My husband says she's his best friend. Really?
January 5, 2015 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Please tell me if you have had an intense friendship with someone of the sex you're attracted to and it genuinely was platonic. My husband is very close to another woman and swears they're just friends. I'm worried. He adores her, he spends every spare minute with her and when they're not together, I know he's thinking of her. He isn't like this with any other friend and never has been (we've been married 15 years).

My husband has lots of female friends, always got along better with women and is a soft, gentle kind of guy, and he's not the cheating type so part of me thinks I shouldn't worry, it makes sense that he has become close friends with this woman. And to be blunt, she is fat. I'm very thin. I'm his type, she's not.

But he spends a lot of time with her. She lives on our street so I guess it's partly because she is nearby, but she was new to the neighbourhood and we live where close to where we both grew up so we already have lots of old friends nearby and my husband has never become close with any of them. Within weeks of meeting, they were seeing each other regularly (3-4 times a week, some weeks they saw each other every single day) and texting daily. I pay all the bills so I could see he was texting her hundreds of times every month. He told me it was mostly photography stuff (they are both photography nerds, of course*). He let me look at his phone and it was true but still, so many messages every single day. We had a fight about it in the second year and they toned it down. They've been friends for 6 years now and they never go more than two or three days without contacting or seeing each other. Unless they've had a fight! Like a couple. It's only happened a few times but UGH! My husband had only known her for about 9 months when he told me she was his best friend.

On Saturdays I take the kids to sports and to visit my mother. Most Saturdays he spends the day with her. He goes to her place or she comes here and they just sit and talk all day. He never talks to me all day. And there's no way we could talk that much every weekend. I don't even think I'd want to. Sometimes my husband invites her over in the evening when I have to work. I work from home so I'm in my office but I can see and hear them. They just talk about innocuous stuff (tv shows, art, politics) but there is so much eye contact. Their body language is otherwise not flirtatious, no hair flipping or anything from her, no one's leaning in or touching the other person, in fact they hardly ever touch. They don't even sit next to each other, but they are very clearly intensely interested in each other. I have tried joining in but honestly, i'm just not that interested in their conversations. They like the same stuff and I don't. I never have anything to say. I don't get the jokes, I don't know the people or things they're talking about, I don't like the tv shows they like.

When he goes to her house in the evenings. he always comes home late. I don't always say anything about him staying out late because I go out and stay out late with girlfriends regularly and sometimes I stay the night at a friend's so I can drink and not drive home. He doesn't go out in the evenings as much as i do, but when he does, it's only ever with her. He always picks her up and takes her home. It's like a date to me but he says it's no different to me going to a movie or dinner with my girlfriends.

This has come up now because we've had a big fight and I told him i didn't want him to see her anymore. It all started in November, it was our wedding anniversary and while we were meant to be having a romantic dinner, he took a photo of one corner of the restaurant and texted it to her because he thought she would like the way the light reflected or something. I was so annoyed that he couldn't at least wait til he saw her next. He never can. Then a week later it was her birthday and she organised dinner with her 4 best friends, she invited my husband. Partners weren't invited. I picked a huge fight because I didn't want him to go. It was a cosy dinner in a fancy restaurant and I just didn't want them having a good time together, I didn't want him to be part of her special occasion. But I've shot myself in the foot with this one. He didn't know what to tell her so he didn't say anything at all, just didn't ever reply to her invite. She was so upset she didn't speak to him for weeks, didn't even reply to his happy christmas message. Then she messaged him last week that she wanted to talk to him, he went straight over there. It was 7:45am. They talked and made up (he came home at lunchtime because I texted him and told him to come home) and the next day he took her out on basically a date (art gallery plus lunch by the sea) to make it up to her. Neither of them drink so I'm not worried they'll get drunk on one of these dates and "accidentally" do anything...but this all seems like couple stuff to me.

My other problem is that she is actually really nice. We get along well. She made a deliberate effort to be friends with me quite early on and every few months we go out for a girls night or something just the two of us. She has babysat for us, she brings us cookies and jam etc when she's making stuff and always invites us to her barbecues and parties, normal neighbourly stuff like that. And sometimes, when I've had a fight with my husband, she talks to him for me...which is good and bad. I spend months nagging him about something and then she just says to him 'why don't you blah blah' and next thing you know, he's doing it, he's fixing the gate or organising date night for us and buying me flowers etc. My husband and I separated for 6 months a few years ago. During that time I know he talked to her every day, and I often talked to her too, to see what he was saying/thinking. She was pretty major in getting us back together.

So I find this all very confusing. Is it possible that they're really just the best of best friends? I want to hear from people who have had a friendship that was this close and can tell me honestly that it was platonic because I just don't quite believe it. I am so sad and jealous and angry, I feel like they are so perfect for each other.

* They both LOVE the same crap. It drives me nuts. Obscure stuff, like they both LOVE the same grease pencil???!!! Same music (were you at X concert? Me too!), had the same major at university, she volunteers for a very niche-y charity and he LOVED the idea so he volunteered too. They both love some genre of black & white Japanese films. I really could go one for another 1000 words about this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (100 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Does it matter if it's platonic or not? It's driving a huge wedge into your marriage, and he has to understand that and manage it. I wouldn't want a third person in my marriage, either, even if they were the nicest person you ever did meet.

Not to mention, My other problem is that she is actually really nice. !=! it was her birthday and she organised dinner with her 4 best friends, she invited my husband. Partners weren't invited. Once you're past the age of 13, this kind of baloney stops.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:36 PM on January 5, 2015 [85 favorites]

For me, yes, it is entirely possible to be really great friends with someone and not sleep with them. And even not want to. (I've done it both ways.)

In my 20 year marriage both my husband and I have had "bromances" which is our shorthand for a really intense relationship that does not require a discussion of flirt/monogamy boundaries. For us personally this is okay, because we both have these tendencies and recognize that the capacity to get passionate and bond with others is something we share. The artistic thing (in my case) or team/martial arts thing (in his) is a real thing. However:

1. If my first phone call about something is not to my husband, that is dangerous ground. If you don't feel primary in his life, this is a really, really good thing to discuss.

2. I can see why a sudden ultimatum to dump her wouldn't be the best he investing in his relationship with you? If not, that comes first. You need some date time! And to find some more things you two like together. It's one thing to recognize he has A Thing with her. It's another to feel she's getting all the good stuff. I don't know if you do but it reads that way.

The texting the picture was a dick move on your anniversary. It might be habit but, ugh.

3. She needs to be a friend to your marriage. That might include inviting you, or being understanding if he needs to focus on your marriage for a month...quarter...year. It means respecting you both, but not just passively - actively seeking happiness for you both in relationship to each other.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:36 PM on January 5, 2015 [22 favorites]

I am a bit confused. Are you attempting to find out if your husband may be having an affair to justify being jealous of his best friend?

My boyfriend's best friend is a woman he dated maybe 25 years ago. They were together for 3 years and then broke up. He probably sees her more than he sees me because they both live in San Francisco and I'm in the East Bay.

They share a love of jazz, cycling and 40s era literature that I find unappealing. It was pretty clear to me when I met my boyfriend that his best friend was a huge part of his life and I'd better learn how to be okay with that because in a contest, I would lose. And I didn't see any reason to make it a contest. I have lots of friends, male and female, and I think have a close friendship with another person is a blessing.

Your situation is different in that you met and married your husband first. Still, I am baffled by your jealousy. Is it because you feel neglected by your husband or simply because it somehow doesn't feel fair or right to you that he spends so much time with someone else?

Either way, I can tell you that my closest friend is a guy and I am not sleeping with him. My boyfriend's best friend is a women he stopped sleeping with 22 years ago. Of course people can have friends of different genders and not be sleeping with them. Sometimes they are, of course, but I don't think that's what's going on here. I think your husband and the neighbour are super compatible in lots of everyday, non-marital kinds of ways.

Please don't make him choose between the two of you. Please instead work with your husband to help make you feel special, too. You should feel special to your husband, and he should feel special to you.

Maybe he's forgotten that while spending all this time with his best friend. Forgetting that is not okay. But it's also not okay to dictate to your adult husband who his friends can be (unless the friends are coke-snorting car thieves).

My advice is to figure out why you feel neglected and jealous and how to approach that rather than focusing on ending his friendship. She's a nice woman, you say. So stop worrying about her and find a way to have weekly hot fun sexy times or simply fun times with your man. However the two of you define that.

If the time he's splitting between you two is way out of balance, if you miss his company, if you want to do more things with him, then let him know that in a calm, non-confrontational way. As in, "I have a problem. Please help me solve it." Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:39 PM on January 5, 2015 [35 favorites]

People can have intense platonic relationships with people of the gender they are attracted to. Sounds like he has a best friend with a lot of the same interests as him. Whether platonic or not, however, may not be the issue.

I'd think about what your problem really is, and why it's a problem for you, and what solutions you can see.
posted by gryftir at 5:39 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that they're really just the best of best friends?

Yes, of course it is. People can be friends with the opposite sex.

They both LOVE the same crap. It drives me nuts. Obscure stuff, like they both LOVE the same grease pencil???!!! Same music (were you at X concert? Me too!), had the same major at university, she volunteers for a very niche-y charity and he LOVED the idea so he volunteered too. They both love some genre of black & white Japanese films

Shared interests are what often what bring friends together. This is not unusual in the slightest.

You asked for personal experiences. I'm a hetero guy in a long term committed relationship. I have close friendships with not one but several women who I think are attractive, talented, interesting and accomplished people, and those relationships were and are platonic. I have spent evenings with these women, one on one, talking for hours. I've gone to dinner with them, or seen shows. It's not a problem for the Red Thoughts consort, because she too knows these women and she trusts me (and also them).
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:44 PM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Is it possible that they're really just the best of best friends?

Yes, that's exactly what they are. This is not a common situation, but not an uncommon one either. And as you mention, when it has suited your purposes, you've been part of this triangle. But then when something about it bugs you, you purposely pick a fight. That's not going to lead to a resolution (in the form of a peaceful coexistence), ever. There is stuff that you call crap (some kind of grease pencil, that charity, those Japanese films, the way the light reflected on something in the restaurant) that obviously are of interest (or more) to both of them. They can talk about this stuff for hours; you're not into it. That's the key to the puzzle. And, "she is actually really nice".

