Calvin and Rose Herring* came to us with some concerns within their relationship. Both individuals are 45 and live in an exclusive community near Detroit, Michigan. Rose teaches school and Calvin is an attorney. After 20 years of marriage and three children, there has been one lingering issue: Calvin’s friendship with another woman.
Calvin knew the woman, “Tracie,” before he and Rose even met. We learned he lived with her and her parents upon moving to New York years earlier. His wife was overreacting, he said, adding that he did not see anything wrong with maintaining their friendship. As far as he was concerned, the friendship never crossed the line and he had a close relationship with her and her family.
“I’m tired of not being trusted,” he said. Rose’s suspicions meant that he was constantly having to look over his shoulder, even though he was doing nothing wrong.
According to Rose, the ongoing contact and communication with this friend exceeded a “friendly relationship.” Rose thought that Tracie got more respect than she did as the wife. Further, Rose added, if she could just get a little more respect from Calvin, she could feel differently about the friendship. When we asked Rose how she knew about there was excessive communication between Calvin and Tracie, she said the phone bill reflected excessive calls from Calvin to his female friend. Still, he insisted that he never “crossed the line.”
It is clear that having an outside relationship with a person of the opposite sex can cause major concerns within a marriage, notes Debbie Cherry, Ph.D, in a Psychology Today article. But “the line” may not be where we think it is. When friends share information about themselves and their spouses with others, that relationship threatens the stability of the marriage. Instances of deceit and temptation increase while the husband or wife becomes more disconnected within their marriage relationship. When the deception begins the line has been crossed and it becomes difficult to stop the destruction of the family.
On that slippery slope is where we met the Herrings. Our thoughts: eliminate the problem. If your spouse is uncomfortable with a relationship outside of the marriage, eliminate that relationship or have a meeting and discuss the concerns with the parties involved. On an even deeper level, when resolving relationship issues we have learned to investigate the origin of the problem. In this case, the question is why is it more comfortable to share feelings with someone other than your own spouse? In many households we let anger and frustration prevent resolutions. Relationships that start at work, school, and when pursuing outside interests such as working out at the gym. They should be kept in perspective and never to the point of disrupting the household.
Once that issue has been addressed and all parties are satisfied with the solution, then the issue becomes forgiveness and the ability to move on. The couple has indicated there has been anger and resentment because of outside friends. During the session Rose also indicated that she established a relationship with an outside friend from her past because she felt disrespected and disconnected to her husband. The marriage was in a weak state but the confession of both has opened the door to recovery.
Today after six months of counseling they are communicating better and Calvin realized that the comment that Arthur stated in the onset of counseling was character changing for him: “anything that causes the household turmoil needs to be re-evaluated and eliminated.” Calvin took that statement to heart and realized that Rose was right and that he had become too comfortable in his relationship. He now spends more time in the home and has taken our suggestions as their therapists to incorporate a date night.
The Herrings will continue their counseling and appreciate the help, and support from us.
*Yes, the names have been changed.