DEAR ABBY: I am a marriage counselor writing in response to the March 22 letter from the man who objected to his wife having dinner with a mutual (male) friend while the writer was on a business trip. I found his signature, "Feeling Cheated On in Illinois," excessive, perhaps even a signal he has an "ownership" attitude toward his spouse, which is associated with controlling behavior. In the absence of any reason to distrust her, why is he so upset?
My husband of 20 years was going to Japan for a week to visit our foster daughter. I was unable to go, so one of my female friends went with him instead. My husband is attractive, and no doubt has had many opportunities to cheat. I realize many spouses are unfaithful, but you don't keep them faithful by keeping them on a short leash. All that does is make a potential cheater sneakier.
Because spouses who cheat sometimes claim their lovers-in-waiting are "just friends" doesn't mean men and women can't be "just friends." "Illinois" is insecure at best, controlling at worst. I think he should have a one-time appointment with a therapist and discuss his expectations of his wife. -- BARBARA IN MAINE
DEAR BARBARA: I heard from readers who have firsthand experience in this subject. And many of them agreed with you. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I'm an at-home wife of a husband who travels frequently. He has logged more than 3 million frequent flyer miles in the last 20 years. I'll bet the "Illinois" man dines out often with female colleagues. It's a fact of business life these days. And I'll bet a lot of the women are married, too. So, really, what's the difference?
He needs to look inward at his own actions and ability to trust. While travel may be part of his job, why must his wife be denied adult companionship when he's away? A man and woman eating out together doesn't automatically equal "date." I do it often when my husband travels. I pay my own way and meet my friend(s) at the restaurant. It's a "get-together" and the only way I can stay sane. -- BEEN THERE AND WILL CONTINUE
DEAR ABBY: I'm a married woman with single and married male friends. I go out for lunches and dinners with all of them. Some live out of state and we email often. I also have outings with female pals, some of whom are lesbians. "Illinois" needs to figure out why he doesn't trust his wife and his good friend. My husband socializes without me as well. He even goes to lunch sometimes with an old girlfriend. Either you trust your partner or you don't. -- SECURE AND HAPPY IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: I travel often and enjoy dinners with lots of people, both male and female. I've dined with my neighbor's husband while we were stranded at an airport trying to get home. Should we have sat at different tables? Implying that this behavior is "questionable" is outrageous. My husband is sometimes invited to dinner by neighbors when I'm away and I thank them for their kindness. -- JULIA IN GAINESVILLE, FLA.
DEAR ABBY: Something similar happened to me. It started with the remark that there's nothing wrong with a married woman having a man as her best friend. Three years later she filed for divorce, saying she didn't love me anymore. They worked together in the same office, started going out to lunch, then having after-work drinks and golf dates on the weekends I worked overtime. I understand what "Illinois" is going through. I hope his situation works out better than mine did. -- LARRY IN OHIO
DEAR ABBY: I hurt for the wife who is stuck at home "several nights a week." Why couldn't her husband just say, "Good for you, you have company!"? Married people can be friends with other married members of the opposite sex. If "Illinois" can't handle that reality, then he should find a job that lets him be home with his wife every night. -- CATHY FROM CLEVELAND
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)