Should I Be Worried About My Husband’s Facebook Crush On His High School Fling?

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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.

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Comments:

  1. 41
    Lorianne

    @Steve and Lance — Only a man would suggest a threesome in a situation like this. Just sayin’.

    This situation has red flag written all over it. This guy is being a class-A jerk and taking advantage of the woman’s willingness to accept his behavior. Maybe he feels guilty now, but after awhile he won’t feel so guilty anymore.

    I totally disagree about not forbidding him to communicate with the crush. In general, yeah, there’s nothing gained in trying to control somebody’s every move, but this situation is already out of control. The fact that he admits it doesn’t impress me. Who knows what he’s already done that he HASN’T admitted?

    And what about the crush’s responses to him? I would want to know a lot more about that. I agree with Evan that she isn’t the actual threat, but you want to know what cards you’re being dealt before you place a bet. If she’s not into breaking up marriages, that’s a plus. If she doesn’t care about stealing another woman’s man, AND he wants her (which this guy clearly does), that’s an entirely different ball of wax.

  2. 42
    beentheredonethat

    It wasn’t the “crushes” my husband told me about that caused problems in our marriage; it was the one he didn’t bother to share with me that changed him from husband to ex-husband.
    I know there is an exception to every rule but indulging his crushes and teasing him didn’t make him a devoted husband.
    This whole situation bothers me but its because Been There Done That. I wish her a better outcome than i see coming.

  3. 43
    Selena

    @41
    “If she doesn’t care about stealing another woman’s man…”

    You can’t steal a man who doesn’t want to be stolen.

    But I also wonder if the *other* woman in this case is aware of the depth of the husband’s crush. And how she’s playing this recent re-connection.

    @43
    I’ve also BTDT on this one. I’d tease my bf about his celebrity “crushes”. It was the affair with a long ago fiance of his that ended breaking us up. Funny how he failed to mention *finding* her after decades through a social network.

    I have to respectfully disagree with Mrs. Katz – old flames can be a threat – BUT that depends entirely on the willingness of the individual to allow them to be. I also wish the letter writer a better outcome than I see coming.

  4. 44
    Brad

    I feel like “crushes”, “exes” and “flings” are semantics (or they would be in my relationship). I would be concerned with any of them and would expect my wife to feel the same. It’s one things to find a waitress attractive, it’s another to make sure I’m at her table every chance I get.

    One divorce law firm in the U.K. stated that 20% of all their cases now cite Facebook in some form. I’m sure a lot of the examples they have started off innocently enough. Speaking on a personal level, I’m just not willing to submit my relationship to that kind of risk regardless of what label we apply. I’m capable of having my wife set some boundaries without feeling trapped. I believe the boundaries we set strengthen our relationship, not weaken it.

  5. 45
    Lorianne

    @Diana #39 — The double standard strikes again. Why does this not surprise me? Men in supposedly exclusive relationships are excused for blatantly checking out other women and drooling over a porn stash, but God forbid if a woman in a relationship even hints that the world does not begin and end with that particular man. I wonder how the OP’s husband would react if SHE were to reconnect with an old fling? Maybe she should try it.

  6. 46
    Selena

    @#45
    “I wonder how the OP’s husband would react if SHE were to reconnect with an old fling?”

    That’s EXACTLY what she should be asking him.

    I’m guessing he wouldn’t be altogether comfortable with it, let alone stay up giggling like two high school girls over it with her. Hopefully it would give him pause. Which he most definetly needs.

  7. 47
    JuJu

    Re: 45 & 46

    I somehow think he’d be totally okay with it. They are like high-school girlfriends, remember? 😉

    Seriously, I think the man has emotionally moved on.

  8. 48
    Steve

    From Lorianne, post #47
    I totally disagree about not forbidding him to communicate with the crush.
    “forbidding him”……is she his mother?
    I happen to agree with you about the red flags and her needing to communicate that she feels the relationship is threatened.

    However, if a woman I was with tried to tell me who I could and could not talk to I would reevaluate the relationship.

  9. 49
    Lorianne

    @Steve #48 — If the OP was worried about her husband having a night out with the boys, or if his friendship with this other woman didn’t have romantic overtures, you would have a valid point. But you know and I know that this is not the case here, and yes, I would forbid my husband from carrying on an affair with another woman — or making overtures that seemed to be leading that way. And if my husband decided he wanted to “re-evaluate the relationship” then maybe I would re-evaluate whether to seek the services of an attorney.

  10. 50
    Selena

    Good one Lorraine!

