This worked far better than I had thought it would! After repeating and listing some of the above-mentioned reasons to me (plus a few details I forgot, of course), she admitted that, yes, the evidence was rather thin and that she was probably overreacting. This was a major development that I had been looking for for months! I'm pretty sure that it helped that I brought this up as a discussion rather than something she brought up in an argument -- it's often hard for either side to see clearly when tempers are high. She also added that she realized that she was probably mis-directing some of her feelings over my long hours of work and focusing them on my coworker instead (I didn't mention this bit to her -- you are all psychics!)

2) I then mentioned this job opportunity, and the fact that this co-worker was on the team I was thinking of applying for. She handled this very gracefully, and (w.r.t. point 1) said that while she couldn't just eliminate her feelings, she realized that they were misplaced and she would try to not let this become an issue. Of course, I also stated that I would do what I could to spend more time with her and to make sure she felt included in my work life. I can completely see how this can be part of the base of the problem.

3) We also had a successful discussion of some tangential, but largely unresolved issues that I think had been weighing on the both of us. Sometimes when you're on a roll everything figures itself out. And sometimes when you're stressed issues bleed together.

To those who felt I was being a little dismissive of her feelings: yes, yes, I probably was being somewhat dismissive in how I related them here. But please understand that the first two-ish months that this was an issue I most definitely was not dismissive of them, and that I have been talking with her about this for several months (on and off). This is also not the first time that she has been overly-jealous over someone who she later admitted she should not have been threatened/concerned about. But you love the whole of the person, not half of the person or only the parts that suit your fancy; I love my wife. There are plenty of worse things that a person could be than over-protective, even if it does get frustrating and leave me grasping for answers at times.

Of course, this is not to discount that there were some real honest-to-goodness time management issues here that I needed to address. To be honest, I think I have been kind of half-expecting it to come down to this in the end; I certainly knew that merely dismissing my wife's concerns was not a way forward. I was mostly concerned that this sort of resolution would take longer to reach than my current job situation would allow. Very happily this was not the case! (sometimes a direct discussion is best).

Finally, and once again, thanks to everyone for putting in their opinions and thoughts here. I think we have this one resolved. <3
posted by Arandia at 12:44 AM on June 15, 2012 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: Just saw your post, Corb -- ask vs guess culture has certainly played a roll in other aspects of our relationship, even though I'm unsure that it has played too much of a roll here (btw, she's very guess, I'm very ask). Perhaps this can partly explain how our discussions over this have largely spun sidewise up to now. Fortunately I think we are now on the same page. Now to try and spend more time with my wife! :-)
posted by Arandia at 12:53 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been reading your updates.

"Happy Wife, Happy Life!"

I am a Happy Wife. I also have a SUPER keen sense of intuition. Like, once I was in a car with faulty tires, and I begged to pull over, and long story short, I ended up saving 4 lives-type scary intuition.

Your wife knows something you do not, even if her "target" is not the issue.

But her "target" is probably related.

Your wife is experiencing a serious "GUT REACTION" to something she can't explain. Reasoning this out will get you no where. Your logic is sound, it's the future and things unknown that are fuzzy. For now.

Listen to your wife. She is not being unreasonable. It's just that you both don't know yet what the problem is.

Listen to your wife. She's likely not crazy, it just SUCKS when intuition strikes and you can't explain it until after the fact.

Again. Having a strong sense of intuition SUCKS. Please don't imagine this is all drama. My intuition tells me this is not drama, but something you might want to heed, in terms of your marriage.
posted by jbenben at 2:22 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm glad you and your wife managed to have a discussion (NOT another argument!) about this; but perhaps you could also consider couples therapy, on the theory that it's better to seek medical attention when you merely have the flu, not full-blown pneumonia! It seems you both have, and have now acknowledged, difficulties that could be helped by a professional therapist: her jealousy and fears as well as your dismissive and somewhat-patronizing comments (and let's face it, throwing words like "irrational", "baseless" and "unreasonable" at her in the heat of an argument ain't helping).

