My wife’s flirtatious behavior drove us apart

I’ve been in a relationship for a total of 5 years—falling in love quickly and becoming best friends. My wife is employed in banking and her accounts are the Automobile Dealerships in our area. I am a professional educator however, about 15 years ago, after 25 years in education I took some time off and sold cars at a large dealership in my city. I worked in that field for 3 years moving from sales to finance. I still have several friends who work at that dealership and I visit regularly. My experience there was not good as I had a chance to see the behavior of many, many men who were in the business. The worst place was at the door, or standing outside of the showroom. Nearly every attractive woman who walked across the lot was ogled by the guys. If she was well endowed, or had a nice view from behind comments would fly between the men at the door. If she was attractive with those attributes above and happened to have jaw structure causing an over bight comments were made about benefits of that anatomical feature. Just about every thing imaginable was said at some point. It bothered me to the point that I could not stand with the ‘guys’ any longer and became a loner.

When a woman was alone she became fresh prey for whichever man wanted to take a run at her. Many times the guys got lucky and hooked up afterword. The men were always engaging women who worked there in some inappropriate way. My wife is well endowed with 38 DD and is 5’7 and at that time had an athletic body. She had just lost 50 pounds and was feeling ‘attractive’.

The men, have incredible training in ‘how to close a deal’ and are skilled in the art of verbal judo turning conversations in any direction they wanted simply by asking certain questions. They were trained in making customers feel ‘comfortable’. It was also drilled into the heads of sale people how to find common points with a client, engage those points in such a way to develop commonalities and shared interests. Soon there was enough commonality and ‘value’ in the product the woman felt comfortable and her guard came down even more.

Actually the finance guys were the masters of getting customers to do what they really didn’t want to, but the people would do it anyway. Think about the sales pitch for an extended warranty...logical right? I have seen customers buying a brand new Hyundai with 100,000-mile warranty also purchase an extended warranty at a cost between $1,500 to $2,500.

In the early phase of our relationship I raised concern about boundaries and was assured my wife had ‘walls around her that were impossible to get through’. However when talking about her job she would say things that she clearly had been engaged in inappropriate conversations with the men.

I lived with this for 3+ years before we went to counseling. The woman counselor met with her 3 times. Then after the last time my wife came home and as we were watching a movie she got up and was pacing the living room, then she started crying. Why? I asked. She said "The counselor told her that she did not have good boundaries with men. That when she interacted with men during the course of her workday she gave the impression that ‘she was available and interested. She said the counselor was going to coach her on how to keep boundaries, which included strategies like: don’t share personal information (something I had been telling her for 3 years). She as also to have an agenda and stick to it--no more off topic chats about whatever the finance guy wanted. She as also told to ‘stay on her own side of the desk. (I did not want to hear the rationale the counselor had for that one, but it’s involving my wife standing close or over the men pointing out details of a finance plan when he said he could not find it on the paper. I personally believe that was a man’s strategy to get her to stand close and get a good look down her blouse or sweater when she bent over.

On her first visit with a new finance guy she tells me that morning what she was going to do, follow and agenda, don’t share personal information and stay on topic. I said good luck and I can’t wait to hear how you do. Well, that night we chatted and she reviewed her interaction. Within the first ten minutes she had told the guy that if he has questions on weekends he can "call me on my cell phone I’m always available." Within 45 minutes she told him ‘she was always available on weekends just call her cell phone. (FYI-she did not work on call, or have responsibilities for weekends). Then the guy said something about his daughter playing competitive softball on weekends so he usually did not work. She responds with ‘My daughter played in that league and we went all over." He and she talked for another 15 minutes about kids and weekends. I told her she had not followed her agenda and basically had told the guy she was ‘always available, just call me on my cell." She argued that she had been appropriate. We went to the counselor together and told the story. The counselor was not committed to saying she had give the guy permission to ask her out. I maintained she had. I said lets bet that the next time she goes in that he asks her out.

Then the counselor says to me. “You need to understand that your wife will never tell you the entire truth of what she does; when your wife is out there working and interacting with these men she is not going to tell you everything that happens. You need to understand that she will do things with these men that she will never tell you about.” And finally, she told me, “You need to understand that no matter whatever happens out there between your wife and those men that at the end of the day she comes home to you, she chooses you." I did not know what to do.