So. Why not make an effort, for the next few months, not to pick fights over their relationship, not to nurture suspicions, and not to let the contact they enjoy bother you. But instead, to reach out and develop your own relationship with her, as well as seeing whether, if you tried a little harder, you could find something interesting to you in their conversation and be part of it. Ask questions if you don't get the jokes or know who they're talking about. No need to carry a full third of the discussion — just listening 90 percent of the time is perfectly fine. In other words, let this three-way relationship evolve in a positive way, instead of looking for ways to undermine or end it — because if you succeed in that, you'll most likely lose your husband; instead you could gain a friend with the positive approach.
posted by beagle at 5:44 PM on January 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

I don't think this is normal. My husband doesn't even talk to his best friend more than once or twice a week. It's possible that your husband is best friends with this woman, but I don't think that's healthy for your marriage. And if you don't feel like it is, then you need to do something.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:48 PM on January 5, 2015 [72 favorites]

She's the wife and you are the girlfriend with kids. Talk to her. Tell her to back the hell out of your life and allow your husband, who she claims to care about, to be the father and husband that he is supposed to be. Your poor kids. Their dad is choosing to spend time with the neighbor lady instead of them. No, that is not right. Even if he isn't having sex with her, it is still very wrong.
posted by myselfasme at 5:50 PM on January 5, 2015 [54 favorites]

I think this is unusual. I'm a single woman and while I'm friendly with lots of guys none of them prioritize time with me over time with their partners.

I don't know that your husband is cheating on you, but as I'm reading your question he is not treating you as his primary. And as I see it, that's the problem - your husband's priorities.

Have you considered couples counseling?
posted by bunderful at 5:53 PM on January 5, 2015 [65 favorites]

I agree that this is too much BEST FRIENDS with this woman, platonic or not. It would bother me, too. However, if they were both single it would be just kinda weird closeness, and something that would/should drift off when the friends pair off with others. But since you're in the picture, I think you should talk to him about it since it's about your partnership with him. Please don't make it her problem.
posted by zutalors! at 5:54 PM on January 5, 2015 [9 favorites]

I do believe that married people can have close friends of the same sex that they don't sleep with. I also believe that some married people are emotionally cheating on their spouses even if they're not sleeping with their "friend."

You're not comfortable with their relationship. I wouldn't be either. That should matter to him. In my world, my spouse needs to be more committed to me than to any friend, male or female. Seeing her every single day? Texting her 100s of times a month? Texting on YOUR anniversary date? No, not good. The big tell that gets my red flags going is that he spends Saturday while YOU take the kids to sports. WTF? Why isn't he spending time with his family rather than his good friend? (He doesn't have to go with your to your mother's, but damn, they're his kids, too.)

You guys need counseling. He needs to figure out who he's married to and make some kind of commitment. Sounds like you're raising his kids, keeping his house, and providing him with sex, while he's getting all his emotional needs met with her. If he won't go to counseling, you need to go and figure out where you want to be with this.

I'd say talk to each other, but it sounds like you've got crap for communications. See a therapist and learn how.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:56 PM on January 5, 2015 [78 favorites]

I agree that the issue is that your husband is not treating you as his primary, and that he seems to be prioritizing her over you. You are his spouse and that means you should come first.

And texting her during your anniversary dinner is a shitty thing to do. That would make me really angry, and it would make me just as angry if my (hypothetical) husband texted his male BFF while we were having our anniversary dinner.

I think it's fine to have platonic opposite-sex friends, but I think your husband is prioritizing her over you, and that is not good. It's time for you and him to sit down and talk, and maybe go to marriage counseling.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:57 PM on January 5, 2015 [29 favorites]

It really doesn't matter if he is sleeping with her or not. It also doesn't matter what we think. You find it inappropriate that he behave in the way that he is doing with another woman in your marriage that is totally within your rights. It's possible that you've been caught up trying to do the right thing based on your own friendships or what you think friendships are about and not trusting and discussing your feelings. Have a conversation with him where the point of the talk is to figure out what boundaries would make you comfortable with their friendship and then ask him to stick to it. That might fix it! But if he's not willing to find a way to make you feel like his #1 priority then he is not your husband, he is hers.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:57 PM on January 5, 2015 [19 favorites]

On Saturdays I take the kids to sports and to visit my mother. Most Saturdays he spends the day with her. He goes to her place or she comes here and they just sit and talk all day. He never talks to me all day. And there's no way we could talk that much every weekend. I don't even think I'd want to.

Yeah. I have a lot of female friends that I've had since I was 18 years old(36 now). They are some of my favorite people in the world, but yeah, what your hubby is doing is ridiculous. This isn't fair to your family.

Also, maybe you should talk more with your husband. It seems like you just don't want to, and he's doing it with someone who is willing.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:02 PM on January 5, 2015 [20 favorites]

This is squicky and I'll tell you why.

1. She's having some kind of relationship with him. Otherwise in all this time, she's actually have her own relationship. She's single, right? She's not involved with anyone but her best friend, right?

2. She always gets to be fun. You want to talk about buying a new garbage disposal and you have to nag him to put the toilet seat down.

3. Your husband can't draw a healthy boundary. If his brother monopolized that much of his time and attention it would be too much. So why can't he tell her to go home? Also, if I was invited out by a dude friend and his buddies, and was told specifically to leave Husbunny at home...that would be a non-starter.

4. Your marriage already has cracks, or else you wouldn't have separated. You don't have common interests and you're playing games.

5. You have each invited this woman into your marriage. It would not occur to me to discuss my marital issues with my girlfriends if they were unresolved between Husbunny and I. If you're discussing your problems with her, he's probably discussing his problems with her.

Your marriage is in big trouble, but it's not really this woman. It's you and your husband, she's just a symptom.

Get counseling yesterday. Ask your husband to join you in couples counseling.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:03 PM on January 5, 2015 [117 favorites]

it seems like you're both at fault here. Texting a friend in the middle of an anniversary dinner isn't OK, but picking a fight with your husband over that birthday dinner is pretty awful too. A dinner with four close friends where partners aren't invited seems totally normal to me.

If a romantic partner was so jealous of a close platonic friend that I couldn't go to that friend's birthday, that would be a pretty big strike against the romantic partner.
posted by ripley_ at 6:05 PM on January 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

I wonder if the question were phrased, "Is it okay for another woman to be my husband's closest emotional connection?" if it would get the same answers? For me, opposite sex friends are fine, and opposite sex "best friend" would be okay too so long as I felt like our emotional connection came first in his life. I'm not getting the sense from your post that your emotional connection with your husband comes first for him.

PS (and not related to your question) - I have no thoughts one way or another about whether he's having an affair, but I wouldn't let her body fat ratio convince you he isn't. I think if we've learned anything from staunchly anti-gay male Republican politicians and religious leaders who get caught in homosexual affairs, it's that humans sometimes outwardly express repulsion for what we're secretly attracted to.
posted by cecic at 6:05 PM on January 5, 2015 [25 favorites]

My husband and I separated for 6 months a few years ago. During that time I know he talked to her every day, and I often talked to her too, to see what he was saying/thinking. She was pretty major in getting us back together.

This is good. She cares about your family...and maybe you should just talk to her woman to woman to see how she feels about how you're feeling about this.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:05 PM on January 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Speaking for myself, it's entirely possible for a married man to have close friendships with women, even best friends, and it be entirely on the up-and-up. But I agree with Rosie M. Banks that the trouble is his prioritizing his friendship over his marriage, and you have every right to object to that. Or, for that matter, if he were spending as much time and energy with a male friend to your detriment.

I agree that counseling for you both may be in order, so you can communicate to him your unmet needs and he can hopefully realign his priorities to focus more on his family that he seems to be doing.
posted by Gelatin at 6:06 PM on January 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I think it's not too terribly unusual to have a very strong and close friendship with someone of the opposite sex who you aren't romantically involved with.

The issue here is that he, like all of us, has a limited amount of time and emotional engagement and you understandably feel like he's putting way too much of that toward his friend instead of you. You should be very clear with him that you're feeling like he isn't making your relationship and you the primary focus in his life. Spell out to him what your time and attention needs are. I *would not* make some kind of ultimatum to his friend, this is not about her, it's about you and your husband. He's the one who should be responsible for working with you to improve your relationship.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:06 PM on January 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

I think you're getting two things mixed up here:

A) "Is my husband having an affair / more-than-platonic relationship with his friend?"

B) "Do I feel neglected as an emotional partner/friend?"

You can have both, neither, but one without the other. In this case, it seems like she's a completely platonic friend (especially if she's responsible for you two being together) so not A to me. I'd disregard posters saying that this is "not normal".

But it does sound that B is the case- you feel neglected as a friend/partner. It sounds like if your husband had a (hetero) male friend that his actions would still be annoying to you - texting during an anniversary dinner, etc.

The way you speak about their hobbies and interests makes it clear that you feel quite excluded - "I don't get their jokes", "obscure references", etc. That's a completely legitimate feeling, and I think worth discussing and addressing with your partner.

It might be almost easier to chalk it up to some secret attraction, because feeling left out or less connected with someone can feel pretty hurtful. But I think arguing about the "secret attraction" angle will actually make things worse, because that's not the problem.

Instead, talk with your husband about how you feel, and try to create shared interests. Try to do things or go to places that you haven't done or been before.

TL;DR: You have a friendship problem, not an affair problem, and friendships are made better by doing fun things and sharing important things together.
posted by suedehead at 6:08 PM on January 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

Also, what do you want? Can you articulate it to him?

It's one thing to know that it drives you bat shit when they're both watching the Seven Samurai again, but what would you rather be doing with your husband? Would you prefer that it was you and he on the sofa watching Casablanca together?

You can't just tell him what you don't want, you have to be able to tell him, with specificity what you DO want.

Do you want him to take the kids to sports? Ask him to. Do you want him to do the grocery shopping? Tell him. Do you want him to take you to dinner and to discuss Foo and Bah with you, and for him to put his phone in his pocket. Make it abundantly clear.

Some people need you to connect the dots. So figure out what you want and convey that to him.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:10 PM on January 5, 2015 [27 favorites]

Yeah, this is not really a friendship and I am suprised at all the people suggesting it is. Friends don't behave this way. Sorry.
posted by yarly at 6:10 PM on January 5, 2015 [24 favorites]

Seems passive aggressive in a way to me. Like you'll never understand him like she does or he doesn't respect you enough or like you enough as a person to consider you his best friend.

It's lame and manipulative to me.
posted by discopolo at 6:11 PM on January 5, 2015 [9 favorites]

Also, he's not thinking,"Oh, how would this make my wife feel?" Like if there was some dude best friend in your life that you just adored and thought was just the best, and it wouldn't be/shouldn't be upsetting to him.

I'm so sorry he's not being considerate of your feelings or respectful of your relationship. Some men feel entitled. And for you and your kids, I think you need to have an exit strategy at least in it's hazy stages.

You are bothered by this. It's okay. It's normal. It's not really what any woman envisions when she concocts hopes about how her marriage will be and how her husband will feel about her.

Please remember that your feelings are valid. All you can do is tell him how you feel. If he argues, justifies it, whatever---well, then he's not being respectful and he may have unconsciously or consciously made decisions/justified things that ultimately make him a lousy husband or a half-husband or husband-in-name-only.

You dont have to sacrifice your self esteem and happiness to someone who is self-centered and can't empathize with you. You don't need that kind of husband---the embarrassing one who chooses others over your marriage.
posted by discopolo at 6:23 PM on January 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

Yeah, I'm confused as well.

