Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Flirty admirer at work could cause trouble at home, office
Cleveland: My 44-year-old husband has a 20-something female admirer at work. He describes her as "perky" and tells me she has asked him out for drinks, brought him gifts and told other co-workers she thinks he's adorable. He's fairly new at this job and says the co-workers are not big fans of Ms. Perky. My husband says he finds her admiration sweet and would never go out with her.
We have what I would describe as a happy, mutually satisfying relationship. However …
Recently we've been cash-strapped, and my — not his — 19-year-old son is causing some strife on the home front.
I am not particularly concerned, but I do have a nagging uncomfortable feeling. So many friends, male and female, have ditched their boring old spouses (and troublesome teens) for young, interesting, "perky" newness.
I don't want to dwell, but ugly thoughts creep into my mind. Any ideas to help me get past this would be appreciated.
Carolyn: Even if you and your husband were getting along strifelessly right now, it would still be a problem that your husband wasn't adding 2 (woman asks out and buys gifts for new married male colleague) plus 2 (woman is disliked by office-mates who know her better than this new guy does) and arriving at 4.
And that's assuming he's being naive; his telling you could also be disingenuous.
You haven't supplied enough information for me to draw conclusions either way, but even without the unsubstantiated colleague dislike, there is plenty to suggest her attentions aren't "sweet."
He may not believe you but please explain to him anyway that you're not speaking out of jealousy but instead a self-preservation impulse — and not just for you personally, but also for him professionally, and for both of you maritally. Explain that you see this self-preservation impulse as a warning for him to stay as far away from this boundary-challenged woman as possible.
Anonymous: Re: Perky Admirer: I would ask the 40-something guy at his new job exactly what impression he thinks he is making with his new co-workers. Is he earning their respect, or their eye-popping attention?
Carolyn: It doesn't even have to be that extreme. They could just be thinking, "Walk away, you fool, walk away."
Anonymous 2: Re: Perky Office-Mate: Contrast my experience: I was the perky office-mate in my 20s … about 20 years ago. It was a silly crush, really, although the guy was single. The guy (in his early 40s) handled this with great grace. He kindly and firmly told me that he was enjoying being my mentor. That was enough to wake me from my silly fantasy.
Your husband's behavior is not creating clear boundaries — he can be misinterpreted.
Carolyn: Or interpreted correctly, if he's not telling himself/his wife the whole truth and is in fact receptive. Thanks.
If it's the latter, then Cleveland will have to find peace in another, equally timeless aspect of this same problem: Even if the worst happens, this unfortunate-flirtation phase will pass.