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After forty one years of marriage, I’m beginning to think I never really knew my husband. I always believed I was the only woman in his life, but after we joined a church cell group I didn’t know what to think.

My husband became very friendly with three widows in our group. He used to sit next to them at the teatable, walk them to their cars where he would stay and chat. At church he used to drink tea with them or just be around them and chat with them a lot.

It even came to the point where he left me alone at a church dinner to go and find this one specific lady because he felt sorry for her as she didn’t have a husband. Actually, that’s the way I felt too. I could feel that he was withdrawing from me to be with those ladies more and more often.

I told my husband that I felt hurt and humiliated at the way he was showering these ladies with attention. He denied that he had done anything wrong and said he was just being friendly and kind. He accused me of imagining things and exaggerating certain incidents or seeing them out of context and so on. In addition, he said (and he meant this as he didn’t say it in anger) men don’t view close friendships with the opposite sex as inappropriate unless there’s sex involved.

In actual fact he repeated this view a number of times to explain why he felt he could be as friendly as he wanted to towards those ladies. To him it was completely innocent and above board and how on earth could I have a problem with that?

He told me that I would just have to accept the situation and stop being so jealous and mean-spirited. This situation continued for nearly four years and I could see how his friendship was growing with these ladies and how they flirted with him, especially one who’s regarded as something of a flirt.

Only after I had received counselling from a therapist who told me I had every right to ask my husband to stop these close friendships did he make some vague promises that he would be less friendly with these ladies. In spite of his promises, I see that he still greets them in a friendly manner even when I’m around, but at least he doesn’t see them at the cell group any more as I told him I wasn’t willing to be a part of that group any longer, so we both left.

After a great deal of discussion and under advice of a counsellor, he agreed that he would cool down those friendships especially as the two ladies in question are lonely widows and they could easily misunderstand his intentions. He promised that he would no longer talk to them on his own and keep his contact with them brief and to the point.

In spite of his promise, I see that the ladies are still very friendly towards him and when we do go to church functions, he becomes very restless and has disappeared on occasion after a while with some excuse or other. I think he misses the fact that we no longer sit with those ladies as we used to, so he goes in search of them (which he always denies, but that has happened in the past).

It’s not as if these women are not encouraging him, one of them keeps turning up where he is; this one lady in particular doesn’t sing in the choir, but she waits outside in her car until we come out, presumably so that my husband can speak to her; we also come across her (coincidentally?) at the supermarket and so on. In church I’ve also noticed how she sits and watches us. I I think she feels if she keeps on long enough, my husband will soften and renew their friendship.

I have spoken to her about her relationship with my husband and have asked her to respect our marriage because she kept calling me and saying she wanted to come over and talk. She said I should trust her and my husband and after that she sent me an e-mail telling me how precious my husband is and that I was lucky to have someone like him, she also said I should love him and be good to him. Perhaps she meant well, but her strange message could be interpreted that she has a crush on my husband. I get the feeling she just won’t let go!

My husband has always denied that he felt anything other than friendship for these ladies. He always declares that I’m the one he loves and that these friendships mean nothing to him. but I think his behaviour is unthinking and thoughtless. How does one solve this problem? I don’t think he really intends ending his friendship with those women because he feels flattered by their attention and just makes empty promises to keep me quiet.

My final question is this, are these types of opposite sex friendships really innocent if they can cause someone as much pain as they did to me? I still don’t understand why my husband keeps insisting he did nothing wrong in his relationships with those women.

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