By Hara Estroff Marano - last reviewed on January 28, 2005
I am having difficulty with my husband's relationship with a coworker. She is very attractive and they spend a lot of time together, including lunch and happy hours. Many of these meetings also include other coworkers, but my husband is closest with this woman. She is very open and friendly with others, but not me, despite efforts that I have made to engage her in conversation. I also find my husband literally turning his back on me when we are at social functions with her and her husband, and when he would speak of her, he held her in very high regard.
My husband knows that I have a problem with their closeness, and has reassured me that there is nothing to worry about. What bothers me the most, however, is that he has started avoiding talking about her.
When my husband and I are together, he is very loving and affectionate. I believe he is happy in our relationship, but he derives a true pleasure from the attention he gets from this coworker. I am concerned that his desire for attention from her may lead to behavior that will seriously affect our relationship. I am most worried about the fact that he can't talk to me about it.
The fact that he is avoiding talking about this woman is indeed worrisome. One of the most useful ways of thinking about infidelity was developed by the late psychologist Shirley Glass, Ph.D., and explained in her book, "NOT Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity." It's a matter of walls and windows. Infidelity occurs when someone outside the marriage is emotionally closer to your partner than you are. When it occurs -- whether it is emotional or sexual -- there is almost always a wall of secrecy around the affair. The marriage partner does not know what's happening on the other side of that wall, which is the situation you now find yourself in. In the affair, there is often a window into the marriage, like a one-way mirror.
To repair the marriage, you have to "reconstruct" your house, reversing the walls and windows. You have to put up a wall with the affair partner and put up a window inside the marriage, between your husband and yourself. You have to be emotionally open to each other.
It's a matter of who's on the inside and who's on the outside, says Glass. Sometimes people will open windows but not put up walls. Sometimes they put up walls but don't open the windows. Unless you do both, you cannot rebuild safety and trust in the marriage, which is the best deterrent to an affair.