My husband travels for work Monday-Thursday every week. Usually he works at a project for a year or so, so he becomes quite friendly with his co-workers who work away from home as well -- many whom I have never met and usually never will once he goes on to a new project.
When we first started dating, he had mentioned that instead of breaking up with his previous girlfriend of four years, he chose to cheat on her with a co-worker until he had the balls to finally end the relationship with his girlfriend. Six months into our relationship I suspected he was spending some alone time with a co-worker; he denied it and denied it, and then admitted to it once we were married. Yes, I kept bringing it up; I just needed to know. He said he was hanging out with her because he needed to make sure that I was the "one." He answered some of my questions on the premise that I would never bring it up again; I promised that, and I have kept my word. But not before he told me that I'm crazy and, "You know how you get with these things -- that's why I didn't tell you about it sooner."
Last spring, three years into our marriage, he gets a text message from a drunken co-worker at midnight. I respond to her text acting as if I were my husband; she says she's with her fiancé and is wasted. I talk about it with my husband -- the late-night drunken texting part -- but I don't tell him I responded to her. The next day he tells me he mentioned to her that I didn't appreciate the late-night text. He tells me nothing is going on between them. Fast-forward to the other night: His cellphone rings at midnight, waking us up; someone leaves a message and the phone is beeping, so I get up to shut it off and see that the same co-worker has called again. In the morning I tell him I want to listen to the voice mail; he puts it on speaker phone and I listen to a very intoxicated person saying that she loves my husband -- not a "I love you and don't know what I would do without you," but more like a drunken college student: "I love you, man!"
She goes on to say that he has been such an influence on her and babbles on about her and her fiancé going on a cruise. I tell him that I didn't know he was so close to her. He says he's not and he doesn't know how he's influenced her, and says, "I'm not talking about this again. You get all crazy! I don't know why she is calling me." I say that he asked her not to call again -- either she doesn't care or she has a drinking problem. "Oh yes, you've never gotten drunk, you're perfect," he says. He just gets so mean. I really don't believe anything is going on with them (they don't work together anymore), but I want to make my husband understand that if he put himself in my shoes, he would be livid, would insist I never talk to the person again and might even try to contact that person to tell him to back off -- which I feel like doing.
Who thinks it's OK to drunk-dial a married man? How can I get it through my husband's stubborn head that this is not cool and that I am not "crazy" for reacting this way and wanting some answers?
Dear Fed-Up Wife,
Quick: Before you do anything, picture yourself sitting on a seawall looking out at sea. Picture the way you adjust your eyes to catch a glimpse of something far away, like a seagull flitting in and out of the mist. Picture the way when you are trying to pick up something faint and distant, you grow still and try to take in as much light as possible, and try to scan the field, just hoping to see what is there.
Now picture yourself sitting there and be ready to ask yourself a question, and be ready, after you ask yourself the question, to identify the first thing you see, or the first words that come to you.
Do you trust your husband to tell you the truth about whether he slept with this woman?
Quick: What comes into your head? Is it a yes or a no?
It may be a hard question for you to answer. You may not be completely sure. So try this: Write that question down on two separate sheets of paper. Write: "Do I trust my husband to tell me the truth about whether he slept with that woman?"
On the first sheet of paper, write "yes." On the second sheet of paper, write "No." Then on each sheet write the reasons for your answer.
Explore how you feel about these two different answers. Just explore these things. Follow your intuition and feelings about them. Position yourself again as though you were sitting on a seawall looking far out at sea, straining to see something distant and in motion, like a seagull that seems to flit in and out of the mist. Position yourself to catch a glimpse. Ask yourself the question again: Do I trust my husband to tell me the truth about whether he slept with that woman? Which answer comes first into view? Which answer comes automatically?
This first answer may not reflect the objective truth; i.e., he may or may not be telling you the truth. But it will most likely be true for you; i.e., either you trust him or you don't. So then you will at least know what you believe, and that is a great place to start.
If you trust your husband to tell you the truth, then all we are concerned with is the poor etiquette of his ill-mannered friend. If his friend is ill-mannered and drunk, that is her business, not yours and not your husband's. He cannot be expected to control the behavior of other people when they are drinking and he is miles away, and asleep. That is utterly beyond his abilities. If the problem is that he does not express sufficient disapproval of her behavior, OK, perhaps he does not express sufficient disapproval. And in talking about this with you, he has been brusque and high-handed, which in itself tends to erode trust. But the fundamental question is: Do you believe him? If you believe him, this drunken texting is just another modern annoyance.
On the other hand, if you do not believe him, then you have identified your fundamental problem.
Then you at least know what kind of work you have to do.
If you realize that you don't trust your husband, you at least can begin working on the problem in the usual ways we work on such problems -- intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, with the help of books, advisors and trusted friends.
So, what I am saying, to summarize, is that it sounds like you are not 100 percent sure if you trust your husband. The trust issue is exacerbated by the fact that you are separated so much of the time; he, in essence, is living a separate life, and has extracted a promise from you not to inquire about certain matters related to that life. In extracting that promise, he has treated you in a brusque, high-handed and controlling manner. But the central issue is one of trust. I suggest that, using the methods outlined above, you endeavor to discover if, in your heart of hearts, you trust him to tell you the truth. The rest will follow from that.
"Since You Asked," a collection of your favorite columns by Cary Tennis: On sale now at Cary Tennis Books. Buy now to receive an autographed first edition!
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