How to talk to husband about his female friends
I am new to the forum, and had a problem I wanted to pose to you all. It is a bit of a long story, but any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I have been married for four years to my best friend, and we have known each other for ten years, ever since junior year of high school. We did not start dating until the middle of college, and while I had prior relationships, I was his first and only real girlfriend. As long as I have known him, he has always had more female friends than guy friends. He also comes from a family dominated by women, with two sisters and an affectionate mother who would always praise her son. All throughout his pursuits in academia from undergraduate to graduate and now doctoral, his colleagues are mainly single females.
In the exact opposite way, I have always been more of a tom-boy who loves racing cars, motorcycles, playing sports, videogames, action movies, etc., and my friends have been mostly guys. My field of occupation is populated mostly by men, with myself being the only female in my field office. While we both have colleagues and friends of the opposite sex, I feel that we interact differently with them. Since my work environment demands professionalism, my colleagues are only that. Any call, text, or e-mail is always pertaining to work. If ever we socialize outside of the office, the reason is for one of three R's: either due to someone being Relocated, Retirement, or RIP. With my guy friends, we may catch up maybe once or twice a month. Some people may find the lack of social activity surprising, but at the end of the day, I really only want to spend time with my husband rather than hang out with my single guy friends. For me, he is the most important person in my life, and I always think how anything I do or say may affect him. For him, though, his priorities now appear different.
To clarify, I have never been the jealous type. I have always been okay with the many calls, texts, Facebook messages, etc. from girls. I never minded him having dinner alone with a girl friend because I trust him. His field of study is based around exercise, so I understand that he spends a lot of his time with female colleagues, measuring skin folds, body fat, doing EKG's, etc. in only shorts and sports bras. It wasn't until a recent business trip that I became aware that maybe my "understanding" attitude has been overlooking inappropriate behavior that has been allowed to continue for too long.
There have been things that I now realize may have required a more serious discussion than being swept under the rug. Aside from his playful flirting, the most glaring event was during graduate school when he had called me by one of his lab partner's names while we were in bed. Admittedly, this was more of a middle of the night romp where he was half awake; nevertheless, the mistake was still a shock. When I told him what he said, he apologized, but never really comprehended the injury that was caused. I had tried again to bring it up the next day, but my husband has never been one to take criticism well. Rather than cause friction, I dropped the matter.
This week, my husband had traveled out of state to a conference with one of his female colleagues. He has known her since graduate school, but she is not the aforementioned lab partner. We had moved a year ago so that he could continue with his PhD, but as fate would have it, she ended up transferring out here as well six months later. When she first moved here, my husband was concerned that she was lonely since she had no other friends or family here. Because I knew it was important to him, I went out of my way to befriend her, inviting her out with us, or over for dinners as often as possible.
The two spend a large amount of time together at school, and everyone admits that they have a unique friendship. Easily half of the things they do that I go along with, the ordinary woman, let alone wife, would not abide by. She calls herself his "work wife," and they joke that they have pretty much seen each other naked after all of the lab tests they've performed on each other. Since their studies do consume much of their life with no break, they had come up with a game where they would take pictures of the pair of them out at lunch/dinner, and then post it on their Facebook page saying ___ and ____'s trip to Italy (country based upon the cuisine they had). It had gotten to the point where the girl's own parents were telling her to tone it down because relatives were getting the impression she was messing around with a married man. In a rather immature manner, she insisted on continuing the "game" more vigorously just to get a reaction out of said relations.
Although I tend to go along with the jokes, I feel that a line has now been crossed. While I do not have a Facebook page myself, mutual friends have contacted me, asking why this girl is spending so much time with my husband. The breaking point was during this business trip, she added several pictures that were brought to my attention. In one, my husband is carrying her in his arms while she has hers wrapped around his neck. In the other, the two are in front of a statue, with her sitting in his lap, her legs on either side of his while she is in a dress no less, and his arms wrapped around her waist very intimately. While I do trust him in that nothing more physical has happened, it still was extremely hurtful to have been shown these photographs. It was also disconcerting to me because it was being plastered online, where his two younger sisters and other family members will see. I was angered that not only did they take the pictures, but they saw nothing wrong with them. Now I feel like it is a slap in my face, and that my understanding attitude towards their relationship has been taken advantage of.
When he called me from the conference, I told him that the pictures had made me upset, fighting back tears during the whole conversation. As I am in no way a crier, having done so only twice at funerals, he knew that this was serious. He did apologize, saying that he was caught up in the "game" of taking pictures together, and did not think how it might make me feel. In all honesty, that revelation may have been the worst part for me; the lack of consideration on his part. While he is my number one priority and I anticipate how my actions my affect him, he neglected to even think of what the repercussions may be, wanting only to do what made him happy.
Well, I have reached the end of my long tirade. My sister feels that I am not being assertive enough, and in wanting to make my husband happy, I allow him to walk over me. She told me that if her husband had done these things, that she would insist upon marriage counseling, and to let it be known that if this behavior continued, that she would be considering divorce. I believe this course of action is a bit extreme, but my question to all of you kind souls who have read this novel is what you would do if you were in my situation. Am I overreacting over a couple of pictures? Do you think that my reasons for concern are insignificant, or might this be a continuing issue that needs to be addressed? Should I accept the apology, and let it become just another thing to be brushed off, or should I try to make him understand that a change needs to be made? I am not asking that they stop being friends, but that they both contemplate how their actions might make me feel beforehand.
Thanks again for reading, and for your help!