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.
When a friendship crosses the line.
Saga readers say...
'It is possible to have a platonic friendship between a man and a woman with one or both already married or in another romantic relationship, but why not try befriending her yourself? That might stop any awkwardness.' Diane, via Facebook
'There is a risk. There is such a thing as platonic relationships but they can easily slide into something more. So the other woman should have clear boundaries, and if the husband refuses to agree to them once he realises his wife is upset, then things don't look good; husband and wife need to sit down and discuss this openly. Platonic relationships can be deep, so at this point if the husband continues to be unreasonable then the wife has her answer - she could try befriending her husband's female friend, but should she? She will remain suspicious and her relationship with her husband would still be under threat. If her husband works with the other woman, as is often the case, it will be more difficult but if he loves his wife he should agree there be no contact of any sort outside of work. It will work out, one way or another...' Sheila, via Facebook