Basically this:

"My other problem is that she is actually really nice. We get along well. She made a deliberate effort to be friends with me quite early on and every few months we go out for a girls night or something just the two of us. She has babysat for us, she brings us cookies and jam etc when she's making stuff and always invites us to her barbecues and parties, normal neighbourly stuff like that. And sometimes, when I've had a fight with my husband, she talks to him for me...which is good and bad. I spend months nagging him about something and then she just says to him 'why don't you blah blah' and next thing you know, he's doing it, he's fixing the gate or organising date night for us and buying me flowers etc. My husband and I separated for 6 months a few years ago. During that time I know he talked to her every day, and I often talked to her too, to see what he was saying/thinking. She was pretty major in getting us back together."

And then your question is:

"So I find this all very confusing. Is it possible that they're really just the best of best friends? I want to hear from people who have had a friendship that was this close and can tell me honestly that it was platonic because I just don't quite believe it. I am so sad and jealous and angry, I feel like they are so perfect for each other. "

So are you asking if he's having sex with her? Doesn't sound like it. Your very last part of your post answers the question of why he's spending so much time with her:

" They both LOVE the same crap. It drives me nuts. Obscure stuff, like they both LOVE the same grease pencil???!!! Same music (were you at X concert? Me too!), had the same major at university, she volunteers for a very niche-y charity and he LOVED the idea so he volunteered too. They both love some genre of black & white Japanese films. I really could go one for another 1000 words about this."

What I don't understand is why it drives you nuts? She sounds like the perfect best friend. Somebody who shares a lot of interests and with whom he can have a deep platonic relationship as they are basically non-related siblings. You, on the other hand, are in a romantic relationship with him. You don't share most of your interests with him. That's why he's with you. He's with you because he doesn't want to be married to himself. He wants to be married and have a romantic relationship with a person who is different from him and he wants to have a best friend who is like a clone of his interests.

so, yeah, it makes sense why he's hanging out with her.

And, yeah, one of my best friends is a girl I used to date but now I consider her to be my sister. We share a lot of common interests and hang out a lot but the relationship is completely platonic and it's great having close friends like that.
posted by I-baLL at 6:23 PM on January 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

the problem here is that his closest emotional connection is with his friend instead of his wife. The problem here is that you don't share interests and you don't want to spend a day talking with your husband. The problem here is that your husband doesn't want to spend Saturdays with his wife and kids.

The problem here is not that they're fucking. They probably aren't. But if they were? Does that really change the situation from okay with you to not okay with you?
posted by J. Wilson at 6:26 PM on January 5, 2015 [47 favorites]

If it were me I'd be relieved that he had someone to talk to about stuff he was interested in. Especially someone nice who wanted to be friends with me. But it does sound like he's getting a little carried away and possibly infatuated. He needs to want to spend more time with you. That's what I would focus on if I were you.
posted by bleep at 6:27 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I think that the opposite-sex thing is a red herring. Men and women can be friends without wanting to fuck each other. The real problem here is that his primary emotional relationship appears to be with someone who isn't his wife. This would be a problem if his best friend were a man, too -- I have seen male/male platonic friendships that are like this that have destroyed male/female romantic relationships. Intense close friendships can be perfectly fine and healthy, but they should not be primary over the marital relationship.

If you frame the issue less as "are you cheating on me?!?!" and more as "I miss you and don't feel that you consider me a priority in your life," then I think you'll have more success talking about this with him. I think you and your husband would probably benefit from couples counseling so you can both figure out what you each want out of your marriage.
posted by gatorae at 6:27 PM on January 5, 2015 [59 favorites]

Let's cut to the chase here: Your marriage is in trouble. You two need to have a good dialogue to identify and address the issues. These issues certainly include your feelings of exclusion, and his time, energy and emotional commitment to another woman.

At this point, his attachment to her is not an issue - what is at issue is his attachment to you (and yours to him). It seems to be up to him to rebalance his attachments, one way or another, or for you to either accept this situation, or bail on it. If there is a middle ground, you two have to work together to identify it, and then make it happen.

For the record, people bang all sorts of people, for all sorts of reasons. Your idea of 'his type' is wishful thinking. She may have wanted you back together because she is getting her jollies on a no-commitment basis, and she wants it kept that way. Not saying this is what is happening, but it sure could be ... and I find your not mentioning a fulfilling sex life with your husband to be a bit of a straw in the wind ...
posted by GeeEmm at 6:27 PM on January 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

Probably my best friend that lives near me is my ex-gf that I dated 10 years ago, and we're both currently engaged to other people. I see her maybe once a week for a trivia night. I wouldn't DREAM of spending that much time with her, or even away from my fiancée. The problem isn't that his best friend is a women, the problem is that he's neglecting your marriage. He's been checked out for years. You need to make sure that your needs in the relationship are tended to. If they aren't, your options are basically couples therapy or divorce (or I guess staying miserable for the rest of your marriage).
posted by empath at 6:29 PM on January 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

This is way too relationship-y for my taste. It sounds as though he spends much, much more quality time with her than with you, and all his non-practical/non-domestic stuff is with her, not you. Maybe he actually literally spends more time with her - multiple evenings every week plus all day every Saturday is a lot. This is all time where he is deepening his bond with her, not with you. And the endless texting, as if just being at home with you is some kind of drag which can only be relieved by texting her.

I would be very hurt - just like you! - if I had a partner who so obviously considered me insufficient.

My immediate thought is that here is a guy who has his cake and eats it - he has two women dancing attendance on him, one for practical stuff and parenting and the other for his interests. He's getting tons of attention of exactly the kind he chooses; he gets to have "dates" that never develop into a relationship (with the attendant boredom, responsibility, etc) and he also gets to have a relationship, children, a household managed by someone else, etc. I mean, seriously, I hang out with friends of various genders all the time, I hang out with crushes, I hang out with seriously partnered people with whom there is none the less a slight frisson - and we don't do the "let's basically have several dates every week" thing, because we are not dating.

I think that you could use some marriage counseling, stat.

Also, I think he's hurting you and hurting your relationship by refusing to prioritize it. It would be unfair to force someone to stop seeing a friend, but it's not unfair to ask someone to put the friendship second in terms of time spent, emotional intensity, bonding experiences, etc. There's no law that says he has to prioritize you in his life, but failing to do so is divorce territory IYAM - the whole point of a standard monogamous marriage is that the relationship come first.
posted by Frowner at 6:31 PM on January 5, 2015 [63 favorites]

I think you need to decide what your boundaries are and what you need from your husband and communicate that to him. Maybe you should both read The 5 Love Languages (it's short) to help work that out.

Husband probably needs to dial back with the best friend thing, but that seems like a secondary issue.
posted by zennie at 6:34 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

My ex had a friend like that. They're married now. :/
posted by ian1977 at 6:37 PM on January 5, 2015 [24 favorites]

My "best friend" is a guy. I honestly have no romantic/sexual attraction to him, he's really not my type physically or personality-wise. But we have many shared interests that neither of our partners share with us. We became friends back while we were both doing our masters in engineering so we talk at length about stuff related to that, we love comics, lego, etc.

He's been married the whole time I've known him, his wife and I get along OK but we're not natural friends. So when we used to hang out it was usually just the two of us, going out for coffee and bookstore/comics browsing. He'd pick me up and we'd hang out for the day, and then he'd drop me off. I met and married Husbunny since then, and we moved to another city a few years ago. I visit my friend whenever we're in the same town, often we meet up all together for supper. Or he's come out for a few drinks with my husband and me, since he gets along great with Husbunny.

We're not the types to go to each other first with problems or anything like that, our real best friends are our spouses. That's been clear from the start, my friend and I were pretty aware of setting boundaries and making sure our spouses feel they get priority. If it ever caused problems we dialled it back. When we started this friendship his wife was not happy about it. But he was very determined to keep me as a friend. He's one of those guys who gets along much better with women than men, and he didn't really have any friends in town anymore. And a person needs more than just their spouse for friendship.

But this thing your husband has with this lady sounds like too much. You sound like you've been pretty understanding and accepting of it for the most part, beyond what most people would consider acceptable. And still it just goes a little too far. To be honest I'd be annoyed if my husband spent this much time with his best friend (a guy), and let our relationship slide.
posted by lizbunny at 6:44 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

" And still it just goes a little too far. To be honest I'd be annoyed if my husband spent this much time with his best friend (a guy), and let our relationship slide."

See, I'd see it that way if it wasn't for the fact that the OP says that the best friend helped save their marriage when they separated for 6 months a few years ago. As in, if it wasn't for the best friend there might not be a current marriage.
posted by I-baLL at 6:47 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I would still be uncomfortable with this amount of intimacy my spouse was sharing with someone else if the friend were male.
posted by juniperesque at 6:48 PM on January 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I want to hear from people who have had a friendship that was this close and can tell me honestly that it was platonic because I just don't quite believe it

The majority of my friends, close and otherwise, are women. nthing that's not the problem here.

The problem is emotional availability, and it sounds like you're hurting. I also think your demands that he not go to the birthday for example and general wish this lady would disappear are not helpful in this context. If she disappeared you would probably still have many of these issues.

You need to insist your husband change the shape of this friendship, and that the marriage is the stake. Be concrete, and be real about it. Forget about the texting. He comes with you on Saturdays now, every Saturday. He starts an activity for you both to do together regularly, as a couple. He shifts his orientation so you feel more supported.

I feel like you are using this woman as a scapegoat for your husband's poor relationship hygiene. But the problem is him, and you and him, not her or him and her. If you felt closer to your husband these other behaviours may not bother you as much and if you were up front about your feelings about you and your husbands relationship, instead of talking about his feelings and his relationship, you might get a more productive result.

Don't get me wrong, it's rare that one person can satisfy all the needs, emotional and practical needs a someone will have, it's good that couples have relationships outside the primary one, so as a couple you don't feel burdened with shit you're not really interested in and the relationship has room to breathe. But this is way way too far. It's hurting your marriage not helping it, and it's putting a huge load on their friendship too. He needs to reorient around you, and share his friendship load out a bit more evenly.

Best of luck,
posted by smoke at 6:52 PM on January 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

Your husband likes being with her more than he likes being with you. Use this information accordingly. I think you deserve a partner that likes you more.
posted by gt2 at 6:55 PM on January 5, 2015 [24 favorites]

Why doesn't he have to take the kids to sports sometimes? Why does he get to hang out with his fun friend every Saturday while you're on the mom clock? Fix that.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:58 PM on January 5, 2015 [51 favorites]

I feel like you are using this woman as a scapegoat for your husbands poor relationship hygiene. But the problem is him, and you and him, not her or him and her.

This rings true to me. I am a woman who has in the past had best friends who were men at times when one or both of us wasn't single and it was on the level. However, I was also better at setting priorities and communicating with my partner if I had one so that everyone was on board with the way things were. And, if things weren't cool, the primary relationship was with my partner, the relationship i worked on, the one that was long-term (not always but that was the plan).