Good luck to both of you, and I hope you come out of this with a solid and happy marriage.
posted by easily confused at 3:34 AM on June 15, 2012

Nthing couples therapy. A job promotion & a female co-worker, aren't the issue here. Not by far.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:19 AM on June 15, 2012

Sometimes when you're on a roll everything figures itself out.

And how. Yeah Haw for you and the wife!!!
posted by space_cookie at 7:28 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look, I hope this isn't going to sound too harsh. Whenever I see someone come back into their own relationship thread this much, and sort of direct and manage and comment on it as aggressively as you have, I always suspect that there is some kind of listening issue at work, and maybe a control issue as well. I gather from one of your followup posts that you actually felt obligated to return to the thread a lot, which is actually counter to practice in an Ask, and people caution against it. I'm not thinking you're trying to be mean to your wife or put her down; it's more like you seem to keep making a lot of effort and trying to poke this aspect or that, as opposed to just listening to the other person. Maybe you are making too much effort at times when you might as well just let things be. Honestly my reaction on reading your post together with the first few followups was, "He's protesting too much. If the other woman isn't a problem, she just isn't and everything will be OK if you wait a while."
posted by BibiRose at 9:03 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I love to hear that you guys are talking about this stuff, and that she is expressing her concerns.

Agree with BibiRose that maybe you might be managing these conversations more than you realize*; that is one of the benefits of couples therapy, that a third party is directing the flow of conversation. Don't rule having a few sessions with a therapist out!

*I totally do this with my husband. Before I became a weird Emily Dickinson shut-in, one of my biggest professional skill sets was conflict resolution, and when he and I would be having an argument, he would sometimes have to remind me that he wasn't a client!
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:41 AM on June 15, 2012

Response by poster: Bibi, Sidhe: I hear you both, and am willing to consider that I might be simply blind to these issues. However if you are reaching this conclusion merely from how I've been interacting with this thread, then please put it down to an unfamiliarity with ask rather than anything else.

Bowing out now.
posted by Arandia at 10:00 AM on June 15, 2012

However if you are reaching this conclusion merely from how I've been interacting with this thread

For me, not so much that as taking away the impression even from your initial post that you are very focused on managing things. Which is a quality I share, and that is really adaptive in most situations, but can sometimes be a disadvantage. If that's a totally off assessment, my apologies!
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:25 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You did the right thing, and your attitude in this thread was perfectly appropriate. Distrust without basis is a really disrepectful way to treat a spouse.
posted by moammargaret at 10:30 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm glad you guys have started to figure this out, and would add my voice to the masses calling for some form of therapy to get to the bottom of her jealousy. I'd also really urge you not to give up important (to you) career opportunities over this, that will only lead to massive resentment on your part.

FWIW, I didn't get the impression that you were trying to "manage" this thread.

I also didn't get the impression that you were "dismissive" of your wifes feelings, coming on here and looking for help (and presumably other resources you've tried) demonstrates a hell of a lot of consideration for those feelings on your part (Making the assumption that you've given her no reason to doubt your faithfulness). I'd be frustrated as hell too if my wife was accusing me of not being disciplined enough to keep my pecker in my pants around female co-workers. I really don't get the logic that it's OK for a woman to be jealous and controlling like this (and the man needs to be considerate of these feelings) but it's not acceptable for a man to be this way. If the genders were switched in your question you'd have 60+ "How Dare he Doubt you" responses, instead of 60+ "Try to understand the source of her jealousy" responses. I KNOW that there are guys my wife is in regular contact with at work that have more than a passing interest in her (they're really not subtle)... I'm not filled with the urge to guilt her into staying away from work, or finding a new job, or staying away from friends and co-workers just because "that guy" happens to be there. That would be unreasonable, manipulative and unacceptable. I trust her to honour our marriage, end of story.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 1:48 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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