Enough with the books and politics, here’s a riddler:

So I’ve waited two hours past the time I originally wanted to post this, in order to see if I REALLY wanted to post this. It turns out,  I do – so thank goodness this blog is sometimes, occasionally, about marriage.  Be warned – if you don’t want  to hopelessly indulge me on this topic you might want to skip this post and turn to any of the many, many intelligent and thought-provoking links on my blogroll before I get all Jerry Springer on you, here, with today’s topic: Does this woman want my husband?

So when S. started his new job he returned to a place he’d previously worked (he works for a university and basically, he moved to a different department on a different part of campus).  Upon returning to said campus he also returned to a bunch of old co-workers.  One particularly co-worker, we’ll call her U., lives in our neighborhood and on more than one occasion we’ve met up with her  for dinner and/or happy hour.  She’s divorced, with two little boys, and she’s 13 years older than we are. ANYWAY,  S. now has to work regularly with U.  – U., we’ve surmised, as a cash-strapped single mother, is lonely, without a lot of friends, but she’s charming and enjoyable and we like her company.   Well, since S. returned to work, U. has decided they should meet for happy hour every single Friday afternoon.  S. was fine with this and, since I’m such a cool wife, secure in her marriage, I was too.  I am always invited to attend said happy hour but I work in a different town and I work much later hours than they do so this invitation is formal, the kind of thing that should be said and not based in reality at all.  So, no big deal, S. and U. work together and have happy hour once a week.  Fine.  Well, sloooooowly U. is corrupting said happy hour.  One time she needed S. to watch her kids while she ran her baby sitter home – the upshot of which is her little boys now adore S. and want him over to play with them.  We will be spending all day Saturday with her at an university function, which is cool, but she wanted to meet S. for drinks tonight to celebrate receiving an award for something or other.   To his credit, S. recognizes the, um,  weirdness of this and didn’t go, but I have to say I had to act pretty bitchy to get to that point.  Now, this is one of those proverbial situations where I really do trust S. , and I want him to feel free to hang out with his co-workers, but quite frankly I don’t trust her.  Is this unsisterly? Unfeminist? Is it such a reach to think this single-mom-of-two has perhaps ever so slightly fallen for my handsome, witty, about to graduate from law school husband? I hate being one of those women who doesn’t trust another woman, but quite honestly I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would clamour for so much time with another woman’s husband.   S. sees her as simply a lonely mom desperately needing adult conversation. As much as I would like to agree with him, my gut tells me not to, that this situation is just bad. Am I being ungenerous? Am I underestimating the isolation this (really  very lovely) woman is experiencing?  Or was I right to roll my eyes dramatically and behave all passive-aggressive like until S. caved on meeting U. this evening and instead offered to take me to dinner?

I just don’t know.  These are the kinds of situations that make me laugh when single people talk about how much happier they would be if they were married.  Marriage, I’m convinced, can turn you right into the person your nineteen-year-old self swore you’d never be, and it can make you feel, yuck, just bad. This is probably why so many couples get divorced – society has us so convinced marriage is supposed only to make us happy, and there are times where that’s just not even remotely possible, and we have to do things like compromise and find solutions and talk things out.

As for me, I’m not rushing towards divorce or even some little yellow pills, but I wouldn’t mind beating on U., just a bit.

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14 Responses to Enough with the books and politics, here’s a riddler:

  1. litlove says:

    Oh poor Courtney, I understand exactly how you feel. Now I would probably say that no, U does not in any conscious part of her mind hope to steal your lovely husband. But after a divorce I imagine her self-esteem is very low and so having a man around and feeling in some way able to offer him womanly things like company and adoration from her children, she has unfortunately forgotten that she is overstepping the sisterly line. And she is overstepping the sisterly line, and men are absolutely rubbish at noticing this when it happens. All your blog readers know what a delightful, creative and entertaining person you are, and there is no doubt that your husband prefers you above all other women in the universe. I also think it would be a really good idea if he told you that himself. Do you feel able to tell him that, however it may look to a man, U is breaking the rules of sisterhood and making too many demands on both your good natures? And that it’s making you uneasy? I think you have nothing to fear, but I know how horrid it is to worry about these things (and entirely natural, too) and you deserve a little reassurance.