I think your husband is not sleeping with this person. I also think that years and years of permissiveness towards this relationship of his has maybe gotten things slipped to a place where they are not working for you anymore. And that's totally AOK fine. The big deal about a marriage is that the two of you work out what is and is not okay. So the Saturday thing seems to bug you. You can talk it out with him, tell him it's not okay with you, work on solutions. The anniversary thing, that is super shitty. You can tell him, clearly, that you expect him to be present with you when he is with you. That sort of thing. Couples counseling can help. But you need to outline what YOU want, and not just point to this woman as what you don't want. And things may have to change and that's stressful for everyone. It's okay for you to set new boundaries and your husband can figure out what he wants but he doesn't just get this exact relationship with this other woman because he's not sleeping with her, that's not how marriages work.

And last I'd think: okay your husband is married to you and has this best friendship with this woman... what's his role in HER life? Is he her go-to guy for things that a partner or a spouse should be handling? And is he that go-to person for you? My general deal with partners is that I'm okay with the "distributed relationship" issue (I have good male friends who I talk to and do things with that I would never do with my partner, my partner is fine with this) but it requires that EVERYONE be on board. He is the only one you have reason to say "Let's change this" with, though I think you might have to do it in some different way than saying "Don't see her" or prepare for a possible outcome for him to say "I need something else out of life and don't want to do what you ask"

In short: It's okay to not want this to be what your marriage is like. I would not want it to be what mine was like. I agree that a lot of the things they do as described by you are "couples stuff" and I think it's okay for you to not be okay with that and ask for something to change.
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 PM on January 5, 2015 [25 favorites]

Add me to the chorus of voices telling you that I'd be really weirded out by this too. I strongly disagree with idea that you are being closed-minded or too demanding in how you feel. I think most people would feel the same way.

It sounds like this woman is clueless and naive (to be unaware that her behavior would drive a wedge in most relationships), it sounds like your husband is extremely selfish and inconsiderate, and it sounds like you could stand to be a better communicator rather than stewing away and letting this build and build.

Please speak up and make your feelings known, and look into couples counseling. If I were you, I'd totally feel like I deserved more attention and care than that.

It doesn't matter if it's platonic or if they are fooling around. It doesn't matter what her gender or orientation is, or whether she seems attractive or not. If my partner were spending crazy amounts of time lavishing attention on someone to the point that it made me feel neglected and jealous, and to the point that this person actually became a go-between in my relationship, I'd have a huge problem with it too.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:03 PM on January 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

He doesn't sound like a very involved husband or father. Actually, he sounds completely checked out of your family. He spends an entire weekend day (i.e., one of maybe two days a week a family has together) chilling with his friend? That's selfish, and it would be if his friend were a dude. Do you want or expect more from him? ( I sure would.) If so, then don't focus on the other woman, focus on your relationship with him.

I get that you're upset about this (I sure would be) but you don't sound terribly thrilled with him in general. Are you in love with him?

I'm a little confused about the sequence of events here: you say you told him you didn't want him to see her anymore, but you didn't say what he said, just that you're in a fight. Does he refuse to stop seeing her? Does he acknowledge it's an awful lot of time to spend with one person? What did you tell him your objection was? That you thought he was cheating, or that is was too much time away from your marriage?

(And not to pile on, but your remark about her weight comes off kinda silly. You've already ascertained that part of her appeal is the classic "she's everything you're not," and yes, men with thin wives cheat on them with thick women all the time. I'm NOT saying you should worry the relationship is sexual, but her weight does not preclude a sexual relationship; in fact it would be pretty classic.)
posted by kapers at 7:09 PM on January 5, 2015 [9 favorites]

Gender has zero to do with it, your husband is paying waaaaaay too much attention to something outside of your relationship.

Do you think counseling can help you both put your marriage back together again? Do you both even want to?

If I were either of your children, I would fucking hate this woman that takes my father away from me. As a kid, I would not necessarily realize it was actually my father taking himself away from me.

Your husband is buying lots of problems by running away from his marriage and family. Couples counseling and family counseling, STAT.

PS. Letting her triangulate between you and your husband is bullshit. Nthing she could (probably is) manipulating things. Your husband is still responsible, but no, she's not your buddy or your friend. Sorry.
posted by jbenben at 7:18 PM on January 5, 2015 [25 favorites]

You are allowed to be jealous of their friendship without it being necessary that it is more than platonic.

In a modern western marriage, the ideal is that the marriage partners are best friends as well as lovers. Just as its okay to be jealous if someone else is playing the role of lover, It's okay to be sad and jealous that someone else is playing the role of best friend instead of you.

The problem is what to do about it. I don't think telling him to go cold turkey on her sounds like it would work, frankly. She lives nearby, so he's going to run into her. She fills a role in his life that you have honestly admitted you can't and have no interest in (all those shared interests). In fact, in a way you/he are lucky that he has found a way to fill that gap. But I think you need to encourage him to broaden his set of friends and ways to engage with those interests. He could join some photography club, or meet-ups for the other interests. It's probably even ok if she joins these groups too, as they'll both hopefully end up broadening the circle of people they have to fill that need in their lives.

I think it's only fair to ask him to cut her off, or to drastically cut down on time with her, once he has other social circles in place that meet the same needs.

Meanwhile, I think it's okay to draw some boundaries. Like, tell him it hurts you when he texts her while you and he are spending quality time together, on a date or whatever, and ask him to stop that. Ask that some private things not be shared with her. Ask him to come to you first with big life things he wants to discuss or tell someone about.

(I have had some experience with this myself. My husband's best friend for many years besides myself was another woman. A couple of times I really blew my top about little stuff that seemed innocuous but was just so challenging. Like all three of us would go to the movies, and at the end they'd turn to each other to discuss what they thought, with their backs to me. He was pretty good about changing that sort of thing, though, when I brought up how hurtful it was. And then when she got a boyfriend, the boyfriend was jealous, and they cut right back on the contact.)
posted by lollusc at 7:33 PM on January 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think it's possible they're having an affair. If she's a "nice person", her guilt may be driving her to mediate (and support a superficial reconciliation) between you and your [I first wrote "her", see] husband. That also puts her in a good position, if she wants to control his interpretations of events. The current state of things might not be a bad setup, as far as she's concerned; she might not want to ruin it with a divorce explosion.

But it doesn't matter if they're having sex or not, for all the reasons people said.

Also - show him this thread, for a not-you thermometer of how not-ok this is.

(I'm single; I have men friends, some of them close; I would never dream of interfering with a relationship in this way.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:36 PM on January 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

I have a book for you to read: The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. In all honestly it really seemed to me like the author was trying to write fanfic about herself and Colin Firth (sorry, but man, it so did), but essentially she is trying to write this situation of a married Mormon(!) woman and married non-Mormon movie star man who are SUPERCLOSEBESTYBESTFRIENDS and somehow their spouses are mostly magically okay with it! Except sortakindamaybenot. And eventually the wife leaves and the husband dies and then... well, there's so much weird hedging in that book as to whether or not they are sexually interested in each other, it made me really uncomfortable. Frankly, your situation is the only one I've heard of that sounds like that one for real--and it sure didn't seem real to me when I was reading it.

Honestly, if it were me I'd just ask him flat out: "If this woman is your best friend and she sure as hell sounds like your soul mate, why are you with her and not me?" Hell, I'd like an answer to that myself and I don't even know you people. There's having platonic friends and then there's clearly being more into another woman even if it's not sexy. I have no idea why they aren't romantically together and especially why they didn't get together while you were separated, but at the very least I'd want to know why he is with you and not her. And...if it were me, I think I'd want to leave him because he's kind of only with you in the most token sense of the word, maybe possibly because you have kids with him. Whether or not they're officially romantic or not, he doesn't sound too interested in you, and that would make me want to bow out. I'm sorry this is your situation, but... I don't really see how this resolves happily at this point. Sure, you could forbid their friendship, but then he'd probably still be pining for her and she lives down the street. Maybe she is nice, maybe they genuinely don't want to ever bone. But she seems like more of his wife than you do in this description of how they act, and that's where the problem lies.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:40 PM on January 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Your husband leads a double life with two families. You are his wife and he has kids with you. It sounds more like a financial arrangement at this point and maybe (not mentioned) sex. His other family, this woman, is his emotional life.

I know plenty of married couples that are functioning more like brother and sister at this point. I know two couples where the wife has no interest in sex at this point and is ok with her husband, as long as he is discreet to go get laid elsewhere. I do not know of any marriage that survives with the affair part being the emotional and friendship part of the relationship. Your question reads to me like a cry for an emotional relationship with your husband, the person with whom presumably that is happening.

This situation cries out for either many long hard discussions with your husband or counseling as a facilitator for those discussions.
posted by 724A at 7:51 PM on January 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

I think the phrase you're looking for is "emotional affair." Theres a book called "NOT.Just Friends" by Shirley Glass that could probably help you and he considerably.
posted by Sublimity at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't know if they are having sex, but this seems like an emotional affair, at least. In some ways, as you say, that is more hurtful to you, because your husband is not focusing on the emotional health of his marriage and family. You and the kids should come first.

I also think you may want to look at your own behavior. Are you making your relationship with him a Priority? Can he come with you and the kids to your Mom's every other week? Can your Mom watch the kids one Saturday every month while the two of you go out together, just to watch a movie and get a bite to eat?

The best advice I can give you is to not focus on the friend so much as your boundaries and emotional needs. I know that is tough, but I think you will get much better results that way.

Possible script:
(Husband), I am feeling lonely and neglected. I know that your friendship with (friend) is important to both of you. Our marriage is important to me. I need to feel like it is to you. I get jealous of the time you spend with (friend) because I want a bond like the two of you have between the two of us. I know I don't have the same interests as the two of you, but we can explore new interests, see if we can build a bond like that together. I want to do that, but that takes time. I am committed to spending (every other Saturday, two nights a week, whatever time you feel you need) to focus on us. I need you to agree that is our time, and not Text or make plans with (friend) on those days. Can you do that for me?
If he says friend will be hurt, remind him that by monopolizing so much of friend's time, he is also hindering her from developing a romantic relationship of her own with an available partner, and that is not healthy for anyone.

Think about what you want to say ahead of time, so you will be less emotional and more in control.

Good luck, OP, I feel for you.
posted by misha at 8:23 PM on January 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

I'm surprised I didn't see anyone mention this AskMe from a couple of weeks ago. I was surprised that so many commenters in the thread defended the OP, who was trying to justify a close platonic relationship with a friend of the opposite sex over his wife's jealousy. To me, my wife is my best friend, and I can't imagine either of us spending so much time or giving so much priority to an outsider. If I were you, OP, I would be pretty angry.
posted by Slap Factory at 8:38 PM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yes, I've had a very intense platonic friendship with a guy to whom I was at some point attracted. I was best friends with a woman in college, and also close to her boyfriend (and I'd made my unsuccessful pass at him before they got together); when she moved to go to grad school, he became my best friend and we were inseparable, pretty much. We'd already established that we would never EVER sleep together, much less date, so, since we were both pursuing long-distance monogamous relationships with other people, we provided largely unconscious and undiscussed chaperonage. This was very handy.

