Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s boggling you.
This week… what do you do when your husband has a “work wife?” One that he texts with regularly, outside of work hours? Have your own question? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
My husband has worked at the same job since before we were married, so I have met several of his co-workers throughout the years. I know a handful of them fairly well; we’re social media acquaintances and always have friendly exchanges at various company gatherings. But there’s one co-worker, a woman, who my husband refers to as his “work wife,” and texts with regularly outside of the office and social media. A lot. I’ve seen the communication (she’s even in his phone as “Work Wife”) and it’s pretty mundane, platonic stuff, but it still bothers me. She’s a few years younger than us and single, so maybe that’s why. But I certainly don’t have any male colleagues I chit-chat with regularly via text — I wouldn’t even feel comfortable doing that. Any men I’m friends with in real life, my husband is friends with them too and we don’t communicate privately.
He thinks I’m overreacting, but he says he’ll stop if it “bothers me so much.” I want him to stop. Most of all I want him to have that type of communication with me, which he does not unless it relates to our kids. Am I overreacting?
Ah, yes. The “work wife.” No, you’re not overreacting. Here’s the thing: If you’re married, it’s only okay to refer to someone as your “wife” if they are, in fact, the person you are married to. Or in a partnership/relationship with. Before I was married, I had a work bestie whom I referred to as my “work wife,” but we were both unmarried and only survived the desolate pit of hell where we were both employed at the time because we were friends with one another. Actually being married and being close enough with someone of the opposite sex to text them daily? Not the same thing!
You say you’ve seen what they text about, so it doesn’t sound like he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s close with this woman. But even if their topics of communication are non-threatening to your marriage, that does not mean his consistent texting with her is, therefore, a neutral, non-threatening thing. Because it upsets you, and you want him to stop. Your feelings are absolutely valid.
Delivering an ultimatum, which, presumably, is what you’re asking permission for here, is totally understandable. Unfortunately, relationship ultimatums don’t work — no matter what our favorite ’90s talk shows led us to believe (damn you, Sally Jessy Raphael). Because even if he stops texting her altogether and only communicates with her at work from now on, it’s not going to fix the underlying issue: why he feels compelled to chat it up with another woman all day in the first place.
You say you wish he talked to you more — and he totally should, if that’s not happening enough between the two of you (it sounds like it isn’t). I think you need to ask him why he can’t share things with you like he does with her. Remind him you, too, like inside jokes and mundane chitchat, but that mostly you want to feel connected to him (I suspect this is what’s at the heart of it all).
If he says you’re overreacting, ask him 1.) why he’s feeling defensive; and 2.) how he’d feel if the shoe were on the other foot. You can also ask him why he feels the need to be connected to this colleague so much, especially outside of work. If all they do is shoot the breeze, it can wait until the next morning. It doesn’t need to interfere with your time with your husband, or your kids’ time. Phone use in general is killing our family life, IMO.
Marriage counseling is also something to explore — therapy is a wonderful gift for anyone to give themselves, and married people are no different. You might be a couple, but you’re both still individuals with needs and flaws, and counseling is a great way to work on those things so you can work better together. Look, it’s hard being married, having kids, and maintaining a career. You both need and deserve to feel a genuine connection with your husband!
The bottom line is that he’s crossed a line with you and he needs to address your feelings about it and take accountability here. Period.
Lastly, that whole “Work Wife” contact info thing in his phone? Oh HELL no. Absolutely not. That’s something he has the power to change immediately, and he’d better hop to it.
Have your own question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org