  2. I’m with Litlove (and you, Courtney!!) – U. is overstepping the mark. I think your intuition is flagging this situation as potentially uncomfortable/dangerous and you are absolutely right to act on your intuition. This is not a situation for rational, it’s for listening to your gut and following those messages. Which you are. And you’re telling your husband, which is also very good. I’d like to know where U.’s women friends are – why aren’t they having celebratory drinks with her and babysitting her kids? Is she the type of woman who doesn’t have female friends? I can’t help mistrusting women who are “men’s women” and can’t relate to other women. Maybe she isn’t one, but maybe she is.

  3. Kerryn says:

    Courtney, from experience, the way you are feeling is a perfectly normal reaction. If your instincts are telling you that there is something slightly off about the situation, there probably is. Trust your instincts and keep trusting S. and talking to him about it. With luck, one day you will be able to look back on this and laugh but until that day comes you have every right to feel uncomfortable and uneasy (and dare I suppose, a little protective of your “patch”).

    (Okay — that simple paragraph has taken me way too long to write. The reason is that this is all too weirdly similar to a situation that arose with D and one of his workmates. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to talk…)

  4. Make Tea Not War says:

    Ok, well I don’t know whether this will be vindicating or make you think what an uptight possessive person I must be but- honestly I would have drawn the line at Happy Hour every Friday unless its a group of colleagues which happens to include this woman and your husband. Just the two of them- not quite what I’d be comfortable with.

    It’s not just me- I asked my husband how he would feel if hypothetically speaking I was going for weekly drinks with a male colleague and he said he thought it sounded dodgy. Where there is alcohol there will be lowered inhibitions and if she is a bit lonely there is potential for awkward situations- even though, I’m sure your husband has only the best intentions and perhaps she isn’t consciously stepping over the line.

    I do think it is possible to be friends with opposite gender co-workers even if you are married but everyone concerned has to be really conscious of- and respectful of boundaries- and clear about where those lie. The occassional lunch or coffee during the week is fine. But generally after hours its less potentially confusing for everyone if partners are usually included.

  5. Thank you all for your thoughts. They’re incredibly helpful and I’ve been sharing them with S. Litlove – S. asked me to tell you that yes, he does tell me all the time how I’m his one and only and that he agrees completely with you – U. is imposing too much on both of our good natures – of course I agree as well! Charlotte – I’ve met some of U.’s women friends and I think she meets S. as much because we all live in the same neighborhood as anything else – she does have women friends but they live further away. Kerryn – I’ve been meaning to email you anyway – I will soon! Ms. Make Tea – I agree, weekly happy hours (both the weekly and the happy hour part) are too much.

    S. and I had a long talk last night and he agreed all of this was too much and he will be taking the happy hours down to only very, very occasionally and none for the next several weeks, and nothing extra. He said he really does believe she’s simply lonely, a lot of her friends are out dating and she has these two little boys, and Friday night is the only night her mom can watch the kids, etc. and etc. I do feel better – again, I trust S. and so long as the happy hours turn to occasional events I think I’ll feel much better. I’ll be spending all day with her and S. and some other university folks Saturday so I’m happy to feel at least more comforted going into that situation! Thanks for indulging this post everybody!

    Oh, I told S. I would note the following: I spent the day listening to the St. Jude telethon, raising money for sick children. All the childrens’ stories were set to sad country music. This might have ever so slightly increased my sense of the dramatic yesterday. I don’t think it did, but that is S.’s opinion.

  6. Katie says:

    I think it’s a little weird (and good thing S does too). There’s nothing wrong with setting up some boundaries. You should see if you can introduce her to some other female friends. If she’s lonely, friends are what she needs. If she’s just interested in your hubby, you’ll see that pretty quick.

  7. laura says:

    How funny that just yesterday, Jim and I were talking about “can men and women really be just friends?” And I think we came to the conclusion that yes, if both people are involved in happy and stable relationships, and all four people are buddies, then yes, the man and woman can be friends. But even then, not best friends, just buddies.

    So I would totally be uncomfortable with this situation. She is single, and your husband is married. Married men are very hot property to some women, and I’m not saying that’s the kind of woman she is, but… no, just not appropriate. And obviously S. feels the same way too.

    So don’t feel unfeminist about it.

  8. Trust your gut. Not all women are good and trustworthy, not saying she isnt a great woman, just be careful. It is good you can talk openly and honestly with your husband.

