She's Talking to Other Guys

Q: I have been married for almost 17 years to the same woman who I still love as much as ever. She told me a few months ago that she didn't love me anymore and didn't feel she was getting what she needed emotionally. We agreed to go to marriage counseling, and I thought we were making some progress. Now I found out that she has been getting calls and calling guys she has met on the Internet, and she's been hiding phone bills and other evidence from me. She insists they're just friends. Even after our relationship was in danger of ending, she continued to talk to these men. One of them is just 21 years old and she is 36 and I'm 37! Now we are preparing to separate, but I feel like maybe I am wrong for making such a big deal about this. Is it worth throwing away my long marriage and not trying to save it? -- Jack

Dr. Susan: Sounds like your wife is having a kind of early midlife crisis. After 17 years, she's found a shortcut to excitement: flirting with strangers. No, you're not wrong to be concerned about these so-called friendships with a variety of other men. Such secret relationships are how affairs begin. If she hasn't already connected in person with someone else, she may sooner or later, when chatting alone loses a little of its thrill. These kinds of secret things can be addictive, like chocolate or booze or gambling. She really will have to come clean about what's going on for her, whether she's clear yet herself or not. I'd highly recommend sticking with the counseling for a longer time. It takes time to get to the bottom of the problem, more time to figure out how to help her get her emotional needs met without sacrificing you in the process, and then it will take further time for her to feel okay about having to give up her little side thrills. Men and women can have separate friends with separate interests, but I'd bet this is not what's really going on here. Please do try to save your marriage. It's a real challenge, but those who've succeeded are often the happiest couples of all.

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