I’ve been married for 20 years, and my husband has kept a best friend who is a woman and married. I went through many years of battling this issue. In the beginning of our marriage, she started calling within a couple of weeks. He denied it. I felt they were lying. I confronted her but she bluntly told me, “Well, he said I was his best friend and when he needs me, I’ll be there so what do you want me to tell him when he calls?” I knew right then that this wouldn’t end. He denied everything. I found her phone number hidden in his phone under an elderly friend of ours. He has never tried to admit to the truth or reassure me of anything. His responses have always been telling me that I’m crazy or just jealous. My place as his wife has never been my place. I always feel like I’m second and on the back burner. He told me once early in our marriage that “if he had known he had to give her up he would’ve never married me.” One time I called and spoke with her husband. My husband found out and became abusive toward me. Instead of apologizing to me after the abuse he called her to apologize for my actions. She was shortly divorced but has since remarried again. What can I do? It seems neither one of them will stop anytime soon.
You sense something is terribly wrong in your marriage, but it seems you’re struggling to trust your own judgement about what’s happening in your marriage. Your husband is minimizing his actions and working to convince you that you’re the problem here. After twenty years of experiencing this abusive pattern, it can be difficult for you to see clearly enough to trust your own feelings. Restoring your dignity and peace in this marriage requires you to confront harmful patterns and act where needed.
Your husband has made it clear from the beginning that he will prioritize his comfort and his friend’s comfort above your safety and sanity. He’s enforced this through his actions, including engaging in abusive behaviors. Unless these abusive actions are accounted for with sincere remorse, restitution, and a willingness to change his behaviors, you won’t feel secure in your marriage.
Your husband has demonstrated that he’s more committed to his friend than he is to you. This is hard reality to face. He’s backed up this commitment through sneaky behaviors, lying, gaslighting, minimizing, blaming, denial, and other abusive behaviors. While I don’t generally support entitled thinking, I do believe that there are certain entitlements that come with marriage covenants. One of these is that there are no competing attachments in your relationship. President Spencer W. Kimball put it plainly as he clarified the scripture in Genesis that we are cleave to our spouse and “none else”:
“The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.”[i]
President Gordon B. Hinckley also reminded husbands to regard their wives as the “greatest treasure in [their] life.”[ii] He may have enjoyed a close and loving relationship with his friend before you were married. However, after marriage, she needed to become a friend to your marriage, not a competition to your marriage. There are plenty of married individuals who have friendships outside the marriage, but if the marriage is to stay healthy and vibrant, friendships are deferential to the needs of the couple.
He needs to recognize that everything he’s doing is a choice. It’s not your fault that he continues to seek contact with her. It’s not your fault that he lies, hides, and manipulates your reality. It’s not your fault that he abuses you when you try to get to the truth. However, you can be responsible for how you respond to this treatment. I know it’s challenging to escape these dynamics and it often requires some form of separation. I highly recommend you seek professional support to help you get the clarity and strength to create safety and sanity for yourself.
You shouldn’t have to fight for your husband’s affection. This is an important opportunity for you to get the support you need so you can value your worth and value as a woman and his wife enough to confront these harmful patterns. Even though it appears obvious what his priority is, it’s important for him to see that he’s making a choice that goes against his marriage. You don’t have to continue agreeing with that choice. You can gain the strength to make a healthy decision that honors the truth of what’s really happening in your marriage.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com
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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.