  11. 51
    bob

    Diana (# 32) asked: “This has me feeling curious. Are men accepting if their SO is strolling through Playgirl, or if they smile at the cute waiter, or laugh and chat with another guy at a party, etc.?”

    I know I don’t care if she looks at Playgirl or any other kind of porn. I’m an adult who can separate her fantasy from our life together. So long as she continually makes it clear that WE are primary in her life, and other things are secondary. We’re pretty sexual, so I’d use such viewing habits as an opportunity to be playful.

    Same with her talking to/flirting with men. Flirting is natural, and even somewhat unconscious. So long as (again) she makes it clear that WE are the priority.

    Parties are a special circumstance….I would expect either partner to be sure to make it clear that while they interact with other people, they’re keeping a “link” back to their partner, i.e. returning to their partners side occasionally, and not just flitting around with everyone else. This demonstrates both to their partner and the rest of the world, that they are a couple, a team.

    Of course, how a couple manages to demonstrate this link is unique to each couple. Personally, I don’t care to be apart from my gal for too long. Just me. YMMV.
    So in a nutshell, Diane, I don’t think many men care about things like porn, or their women flirting some.

  12. 52
    bob

    @Lorraine #49
    To Steve’s point – no matter what I’ve done, no matter how egregious my behaviour has been, I will never tolerate a woman (or anyone for that matter) to forbid, demand, or otherwise attempt to control my behaviour. That idea should be offensive to anyone on this blog, as it is in direct conflict with any concept of a healthy relationship, regardless of a party’s culpability. You can explain that someone’s behaviour is unacceptable and see if they change it, and leave if they don’t, but you cannot demand someone change.
    By demanding change, you remove the partnership, and install a dictatorship.
    Now, as to how this woman should handle this issue with her husband? She should definitely tell him that his communicating like this with his ex inappropriate…because it is. She needs to tell him that his saying he “felt alive” hurt her. She needs to be direct, and honest, but not critical. She needs to make him see how his behaviour hurts her, and their marriage. She should appeal to the “good guy” inside him, to let his own sense of integrity drive his desire to make things right.
    Once it’s clear that he understands the problem, if he doesn’t change his direction then it’s either counseling or divorce. Sounds harsh, but being a good husband means listening to your wife and trusting in her ability to provide a different perspective on circumstances.
    If her husband isn’t putting the marriage first, then they’re in trouble already.

  13. 53
    Sharia

    Bob @52: I will never tolerate a woman (or anyone for that matter) to forbid, demand, or otherwise attempt to control my behaviour.

    How is “not tolerating” different from “forbidding”? How do you “not tolerate” something without engaging in controlling behavior? Even “explaining that someone’s behavior is unacceptable,” as you put it, is a controlling behavior–judgmental, patronizing, and superior.

  14. 54
    anette

    #53

    Lol, good one. You are so right 🙂

    Forbidding some-one to talk with an ex, or not tolerating some-one telling you what to do is exactly the same thing. hahah.

  15. 55
    Jennifer

    I see them as two different things, though I agree the end result is similar.

    Not tolerating means the other person can do whatever they want, but you aren’t gonna stick around and be a party to it.

    Forbidding implies that you have enough dominion over someone to tell them what they can and can’t do, and that they will suffer some sort of punishment if they go against you.

    Now, can leaving a person be considered punishment? I suppose so, but I look at it more as an expression of the beliefs of the person leaving, rather than a punitive action against the person being left.

    In my relationships I’ve been up front about what types of behavior I find intolerable, but I don’t believe I’ve ever forbidden anyone from doing anything.

  16. 56
    Karl R

    Sharia and anette, (#53 and #54)
    If you want to influence someone’s behavior, the choice of words is critical to your success. My father would call this diplomacy. I would call it manipulation. Either way, you’re trying to get what you want.

    If you “forbid” someone from doing something, you’ll automatically get pushback. Telling someone that their behavior is “intolerable” is marginally better.

    How to get better results:
    Tell your partner, “When you do ____, I feel ____.” That’s a statement of fact, and it doesn’t leave a lot of room for arguement. And if your partner cares about you, they care about how you feel.

    This lady feels that her husband’s actions are deliberately putting him into situations where he’ll face the temptation to stray. She worries that he’ll get himself onto a slippery slope that will result in him cheating on her.

    Instead of accusing him of doing something, or telling him that he can’t do something, she can just tell him how she feels. There’s not much room for him to argue and push back against that statement. And she can use that to influence his behavior. For example, it might help her worry less if they could see a marriage counselor together.

    It’s all about the most effective way to get the result you want.

