A lesson in boundaries: when to confront an extramarital flirter
Carolyn Hax advises a wife against confronting an attention-seeking woman who flirts with her husband.
DEAR CAROLYN: So, I know what NOT to do when another woman openly hits on my husband: call her names, start a public fight, generally look like a jealous fool.
But ... what exactly is the appropriate response when this happens? A woman in my social circle has major boundary issues and is very flirty and physical. Recently she has targeted my husband and done one or two really unbelievable things that other people noticed and pointed out to me.
My husband does his part — he is good at pulling himself out of awkward situations — and I trust him, so I don’t feel a real need to confront this woman, but I wonder whether I should, on principle.
— San Francisco
DEAR SAN FRANCISCO: Way-out-there flirting with people who have already been spoken for is sad, attention-seeking behavior; when it works, it brings positive attention from the target and negative attention from the target’s partner. Score.
So on principle, you do nothing. No matter how delightful they are for witnesses, skip the hands-off-my-man confrontations.
Your husband’s role is to have no interest in her as a guilty pleasure. Yours is to have no interest in her as a threat. Voilà, a beast left unfed.
If you feel compelled to intervene, then wait. When she does “really unbelievable things” to someone else’s squeeze, you’re free to speak discreetly on everyone’s behalf, hers especially: “Desperella, what’s going on? That was over the line.”
DEAR CAROLYN: Close guy friend was just dumped, five months before the wedding. She says it was because she wanted to travel and work, while he wants to settle down and have kids. All of us friends are calling it a line of crapola.
What should my husband, who was going to be one of the groomsmen, and I say or do? My heart hurts for him.
I don’t think I’m the only one who knew they weren’t a good match, although I’d NEVER say that (well, not anytime soon, anyway).
DEAR DUMPED: For starters, you can stop referring to a legitimate, breakup-worthy difference as “crapola.” Even if it is, and she really just fell out of love or found someone else, saying it’s about kids allows your friend both to save face and repel the pitying hordes. Her explanation also neatly avoids vilifying anyone. Why mess with that?
And that brings up something else: no pity, no potshots. Getting dumped is awful, yes, but he isn’t helpless and she isn’t evil, right? They just didn’t work, for reasons only they truly know, and are better for calling off now what lawyers would eventually put asunder.
Enough don’ts. Do listen more than you talk. Do include him by extending invitations with no pressure to accept. Do trust he already knows “they weren’t a good match,” thus relieving you of the obligation to find just the right time to say everyone knew this long ago. Do let him decide when he’s ready to talk, circulate, trust, love — and save meddling for emergencies (depression, for example) instead of times when you’d just do things differently.
Finally: Do respect the big picture. He’s down now and you’re the helpers, but that could change faster than a triplet’s diaper. People don’t want rescuers — just equals who don’t treat them like they grew a second head.