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Letting Go
Dr. Karen Sherman sets the record straight with some good advice regarding "harmless relationships" with the opposite sex.


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If you've got an "innocent" relationship online and your spouse is uncomfortable with it. Drop it.


My husband is very insecure about an e-mail friendship I have with a man who once appeared to be romantically interested in me. It is an exclusive relationship, in that, my husband doesn't communicate with him. We have had many arguments and I have defended my right to be friends with his interference, especially because our relationship is nonsexual and I don't find my e-friend attractive. I had told [my husband] to deal with his insecurity himself. But I question my need to hang on to the friendship that does not mean that much. I know that part of the reason is I enjoy his attention and have considered it harmless fun for me. I feel my husband is acting like a dog in the manger because he's become comfortable with "owning " me.

Because of technology, there has been a whole world of communication that is now open to us. The situation you describe has started to be one that is fairly common. And though at first glance, this scenario might look like it is totally innocent since it is only happening through e-mail, there are, in fact, lots of potential dangers.

You state that you are enjoying the attention you are getting from this other man. This raises a red flag. Clearly, he is providing something that you are not getting from your spouse. Perhaps you need to discuss this need with your husband. It may very well be the reason that you are hesitant to let go of the relationship.

You mention this person was once romantically interested in you—though you may not be attracted to this person, you cannot be sure that the same goes for him. I’d ask you to consider that by continuing to interact with him, he may take it as an interest on your part.

Your husband is clearly stating that he is uncomfortable with you being involved in this communication. Yet, you continue. It would be easily understood if your spouse felt disrespected, especially because you are choosing not to be available to help him with his insecure feelings.

Of course, you may also be hanging on as a reaction to feeling controlled by your husband. Nothing can get resolved unless the two of you talk about your underlying feelings openly so you can better understand one another.

Let me also address this type of problem in a more general way. Even before the movie, "When Harry Met Sally," there has always been an issue of whether a friendship can exist between the genders. The real issue is one of whether boundaries are crossed. The boundaries include more than just sexual; that is where the term emotional affair came from. When you start confiding in someone outside your committed relationship (especially about your relationship), you run the risk of now becoming more involved with this other person.

Many people start out using the computer as an innocent diversion. For some, it becomes a soft addiction. By that, I mean that more time is spent on the computer than with the partner. Others end up getting involved in questionable sites. Still, others do meet people through chat rooms. In the latter case, what starts out as idle chatter can lead to serious consequences.

Perhaps, in this case, there is nothing to be concerned about. But obviously this is a bone of contention between you and your husband; responding to the differences in your needs will not only offer you the possibility of alleviating the situation, but bringing you closer. Remember that the best way to enhance intimacy—both sexual and emotional is to approach one another in an open and loving way. It does take work, but it’s worth it!

Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.



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