Wife's Teasing Sickens Him

Q: My wife and I have been married 35 years, had our ups and downs, but the last couple of years, she does not trust me. I have never been unfaithful to her. We have a summer getaway, where one of our neighbor ladies made sexual comments to me in front of my wife. (I believe she was just kidding around, as that is the way she is.) I am also a "fun" person, I like to joke around, and a couple of times I would joke around with her, though always with my wife and the woman's husband there. This was several years ago, yet my wife brings up all the time that I "flirted" with her. I do not consider this flirting, and I have no interest in this woman sexually. My wife also says things like "your little girl friend." This is ruining our marriage and making me physically ill. What should I do? -- Dan, 54

Dr. Susan: Your wife's little "jokes" sound passive-aggressive to me. She may be annoyed with you for related reasons, such as your lack of genuine attention to her. She doesn't know how to ask for what she wants, and perhaps she doesn't even know what she wants. Only that something is missing, and maybe, some years ago, another woman seemed to get the benefit of some of your fun side. I suggest an open conversation with your wife, telling her what you wrote me. That her teasing is making you physically ill, that you want to have her trust and you want to make your marriage better. Keep in mind that, just because you don't consider your behavior to be flirting, what your wife feels about it matters a lot. Playfulness is great, but let's get serious. Tell your wife you hadn't realized how much those silly words distressed her, and you hope she'll realize that her continued teasing is now distressing you. And then go have some fun together.

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