My wife has been spending way too much time with a group of women in our neighborhood over the past couple of years and, as a result, they’ve become quite close. So close, in fact, that they vacation together, spend much of their free time together, text and call each other all the time, and are confidants for each other. I’ve tried to tell her how unhealthy this is for all of the families involved, but she disagrees with me. Should I be concerned? Am I just overreacting and jealous? Any ideas on what I can do to deal with this?
There are certainly countless things that can threaten today’s marriages. Really, anything done in excess can create problems for the delicate bond between husband and wife. It’s easy to lose the connection when there are competing interests.
To answer your question more directly: yes, it’s a problem for a spouse to prefer being with friends than with their marriage partner. The reason this is such a threat to marriage lies in the understanding of secure attachment. Humans are “pair bonders,” which is another way of saying that we do much better when we’re connected to another person. When something threatens our bond to our partner, we become agitated and upset. We either get louder or we withdraw. Either way, it’s painful.
These types of situations can get so out of control that it threatens marriages and families. I wonder what the children think of their mothers preferring to spend time with a group of friends rather than at home with their own families?
Your wife’s group of friends is essentially replacing you as her “pair bond,” so naturally, you’re going to be defensive. It will be difficult for you to talk about this without feeling threatened. No one wants to feel replaced and unimportant. Here are some thoughts on what you can do:
Since giving up her friends will not be an easy task for her, it will be important to spend lots of time understanding what these ladies mean to her. If she’s willing to open up about these relationships, you might learn some things that she is missing in her marriage with you. There may have been a time when there was enough space in your marriage for these other women to become important enough for her to make them her priority.
Or, you may find that she is getting a sense of fulfillment from them that is meeting some unmet need. The reasons may be complex or simple. It’s hard to know until you have that conversation. If she won’t engage in an adult conversation with you and find a healthy balance with these friends, you may find yourself needing to seek more extreme measures.
What would happen if you contacted the other husbands and held a meeting to talk with the other couples about the impact this is having on everyone. It’s likely that you’re not the only one concerned about this situation. Obviously, you can always enter marriage counseling to get some outside help with this concern. If she won’t attend with you, don’t give up. Attend counseling yourself and get help knowing what else you might do to fight for your marriage.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, UT. Please send questions for future columns to: [email protected]. Geoff maintains a blog, article archive, Twitter feed, and Facebook page which are available at www.geoffsteurer.com.
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