Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at it. I get a lot of variations of this one: “I’m jealous of women at work!” When you’re worried that someone at your huband’s work has her eyes on your husband, what do you do?
A woman writes:
My husband and I have been married for over a decade. We’re blessed with wonderful kids and we love each other very much. We love God and we seek Him in all we do. My husband has been working with a married woman in our church for more than a year now. Their offices are next to each other and they occasionally share a coffee and conversation with each other at work. He has assured me that he tries to avoid being alone with her, he avoids talking to her for too long and leaves conversations with his male co-workers when she joins in. He doesn’t do anything social with her outside of the office. However, I have seen how she interacts with other men at church–she doesn’t have many female friends but flirts and jokes around with the guys all the time. She makes a point of it to bring up some of the conversations she’s had with my husband when we chat at church… I’ve taken out most of my frustration with the situation on my husband and we’ve fought about it a lot. He feels I don’t trust him, but I don’t trust her!
Changing jobs isn’t an option because in his line of work there can always be women working with him. I’ve asked if he could move offices… but he isn’t too keen to do that as he would be put in an awkward position to explain why. Should we speak to our elders at church? Or should I just get over my issues and trust him and leave it at that? We fight almost every Sunday after facing her again at church and I feel like its become an obsession with me. At church he barely greets her and they never speak but then she tells me about conversations they had at work. I’m afraid I’m doing exactly what I don’ t want to: driving him away.
Many of us are in similar situations. Women at work seem to talk to our husbands a lot! And coworkers certainly can pose a threat to our marriages, as I’ve written about before regarding texting and other technology. But in this instance, it looks like the husband is behaving well. So here are a few thoughts for this woman and others like her:
Don’t Take Something Out on Him He Hasn’t Done
The one sentence that really stands out in this email to me is this one:
He feels I don’t trust him, but I don’t trust her!
I’m not exactly sure what that sentence means. If you trust him, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. What is it that you don’t trust her to do? Do you think she’ll have an affair with your husband? She can’t do that if he’s trustworthy. Are you afraid she’ll come on to your husband? So what? If your husband is trustworthy he’ll turn her down. Why, then, berate your husband because you don’t trust her? She has no power over your husband if your husband is trustworthy.
Here’s the thing: if your husband is trustworthy, it really doesn’t matter what she does.
So what does it matter if you don’t trust her? What does it matter if she’s flirting with your husband? If he draws boundaries and turns her down, you’re all okay.
Suggestion: Ask yourself, “has my husband ever given me any reason not to trust him? Is my husband acting appropriately in this situation?” If you can answer those questions to your satisfaction, then honestly, let it be. Don’t punish your husband for something he’s not even doing–especially if he’s acting appropriately!
Now, if he’s not acting appropriately, that’s an entirely different story, and I’d point you to some of the articles I’ve written on emotional affairs and on discovering your husband is having an affair. But let’s assume for now that the husband is acting appropriately. What, then, should you do?
Decide What You Want Your Husband to Do
Let’s look at this letter for a moment. She doesn’t want to go to the elders, because no matter where he goes he’ll work with women. She doesn’t want him to switch offices because that’s not practical. She does want him to set boundaries, but he’s already done that. And he’s not texting his female co-worker, and she’s not texting him.
So if you’re getting annoyed at a woman, instead of focusing on that woman, whom you have no influence over, ask yourself, “what do I want my husband to do?”
The answer can’t be, “Get her to stop flirting!”, because he can’t control what she does. So it has to be something that he can do.
And if you can’t name anything you want him to do differently, then you have to let it go and stop bothering him about it. It just isn’t fair.
Make Sure Your Marriage is Rock Solid
Every marriage goes through seasons of distance. Every marriage at some point is at risk. And the easiest way to minimize the risk ISN’T to get rid of all the possible temptations outside of marriage. It’s simply to make your marriage the best it can be!
If you find yourself starting to get jealous, then work on your friendship more. Find a new hobby you can do together. Plan more date nights with your husband, even if they’re just at-home date nights. Make sex a priority!
Get to Know the Women Your Husband Works With
I firmly believe that as much as possible spouses should be involved in each other’s lives. And you’ll find that if you know the people your husband works with, jealousy will likely decline. First, they’ll know you, and it’s much harder to go after a man if you know his wife. And second, if she’s no longer an abstract but a real, breathing person, you may not feel such jealousy towards her.
Confront the Woman, if Appropriate
If you feel that she is being flirty with your husband, there’s nothing wrong with going to her and saying,
“I’ve noticed that you’re really a friendly person, and that’s great. But I’m not sure if you realize how it comes across when you’re that friendly to your male co-workers. It just worries me, and I’m sure it worries others, too, and I’m asking you, as a woman, to keep your conduct with my husband on a professional level.”
Would that be hard and awkward to say? Absolutely. But it’s far fairer to your husband to have that moment of awkwardness with her than to constantly grill him on what she’s doing.
Ask Yourself Why This Bothers You So Much
Something in this whole situation is triggering something in this woman. She’s reacting in fear and anger and lashing out at her husband. The question is, why?
Ask and pray through that question. When you start feeling scared, ask yourself, “what exactly is it that I’m scared of?” Pinpoint it. Then ask yourself, “Do I have a reason to be scared?” If the answer is yes, then I’d suggest asking you and your husband to go in for counseling together, or talking to a mentor couple. It certainly could be that you’re anxious because you’re picking up the signs of a real budding relationship.
However, in this particular case it really sounds more like she’s reacting to something that’s going on inside of her, not something that her husband is doing. Many of us start marriage with baggage. We’re insecure. We worry we’re not attractive. We worry no one will really want to stay with us for life. We worry our marriage will end up like our parents’ marriage did. And so when we see someone who seems like a threat, we go overboard.
The issue, though, is with you, not with your husband and not with this woman.
In this case, talking and praying with a friend through some of your insecurities and fears, and especially talking with a counselor about some of the insecurities you may have from brokenness in childhood, is likely a good idea. Perhaps the whole reason that this episode is happening is to give you a jolt, or a kick in the pants, to deal with something. God doesn’t want you to be insecure, and He doesn’t want you paralyzed with fear. He wants you healed. If you’re over-reacting to something, it’s a sign that something’s wrong, and that there’s healing to be done. That’s perfectly okay. There’s nothing wrong with having issues; there’s only something wrong with refusing to work on your issues.
So find someone to talk to who can guide you through figuring out the root of your insecurities. A licensed counselor is probably best, and many churches can direct you to someone if they don’t have one on staff. But do deal with this!
I want to say, again, that I know that often in cases when you’re jealous of a co-worker it is for a reason. Your husband really is at risk of having an affair. In this case, though, it really doesn’t look like it, and I’ve received enough emails that are similar that I thought it should be dealt with. Sometimes we blame our husbands for things that aren’t their fault, and it’s much better on the marriage to figure out what the underlying problem actually is.
Now let me know in the comments: Has jealousy ever reared its ugly head with you? What did you do?
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