Wife’s airplane encounter has been down

My question may seem trivial, but the feelings I’m experiencing are very real, confusing, and conflicted. My wife of 25 years of whom I adore more than words can explain revealed something to me very surprising. First off, you must understand she is VERY socially conservative to the point of being painfully shy and introverted. She does not drink. She is genuinely caring about others, much more than for herself. We have an excellent communicative relationship and historically a health love life, albeit things have slowed down somewhat due to age (51-52). I also need to preface this in that she looks like she’s 35, extremely petite, in great shape and very attractive physically.

So, a month ago she flew out of town for a memorial for her cousin who passed at just 48. Her cousin was well known for traveling the world and making lifelong friends everywhere she went in all circumstances. On my wife’s return flight home, I meet her curbside with the usual “very happy to see her” greeting. When we got in the car I asked how her flight was. She usually doesn’t travel alone, and she replied in an unusually upbeat manner that it was really good. A little unusual for her. I simply asked how come and she said she meet someone (a guy) on the flight and they had a really good enjoyable conversation. I said I thought that was great but said “wow, that’s different for you”. She agreed and said she felt like after her cousin’s memorial that spoke so much about how easy it was for her to talk to a meet people (again, not one of my wife strong suits) that she almost felt as if her cousin was “channeling” through her or perhaps being so open to a stranger in her cousin’s memory on a subconscious level.

I expressed how truly awesome I thought that was, to see her kind of pumped up about it. I asked a few cursory questions about the guy and I pretty much left it alone other than to point out to her in a light-hearted way that no guy takes interest in a woman without some “thought”. Especially, with someone as adorable as my wife. She brushed it off and said, “no, is was just conversation about common interests”. So, I let it alone. Fast forward about a month later, while during a quiet moment and lack of conversation among us as we become empty nesters, I off the cuff said, tell me a secret, something after being together for 30 years I don’t know. She paused, then revealed a harmless cute secret which was surprising but all good. Then a longer pause and she said, “remember that guy on the plane?” I said “yes” and she said, “we’ll, it really happened more like you said.” When I gently pressedshe went on to say, that he definitely had an interest in her and when I asked if she felt the same she said she also found him both attractive and the conversations very enjoyable and that she did initiate and maintain the conversation mutually all flight.

He offered to buy her a drink, she refused since she’s not a drinker. She mentioned he’s a triathlete in very good shape and attractive and that if she were single she could see pursuing it/him further as I somewhat pressed her on that topic, hence it is coming out. The conversation itself as she tells it seems the normal stuff, much about music since he mentioned he was a singer. With that my wife asked lots of questions about him and musical interests. She knows a good bit about music due to me, which she mentioned that to him. So, she brought me up in conversation and didn’t accept a drink. He mentioned many times how impressed he was with her knowledge and her with him as a singer and triathlete. As far as I know, they also talked about work and other regular surface stuff.

According to her, he was just the slightest bit touchy feely, but not to the point of creepy. However, she didn’t mind it or wasn’t put off by it. At the end of the flight, he took down her suitcase (not unusual), but then they walk all the way to baggage/curbside area and then they stopped and exchanged a hug. She said the hug initiated was more him but she didn’t stop it. I ask if it was two arms, front to front and she said no, closer to a side hug and “more” one armed on her part. Not exactly sure what that means but I didn’t want to push. So, after talking about it and thinking it through, it definitely seems this was more than just talking to the person next to you on a flight scenario.

What hurts is that first she didn’t tell me. And when she did the truth played more to my fears (of which I feel like I already knew deep down) and to ego, which is not big by any stretch. The fact that she said she found him attractive and “if single” would maybe have perused it further. In that they “connected” with each other and shared a hug, did a crossword together, my wife doing half the initiating (maybe because of her cousin), him asking to buy her a drink, etc.

