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Ask Ellie: Spying on wife won't save floundering marriage

It's unlikely that wife's occasional 'girls' nights out' are the biggest problem in this relationship

Dear Ellie: My wife of 12 years and I have two children, ages eight and ten. She works (from home during COVID, now at the office) and says she needs to get out socially again, but always makes those plans with her girlfriends.

I own a store, so my hours are pretty long. I spend most of the weekends with her and our kids as a family. My problem is that my wife and I almost never have that “date night” that I hear couples are supposed to have.

I love my wife, and I’m happy for her to have a good time out with her friends. But they all also talk to each other or text almost daily. Then, when they’re out — which happens about once in two weeks, all I hear about is how “hilarious” it was… nothing else. And she doesn’t get home till 11 p.m., which she knows is an hour after I’m asleep.

When I ask her the next day how it went, I get no details. She says it’s “the girls’” private business. She doesn’t even tell me where they went, which she says is because they don’t want any husbands showing up.

I’m beginning to wonder if there’s anything I should start worrying about. Because of my late hours, we usually don’t have sex during the week, but have always tried to get it going on the weekend after the kids are asleep.

Should I try to find where they go (I’d have to get someone else to close the store, and follow her)? I only want some proof that it is only women there together.

Or, is there a risk of my creating more trouble by being caught?

Worried Left-Out Husband

There are many things you need to talk about with your wife, but it’s very unlikely to be about her pretending to be with women friends, and actually hanging out with a man.

Start a positive conversation about the big picture of your relationship, like a check-up on how you’re doing at the 12-year marker. Start with what you love about her, the kids, and your life together. Then ask her for her thoughts.

Next, gently mention what you feel could improve your relationship (and don’t start with sex … more on that later). Instead, start with your own long hours’ working, and late arrivals home.

Bring her into the conversation by asking what she thinks could change that… e.g., hiring someone you trust to do the closing up, or having at least one night weekly when you close early, etc. (I understand this may not work for your business and income needs, but talking about it is a way of making her a partner in the decision to regularly work late).

Tell her you miss her on her “girls’ nights” yet understand it’s become an important part of her social needs. Say how you wish you could still get together with your male friends, but, again, working store hours doesn’t have that flexibility.

Instead, raise the idea of your kids having a sleepover at a grandparent’s house, or getting a trusted babysitter at home for one evening — perhaps starting with every other Saturday or Sunday night.

Do NOT raise any suggestion of a man being involved. This is a check on how, together, you shape your next 12 years, as your kids become young adults mostly on their own, and how you’ll have grown as a couple.

FEEDBACK regarding Mean Girls at any age and any stage (April 1):

Reader: “I live in a seniors’ community, and there’s a group of senior “mean girls” here.

“Just to warn anyone about this, they’ll ingratiate you into their group and then, when they’re tired of you, they’ll betray you (through telling lies and gossiping about you).

“It is so hard to believe that mature women would behave so badly, but they actually thrive on it.

“I have found that it is important to take the high road, and to not engage in this behaviour.

“I know, as I have been a victim of Mean Girls.”

Reader’s Commentary regarding a woman’s financially well-off husband who has angry outbursts and refuses to paint their house (March 31):

“I thought, OMG where to start with these two? Issues on both sides. I burst out laughing at “hire a painter.” Absolutely brilliant advice!”

Ellie’s tip of the day

How a relationship partner spends their “free night out” with specific friends only, can be great fun, or isolating for the other.

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