Q. I’m a 42-year-old happily married man (15 years) with kids. I adore my wife. There is a man in our friend group who often (especially when drinking) is inappropriate toward all of the wives in the group. Examples include shoulder rubs, physically sexually aggressive hugs, following the girls to quieter, more discreet areas of the party to talk, sexually charged commentary, flirtatious eye contact from across the room, etc. I explained to my wife that his behavior makes me uncomfortable; I would prefer if she does her best not to participate in his creepy flirtations. My wife was offended.
Part of me thinks that she enjoys the attention, especially because he’s funny, good looking, and friendly. We’ve been avoiding this guy and his family, which hurts us socially, for several weeks now. I happened to be using my wife’s phone to find my phone when he texted her. It was one of those avatars of himself shouting “Happy Mother’s Day!” I opened the phone and there were other messages: “Happy Birthday, I hope your husband does something special for you.” The other texts were links to articles and carpooling info. Now, to me this crosses the line. I don’t text my friends’ wives. I also think that my wife should have told me that he has been sending her texts, especially after I had voiced my concerns.
My instincts tell me that something is wrong. I am not an anxious person, but when we’re going to be around this family, I’m tweaking. I feel like I’m the bad guy — or that if I do something I’ll come off as aggressively overprotective. I don’t know what to do.
Side note: I’ve got trust issues because of some childhood trauma. Is this something or nothing? Any Advice?
SOMETHING OR NOTHING
A. You say you don’t text your friends’ wives. But ... do you text your own friends?
Is it possible that your wife and this man have had an actual friendship? If so, the article links make sense. So do innocuous Bitmojis. The “I hope your husband does something nice for you” text kind of weirds me out, but more in an eye-rolling way (but that’s just me).
The missing information here is how your wife feels about the attention. You say she got offended when you mentioned avoiding this man. Is that because you placed the burden of setting boundaries on her — to make you comfortable? Maybe the problem is that you’ve made this about you instead of asking her what she thinks about the whole thing.
Ask her about the friendship and how she’d like to proceed. Tell her you feel like you might have gone about the first conversation in the wrong way. Explain that if she needs to think about her feelings before sharing them, that’s OK too.
Really, it’s time to listen instead of jumping to conclusions.
If you’re on the same page about taking space from this man, you can invite a few people over on your terms. The one big group isn’t the only way to be social.
Also consider that it’s a good time for counseling — to process that trauma and to exercise communication skills. It helps you figure out what’s something or a whole lot of nothing.
Don’t make this an issue between you and your wife. Maybe talk to the other husbands and see how they feel about him. Then maybe you can all talk to him. But don’t make this a marital issue. You said it yourself: He does it to multiple women.
^Talk to the other husbands? What, they’re all invited out for a drink except this guy, then they talk about him behind his back? Don’t do this.
Yeah, I can see a lot of things worth being offended about as the wife. The implication that she’s into it when she’s probably just humoring him to keep the peace, as women often have to do with this type of guy. The letter writer implying that he needs to basically lock her away in a tower to “protect” her — as though she’s his property and that she’s not capable of handling the situation the way that feels best to her. I’d also be offended if I had some overly affectionate acquaintance I had to deal with to access my friends — and then also had to deal with being criticized by my husband for how I’ve handled the situation.
I am a married man and have a female friend who acts like the overly friendly man described here — flirty, sends lots of texts, etc. My wife once told me “you know, if you weren’t who you are, that woman would really worry me.” My response was “I totally get it — she doesn’t seem to understand normal boundaries.” My point: Your wife should at least understand that this guy is a little weird. Even if he means nothing, it’s weird for him to be pulling women aside for private conversations at parties. I understand your wife being offended by your request because it implies that she is also doing something inappropriate. But did she at least understand why this guy made you feel uneasy? You say you trust your wife — try to focus on that because if you know she’s not going anywhere it doesn’t matter what this guy is doing.
Yep. There’s a person like this in just about every friend group. Thing is, I think his wife does understand that the guy is a little weird. I think all the wives, and probably most of the husbands, understand it. This is one of those letters where I’d love to hear the situation described by the wife and maybe some of their friends.
I’d forward those texts to friendly guy’s wife. And let her handle him.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.