To be fair my wife says he never crossed the line or asked for a number, her last name, or any social media contact. However, innocent yet so far out of character for her, it hurts fairly deeply. I suppose because of the attraction part. My wife NEVER admits or says she physically attracted to men and that it has to be emotional of which she only shares with me, according to her. Beside emotional stress it also hurt my ego, which is already small enough. I’m in fair shape, a bit over weigh (but athletic and active) for a dad of 2 at 52. However, I’m not a triathlete and I suffer from very low self-esteem… perhaps a real midlife crisis (that’s probably another conversation).

I know its normal for people to find other people attractive. She did mention she was married and brought me up in conversation. Perhaps a conscience or subconscious defense mechanism. On the other hand, I’m very conflicted about the following. I love that someone made her feel good about herself and that she summoned the courage to actually flirt back. This part I find attractive and a bit of a turn on despite all the real hurt. Why does it on one hand turn me on, and on the other hurt like hell? Is this behavior within the normal range of a spouse interacting with not just someone, but someone they admitted were attracted to, on a plane and then hugging? I’m really conflicted and don’t want to make more out of it then what it is or isn’t. That’s the problem, I don’t know what it was or wasn’t. She says nothing more than what she explained.

I’ve always felt it’s the “quite ones” or the ones that don’t express fantasy or admit to ever getting worked up over someone else, all traits of my wife, that can be the most deceptive despite all the overtly trusting, loving, and committed attributes. I wonder if she thinks about him. Would she even admit if she does? I wonder how it would have played out if it were a convention or other scenario encompassing several days, and so on.

Please help me process this!

Response:

To begin with, your feelings are normal. Your wife violated your expectations on multiple levels. She flirted with another man, was attracted to him, and try to conceal the nature of her conversation with him from you. When a partner violates your expectations, it can create a strong emotional reaction — a sense of betrayal.

To help you work through this situation, it helps to acknowledge what you’re feeling. Don’t try to push your thoughts or feelings away or overanalyze them. Writing down what you’re feeling can help you cope with your emotions more effectively.

Next, try to keep in mind that what your wife did is completely normal. She’s a human being who found someone attractive and flirted in an environment where it was safe to do so. It’s not like she was out at a bar looking for trouble, or flirting with someone she knew — like an ex or a coworker. She flirted with a stranger on a plane who she will never see again. The encounter was as harmless as it possibly could be. And part of you seems to know this because you enjoy thinking about your wife having a normal, flirtatious conversation.

As for her concealment regarding the encounter, this is normal too. No one likes to upset a partner or hurt his or her feelings. She did what any caring and loving person would do — she concealed elements of the conversation from you. She knew that telling you the truth would upset you (see why lovers lie). Why would she want to do that? It’s not like she’s thinking of leaving you and tried to conceal that from you. She shared a moment with a stranger on a plane and didn’t want to hurt your feelings because she loves you. In fact, she only told you about it because she was trying to create intimacy with you. Couples create intimacy by sharing the truth with each other. Creating intimacy, however, doesn’t always create positive feelings. Sometimes knowing the truth hurts. Sharing secrets with a partner is a risky thing to do. There are better ways to add excitement to a relationship (see boredom kills).

It may also help to look at your wife’s intentions. She concealed information from you to avoid hurting you and she shared painful information with you in an attempt to create more intimacy with you. She could have hidden the encounter to protect herself (to pursue him) and shared the information to hurt you (some spouses use the truth as a weapon in their relationships).

And the situation caused you to be both hurt and aroused. That’s normal too. Sexual feelings are complicated. It’s ok to be turned on by seeing a new aspect of your wife. Again, it helps to acknowledge your feelings rather than push them aside or dwell on them. You have contradictory feelings about what happened. Be kind to yourself and accept that you have mixed feelings about the encounter. There’s nothing to figure out… it just is.

Finally, try to avoid overanalyzing the situation. And try to avoid stereotyping your wife as being one of the “quiet”, devious ones. She doesn’t sound like it at all. Accept your feelings about what happened, be kind to yourself, and try to enjoy the fact that you have a good relationship with someone who loves and cares about you.

Hope that helps.

 wife flirts

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