The difference is that over the years, when we've been living in the same city and with partners, it's always been clear that although we're two cows with one brain, our partners come first. We see each other when we can, and, luckily, our partners have similar outlooks and interests, so they've become close friends, too - we are all comfortable together and we can pair off in any direction and get different, great things from the interaction. Other people have always thought this was weird, and they definitely found my relationship with the male half of the couple hinky, but it worked for us.

I am not sure any of this helps you, because it's not the same situation. The problem is that your husband is giving up time you want to spend with him to be with her, and she's having mainly "partners not included" time with him. That would not have been acceptable to anyone in my friendship situation.

Another thing that matters here is that my male friend and I had talked about the fact we really had too much in common to date; we like a lot of the same weird stuff, sure, but more importantly, we're neurotic in a lot of exactly the same ways, so that being together would reinforce some really bad shit we both struggle with. It's important to listen to your gut and figure out how much of what's happening is just standard insecure jealousy (which is a real, valid feeling but which is mostly your responsibility to address) and how much is you recognizing him slipping away. There was never a time when my friend slipped away emotionally from his wife towards me, and there's never been a time when I slipped from my husband towards him. We're besties, yes, but we don't get the same things from each other that we do from our lovers. And if I had to choose, what I get from my lover is more important in terms of my daily maintenance and sanity than what my friend gives me. So I guess the question to ask your gut is whether it feels like you are losing the relationship you and your husband had to the third party, or whether you're just scared that he has non-lovery needs that he still wants to have met. (Either way the three of you need to come to a better balance point - you are clearly pretty miserable and scared and your husband isn't managing his friendship in a way that helps you be more comfortable.)
posted by gingerest at 8:52 PM on January 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm a woman and a have lots of guy friends. I am also a lesbian so this situation doesn't apply. However, I have a guy best friend who I know if I were attracted to, I would love to date. Instead, we are just best friends and have intense conversations, make each other laugh, love the same stuff, talk everyday, etc. We're a great match, but there is no sexual attraction -- and that is the big difference. No matter how great of a guy he is, it can't be anything other than platonic. It's not sexual, but it's also not romantic in any way. If your husband isn't attracted to this woman, that may be the reason it works.

The other part of my situation is my male best friend ended up having romantic feelings for me that I did not return. Things got weird, our friendship kind faded, and it was a bummer. It's not clear if this woman has an attraction for your husband or not. I'm not sure it's a relevant factor, but I suppose if she really wanted to snatch him away, she could go on a diet and exercise regime (since you imply he wouldn't be attracted to a woman her size).

All of this is to say, I presume that it is possible to be platonic friends in this situation if there's no physical attraction, but this woman is still taking time away from your husband and it's still affecting your marriage. It's probably worth noting neither me nor my male best friend were in serious relationships. If I had a girlfriend, I'd be hanging out with her and not some dude, no matter how great he is. Whether or not this is an affair or sexual seems beside the point, right? Sure, it's better in a sense knowing he's not cheating, but it's still a problem. He needs to stop seeing her -- it's not respectful to you or your relationship. I think it's perfectly normal to be upset and reasonable for you to tell him it makes you uncomfortable and he should act accordingly.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:54 PM on January 5, 2015

Yeah.. It doesn't matter if they're "just" friends. What matters is that this relationship he's carrying on with her is unacceptable to you. It doesn't matter that she's a nice person -- and the fact that she played a role in getting you two back together? Don't be comforted by that. It actually suggests that she's his puppet and that she's pulling the strings.

She seems to have some odd hold over him, and vice versa, that supersedes the normal boundaries of friendship. He should have been able to explain to her why he couldn't make her birthday dinner. That he said nothing, then "made it up to her" with what sounds like a romantic date is super weird.

I personally think it's good you gave him an ultimatum. Don't back down. Let him decide, definitively, what he values more - his bizarre friendship or his marriage.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:09 PM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have a male best friend that I adore and share tons of obscure interests with and it has slightly weirded out his past gf, and a past bf of mine had to have a talk with him to understand it. It is completely platonic. That said we have never spent more time/energy on each other than on our partners and I also now make a concentrated effort to spend time with his current gf.

If they got married and he told me she had a big problem with me, the way you clearly do with this woman, I would respect him enough to stay away, though I would be sad to lose the friendship. You seem to not be feeling emotionally supported and it is exacerbated by seeing another female seem to get th support and attention you crave, so even if the best friend were a straight man, I think this would be a problem.

I think a lot of people on this thread are overreacting and being alarmist, but a frank discussion with your husband is pretty clearly needed.
posted by raw sugar at 9:17 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

"He goes to her place or she comes here and they just sit and talk all day. He never talks to me all day. And there's no way we could talk that much every weekend. I don't even think I'd want to.

I don't think you two should be married after reading the above. We all need alone time, of course, but if you can't talk to your spouse for long periods of time and enjoy the experience, that's a huge red flag.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:21 PM on January 5, 2015 [26 favorites]

I thought about this more and wanted to come back in with another anecdote. I had an intense platonic friendship with another male friend, but once he became seriously involved with a woman who clearly needed his full and undivided attention, he and I didn't even need to discuss it- we just stopped spending that much time together. I even helped him propose! Our friendship is different now that it's obvious his marriage is the #1 priority for him. But we're good with that.

It makes me sad for you that this was not apparent either to your husband or his friend that this was the respectful course of action to take.
posted by raw sugar at 9:45 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

The question you asked - of course it's possible to have platonic friendships with people of the gender you desire. It's entirely possible that that's exactly what's going on here. But that isn't the real question that needs to be answered.

What keeps you and your husband together? Do you love him? Does he love you? How do you know when you're in a relationship with someone who loves you - what does it look like? Is it romantic dates, or practical, thoughtful actions? Is it telling you he loves you or just listening to you talk about your crappy day at work? And how do you show that you love someone - do you do little things for him and expect that to demonstrate your love?

Also, are you the kind of person that wants to be around your beloved all the time? Is he? Do you both have lots of independent activities and people that occupy your time and interest, and your beloved is just one of many? Or is he the mainstay of your life?

I don't know the answers to these questions for sure, but it sounds to me like he is the kind of person that values a lot of talking and romantic gestures. I'm not so sure about what you value and need because you've talked more about him than yourself, but it seems clear that whatever ways he could demonstrate his love and respect for you are not happening. It seems to me that you two have different ways of expressing your love, or value different aspects of a relationship more highly than the other, and this mismatch is causing a lot of problems. He's drawn to this friend because she's more similar to him, he doesn't have to think so hard about what to say or talk about or do because they just naturally have a similar approach and more things in common. It doesn't mean that he's in love with her or should be in a relationship with her. It does mean that he needs to pull up his socks and realise that if he wants to be with you, he needs to look at how your relationship works and what you need out of it.

Similarly, you need to ask yourself these questions as well. If there are things that he loves that bore you to tears (black and white Japanese movies) instead of resenting that he's found someone else who likes them or forcing yourself to take an interest in things you don't like, try to find things you do like in common. Clearly, talking about shared interests is an important thing for him.

As others have said, it sounds like his primary emphasis has shifted to this lady. If you two genuinely don't want to be together anymore, let him go and find someone who values you. If you do, he needs to understand that you and the kids need to be his primary emotional focus and how he can demonstrate that. You need to work with him on this by finding ways to become more part of his day-to-day.

tl;dr: marriage counselling for sure.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:57 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

A clear case of emotional infidelity.
posted by ADave at 9:58 PM on January 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

You said you wanted to hear from someone with a friendship like this, that's platonic. That is me. My best friend is a happily-married heterosexual man, and when we lived in the same city for 12 years, we hung out constantly. We adore each other, we can talk forever, and our relationship is completely non-sexual. (Why? Because we're just not interested in each other that way. Wouldn't matter if we were drunk or out of town or whatever. It would be like having sex with a sibling or a parent.)

There are things I do deliberately to demonstrate for his wife that I'm not a threat to their marriage. I have an independent, smaller friendship with her; occasionally he and I will socialize at their house; once in a blue moon the three of us will do something together. I defer to her and try to make it obvious that I respect their marriage. (And it sounds like your neighbour is doing the same, by the way.) I don't know what my friend's wife thinks in the privacy of her own head, but she has never given me any reason to think the situation makes her uncomfortable. I can tell that we bore her sometimes ;)

So yeah, it's totally possible --and I would argue based on what you've written it's likely-- that your husband is not infatuated and is not having an emotional affair.

But you're unhappy, and that matters. I think it might help to try imagining that your husband's friend is male. Would you still be mad about the anniversary text? The fancy birthday dinner? The hanging out on Saturdays? If so, figure out why, and talk with him about that. But I would say, just set aside your neighbour's gender, because everything you've written suggests it's not relevant.
posted by Susan PG at 10:26 PM on January 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

Your question reads to me like a cry for an emotional relationship with your husband

Me too. You understandably want him to want to focus on you, to want to share things with you first, and so on. But building that will take time. I'd temporarily withdraw the ultimatum and suggest figuring all this out with a good couples counselor.
posted by salvia at 10:33 PM on January 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think you're husband is not sleeping with this woman. But then he doesn't love you anymore. He only likes you, but doesn't know how to frame that and is using that woman as an escape.

And I'd say exactly the same thing if he had a friendship this intense with a dude.
posted by Kwadeng at 11:36 PM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm going to echo that couples counselling is the very obvious thing you two need to do.

Ultimatums about who your partner is allowed to be friends with never work. But! "Husband, I am feeling alone and would like to spend more time together one on one" is totally okay.

Also it's probably worth thinking about whether your descriptions here--like the apparent contempt for things ("crap") he enjoys--are attitudes you're employing regularly or are hyperbole for this question. If my partner expressed that level of contempt for my interests I would absolutely have very close friends with whom I spent a lot of time.

This, too:

"He goes to her place or she comes here and they just sit and talk all day. He never talks to me all day. And there's no way we could talk that much every weekend. I don't even think I'd want to."

I don't think you two should be married after reading the above. We all need alone time, of course, but if you can't talk to your spouse for long periods of time and enjoy the experience, that's a huge red flag.

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:27 AM on January 6, 2015 [12 favorites]

This really has nothing to do with the woman; he's just looking for some kind of escape.

If he was spending all of his time at the pub or in his shed, it would be the same thing.

If you were to break up, they would probably start going out, but I don't think they're actually at this point in time interested in each other romantically - it's just escapism.
posted by heyjude at 3:11 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

You are too focused on whether he is attracted to her sexually. The weight thing is a red herring. You are thin, but I assume you were heavier when you were pregnant, and he still wanted to be with you, yes?

Is there another reason you are focused on the possible sexual infidelity? Is sex a point of contention between you two? Because people having friends of the opposite gender, even close ones, is totally normal.

His behavior isn't though, for what it's worth. You have to be Mom all Saturday with no help from Dad? Screw that noise. But you didn't ask about our opinions on that, oddly enough.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:00 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

After reading your description, I don't understand where the two of you are fitting in any time together. The Saturday routine sounds very odd to me. What do your kids think of it? What works for you, works for you but that would not work for me on a regular basis.

