Just this Christmas, my husband ran into his old high school fling. Since she was starting to see my sister’s brother in law, we spent Christmas with her as well. I noticed that there is still an undeniable sort of chemistry (for a lack of a better word) between them. They had the whole “crush” thing going on.When they talked there were genuine smiles and enthusiastic energy between them. My husband, who normally wouldn’t care about spending time with my sister’s in laws, suggested that we spend our entire Christmas break with them. However, I wasn’t too worried, because my husband was blatantly honest with me about his feelings for her. We talked like two high school girls way into the night about it. He was pretty excited about seeing her again and told me he wished he could’ve talked to her some more. I told him, that it is natural to feel that way about people as long as he doesn’t act on it. I told him that I’d be naive to think he won’t have some sort of chemistry with the opposite sex just because we are married. And then I told him to be very careful and respect our marriage vows.
My wife has a theory about infidelity. Women he’s been with? Not a threat. Women he’s never been with? Threat.
He told me he felt very alive and has not felt this way since his mother passed away (his mom died 5 years ago, 5 months after we started dating). On our long drive home, he went on his Facebook account and requested to be her friend. That night when we got home he went to his Facebook and saw that she had posted a comment on his wall. Normally, he replies with another comment, but this time he sent her a private message and told her he wished they had had more time together. Should I be worried? I walked in on him emailing her, but he didn’t try to cover it up, instead he read it aloud to me and asked me what I thought of it. And I told him it sounded good, and reminded him to be careful with private messages (emails). This morning I got a note from him saying how much he loves me and that I’m his rock and looking forward to another new year with me. I need your help. I’m confused as to whether I should be worried or not. We have a pretty solid relationship but you never know. Should I Be Worried My wife has a theory about infidelity. Her observation, as a serial monogamist who has been cheated on at least three times, is this: Women he’s been with? Not a threat. Women he’s never been with? Threat. I like this theory and agree with it, with one exception, which I’ll discuss later. But my wife is savvy enough to know that if I’ve been with someone and am not with her anymore, it’s because I don’t want to be with her anymore. Thus, there’s no threat to our relationship, no unexplored sexual tension, no ‘what if.’In other words, if you’re a woman who is threatened by his ex, you’re probably wasting a lot of emotional energy on a pointless endeavor. The ex isn’t the threat. The crush is the threat. The crush is exciting, the crush is pregnant with possibilities, the crush is a man feeling young, exploring his virility, fantasizing about a different life. Yeah, the crush is trouble. So while you describe your husband’s woman as a former ‘fling,’she is actually functioning far more as a crush than an ex. And yes, you should be worried. But there’s a caveat, which gives your story a silver lining: you’re an adult and you’re married to an adult.
The crush is exciting, the crush is pregnant with possibilities, the crush is a man feeling young, exploring his virility, fantasizing about a different life.
You’re adult enough to know that your husband is married, not dead, and that he will always be attracted to other women. And he’s adult enough to acknowledge his inappropriate feelings, and put them on the table for you. (Readers: if you fantasize that your man will only have eyes for you, you will be perpetually unhappy. Learning to accept his mindless crushes and tease him about it is a much healthier path. At least that’s how my wife feels, preferring my adolescent crushes more than her cheating ex-husband. Back to our regular programming.) So, really, kudos to you for being able to discuss this like a trusting couple. It’s the most effective way to deal with sensitive issues, not making him wrong for feeling what he’s feeling, but wanting to understand what’s on his mind. What’s on his mind is something that’s beyond his control, the feeling of regret. A date once taught me this, and I never forgot it. She said: ‘Regret is the only emotion that grows over time. Pain fades, sadness fades, but the regret of not having done something only looms larger as you get older.’Which is why I’ve never tried to live life with many ‘What ifs.’Part of my getting married was due to the fact that I’d dated everyone in LA, and was not going to have lingering ‘what ifs’ about the women I would never meet. But even that’s not entirely accurate. It’s human to ask questions, it’s human to wonder, it’s human to fantasize about a completely different life path. It’s Walter Mitty. The unhealthy part is when you give into that notion. And I fear, based on your note, that your husband might be on the edge of tossing away the sure thing for the exciting thing.What he would most likely find is that he has more chemistry with her, but that she’s not in the place for a relationship, or that she is kind of selfish, or that she doesn’t like his work habits, or that they have completely different ideas about how to spend money, or that she’s not as kind and thoughtful as you are, This is usually what happens when we chase greener grass. And your husband seems to know it. Which is why he wrote that guilt laden email to you. He knows he’s on the edge of an emotional precipice. You have to stop him from falling and giving into temptation.
Being on Facebook with your attractive crushes when you’re married is like being an alcoholic who lives above a bar. Not healthy to put yourself in that environment.
When you do, don’t act threatened by her. She’s not a threat to you. He is. Ask him about how he feels about his former fling, what’s truly on his mind, and what good he thinks can come out of his continued conversation with her. Being on Facebook with your attractive crushes when you’re married is like being an alcoholic who lives above a bar. Not healthy to put yourself in that environment. Don’t forbid him from doing anything; but certainly suggest to him that it wouldn’t be wise to go much further down this road. He could stand to lose a lot more than he gains. Please let us know how it goes, and thanks for the challenging question.