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Jealous of Husband's Female Friends

QUESTION: My husband has three female friends in my hometown. When we go to visit my family he goes to visit them, and they usually spend at least one night out. I am feeling jealous and left out. I know in my heart that they are only friends and that he would never cheat on me, but I just can't seem to accept it. He knows it bothers me, but he still sees them. When I tell him how I feel, it seems as if I don't trust him, but I do. I resent the fact that he's out with other women and I'm not there.

ANSWER: Healthy marriages include supportive friendships for each spouse with other women and men. Outside support is necessary, for the marriage to flourish rather than become overloaded or stale. However these relationships should not feel threatening to either one of you. If these relationships do feel threatening to you, continue to dialogue about it. Explore your fears and fantasies together. And seek to come up with boundaries that you feel include you as a special person in his life, while respecting one another's need for independent relationships that do not threaten your marriage.

Explore also whether you feel left out in any other ways in your marriage. It is possible that your feelings of jealousy about this situation are an expression of feeling left out of other important aspects of your husband's life. Or it may be the case that you resent that your husband has a separate past, which included friendships before you met him. Visits home provide opportunity to reconnect to relationships he had when he was single. If you do not maintain friendship connections forged prior to your marriage, your envy may involve a reflection of this difference between the two of you.

It is natural for you to have some feelings of jealousy about women your husband is friendly with, and it is important to talk about it, which you are doing. So far so good. But, more than just knowing you can include yourself, you may need your husband's reassurance as well. You may need to hear him express to you, in words, that though he enjoys his friendships with other women, he by no means wants anyone but you for his wife!

Nothing can replace the connection felt and kept alive by appreciative communication. You may "know" your husband loves you and would not cheat on you. But does he tell you that you are special to him? Does he understand and empathize with your feelings, or merely resent them? If he is able to hear you, reassure you and include you, your couples' bond will be strong and secure. But you must also be empathetic to his experience, as well.

Instead of trying to mind read your husband's feelings about including you, ask him about his feelings. Establish a safe atmosphere for open sharing and discussion. Do not interpret one another's responses as rejection, but simply listen and try to understand the meaning of these relationships to him, and the meaning his friendships hold for you. Does he resent including you with these friends? If he does feel this way, ask him why he wants to experience these relationships separately. And do talk about your feelings of inclusion and exclusion. Perhaps the two of you have not fully talked out the boundaries and feelings around friendships in the marriage. This could be especially true if you do not have independent friendships at home, and this situation only occurs when you are visiting relatives.

You may find you can grow closer by discussing your feelings, rather than simply trying to change them. Strengthen your couples' bond through increasing understanding and empathy for one another's experience. Therein lies the key to success in a marriage! The resolution to your problem will evolve out of your heightened connection and open sharing. Through understanding one another, you may discover a natural shift in your feelings does indeed take place. Perhaps your husband will feel just a bit flattered by your jealousy, rather than disturbed by your feelings. And you may find yourself enjoying the fact that he has chosen you, rather than excluded you!

Perhaps the next time you visit, you can invite your husband and his friends to dinner. Try a proactive approach and use the next visit as an opportunity to build relationships that include you in your husband's life!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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