My background: I've been on both sides of the friend situation, although my platonic friends have been coworkers in a profession where close interaction was the norm. Not "best" friends because as an adult I don't quite get having those, male or female. Those friendships have always broken up in time, usually someone moving or having kids.

My former partner always had female friends, including one or two who clearly (to me) had settled for being just friends with him. Our breaking up didn't get them together; he wasn't into them. Your husband's friend does not sound this way although she may be a "I want a man in my life; I just don't want a man in my house" type of person. She may only be interested in him if his needs for a domestic partner are already taken care of, but he may still be her primary relationship. That's pure speculation though; I don't think it matters.
posted by BibiRose at 6:16 AM on January 6, 2015

Adding to the chorus of "this is weird." This isn't really how just-friends behave, no matter what the genders and relationship statuses in question are. I definitely think it is 100% ok to have close platonic friendships with people of the gender one is attracted to, even when one is in a relationship, but this isn't that. If they were both single, people who knew them would assume something was going on.

I actually, like many above, don't think their relationship sounds physical. But it's emotional cheating. Close friendships are great, but think hard: when's the last time you had a close friend who you talked to as much as he's talking to this woman? Probably high school. When adults are this close, it usually leads somewhere else.

He is out of line and he should realize that he is out of line. Focusing on the fact that nothing physical happens isn't even the point. Emotional cheating really is a thing.
posted by millipede at 6:41 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The reason so many marriages fail is because people put all their lives into one other lone human being. This is a crazy way to live, to expect that a single person will be your best friend, lover, soulmate, helpmate, coparent and fellow enjoyer of life, all the time, day in and day out. Such a terrible idea! No one ever lived like this before.

Listen, sure, ask for what you want from your husband. But your post is a simmering stew of toxic resentment. Why has it come to this? Well, because you're not getting what you want.

So many of the outraged answers here seem just bonkers to me. Does no one have a good friend any more, after they get married? How long is that sustainable???

In any event, don't ask your husband to return to a lonely twosome. Don't say "please give up your rewarding friendship and sit in this house silently with me, ignoring all your interests that I don't share!" Work towards making your life better. You go get you together. And make some demands and requests! But don't do them out of spite and anger and bitterness. Make requests about things you actually want. Attention. Romance. Assistance. Help. Affection.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:57 AM on January 6, 2015 [18 favorites]

Your marriage is not working and that doesn't have anything to do with her. If he stops seeing her or talking to her, your marriage will still not be working and also he'll resent you for trying to tell him who he can and can't be friends with.

You acknowledge that you don't think they're sleeping together, that she isn't his type, and that when they had the chance to hook up and she could have made a move, instead she helped him fix his marriage to you. There is no problem here as far as she goes. You keep saying how you don't like that he's spending so much time talking to her about their common interests and then you say that you wouldn't want to talk to him - to your husband - as much as she does and that you and him lack common interests.

She is not the problem here. Your marriage is the problem here. He is not going to her but away from you and your marriage. If you want it to stop then you need to talk to him about this and you need to not talk about her at all when you do. If you don't think it's appropriate for him to have a deep connection with someone who isn't you, then you need to work with him on building that connection together, not just telling him he can't have it because you don't like it.

Go to marriage counseling. I am not hopeful that it will work but it doesn't sound like you and your husband have the tools to communicate effectively about this on your own.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:17 AM on January 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

He's more married to her than he is to you. Counseling will help you break away from them both.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:30 AM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Is it possible that they're really just the best of best friends?

Yes. But as others have said, you are being neglected while you should be his first priority.

I could tell my version of a best guy friend who does not threaten my marriage or reiterate the emotional affair aspect of your husband's relationship, but all that's been covered.

Something I think you should strongly consider is whether he feels neglected by you. You sound very dismissive of his interests, you say you go out more often than he does, and you state that you wouldn't even want to talk with him all day. Do you think he hasn't felt this?

I don't mean to sound unsympathetic. I've been the wife who handled the bills, the kid stuff, etc., and it sucks to feel as though your life rotates around family needs while his rotates around his own personal interests. I also get (disproportionately) irritated when my husband doesn't wait til I've finished a sentence before checking a text he got two seconds into a conversation (it makes me feel like anything/everything is more important than I am in that moment).

So truly, I am sympathetic, and I think he's taken this other relationship way too far. By the same token, though, if you're not actively demonstrating interest in him, it's very likely he's felt unimportant to you, and this is why I'm joining those suggesting couple's counseling.

No finger-pointing beforehand. Just, "Hey, I don't feel like a priority in your life, and I worry that I've made you feel that I'm not interested in you. Please come with me to talk with a professional, because I love you (do you?) and want to make this marriage work (do you?) without demanding that you completely cut ties with someone as nice as LadyFriend."

Also, it's more than okay to express feelings of vulnerability within a marriage. Your husband and his friend may have a lot in common, but if both of you can express your deeper fears, needs, etc. in a safe setting (counseling!), it's entirely possible that you'll find comfort in knowing that the two of you have a connection much deeper than the common interests he shares with his friend.

Having said all that, I do think his friendship with this woman is far too intense/important. My own husband gets stressed and loses sleep over work stresses, and he is plenty bright enough to work out solutions to problems that arise there. That is, work problems are NOT out of sight out of mind, whereas problems in our relationship don't get the same level of constructive thought, and I wish he would put those same skills to work when it comes to resolving issues at home. So I know the feeling of playing second fiddle, and it sucks. I'm just suggesting that you consider that he may feel the same (yes, even if you're doing more than your share of childcare, home management, etc.... sadly that is not always recognized as being valued or loved).

I really hope the two of you can work this out and together put limits on how much he's investing in this other woman.
posted by whoiam at 7:31 AM on January 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

If he stops seeing her or talking to her, your marriage will still not be working and also he'll resent you for trying to tell him who he can and can't be friends with.

I agree with this point, and would add that he'd also resent being cut off from sharing the interests he doesn't share with you.

The basic form of this relationship -- you and he are married; he has a platonic female friend with whom he shares common interests you don't share with him -- isn't the problem here. In fact, I'd say that arrangement is awesome. He gets to share his interests with someone he likes instead of you pretending you're interested in something you aren't -- trust me, that last bit is a stone drag.

The problem here is the amount of time and emotional energy he's spending on her, coupled with you being stuck with a lot of the family work and not having your own needs met. Both of you need to work on that part. While you're at it, don't forget that you get to indulge in your own interests as well.
posted by Gelatin at 7:45 AM on January 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

Then a week later it was her birthday and she organised dinner with her 4 best friends, she invited my husband. Partners weren't invited.

At least as much as anything else you recount, I think the above is really hinky. I definitely don't think spouses have to be joined at the hip and I think it's fine for spouses to socialize separately; my husband and I have a very strong marriage and we socialize separately all the time. But if a friend of mine invited me to a birthday dinner with a group of people and specifically excluded my husband? Nope, nuh-uh. Totally inappropriate. It's weird that she would do that, and it's weird that he would accept it. That holds especially true given the fact that he had no problem texting her at your special anniversary dinner.

I agree with everyone else that you two need to go to counseling and figure out what's going on here. Of course, I don't know precisely what the dynamics are here, since I know only what you've told us, but it's clear that situation as it stands now isn't really tenable.
posted by holborne at 8:10 AM on January 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've got a close platonic friend who "sparks" me in ways my girlfriend doesn't. Not physically, but in terms of sense of humor, shared interests, and overall quirky sensibilities. I don't see her to the extent your husband sees his friend (I'm just not that interested in personal social time), but she's probably the person I make plans with most frequently, besides my partner. I know that my dad has a similarly intense friendship, which probably caused some angst for my mom, but that -- over the years -- has been tweaked so that all three were very close. This sort of thing happens; few if any romantic partners can offer everything the other person needs, all the time.

Do you have a right to feel neglected, OP? I don't think anyone would argue that you don't; you husband needs to flip the ratio of time spent with his buddy vs. time spent with you, and needs to learn some (basic) stuff about appropriate friend-times and spouse-times.

But he's not the only one who has work to do, here. At all. You are basically expecting two contradictory things. You are jealous of their connection regarding interests and ways of seeing things, yet clearly have contempt for that "crap." Meanwhile, you want him to take interest in talking/spending time with you as he does her, yet express doubt that you could -- or would -- actually want this at all.

Here's how this dynamic plays out in my own situation: My friend and I share a passion for cartooning/illustration. We can talk at length and with animation about line, shading, or our preferred technical pens. My girlfriend finds this sort of stuff to be completely uninteresting, and borderline incomprehensible. But she loves that I geek out about it, and seems happy that I have someone to share that geeking with. And despite that specific mismatch of interests, we still make a point to appreciate art together, in the cases where our tastes do overlap. TL/DR: Girlfriend may not like the same stuff I like, but she loves me -- in part -- because I like stuff. Conversely, I make a point to ask her about that one silly show she's hooked on, because knowing why she likes it helps me love her more. If she had a buddy to share that with, I'd be over the moon (I'm getting pretty tired of the theme song).

Your husband needs to understand and respect your desire that he dial things back. You need to help him in this, by not openly hating the things he cares about (i.e. him, in a sense). If you want him to spend more time with you, you need to make it clear that he can do that without irritating you. And you need to be consistent in how you relate to his friend; it's crazy toxic to fear/distrust her and yet pull her into solving your marital disputes, etc. If you want her to respect a boundary, you need to draw one.
posted by credible hulk at 8:17 AM on January 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

He obviously has a very close relationship with his friend. What I don't see in your question is any discussions you've had with him about how all of this makes you feel, aside from your ultimatums. Have you told him that this continuous, close contact between them makes you uncomfortable? If you've had one or more long, serious conversations about how this makes you feel and he has ignored your feelings, that's one thing. But if you haven't had those conversations, DO SO. He may feel like your birthday party protests came out of nowhere and were unreasonable because you haven't told him about the simmering issues. As one data point, at one point my then-fiancee told me "hey, just a heads up, but your relationship with [your friend] X makes me kinda jealous. I know nothing's going on between the two of you (nothing was) but I thought you'd like to know." And she was right, I did want to know, and though I didn't stop spending time with X, I was a little more careful to make sure I wasn't doing anything that would hurt my partner. Maybe your husband won't have the same reaction, but maybe he will.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:23 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have an opposite-sex friendship that is a lot like this. The significant differences, I believe, are that (1) our friendship never interferes with my household responsibilities and (2) my spouse is always invited to join us. Would your husband be willing to stop spending all Saturday, every Saturday with her and instead participate in time with your family and decline to attend any events to which you are not invited?
posted by mchorn at 8:37 AM on January 6, 2015

I want to echo those above who have said that this other woman is a red herring, that of course platonic friendships are possible, that something else is going on here. I especially want to echo that it would be just as much a problem, if your husband were spending all his time in his shed, or bird watching, or what have you. I think this is really worth emphasizing. So:

Bianca and Saul are married, as they have been for a very long time. Things have not always been right between Bianca and Saul, but everything feels at least settled right now. And then there's someone else: SeaBreeze. SeaBreeze is a boat. SeaBreeze lives in their shed. Saul visits SeaBreeze every single day. Saul tinkers with SeaBreeze. Every day, every free moment he has, it's with SeaBreeze. He buys things for her. When he's out with Bianca, the conversation inevitably comes back to SeaBreeze. On Saturdays, when Bianca is busy with the children and extended family, Saul spends the whole day in the shed, working on SeaBreeze. During their anniversary dinner, even, Saul can't help but bringing up SeaBreeze. Bianca has tried to get involved with all boat-related activities, but it just does not interest her. Not at all. Regularly, Bianca sits in the house, staring out at the shed, where she can hear Saul dealing with tools, see him moving around, hear him talking to himself. About that damn boat.

