One evening during my junior year of college, I got an email from my high school ex-boyfriend.  He was working a few shifts in my college town and wanted to know if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee and catch up. 

“Sounds good,” I responded,  “but are you sure your new girlfriend’s cool with it?”  She was, he assured me.  We met up at a Denny’s for a few hours and chit-chatted about what was new with us. 

The next day, I had another unread message in my email inbox- his girlfriend.  Surprised, I opened it to find an expletive-filled rant about staying away from her man.  They got married soon after, and you can be sure that was the last time we ever talked.

If a woman is flirting with your husband, you should start by talking to him about it.  Make a plan together- you can have him address the woman by himself before you speak to her, if this occurs at the workplace, you could ask human resources to get involved. Needless to say, relationships are built on trust, so if it’s not serious just ignore it.

Let’s imagine you just sat down in my office.  You’ve got a problem with a woman at your husband’s work.  She’s been texting him, and she gives you the cold shoulder whenever you stop by to visit him. 

And you’re pissed. Anger is a natural emotion when we perceive that someone is disrespecting us or our relationship.  However, anger is usually a defensive emotion- it usually covers up another, more profound feeling that we can’t face for some reason.  

I can imagine what you’re saying.   “I don’t want therapy, Megan.  I just want to know how to get rid of this chick.”  Well, first of all, you’re in a therapist’s office, remember?

Second, if we’re even having this conversation, what you want is a happy, healthy relationship.  If you didn’t want that, no amount of flirting would bother you.

Do me a favor and close your eyes.  Picture your wedding day.  Picture the moment you were standing in front of your friends and family, making promises and vows.  Who is standing across from you, making promises right back?  Your husband.

Ultimately it is up to you and your husband to honor the vows you made on your wedding day.  This woman may not be very classy for flirting with a married man, but she doesn’t owe you anything.  Your husband, on the other hand, does. So let’s start there- your husband.

5 Possible Issues & How To Solve Them

There’s a reason every therapist ever talks constantly about communication.  It’s impossible to have a happy marriage if you can’t figure out how to understand and support each others’ thoughts, wants, and needs. Usually, a wife will only feel the need to take matters into her own hands if she doesn’t feel like her husband is addressing the issue.  Do any of the following sound like you?

He doesn’t think she’s flirting with him

Maybe you and your spouse aren’t seeing eye to eye about whether there is a problem.  You probably feel frustrated that your husband isn’t considering your perspective, or you’re dumbfounded how he could NOT see it.  If you’re female, you probably feel like you have unique insight into how other women work.

If you’ve asked your husband about this other woman and he doesn’t see anything wrong, you don’t have to convince him.  Take some time to point out precisely why the woman is making you uncomfortable.  If you’re still not on the same page, that’s okay- your husband doesn’t have to see things exactly your way all the time. 

Instead, let him know what exactly is making you feel uncomfortable (“I don’t like that she’s always touching you- can we brainstorm how to address that?”). After all, your husband vowed to love, cherish, and protect you.  If you have reasonable requests and a generally supportive relationship, you should be able to get on the same page.

I don’t want to be high-maintenance

You might be tempted to address another woman directly because you don’t want to seem needy or clingy by bringing matters up with your husband.  This fear might be based on your insecurities, or it could be because of comments your husband has made in the past.  While it is your responsibility to address your insecurities, your husband should be open to hearing your concerns and supporting a sense of safety in the relationship.

Dr. John Gottman is one of the leading marriage researchers in the world. He is said to predict with stunning accuracy whether a marriage will end in divorce.  One of the most decisive factors, he says, is whether husbands consider their wives’ opinions and allow them to influence their actions.  He says, “…even in the first few months of marriage, men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages, and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence. Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81% chance that his marriage will self-destruct(Brittle, 2018).

It can be hard to figure out if you’re clingy or if your husband is too closed to your influence.  If you’re struggling with the difference, consider making an appointment with a therapist.  Sometimes we need to have an outsiders’ perspective before we can move forward.

He’s afraid to say anything

If your husband is reluctant to address the other womans’ advances himself, you should be asking why.  He might have a legitimate reason!  Is the woman his supervisor at work?  Does she have a history of violence?  When you discuss this with your husband, start with curiosity.  You’re on the same team, and the two of you should be able to come up with a plan together.

Suppose the woman is someone your husband knows from work. In that case, the two of you could consider contacting Human Resources and reporting the behavior.  There are stringent laws in place preventing hostile work environments like those created by unwanted advances.  If the company is too small for an HR department, you might need to consider other options.  You can decide together if your husband can address the problem another way or if he needs to move on in his career.

