My husband is running with an all-women exercise group every morning. I don’t believe he’s pairing up with any of the women in the group, per se, but it’s really uncomfortable for me and just seems odd. He’s the only man in the group. Does that seem strange to you? Am I overreacting?
It certainly is problematic for any marriage if one person continues to engage in a threatening behavior despite the concerns of the other. Here are a few thoughts to consider as you work to resolve this issue.
First, I think it’s a good idea to have a discussion with your husband about the slippery slope of familiarity that is always the beginning of marital infidelity. Even though he’s currently not connecting with any particular woman, he’s certainly becoming more familiar with individual women in the group and potentially building bonds with them that he’s not sharing with you.
Shirley Glass wrote an important book on this subject called “Not Just Friends” to help expose the subtle slide into emotional and sexual infidelity. Most people who end up cheating on their spouse rarely begin with that outcome in mind. They simply believe they are “just friends.” When any married individual defends an opposite-sex relationship with the “we’re just friends” explanation, my flags always go up.
If a spouse is concerned about a competing opposite-sex relationship, that relationship should be suspended until the marriage can be stabilized and a safe connection is established again. To continue in that competing relationship, regardless of how threatening it might actually be, is harmful to the long-term trust and safety of the marriage.
It would be important to find out why he feels like this group is the only exercise group he can join. Sometimes there are co-ed exercise groups and then after some attrition, there are only women left with one guy. Perhaps he feels loyal to this group because of that history.
Ask him to clarify the emotional and physical boundaries he has in place with this group. What does he share with them when he’s exercising? Do they meet after exercising and socialize? Does he have ongoing contact with them outside of the group? I’ve seen too many individuals unassumingly slide into an affair from seemingly innocent interactions with the opposite sex. As a result, I tend to encourage caution and boundaries in situations like this.
Regardless of the arrangement, it needs to support the marriage. If the final arrangement still makes you uncomfortable, then you need to stay with the conversation until it can be resolved in the best interest of the marriage. Your concerns need to be heard and taken seriously.
An actual sexual affair doesn’t have to happen for trust to be damaged in a marriage. Trust is injured in any relationship when partners don’t respond to each other’s fears and concerns.
If your husband continues to connect with this group and ignores your fears and concerns, then I suggest you consider speaking with a marriage counselor who can help the two of you figure out how to work through the impasse.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, UT. Please send questions for future columns to: [email protected]. Geoff maintains a blog, article archive, Twitter feed, and Facebook page which are available at www.geoffsteurer.com.
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