(Of course, the parallels are obvious: I'm not trying to be M. Night Shyamalan, here.)

What happens is that Bianca starts to get angry. At SeaBreeze. Sure, Bianca must admit, SeaBreeze is a pretty nice boat. And, yeah, sailing sometimes is pretty fun. But she just feels this surge in rage, whenever she sees SeaBreeze. Her skin crawls, and she gets angry. The more time Saul spends in that shed with SeaBreeze, the more Bianca wants to scream. Finally, she snaps. "That boat is a problem!" she tells Saul, "I hate it! I hate that boat, that stupid awful boat! I don't want you working on that boat any more!"

In response to this ultimatum, Saul looks confused and hurt. "It's just a boat," he says. "It's my hobby. Surely, it's not a problem that I have a hobby, that's a thing people do. Are you seriously trying to tell me it's not okay for me to have a hobby?"

Now, notice: Saul's points here are reasonable. Married people should be free to pursue their own hobbies, they should definitely be encouraged to have friendships external to the marriage. Married people should have lives outside their partners. When Bianca finally snaps, she snaps in anger at the boat. And this is a problem. It makes her anger sound unreasonable. It makes Saul feel victimized, like Bianca is trying to control him, limit him. And Bianca's emotions? That anger that's been rising up for weeks/months/years? That deep down discontent? It is presented to Sault as if an irrational attitude, and it goes unaddressed, unresolved, disrespected.

It makes sense why Bianca would focus her emotions on SeaBreeze. It makes sense that that's where her attention would fall, as she feels this rising resentment and frustration. But SeaBreeze isn't the real issue, here. Saul is, the marriage is. So, the question becomes, what could Bianca say? Rather that making ultimatums against SeaBreeze, what could she say instead? Perhaps something like, "Saul, I feel like we don't spend enough time together, just you and me. Saul, I feel a bit abandoned. Saul, I think we need to reconnect." Something like those might work. That keeps attention where it should be, on Bianca's relationship with Saul, rather than deflecting it to SeaBreeze. That forces Saul to look straight at Bianca's totally reasonable and understandable frustration and anger, without the topic getting structured around SeaBreeze.
posted by meese at 8:42 AM on January 6, 2015 [26 favorites]

Is it possible that they're really just the best of best friends?

Absolutely. My best friend is a man, and the two of us get on like a house on fire. He's closer to me than my own brother, and we consider each other family. That your husband's friend has tried, in her way, to be a good friend to you as well, and has gone as far as helping you two get back together, underscores that she is a red herring. The real issue is that your needs are either not being clearly articulated, or not clearly understood by your husband. Or, I suppose, he's hearing what your needs are, and just doesn't care to try to meet them.
posted by culfinglin at 8:57 AM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

It might help to think about what you want in your marriage and what you're not getting. Are you upset because (check all that apply):

You want to have a closer relationship with him
You want him to be more involved with family life
You are hurt that he chooses to spend time with someone else
You are uncomfortable with what it looks like to other people
It doesn't fit in with your assumptions of what marriage should look like
You feel inferior to her because of the attention he gives her
You want him to do more around the house
You want to always be his primary focus

Figuring out very specifically what bothers you could help a lot. It could help you talk about expectations and very well might let you come up with some mutually agreeable solutions. At the very least it sounds like he needs to do a MUCH better job at setting boundaries, and you need to try not to let your frustration lead to power plays like preventing him from attending a birthday party (hopefully by eliminating your frustration!)

It's very possible that if you think it through carefully, you can come up with an outside the box solution together. (This is all assuming that you are theoretically open to him having close friendships outside of your marriage, even though they would need to look different from this one.)
posted by metasarah at 9:03 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree that this relationship is inappropriate, but at the same time maybe you should be asking why he needed to look outside the marriage for that kind of support and whether he will be getting it once he cuts things off with the inappropriately-close best friend. How do you imagine the marriage working after that? Him sitting at home while you go out and get to socialize?
posted by Willie0248 at 9:12 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I see quite a few answers that mention how the husband is neglecting his family, but I don't think that's clear from the question. The OP mentions she brings the kids to sports on Saturday, but that might just be handy because she wants to visit her mother anyway and the husband doesn't want to visit his mother in law every Saturday, so, since he doesn't have anything to do then, he meets up with friend. On the other hand, OP mentions that she's out more nights than the husband and even sleeps over at friends sometimes. In my experience, that's super valuable as a parent and it shows that the husband is at the very least an involved parent.

I also didn't read the birthday dinner as completely strange. I can imagine that if you're single a birthday dinner with 4 married couples isn't the greatest, so I can totally understand wanting a just-friends event.

I would definitely consider couples counseling, but do your research and find a good therapist.
posted by blub at 9:12 AM on January 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think the question you need to ask yourself is "would I be unhappy about this relationship if the neighbor was male?" Because if the thing that really upsets you here is the fear that he's cheating on you sexually (or might be heading towards doing so), then I think you're borrowing trouble unnecessarily. It sounds like these two are just really good friends to me.

But if what really troubles you here is that your husband has ths kind of emotional ease and intimacy with another person and not with you, that's a whole different set of issues. To be honest, it doesn't sound like you two are likely to have that kind of intimacy--you aren't interested in the same things, you don't have the same kind of humor, you seem ambivalent about whether you even like the idea of that kind of closeness. Maybe the two of you are just in a relationship where you can't give each other exactly what each of you needs. I guess couples counselling would be a good starting place for trying to figure some of those questions out.
posted by yoink at 9:25 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Re-reading the question, I notice that you and your husband lead really separate lives. Does he ever go to your kids' sports events? Do you ever go to places he likes to socialize?

I notice you visit your mother every week. That in itself is fine, but is there a reason your husband does not accompany you at least sometimes? I'm not saying he has to come with you every week, but if he doesn't want to be around your family, ever, there may be issues. Was there a lot of family opposition to your marriage? Was your mother or both your parents vocal about not liking your husband and not wanting to accept him as part of the family? Does your mom treat your husband with respect, or is she nasty to him whenever she sees him? Are the two of you from very different social or cultural backgrounds? Studies show that men who are close to their wives' families have happier marriages. There are plenty of people who are happily married but just have toxic families, so they have to wall off their marriages from their families, so if your mom and your husband don't get along, that's not the kiss of death - but it makes marriage harder if you simultaneously have to protect your spouse while remaining close with your parent(s) rather than just distancing yourselves from your family altogether.

Do the two of you enjoy each other's company? It doesn't sound like it. His interests sound like they bore you, and you mention that you hate the idea of just sitting around and talking to your husband. You can't have a happy marriage if you don't enjoy your spouse's company. What is keeping you married to him? The kids? Money? That he's a "real catch" and you don't think you could ever find someone as good as him again? Kids know when their parents are unhappy, and I sincerely doubt that he's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, so to speak.

The two of you would really do well with couples counseling. And sometimes couples counseling makes people realize that they don't want to be married anymore, and in that case it helps them to amicably separate.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:32 AM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

I want to reiterate the folks who have pointed out that part (probably a lot) of the problem is that your marriage is troubled, totally aside from the appropriate-or-not level of this friendship. The fact that you seem kind of dismissive of your husband's interests seems like a red flag (referring to his hobbies as 'crap', the fact that you two of you don't share interests), as does the fact that you don't think you'd even want to spend a weekend talking to your husband. It's not clear to me that you want to have an emotionally intimate and connected relationship with your husband as much as you don't want him to have that with someone else. And your communication sounds like it needs some work, probably on both sides. When the birthday dinner came up, did you say "honey, I'm not comfortable with this intimate dinner not including partners... can we talk about some kind of compromise solution?" or did you just (in your words) "pick a huge fight" because you "just didn't want them having a good time together"?

The thing is, if your husband wants an emotionally and intellectually fulfilling relationship in his life, that is a perfectly legitimate need for him to have. If you want the primary emotionally-fulfilling relationship in his life to be with you because you're his wife and you love him, that is also a totally reasonable and understandable need for you to have. However, if you want that, you're both going to need to make an effort to be emotionally present for each other, find (or develop) some shared interests, and put in some time and energy to nurture that relationship. Just saying "you can't have this relationship with your friend because I find it threatening" if you're not willing/able to create some space within your relationship to develop that connection isn't a reasonable or fair thing to do, IMO. You don't get to demand that he just stop needing/wanting emotional connections/friendships because you're not willing to provide that.

So think about what you want and what you're willing and able to do, not just how inappropriate you think this friendship is. If you don't want to try to be friends with your husband, you don't have to be-- but in that case, he's clearly going to find other relationships that meet that need. So pick a choice-- ask your husband to prioritize your marriage and make an effort to improve your emotional connection, or accept that you're not willing/able to do that and either consider separating, or accept that he's going to meet that need through other relationships. Couples counseling, which many others have suggested, may be helpful for you two to figure this out.
posted by Kpele at 9:38 AM on January 6, 2015 [14 favorites]

Yeah, you know, the more I think about this, the more I think you should just get into some individual *and* couples counseling to figure out what's going on with you. Not once in your question did you mention loving your husband or enjoying ANYTHING with him. You seem to be jealous of the close relationship he has with his friend, but it isn't clear that you actually want to spend much more time with him. If he spent more time with you, what would you two do?

It's true that ultimatums won't solve your problem, but I do think in a committed relationship, being clear about what YOUR boundaries are can help clarify things. While it is normally true, of course, that you should not issue ultimatums over who your partner can have as a friend, I think it's insane to pretend that your partner's relationship with this woman is anything approaching kosher. You have every right in the world to put your foot down and say "I cannot handle your relationship with her." -- not because it's bad to have a friend outside of the relationship, but because this particular relationship he has with her is bizarre (you said they sometimes see each other EVERY DAY? That's nuts!) If he decides that he'd rather have his friendship than your marriage, you really kinda need to know that.