If your husband is afraid of the woman because she or her family is violent, make sure he documents everything, including the conversation where he asks her to back off.  If she makes any threats, he can go to the police for a restraining order.

He says he’s handling it

Perhaps you’ve brought your concerns up with your spouse.  Instead of talking about it with you, he tells you that he’s going to deal with it independently.  Once again, approach the subject with curiosity.  Does he feel defensive?  Is it possible he’s embarrassed he hasn’t been able to take care of it already?  Perhaps he feels like you don’t trust him.  It’s s an excellent opportunity to reassure him that you know he’s capable of handling it while asking him to bring you in on his plan.

Or maybe he just told you he’s handling it because he doesn’t want to talk about it.  That’s a red flag.  In a healthy relationship, spouses should be able to bring up concerns and have honest discussions about them. 

Suppose your partner refuses to talk about your concerns with this other woman. In that case, you have more significant problems than flirting.  According to Gottman, refusing to talk about issues is one of the most obvious signs that a relationship is doomed for failure.  He calls it stonewalling.

”Someone who stonewalls avoids engaging in discussion, problem-solving, or cooperating. They may sit sullenly and silently while you become more and more frantic because you don’t feel heard. Or they might dismiss everything you say as if you’re boring, unreasonable, or “making a big deal out of nothing.” While you try to address concerns, a person who is stonewalling acts like you’re not important or have nothing valuable to say to them” (Cocchimiglio, 2018).

He says he’s not interested in her

If your husband responds to your concerns by telling you he’s not interested in another woman, he’s missed the point entirely.  As we’ve been discussing, the conversation should be about you and your relationship.  If he’s committed to your marriage, his level of attraction to anyone else is irrelevant.  To respond this way suggests that things would be different if he were interested in her.  

It’s natural to be attracted to other people occasionally- you’re married, not dead.  The level of attraction to other people is irrelevant when you are committed to your marriage.  When you’re married, you should nurture and invest in your attraction to your spouse. Interest in others should be treated with wariness and allowed to extinguish.  A married person can avoid enflaming their attraction to others by avoiding flirting, intimate conversations, and situations that might involve sexual tension.

Get On the Same Page About Relationship Boundaries

The easiest way to handle another woman flirting with your man?   Avoid it altogether.  You should have a frank conversation about what is acceptable.  Come to an agreement about time spent with others, phone calls and text messaging, physical contact, and any other interactions that might trigger jealousy.  Be honest with one another about what you feel comfortable with- it’s all up to you!  What works for one couple may not be okay for another.  

What To Do if the Woman is a Friend

There’s a notable exception to my “just talk to your man” rule- if the woman flirting with your husband is a friend of yours.  Talk to your friend- with curiosity again being key.  Perhaps she was unaware of how her actions seemed to you.  Let her know that you value your friendship and ask her to respect your boundaries. 

Your husband should let you know if anything untoward happens after your conversation with your friend.  If she continues to misbehave, it’s probably time to end the friendship.  Someone willing to compromise your marriage isn’t your friend.

Conclusion

A few years after we got married, my husband and I were living with roommates.  One roommate invited a (beautiful) woman over to visit.  I was sitting in the living room reading while my husband was washing dishes in the kitchen.  Our roommate stepped out of the house for a moment, leaving the attractive friend in her room.  I watched with a bemused expression as this woman made a beeline for my husband. 

She stayed near him, chatting animatedly and occasionally touching his shoulder.  Every time the woman looked away, my husband would shoot me an alarmed look, eyebrows raised, and mouth “help!”  I would laugh, shrug my shoulders, and go back to my book.  Later, after the woman had left, we told our roommate the story and asked her not to leave her friend unattended again.  

I was able to respond so cooly to this woman flirting with my husband for several reasons.  First, I knew that it didn’t matter how attractive or flirtatious the woman was- my husband was committed to our relationship.  Second, we had already discussed our relationship’s boundaries.  And third, I knew we were on the same team, and he would take any concerns I had seriously.

You stepped into my office because you wanted to deal with a flirtatious woman, and you are leaving with a list of ways to talk with your husband about it.  It might not be what you were expecting, but it is what you need. 

There are almost no situations where you should have to address the woman yourself if you are in a happy, healthy marriage.  If you and your husband are having trouble addressing these issues, look into seeing a marriage counselor who can help you get on the same page.

Sources: 

Brittle, Z. (2018, September 18). Manage Conflict: Accepting Influence. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/manage-conflict-accepting-influence/

Cocchimiglio, S. (2018, January 22). Is Stonewalling A Form Of Abuse? Want To Learn More About The Effects Of Stonewalling On Mental Health? Discover More Today | BetterHelp. BetterHelp. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/relations/is-stonewalling-a-form-of-abuse/

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