My wife and I made an agreement about her communicating to me about this man’s behavior, if he was appropriate or not. For nearly a year I asked every day if she talked to him (via questions about how her day was, who got the most loans, etc). After 5 to 6 months of this ‘process’ she had told me once or twice she had even talked to the guy. Then about one more month she is telling me the top dealers for a month and the dealership where this guy works was first. I said, I asked if you had interactions with this guy and you told me no. She argued. Shortly after that incident, and several others I left.

After a few months of being apart she started coming to my house to go on motorcycle rides. Soon we became intimate and I said I did not want a relationship. She said, "that’s fine, I just want to be with you."

Within the last few days we were arguing and her stories were not congruent (this happened quite regularly during our years together too). I finally asked why she thought the counselor had told me the things she had during out session. (Remember the ‘she will do things she will not tell you about, she will do things wit these men that you will never hear about, etc. above. She said "I don’t know why she (counselor) thought that, or why she said that to you). I said ‘no worries’ when we meet with her in a couple of weeks I’ll just ask her directly why she would have given me those statements. The next day she said, ‘It’s not working with us...I don’t want to go back to the counselor,” she admitted that she had/has been engaging in very personal relationships with some of these men even during our time together.

Obviously I was upset. I ended it all with a statement that "let me understand… that while I was home working and doing all the cleaning, cooking, all the dinners for you, making your lunch for work, and bringing you coffee when you get up, doing all the laundry, all the shopping, spending a couple of thousand dollars and hundreds of hours on your lawn/flower beds, helping you financially, and being 100% committed to you… Now you are telling me that you’ve been interacting with these men inappropriately?”

Where did I go wrong??


There are multiple ways to look at this scenario.

To begin with, falling in love quickly can be exhilarating, but it also comes with some costs. Namely, you often don’t get a good picture of the person you are falling in love with. Love clouds one’s perception and judgment. Relationships work best when couples take the time to get to know each other in detail, after intense feelings of passion have started to fade. From your description, your wife seems like an outgoing and friendly person. Men often interpret such behavior as being flirtatious, even when it is only intended as being social and friendly. Perhaps if you had seen this aspect of your wife’s behavior before you were married, you might have decided that she was not someone you wanted to be with. It is very difficult to change another person’s behavior. Trying to change the person you married, often leads to frustration, resentment, and anger. If your wife had trouble establishing boundaries with other men, why did you not know this before you got married? In future relationships, it might be wise to intentionally slow things down while dating. Get to know someone in depth, watching how someone behaves in different contexts, around different types of people.

Also, when trying to work through your feelings, consider multiple points of view. Are your feelings appropriate? Does your wife have the right to be friendly with other men – even if others may interpret her behavior differently – isn’t that her decision to make? Where exactly are you trying to draw the line? If she is faithful to you, shouldn’t that be your real concern? Also, to what extent does your reaction to the situation reflect on your own anxieties? If your wife loves you, is faithful to you, and treats you well, why the insecurity? Some people are inclined to be anxious and anticipate the worst possible outcomes (see anxious attachment). Such individuals often create their own worst fears – they let their insecurities get the best of them to the point where their relationships actually come to an end, not because their spouse cheated, but because their insecurities caused too many problems in the relationship. Sometimes it is useful not only to look at other people’s actions, but your own reaction to their behavior as well. Working on your own reactions may have helped you deal with this situation more effectively.

Finally, trying to control what a spouse does is not an effective way of engaging in problem solving. The best way to engaging in problem solving is to not confront the issue, but discuss the topic in a collaborative way. Relationships work best when people discuss their feelings, listen to each other’s perspective on the problem, and attempt to solve the problem collaboratively. When you noticed that your wife wasn’t behaving as you wanted, instead of focusing on her actions, it probably would have been better to focus on how you were feeling – threatened, scared, frustrated. Focusing on feelings, rather than evaluating a partner’s actions, allows couples to empathize with each other and work together to try to resolve the issue. Judging, evaluating, critiquing, or trying to change a partner’s behavior often results in relationships coming apart.

You can never control what a partner does. The best you can do is learn to share your feelings in a constructive way, examine your own reactions, and evaluate if your needs are being met. If your wife did have issues maintaining appropriate boundaries with other men, instead of focusing on her behavior, it may have been helpful to listen to her, understand why she behaved that way, and allow her to work through her issues (and make mistakes) knowing that she had your support. Relationships are a process, not an outcome. Sometimes these issues never get fully resolved, but couples learn to love and support each other as they face life’s dilemmas.

 anxious attachment | end of relationship | wife flirts

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