Now, it's also absolutely true that even if he stops seeing her, you two have HUGE problems. She is not the problem - you two evidently have an unfulfilling relationship. I'd focus your energies on getting to the bottom of what your issues are.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:59 AM on January 6, 2015 [11 favorites]

My best friend in the whole wide world is a married man. There has NEVER been any hanky-panky between us, not even a sideways glance. Not one. We've been friends for over 25 years, and this works because I am friends with and have relationships with BOTH of them, not just him.
posted by goml at 11:22 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The only concrete part of this scenario I'd take issue with is that he's not going with you to the kids' sports things, and not spending enough time with you guys. I think I'd put my foot down on those parts, and maybe get him to commit to more family time together.

The anniversary dinner text, it wouldn't have even occurred to me that that would be rude until I saw everyone saying it was. Not that I'm saying it's not OK to be upset about it, but not everyone shares that perspective on things. I'm personally not that invested in traditions and anniversaries and things, so I could totally see myself doing something like that not even realizing it'd be an issue.

As far as the friendship goes, it sounds like a real, once-in-a-lifetime type platonic friendship to me. In fact, I kind of have something similar with my brother, and his old girlfriend did seem to take issue with that. Like, she was actually jealous of his relationship with his own sister. We both tried really hard to put her mind at ease and include her, but the fact is that we both share some pretty niche interests that we have a hard time discussing with anyone else. My partner really likes that I have someone to share those interests (maybe so he doesn't have to listen to it all the time), but my brother's girlfriend took it as a threat. She didn't want us doing or talking about things without her, but she also didn't want to do the things we wanted to do. She just wanted him to stop liking things she didn't like, I guess.

It can be lonely and frustrating not having anyone to share your interests with, and the deeper you get into boring nerd territory, the harder it is to find someone who shares them. So yeah, if you're really into grease pencils and Yasujirō Ozu (that was a wild-assed guess), you're likely to glom onto a fellow enthusiast pretty hard.

I realize this is an emotional intimacy thing, but I guess I don't really get the exclusivity part. If he's not sharing important life stuff with you, he definitely needs to address that and he needs to check back in to his family and your relationship. But it really doesn't sound to me as though she's the threat here.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:34 PM on January 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

My best friend was a man, we were this close, if not closer. We lived together for years before I was married, finished each others sentences, liked the same things, could talk for hours, truly understood each other and loved each other deeply. It was entirely Platonic. And my husband was fine with it.

You are obviously upset, but the way you talk about your husband in this question is verging on contemptuous. You don't like what he likes and you don't understand why he likes it, it drives you crazy that there are other people who like the same things he does. The problem isn't the friend (who sounds like a friend to me, a really good one, too), the problem is that your relationship with your husband isn't working. Successful marriages do not involve one party feeling contempt for the other. No wonder your husband spends so much time with the BFF. I get that you are annoyed by the relationship, but perhaps the friendship isn't the relationship you should be worrying about. Your question makes it sound like you don't even like your husband. And if some stranger on the internet can sense that, I suspect your husband can, too.
posted by biscotti at 1:27 PM on January 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

To be blunt: from your question, it sounds like the problem isn't what he's doing with her, it's what he's not doing with you. None of the things you mention would be a problem as an adjunct to a healthy, well nourished marriage, but if this relationship ended, it would not automatically render your marriage healthy and well nourished.
posted by KathrynT at 1:33 PM on January 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

On Saturdays I take the kids to sports and to visit my mother. Most Saturdays he spends the day with her.

Wait, what?? Your husband misses his kids' sports events on Most Saturdays because he would rather spend all day getting friendly with the neighbor lady?

That's profoundly not normal, nor is it ok.

Your kids want their daddy to watch them play sports.

Huge Red Flag here.
posted by hush at 3:02 PM on January 6, 2015 [11 favorites]

As a young adult, my best friend was female. We were best friends from school and grew closer - as friends - after. We never dated each other, were just good friends.

At age 25 she became engaged to somebody I already knew. At that point our relationship changed. We both pulled back because he should be her best friend and not me. We didn't go out together without him (or my gf's and later wife) from then on. It is a "couples" relationship now. (Because HE is her best friend now)

This woman should have the same respect, you need to be your husbands best friend.
Your husband should have the same respect, you need to be his best friend.

Sorry to say it; "If you are not number one to him you are in last place". Fix the relationship or get a new one.
posted by Leenie at 4:08 PM on January 6, 2015

I'm bi and have had a number of close and totally platonic friendships with people of various genders. My best friend is a married straight man who I was friends with before he and his wife met - we have an intense connection around shared interests and there was never anything sexual between us. I find it weird when people freak out about their partners having opposite-sex friends. I would find it incredibly strange if someone I was involved with had friends of only one gender, and would not stay with someone who wanted to tell me who I could be friends with based on something so superficial.

You said you've seen them together and it's not a flirtatious or affectionate relationship, and that the two of them share interests in things that bore you. Your husband is still going to have these interests without this person in his life, and he obviously finds this to be an important and fulfilling friendship.

I also want to note in particular that the thing about her not inviting you to her birthday was likely that you're both so independent and that you have a long history of doing your own thing. It also may be that spending your birthday with a bunch of married couples is depressing when you're single. For the people who are all like "oh but why doesn't she have her own relationship?" perhaps she's aromantic, perhaps she's dating casually, perhaps she's got other stuff she's doing, perhaps any number of things. Assuming a single woman is necessarily out to steal your man is childish. Further, it sounds like she's tried to reach out to you and has been respectful of your relationship.

If the issue is that your husband isn't spending time with you or the kids then that's something you should take up with him, but it sounds like you're spending similar amounts of time out with your friends. If it's just that he has a friend who has ladyparts, you need to grow up.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:06 PM on January 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

Yeah the more I think about this the more I agree with what appears to be the emerging consensus.

You don't sound like you like your husband much, and you do sound contemptuous of his interests, which is a huge red flag for a marriage. And I agree with folks who are saying you're focusing on the wrong thing here.

His friend is not the problem. She sounds great. His friendship with her is not the problem. It sounds awesome, and they are lucky they have it.

Your marriage, though, seems troubled. You're getting mixed opinions here, but FWIW I personally wouldn't have been bothered by the anniversary text or the birthday dinner. I wouldn't worry about the time my husband was spending with his friend, nor about their closeness. But I would be worried about us seeming to live mostly-separate lives, and not having a lot to talk about.

If I were you, I'd redirect my attention away from the friendship, and instead invest in imagining what kind of relationship I wanted to have with my husband. I wonder if you feel like anything you propose (outings, trips, activities) will seem less compelling to him than the idyllic, easy times he has with her. If so, that's a legitimate worry because in any living-together situation you're going to experience a pull towards the mundane -- the bills, the house cleaning, other chores -- and you will see each other when you're tired or grumpy or lazy. It can be hard to carve out the energy to imagine having fun together. But that's what I would try to do if I were you: stop focusing on what you don't want, and start focusing on what you do want. Couples therapy might help, and couldn't hurt. Good luck.
posted by Susan PG at 5:56 PM on January 6, 2015

My problem with all of the answers that focus on the marriage is that the husband is putting everything from the marriage relationship through his friend's filter - and at one point the OP did, too.

That just sounds impossible to me. I would be annoyed as fuck if my husband was defending that sort of triangulating with an outside party. Totally blows the sanctity of the intimacy in the marriage. All of the intimacy in this situation is between the husband and his friend, not the husband and wife.

Of course this situation arose because the OP and her husband weren't close emotionally when the friend appeared on the scene. Back when it started, the husband didn't have to, like, commit so hard to this friendship. He could have realized on his own it was inappropriate to make this friendship his primary relationship. He could have requested couples counseling of his wife way back when this kicked off. He could have stopped himself and refocused on his marriage.

There is so much bad feeling and resentment here, I don't know how the emotional clock gets turned back in this relationship. I liked most the answer that suggested therapy for the OP so she could figure out how to extricate herself from both of them.
posted by jbenben at 7:03 PM on January 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

I was you once - my ex met someone and fell into exactly this kind of friendship. It ended our 9 year relationship.

I have always categorized their behavior as an emotional affair - there was never any sex - but what I learned (finally) was that being married to someone means you are #1 in their life and they are #1 in yours. My ex called this person their "best friend" and I remember thinking, "but I'm supposed to be your best friend."

You deserve to be your partner's #1.
posted by buzzkillington at 12:01 AM on January 7, 2015 [11 favorites]

I sort of feel like the OP is being gaslighted. This isn't just a friendship, or even an intense friendship. It has all the hallmarks of a romantic relationship, plus or minus actual sex. The gender may not matter, but only because I would suspect a romantic relationship no matter the gender configurations.
posted by yarly at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think everyone telling the OP to grow up, or saying that she's childish for assuming someone is trying to steal her man, or what have you, is really missing the point. I think the OP made it quite clear that she didn't really have a problem with her husband's friendships with people of the opposite sex; in fact, the OP mentions that her husband has a lot of female friends, but this particular friendship bothers her for obvious reasons. The problem isn't the opposite-sex friendship per se; the problem is that the husband and this particular friend are super close in the way that OP and her husband aren't, and in ways that seem to specifically exclude the OP.

I'm not going to really make any judgments about how the friend is behaving, but I feel comfortable making judgments about how the husband is behaving: I agree with yarly that this seems almost like he's trying to gaslight OP. Going over to a friend's house at 7:45 AM because she's summoned you, staying there to discuss the relationship for the next four hours and going home only when specifically asked to, and then having a trip with the friend to an art gallery and lunch by the sea the next day -- that is simply not appropriate behavior for someone in a healthy marriage. I don't disagree that both parties here need to assess their needs and their desires vis-à-vis the marriage, but suggesting that the OP needs to "grow up" because she's bothered by this behavior -- well, IMO it's unkind, at best.
posted by holborne at 12:02 PM on January 7, 2015 [21 favorites]

Your husband is being a good friend, a mediocre (at best) husband, and a bad father.

On Saturdays I take the kids to sports and to visit my mother. Most Saturdays he spends the day with her. He goes to her place or she comes here and they just sit and talk all day. He never talks to me all day. And there's no way we could talk that much every weekend. I don't even think I'd want to. Sometimes my husband invites her over in the evening when I have to work. I work from home so I'm in my office but I can see and hear them.

So, your husband is spending most Saturdays and evenings with your children in favor of spending time with this woman? She's taking precedence over your entire family?

I doubt they're having a physical affair, but that almost seems like the least of your family's problems right now. He needs a major priority shift.
posted by RainyJay at 8:11 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Even if his friend were a man, he would still be taking away from his marriage and his relationship with his kids by his actions.

The fact that she's a woman just makes it worse. It's more than fishy for any spouse who has been married for a long time to have a friend of the opposite sex and chances are, if your instincts tell you something is off here, you are probably right.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:24 AM on January 15, 2015

It's more than fishy for any spouse who has been married for a long time to have a friend of the opposite sex

OP, please ignore this. It's silly. People can have friends of any gender, married or not. What matters is how you and your spouse treat each other.

I mean, under this rule, if I were to get married I wouldn't be allowed to have any male friends. Which would shatter most of my deepest friendships. That's nonsense.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:30 AM on January 15, 2015

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