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A reader writes: My husband started a friendship with an older couple a few years ago. The woman is very flirtatious with him, and they spend time alone together "chatting," and they even have gone on errands together. I am very hurt by all this, but he defends her and tells me I'm paranoid to suggest this woman's feelings run deeper than friendship. When I confronted her, she said that we are a young attractive couple and should expect this sort of attention. He can't explain to me what her allure is. What should I do?

He may need admiration

This is a "symptom" event in a marriage – an indicator of failing stability. Be brutally honest: Are you open and emotionally vulnerable with one another, or do you use criticism and anger in resolving your issues? This woman's attention could be feeding a need for admiration that he can't express to you. But if he doesn't see that this friendship is hurting your marriage, get to a counsellor, and pronto!

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–Alyson Reid, Merrickville, Ont.

Shake things up

1) Shake things up and start hanging out with the other husband.

2) Do some therapy to find out why you are so insecure.

–Siobhan MacManus, Ottawa

You should have trust

Unless "doing errands" is a euphemism for "romp naked with," I think you are worrying over nothing. It is both normal and healthy for married people to have friendships with other adults, male and female. I think the problem here lies in the conceit that many young married people have that it is their role to fulfill all the social needs of their partner. The bottom line is, do you trust your husband? If not, then you have other issues to deal with.

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–Stephanie Koropatnick, Surrey, B.C.

The Final Word

There's a moment in the natural lifespan of every long-term romantic partnership where each representative party must sequester himself or herself in a room and face down a series of very hard questions. They go something like this.

1. Is it reasonable to expect that no one other than myself will ever express a sexual interest in my chosen life partner?

2. Let's say it is. Is it reasonable to expect members of the opposite sex (or otherwise) to behave toward my attractive, personable partner as they might, say, a potted geranium? No, actually, not a geranium, because some people show house plants affection and familiarity, and we can't have that.

So more like, say, a book. Wait, no, because people sometimes engage deeply with books – even fondle them! So let's say a magazine – no, a catalogue. One of those catalogues that gets delivered to your house that you have no inclination toward whatsoever, because the previous tenants subscribed to it and it's full of the kind of breathable, functional outdoors wear no self-respecting sexy person would ever be caught dead in.

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3. Okay! Let's say anyone who has the remotest chance of being physically attracted or attractive to my partner were to treat him or her as an unwanted catalogue full of microfibre long johns.

4. Then would I be happy and secure in my relationship?

If your answer to the final question is "Yes," you have a problem. None of the above are reasonable expectations of a relationship, let alone your fellow human beings.

No matter how committed a marriage, there will always be other people – those we have chemistry with and those we don't, those we are attracted to, and those who shop for functional outdoors wear. The sooner a couple can accept the existence of the former and exchange a few basic reassurances concerning them, the easier life gets.

Be open with your husband, as Alyson says. Obtain what reassurances you need. Then, take Stephanie's advice and have a little faith.

Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy.

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Next week's question

Recently at a party I flipped out on my dear friend and roommate. He, once again, had introduced me as "his gay roommate." I am out and proud, but my sexuality is not 100 per cent of my identity and I really hate being introduced as "the gay guy." It's not even like it's hard to tell. People don't need to be told. That being said, my roommate has always been accepting and supportive of me. Now he's upset with me and embarrassed that I yelled at him in front of people. How do I let him know that I am sorry for what I did while still letting him know that it bothers me when he introduces me as "my gay roommate"?

Let's hear from you

If you would like to participate, e-mail us at grouptherapy@globeandmail.com. All questions are published anonymously, but we will include your name and hometown if we use your response (it will be edited).

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