gallery Work Wives

Today I had a really interesting conversation with a dear friend about and article we both read today.  And I wanted to expand on that a bit here and post my thoughts about it.  Feel free to chime in with your own.

Dear Prudence,
My wife is planning to attend a professional conference in a few months in a warm location while I stay at home with our two young boys. In years past I have gone with her, but this year one son is in school. As much as I’ll be frazzled by five days alone with them, I’m happy that my wife is able to build her reputation. But she will be attending the conference with a guy I don’t care for, because he acts like he’s my wife’s best friend. They worked together for several years, and he was essentially her “work husband”—lunches together, drinks after work with their co-workers, texts and calls at home, inside jokes, birthday presents. I’ve tried to explain my belief that a man should not be “buddies” with another man’s wife, but my wife doesn’t see it and says they’re just pals. At the conference my wife will essentially be “dating” this guy for five days. I do trust my wife completely. But this guy is single and would, I’m sure, like to get involved if the opportunity were available. I’m annoyed that I will be home with the boys while she is on vacation with another man. I can’t ask her not to go, and I can’t join her. What can I do?

—Convention Dissension

Dear Convention,
What you shouldn’t do, once you tuck in the kids, is watch the movie Cedar Rapids. In that convention story, the insurance agent played by Anne Heche looks forward to the annual blowout so she can get away from her dutiful marriage, swim naked in the hotel pool, and get laid. Poor you, five days alone with your own sons, while your wife goes someplace warm (the nerve!), sees old colleagues, makes professional connections, and has some fun (bad Mommy!). One paragraph of your self-pity and bluster makes me want to pull up a lounge chair, order a pitcher of mojitos, and drown out the lectures on proper relations with the opposite sex. You’re right that some people have office spouses. This can be tricky because while it doesn’t offer conjugal privileges, it also doesn’t include such romance killers as wiping the kids’ noses and hauling the groceries. But you say you trust your wife completely, and during the years she worked with her office husband, they did not have an affair. I agree that if her relationship with her former colleague had been intruding on your time together, you would have been justified in asking for fewer happy hours and a moratorium on home phone calls—but they’re not even co-workers anymore. Stop harping on this conference, which is months away. When it rolls around, wish her a great trip and say you and the boys will enjoy doing guy stuff. That way, instead of thinking about what a relief it is to get away from her jealous prig, she will feel that no office husband measures up to the real thing.

—Prudie

So I personally agreed with Prudie, even though most of the time I think she is pretty clueless. This time however, I could relate and had my own feelings about the post. There are a lot of issues in that relationship that have little do with the “Work Husband” and that couple needs to address them for their children.

However my friend didn’t agree.  And I totally understand and respect her point of view.  Her thoughts were that she didn’t feel comfortable with the situation and wasn’t sure she could feel as confidant in letting the one she loves have that type of friendship with a member of the opposite sex.

But I saw something in the letter from the husband that drew my attention. The situation is only from the husband’s point of view. He uses words that draw emotion from the reader. He wants sympathy and wants to point our that he’s upset that he is the one to be home with HIS children. So sad for him.. to have to spend time with his own kids.