  9. Emily says:

    Well, the happy hour thing EVERY Friday does sound a bit odd, but as a woman who has always had many male friends (I had many more male roommates when I was single than female ones), none of whom could EVER hold a candle to my dear, dear husband, I’d be equally uncomfortable if he were to tell me I couldn’t meet these friends alone occasionally. That being said, I always meet them in public places during lunch hours, and I don’t spend time with them when I could be spending time with Bob. One thing I’ve always told him, though, when he has occasionally hinted that I have one or two male friends he’s not sure he trusts (I never see these particular men alone, in a nod to his feelings, not because I’m the least bit interested in being anything other than friends with them, but because his security is more important than my seeing them), is that I’M the one he needs to trust, not them. Maybe they aren’t trustworthy (I doubt it. My friends are all gentlemen), but unless they plan to rape me (pretty difficult to do, since I never see any of these friends in places that aren’t public), it’s a moot point, because I’m not going to respond.

    You’re absolutely right about marriage. It’s not all a bed of roses. It’s like everything else in life. There are good and bad things about being single, and there are good and bad things about being married Why marriage is touted as the perfect condition is beyond me.

  10. LK says:

    Does “U” stand for “Usurper?”

    And “S” stands for “Sensible.”

    So, Courney, love, (wasn’t that cute how I worked that in), the “C” must stand for “Consciousness.” (definitely, not that other “c” word).

  11. m says:

    Honestly- St. Jude had nothing to do with it. Unless St. Jude was U in disguise. In disguise at happy hour with another woman’s husband. In disguise at happy hour with another woman’s husband WEEKLY.

  12. Kelly says:

    Hi Courtney,

    I have to weigh in as the single woman with a few married male friends.

    I am not the type of woman who would ever go after another woman’s husband, but I always appreciate when the wive’s are understanding like you were.

    My old partner here at work is a married man with 3 kids and we would often work late and sometimes have drinks after work. But his wife was always invited and he always checked with her.

    However, I also let him ask me to hang out. Unless I’m asking to have him help me on a project. But we talk about it all the time and he is very aware of keeping everything respectful, never has done anything inapporiate and we mostly talk of work. We are prettty good friends now. Funny thing, is his wife is named Kelly too.

    Another friend, his wife had me over to watch a movie and I felt like I was on a play date with her husband. 🙂

  13. Jean says:

    I read this post and it reminded me of this time about a year or so ago when A called me at work to ask me about whether baby Adidas tennis shoes would be a good gift for a baby. I think expensive desinger sneakers for an infant are a big waste of money and so I suggested some other things one could buy for a new baby.
    Now, you know my husband—baby gifts are not his concern. Some of our friends have started to have children, but I would be surprised if my husband even noticed. I have shown him pictures of my nephews that have been barely met with acknowledgement.
    But, despite his disinterest before, he wanted to buy a really nice gift for the girl at work (the only girl he ever talked about by name, which for some reason irked me too). But, I tried to pretend like I did not care, but IT bothered me. After suggesting a few places for baby where he could shop and a few items he could buy, with each suggestion apparently not ‘special enough,’ I just lost it. I yelled down phone that I did not know why he called me for advice; I did not know why he cared so much; and I don’t give a damn what he buys for someone elses stupid baby!
    I felt like a complete cow…not because I felt the way I did– which is normal even if my husband thinks my jealously was unrational–I am only disappointed that I let me feelings show like that. That, even though I started off with the best intensions of “helping” my husband ‘buy for baby’, I couldn’t hold in my irritation that he could/would care about a strange woman’s child in a way I have never experienced before and want to get the ‘right’ thing for the new baby.. I wish that I had just said “Adiadas, that’s a great idea!”

  14. After reviewing my blog stats I think it’s funny this post has received more hits than anything else I’ve written – I guess it’s more universal than a lot of other subjects!

    LK – U for Usurper – I love it!
    Katie – It’s a good idea to introduce her to some of my friends, I guess. But I guess I just don’t see anything in her that could be much of a friend to me, so I would feel weird passing that on.
    Laura – I agree you two. I think for men and women to be buddies, both sets have to be in steady relationships and even then it can’t transcend beyond buddydom.
    Mutt princess – I am crazy lucky I can talk to my husband about anything! I realize that, definitely.
    M – I don’t think the St. Jude telethon has much to do with it either! But it was really really sad, all the same.
    Emily and Kelly – interesting points from both of you! I never thought my life would be dictated by what is and is not ‘appropriate’ but I think to some extent it is.
    Jean – that’s how I feel too – I hate letting insecurity and frustration show. In any marriage you have to pick when and where battle, and losing it on something that is more about you than it is about him sucks, absolutely. Although I can just see A. baby shopping for some little Adidas…that seems like him!

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