  17. 57
    Sharia

    Abandonment for not doing what someone else wants/expects falls into the category of punitive behavior in a lot of cases, I’d say.

    Examples: I’ve known several guys who said that they would have an affair or leave their partner (married or otherwise) if she gained weight. There was an article recently in response to the whole John Edwards thing reporting that a high number of men leave their wives when those wives face a terminal illness. A lot of women leave their husbands if he loses his job. So much for unconditional love.

    Some people are all polite and never raise their voices but still control a relationship through moral superiority and threats of abandonment if the other person doesn’t toe the line (passive aggressive). Some people issue lots of verbal warnings and deliver ultamatims and control the relationship that way (overtly aggressive). Some people are very agreeable and cooperative in conversation but then “forget” to do what they agreed to or flat out just don’t keep up their end of the bargain (passive aggressive). Some people rant and rave and never agree or cooperate (overtly aggressive).

    Control comes in many guises. Let he/she who is without sin….

  18. 58
    Selena

    I would forbid myself from staying with a partner who willfully carried on or courted an affair against my wishes.

    And that’s the point I got from Lorraine’s #49.

  19. 59
    Karl R

    Selena, (#58)
    We’re mostly referring to Lorraine’s earlier comment (#41).

  20. 60
    Kat Wilder

    Here’s what I’ve learned: If someone wants to cheat he or she will cheat, no matter what the other party (ie. wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc) does.
    Cheating reflects on the cheater’s moral compass either it’s there or it’s not. We’re all tempted every day, and all of us, like Jimmy Carter, have lust in our heart sometimes. So what?
    It’s a problem if it’s acted upon.
    Paying attention to the situation? Why? To drive yourself crazy?
    If she’s being the best spouse she can be (and therein lies the big “if”), then whatever happens will happen.

    1. 60.1
      Morgan

      I agree. People will do what they want to do. Hopefully we get into rs with someone who cares enough about our feelings to hear us when we bring up an important issue that hurts or bothers us. (That is why dating for 2 years is very important, as Evan points out!) I’m dating 7 years post divorce and in a short 2.5 months I’m finding out that the Ph.D I’m dating has very little emotional intelligence…..so it’s been frustrating and now I’m trying to decide if I can’t accept him just like he is right now then I need to let him go….
      When I was married it was very important to me (and for my husband to do if he was willing but he was not…that’s partly why he is ex) to hold good boundaries with the opposite sex. My behavior was such that guys didn’t flirt or try to come onto me because my boundary was strong and my behavior made it obvious I was not open to that. I was committed to my marriage and I felt it was respectful to my husband to do things so he felt valued this way. Sadly, it was not reciprocated. (we dated only a year before marriage! LOL)
      I also believe what we think about IS important. I completely understand that we are attracted to others at times and it is normal to feel that occasionally. I am a big believer in communicating. I try to bring up (big) issues when they occur so as to not sweep things under the rug and end with up resentment or to blind side my guy with a huge bomb of issues. (I try to choose my battles as well so everything is not an issue).
      Protecting our thought life is a part of having boundaries in a sense. Thinking (especially obsessive type of thinking -about someone else other than SO/spouse) turns into fantasizing turns into being emotionally unavailable and that can turn into a physical affair.
      I don’t hear people talk a lot about emotional affairs but they can be just as damaging. Emotional affairs, with a willing outside person, seem benign. But I’ve been a party to my ex having several emotional (and 2 physical) affairs and it’s demoralizing. I, myself, had an emotional affair with a willing outside person and I know for myself it kept me falsely happy internally and completely disconnected from my now ex. I was unhappy in my marriage and found myself in an emotional affair….and I saw how little I paid attention to my husband during it. I was not available emotionally, not present in the RS. I was distracted, always in the fantasy. What an awful thing to do to someone. I realized my own slippery slope (and there were a lot of other issues in my marriage) and learned that what I chose to think about would be important to a healthy marriage.
      The point I’m attempting to make is the husband of OP is in the beginning of an emotional affair with how much energy he is putting into this ex fling. The endorphins are swirling! I think he is talking to his wife about it as a way to diminish the ‘realness’ of what he is doing. This is a very slippery slope. And in my opinion, disrespectful and actually quite selfish.
      So although flirting can be fun and meaningless, it can also lead to bigger problems. To qualify some of this I’m probably talking more about people who are immature in their RS and/or already have high risk of infidelity due to either wife or husband having poor boundaries or other emotional issues that adversely affect the RS. People who are healthier and more mature can maybe handle some of this better. But I still believe what we think about IS something to think about!
      I do think the OP has some bigger issues to contend with….

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