Monday 19 March 2018

After 18 months, my husband hasn't told old flame we're wed

Dear Mary

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

My husband of a year and a half has yet to tell one of his female friends 
that he is married. She lives at the other end of the country, and they had a short-term romance when they were in college.

She texts him constantly at all hours of the night asking for relationship advice, or whatever else is bothering her.

I've asked him why he hasn't told her, and he says
 it would change their dynamic. Is this something that I need to be concerned about?

Mary replies: Yes, indeed it is. Your husband seems to be more concerned about changing the dynamic of his relationship with his girlfriend than he is about the effect that all this is having on you.

It is not right that she should be constantly in touch with him, and I don't believe that she is simply looking for advice. She is texting him because she is still interested in him.

Like any other woman, she probably has lots of girlfriends to whom she could turn if advice is what she is looking for, so why is she keeping in touch to this extent? More than likely it is because she still carries a torch for him, and is hoping that her feelings are reciprocated.

Apart from your feelings, he owes it to this girl to let her know that he is married, because as long as he continues to have a textual relationship with her he is giving her false hope.

But this is not really of concern to you. What needs to happen now is that you must insist that he tells her his true situation and he should also tell her that you are upset at the volume of her texts.

Make it clear to him that you have no objection to his having her as a friend but the constant texting will have to stop. I am fairly sure that when she realises he is no longer available, and that you are aware of the frequency of their contacts, she will stop texting him.

In your husband's defence, I have to say that he doesn't appear to have made any attempts to hide what is going on.

No doubt he is flattered
 by the attention of somebody he once was fairly close to, 
but this cannot be at your expense.

Now I feel I'm forcing him into marriage

I'm thrilled - or at least I was thrilled -  to be newly engaged after three happy years of dating. We're planning to move in together at the end of the year. How
            ever recently, while we were discussing the logistics of moving in,  he confessed that he's not looking forward to having to "check in" with someone every day. I responded that I don't need daily check-ins - instead, why not reserve them for when we actually have agreed-upon plans? He said OK, but that he still feels nervous about losing other aspects of his autonomy in marriage.

This conversation escalated until eventually I asked him why he wants to get married at all, if he's so scared to share his daily life with me. He answered that he knows "it's what comes next," meaning that it's the natural next step in our relationship.

I am really upset that this isn't a good answer. I know he loves me a lot -he has proved it in all sorts of ways over the last three years - but now I feel like I've unwittingly forced him into marriage. My happiness seems to have evaporated. What should I do now?

Mary replies: I'm so sorry that your lovely engagement bubble has been burst, but try not to worry too much. Things are still the same. You love each other, your relationship has had a good long time in which to develop, and you have committed to each other. He has, however, voiced a particular concern to you - which perhaps you hadn't thought of up until now, and which may not ever be an issue for you although it is for him.

Change is always scary, and whereas you are looking forward to all that time together possibly with a romantic slant, he is worried at a very practical level as to what it is going to be like having to answer to somebody. Perhaps he has never lived with one person up until now, and was wondering out loud what it will be like. If you are sharing a home with somebody, no matter with whom, you will usually let them know if you are going away for the weekend or not going to be home for dinner. In other words, it is basic good manners to keep the people you live with informed as to your movements. It is not a case of being watched or not being trusted, which may 
be what he fears, and you should reassure 
him about this when the subject comes up again.

I agree with your fiance - getting married is what happens next in your life together. Our lives are generally made up of a series of logical steps, and that is what keeps our interest alive, and in a way ensures the continuance of the human race. Couples meet, fall in love, get engaged and decide to marry. Many now choose to live together first in order to make sure that they are right for each other. Children are the next step, they eventually go to school, grow up, fall in love and the cycle begins again.

The excitement of each step is what motivates us - we generally need something to 
look forward to, to avoid feeling in somewhat of a rut. So I don't believe there was any element of you forcing him into marriage - I'm sure he is man enough to know what he wants, and who he wants to spend his life with, even though at times he may find the prospect a little scary.

I don't believe anybody loses their autonomy when they get married. Rather, they should see marriage as an enrichment of their life and the possibility of developing further as a person.

It should be very gratifying to see that their partner respects them, is proud of them and wants only the very best for them. People still maintain their individuality, and perhaps this is what is bothering your fiance, as he may be afraid he is going to feel stifled.

It may be that you are worrying unnecessarily. But in order to reassure yourself that all is well I suggest that you have one more conversation with your fiance, explaining your fears that he may be feeling pushed into getting married.

Hopefully he will calm you down and you should then consider the topic off limits and get back to enjoying your engagement. This should be a very happy time for you both rather than a period full of doubts which it appears to have become for you.

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