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I have a friend of my son living with us who is in her mid-twenties. I love her dearly and I don’t think anything is going on with her, but my husband stares at her and laughs when they talk, which he doesn’t normally do. He seems to hang on every word she says. She’s attractive and sweet. I think he secretly likes her. Please help.
While your question is lacking the detail necessary to give you more specific advice, I still think it’s important you reached out for support. I will do my best to share some considerations that can help you chart a path forward with this troubling situation.
You’ve noticed something unsettling about your husband’s reactions to this younger woman and ignoring it isn’t going to help you feel any better. I do think that having an honest and heartfelt conversation with him is in order. However, before you confront him about this, here are some questions I recommend you think through:
- Is your husband initiating any inappropriate interactions with her?
- Are his responses to her making her visibly uncomfortable?
- Are you concerned with any of her behaviors or responses to him?
- Is it appropriate for her to stay in the home?
- Are you feeling any jealousy or insecurity with his reactions to her?
- Are his responses to her the same ones you long for in your marriage?
My sense is that there isn’t anything you need to talk with this young woman about, correct? If that’s the case, then after you get clear on your own reactions to his behavior, then it’s time for a conversation with him.
When you approach him, make sure you don’t accuse him or criticize him for his reactions. Yes, they’re odd and inappropriate responses from a married man to a single young woman. However, you have more questions than answers at this point, so it’s important to approach him with curiosity. There’s a high likelihood he doesn’t have any self-awareness around his responses to her.
His potential lack of awareness isn’t an excuse for inappropriate behavior, but it’s always important to approach these situations with the goal of raising awareness. It’s completely up to him whether or not he opens up to your observations and takes a close look at his responses. It’s likely he’ll feel defensive out of embarrassment that his behavior is so obvious to you (and probably others). Hold steady and don’t let any defensiveness derail your quest to seek clarity and security with this situation.
Point out what you’ve observed, not what you believe is happening. Allow him to explain his responses, even if he’s not aware of them. Expect him to look closely at his behaviors and be accountable for how he’s interacting with her in your home. You don’t need to accuse him of anything. Your job is to describe what you’re seeing and ask him to help you understand what is happening. You can also let him know how these behaviors make you feel as his wife.
If he dismisses your concerns and defends his actions as harmless, you’ll have to decide how threatening this behavior is for your marriage. You’ll have to determine whether you want to take immediate action and set boundaries, continue addressing this with him, structure things differently in your home, or explore other options.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity” and creates online relationship courses available on his website www.geoffsteurer.com. He hosts the Illuminate Podcast and has created the Loving Marriage educational vlog on YouTube with his wife. 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.
You can connect with him at:
DaveSeptember 30, 2019
And @Julie, so far this wife hasn't shared anything really inappropriate that this husband has done. He laughs when she talks . . . So? Isn't that only being polite? He stares at her and seems to hang on her every word. Well, having been a listener for many years, those statements are someone else's perception. Would everyone else in the room agree with that interpretation? Maybe this is a case of a husband inappropriately smitten by an attractive young female. Or maybe this is a case of an overly sensitive wife who feels a little insecure with a young attractive female in the house. For me, I wouldn't jump to conclusions too quickly here. I like Geoff's answer. Does the girl have the same impression as the wife? If she doesn't feel that anything is inappropriate in the way the husband is acting, then maybe we should focus on Geoff's last two questions - is this a question of jealousy and insecurity on the part of the wife? She could be magnifying what she sees. But if the girl is uncomfortable, then this is a real problem.
JulesSeptember 28, 2019
@Julie, why should the girl be punished for the actions of someone else especially if she is not doing anything to encourage the behavior. (if she is, thats a whole other thing). I've been in a similar situation where having done nothing except exist and be female, I was humiliated and embarrassed because of someone else's fear of not being able to control themselves. Her issue should be with her husband and not with the girl.