Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships Everyone Needs Reassurance

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Dear Stacy,

A volunteer job recently exposed my husband of 50 years to a number of single women working with him. I was concerned that one or two women also in his age group seemed to be quite interested in my husband. Never have I doubted his fidelity. My impression is that some single, older women aggressively seek companionship, even of married men. Some women seem to have no compunction about coming on to a friend’s spouse. In my case, a particular acquaintance repeatedly told me how impressed she was with my husband. I wondered if she had feelings for him and was tempted to ask her, but didn’t.

During several conversations with him, I expressed my concern about the obvious interest of his new women friends and what appeared to be their attention to him. He began to realize that if it were the reverse, he would also be resentful. Should I have mentioned my concern to him? It seems that my need for reassurance was still there despite the stability of our longtime close relationship.

— Still in Love After All These Years

Dear Still in Love:

Thank you so much for this thoughtful question. My first instinct is to say that, regardless of content, I fully support your mentioning your concern to him. I fully support mentioning any concern to him, because that’s what he’s there for: to be your co-regulator, a.k.a. the one who helps right the ship when the waters become uncertain. You will always need reassurance. I will always need reassurance. Everyone needs reassurance. Despite what our American individualism suggests, human beings need other human beings. We don’t outgrow those needs when we reach adulthood; we just have a harder time allowing ourselves the intimacy to have them met. Bravo to you and to Husband for knowing you can reach for one another, even after 50 years.

Now onto your question about “single, older women” who seem overly interested in Husband. I think women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond might lob the same criticism at their peers, so I wouldn’t say this is something limited to the older female set. In fact, I don’t imagine it’s limited to just females either. There could be many reasons why Husband commands this attention. It sounds like he’s a gem, and that’s likely obvious to everyone else. Some people actually feel more comfortable being open and vulnerable with someone they perceive to not be available. A man who has been married 50 years might present as unavailable as well.

But let’s assume your instincts are correct, and Husband is being nonverbally propositioned by these women. There’s not much more you can do than talk it over with him (see above) and let his reassurance do what it’s meant to do. Meanwhile, reminding him that reassuring you is part of the job of being a long-term partner will help him understand that you aren’t criticizing him, but that you both deserve regular reminders of what you mean to one another.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at stacymurphyLPC.com. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacymurphyLPC@gmail.com

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