I have a childhood friend and we have been through a lot together. We’re now both married, have kids and living the family life. I look at him as my brother.
My wife gave him a hug last night as we were saying goodbye after hanging out as families. I did not like the way that she hugged him. She had both arms under his arms and holding his back with her head on his chest. It made me uncomfortable because they held it for a decent pause. It wasn’t your typical, arm over the shoulder, “great to see you, drive safe” kind of embracement. She didn’t know I was watching because I was saying goodbye to his wife and kids.
I haven’t brought it up because I’m not sure what to really say. She tends to write things off when I bring them up. However, she was uncomfortable with the way one of her friends always asked how I was doing. So, I removed her from my social media, so I didn’t have any way of contacting her. There was nothing between us but we both knew she found me attractive. Similarly, I know my wife finds my friend attractive. He’s a handsome fella! I get it! The girls have always flocked to him.
Even if my wife does feel that way. I would appreciate the respect to not act on it. I don’t want her to be sneaky either. To bring this all back to my question. I was wondering what the best way would be to bring this up to her.
It sounds like both of you have had experiences with outside attractions and now you’re wondering how to best respond. I think you’re wise to address this issue before more confusing and potentially hurtful experiences impact your relationship. Let’s talk about how you can structure this conversation.
Most couples don’t formally talk about these things until a line has been crossed. At that point, emotions are high, and it can put each person on the defensive. Even though you’re working to be proactive about this, please recognize that a line has already been crossed for you and it’s likely your wife is going to feel accused. It doesn’t sound like you’re concerned that she’s been unfaithful to you. It sounds like you’re worried that they’re becoming too comfortable with each other, so make sure that your words and tone align with your beliefs.
When addressing concerns, it’s helpful to focus on what you observe before you offer your interpretation of what it meant. Of course, you’re bringing it up because it meant something to you. However, if you start with your interpretation of what you think it means, it will make it more difficult to have a productive conversation. For example, you can say, “I’d like to ask you about something I saw happen between you and my friend that made me terribly uncomfortable.” Then, you describe what you saw. You can ask her to talk about what it meant to her and then share what it meant to you.
Hopefully this exchange can lead to a productive conversation about how you both protect your marriage. Every couple needs to have conversations about what constitutes “crossing the line” with other people. This doesn’t have to only include romantic scenarios. It can also include spending too much time with friends, sharing private information with family members, having blurry roles with the children, and other forms of betraying trust. However, in your situation, it’s important to discuss where the line gets crossed with familiarity.
In my experience, most people who cheat get there through becoming too familiar with another person. Many of us spend more time daily with other people than we do with our spouse. We also live in a culture that encourages oversharing of personal information. We must be more vigilant than ever as there are more avenues to find ourselves in compromising situations with others.
Since you’ve both had concerns about other people threatening your marriage, you can join as a team and decide what feel safe for your relationship. The rules need to apply to both of you and need to be clearly defined. Clearly, as you’ve described, a hug isn’t just a hug. So, get specific about what is inappropriate and threatening to your security as a couple. The more intentional you are with the boundaries around your marriage, the more secure you’ll both feel.
If your wife becomes defensive about your concerns, then it’s important to slow down the conversation even more and seek to understand why this is threatening to her. You don’t have to automatically assume she’s cheating on you. Instead, see if she can share more about her reaction. See if you can work together to create more favorable conditions for both of you. She might feel embarrassed or accused for something that was thoughtless. She might be having feelings for him. She might not have any sense of personal boundaries. Whatever the reason, you both must stay with the conversation until you have a clear plan moving forward. This isn’t something you can leave to chance.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
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About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.
KathrynNovember 23, 2022
I respectfully disagree with the previous commenter. There are hugs... and then there are hugs. It's very different for a woman to give a guy a quick arms-around-shoulders-hug versus an arms-around-the-waist-and-head-on-his-chest embrace that lasts for a few moments. I agree with the husband who wrote the question that this type of physical contact isn't appropriate for people who aren't married to each other. It's likely to stir up or increase inappropriate feelings. It's so much better for everyone to stay on the safe side of the line.
tfNovember 22, 2022
No, there are hugs, and then there are HUGS!