My hubby travels A LOT. He travels everywhere, including warm sunny areas and leaves me home in the cold winterland.. but really, it’s NOT a vacation for him. Even though I tend to tease him about leaving his cares and flying off to somewhere warm, I know he’s not happy about it. I know there are lots of beautiful women who also have to travel and are at the events that he is at. But honestly, if you are going to be with someone you have to give up having know where they are night and day. Everyone is entitled to some private time and nobody should have the right to judge them for who they choose to have as a friend.
I think there is a different mentality when you are married to someone who has a job that requires them to travel and a corporate setting. My husband has always worked equally with both men and women and to be honest, at first I was pretty jealous when he would stay after work and go out for dinner and drinks with co-workers, especially when one of them is a very pretty and smart woman with lots of charm. I gave him hell all the time for spending more time with them than I felt he was with me while I was home “stuck” with the kids and not feeling good about myself and I took it out on him. I was the one who started a lot of fights and really damaged our marriage. I was wicked mean, I said terrible things.  But really it was my own ugly inner voice that I had allowed to take charge of my life and tell me lies.
I didn’t see was that I was actually the one hurting my marriage with my own imagination. When he started traveling, I resented being left behind. I didn’t see that he was miserable having to eat alone in restaurants and would often skip meals or eat in his room while talking to me. I didn’t ever want to hurt him, but I did when I accused him of not loving me enough to stay faithful and not being able to control himself if I wasn’t watching over him
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The article says the wife “worked” with the man who the husband was jealous of.. it doesn’t say that the guy doesn’t still work in the same line of work maybe in a different role. Michael has had many different roles and he keeps his connections with everyone because at a corporate level those connections are very important. You never know when you will have to be gone 1,2, or even 3 weeks away from home and knowing someone else that you like makes those long trips away from home a little easier.. maybe you won’t have to eat alone, maybe you won’t be the wallflower at the meet and drink.
 The fact that this woman has found a friend who she can laugh with and probably vent about her jealous husband who obviously has a problem with her career. Having a friend of the opposite sex isn’t a sin, a crime, or a good enough reason to be jealous. I have  guy friends, this doesn’t mean I am having sex with them. We laugh, we have jokes that make sense to only us because we were together when something was funny, we call and text each other because we are friends… that’s what friends do. It’s not stupid to believe that my husband is entitled to have a good time on his work trips with people he calls his friends, even his “WorkWife” who is a lovely woman who I really enjoy spending time with as well.  And it’s just as not stupid for me to be able to enjoy having dinner with my friends and love the fact that I am happily married and I know that my husband trusts me to keep my lady parts to myself. I am not some animal who can’t control her impulses and neither is that poor woman.
And it’s true that not everyone has a relationship like mine.  But that didn’t come easily and I know it.  I’ve been in a few relationships that sadly ended in cheating. The one thing that I had to learn the hard way was that I am responsible for ME, my fears, my trust, my part in the relationship. You can’t control anyone else with either fear of punishment, abuse, or manipulation. I can’t demand that my spouse will have sex with only me. I can’t demand that he will always love me. I can’t set down rules with implied punishments. I can control only me and accept only my own rules for myself. I can have an open conversation with my spouse about how I would feel if he chose to have a sexual relationship with someone else, how it would hurt, how it would make me doubt our commitment to each other and our family, how I would take a serious hit to my own self-esteem. But ultimately, it’s up to my husband to live his own life.I’ve been cheated on. And the one thing that I can see only now is that those relationships were never healthy before the cheating ever started.  But if I want to trust the people in my life not to hurt me, then I have to be willing to give them a chance first.
( reposted from Feb 23, 2012)

3 comments

  1. I totally agree with you. Thanks for posting this. For years I was the working mom who was trying to build my career. I traveled for work while my husband stayed home to “hold down the fort.” This allowed me to move up quickly and earn a decent living which benefited the whole family. Cheating on my husband never even crossed my mine.

    Turns out that my (now EX) husband wasn’t really holding down the fort at all. He was drinking a lot, passing out and leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Then HE started having an affair all while I was working 12 hour days trying to keep the ends met.

    I have a whole new attitude on life now. No longer will I feel guilty about improving my career or socializing with either men or women or traveling. I have a wonderful boyfriend now who totally supports my endeavors and knows that I will always be faithful to him no matter who I am with. Because that’s just who I am.

  2. I’m one of those who have to travel for work, and I’m not entirely comfortable with this response. Adultery isn’t simply a question of genital contact, and if we want to have a strong marriage we need to take care of the emotional side of things.
    This means, for example, that I need to balance my work dinners with time spent talking to my wife, even if it’s just on the phone. It also means I should have at least as many inside jokes with her as I do with my coworkers. It means working as hard on my marriage as I do on my day job.
    I guess what I’m saying is that jealousy is sometimes justified, and we need to look at the specifics of the situation to understand.

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