She Said, He Said: Bartender spouse’s biggest worry is threat of infidelity always on menu
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My husband is a professional bartender at a nice restaurant, makes a good living and, for the most part, really enjoys his job. Several weeks ago I went to pick him up at the restaurant but had to sit at the bar for a while, waiting for him to finish his shift. I noticed one of the cocktail servers being overtly flirtatious with him. She didn’t know I was his wife but she certainly knows he’s married. I don’t think my husband would stray but she’s young and very attractive and seems to be presenting him with an opportunity that leaves me a bit worried. Should I start a discussion about this with my husband or should I let it go, trusting that he’ll do the right thing?
Lori: While trust is paramount to the health of a relationship, so is not being naïve. The bar industry is built on charisma, charm and alcohol, so being passive on the sidelines of this one will only bring you worry at best and heartbreak at worst. Look, I’m not saying that every relationship in the booze slinging industry is doomed, but there are a few factors in your question that raise concern. First is your reluctance to have an honest conversation with your partner: “Hey babe, I noticed the hot cocktail waitress trying to get up on your bottle service. Are we OK? Is there anything you need from me?” Yes, as an adult in a relationship you need to have this conversation, but in an “I care about you and us” manner rather than a “you’d better not” accusatory way. What’s been the hesitation? Are you tiptoeing around other important topics too? Second, potential for straying often starts with problems in the relationship. If you’re seeing opportunity, it may be because part of you has already been noticing issues. Have you gotten into a routine? Has the business of life led you to neglect the emotional or intimate bond with him? If so, consider tying on a little apron and bringing his waitress fantasy into your relationship. (And for all my feminist friends out there, yes, I would tell the same thing to a man if the genders were reversed.)
Jeff: What you do depends on your assessment of the vibrancy of your marriage. If things are good, the connection is strong and the level of interest in each other is high, then up the game by playing into the situation. It’s a bit like claiming what’s yours and letting it be known that you aren’t going to allow someone else to move in on your territory. The attention your husband is getting from this shiny new thing is surely piquing his interest but criticizing him for having his ego stroked will only create resentment.
If you and your husband are in a rut and it feels like he may be losing interest in you (or you in him), consider the advice of relationship guru Esther Perel. She talks about the “shadow of the third,” which is the potential reality that our partners might be interested in someone else. We’re encouraged to figuratively invite the shadow into our relationships by acknowledging that our bonds are not immune to external forces. We never want our partners to be unfaithful, but knowing the possibility exists can rejuvenate our sexual interest and keep them from straying. When asked if there were any secrets to long-lasting relationships, philosopher Alain de Botton replied, “Infidelity. Not the act itself, but the threat of it. An injection of jealousy is the only thing capable of rescuing a relationship ruined by habit.”
Lori and Jeff: Take a moment to see your husband through her eyes. See how handsome, strong, talented, warm and funny he is. Remember that everyday marriage is a choice, and if you value him and the relationship, show him by giving him the same level of attention he may be getting at work.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.