Dilemma: my husband is close friends with another woman

Katharine Whitehorn / 06 January 2016 ( 06 September 2019 )

Agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn answers a reader's question regarding her husband's close friendship with another woman.

The dilemma: another woman

My husband and I have been happily married for 35 years. It’s a very loving relationship and he has always “been there” for me during illness and bereavement. I just have one problem, which is causing me a lot of worry.

My husband does voluntary work twice a month and has made several friends while doing it. There is one woman in particular he seems to find extra “special” – a woman about 10 years younger than him. 

This other woman is attractive and intelligent and shares all his interests. They lend each other books, CDs and films and keep in touch by email and text message. I’ve told him about my concerns but he says she is a friend and I shouldn’t begrudge his friends. But can a man and a woman be just friends?

He’s now started asking her to events we go to, including a dance we are going to with other friends. This will be awkward as there will be an uneven number.

Am I just being silly? Should I accept her?

Can men and women be friends?

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Katharine Whitehorn's advice

I am going to say two apparently contradictory things. A man and a woman can be friends, and there is also something “between love and friendship and more delightful than either” – an amitié amoureuse (loving friendship) which doesn’t, necessarily, harm a long-standing marriage such as yours – I know, because when my husband was alive I had one such that was nearly completely innocent.

But no, you are not being silly; the situation is only okay if you keep it strictly within bounds, and it sounds as if your husband is not being meticulous about keeping it that way. Inviting her to the dance without consulting you was brash and inconsiderate, and I think you'd be justified in insisting he doesn't invite her to anything you're going to together without consulting you – it's very bad manners, even if nothing more. 

Put a good face on it, seem slightly amused rather than anything, but insist he doesn't include her unless you've agreed.

Is it an emotional affair? Read our tips for understanding when a friendship crosses the line.

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