Carolyn Hax: Amid multiple red flags, a wife won’t raise the white one

My husband, after a few sessions, refused to go back to marriage counseling.

As I was discovering this relationship, I also discovered my friend frequently texts my husband, including selfies (“Look at me! I ran so far today!”) and assorted other just weird texts to send to a married man. None of them are completely inappropriate in the way the texts from the other woman were (which included, “Love you and miss you,” after a business trip).

Fast-forward two years, and I’ve recently discovered evidence my husband continues a more-than-business friendship with his work friend. So I’m newly sensitive. I believe he also lied to me about a text from my friend.

Now, I do realize the problem here is between me and my husband. But I’m increasingly unable to ignore my friend’s texting behavior. I would probably just let the friendship lapse, but my life is very entangled with hers — our daughters are best friends, our husbands get along, and she seems to run everything in town (PTO, Scout troop leader, etc.).

Do I risk my friendship, which I do value, by raising the issue with her? Or do I continue to consider this my own issue? What other ways can I wrap my head around this?

— Sensitive

Sensitive: I’ll say it this way, because it’s quick: I don’t like what your friend is doing.

But I also don’t like that she’s the one you want to talk about.

The problem here is your husband. The big, glaring, recurrent, unchecked problem. You say you “do realize” that, but if so, then why is this still a marriage? Or, I should say — why are you still treating it as (even potentially) the marriage you want it to be? The time to white-knuckle through on therapy and self-care is when you’re working on something together and you’re not sure yet how it will turn out. The marriage you describe isn’t undergoing any work that I can perceive. Your husband dropped a fat “nope” on counseling and went back to his flirtatious ways. (Assuming that’s all it is.)

You have other responses to his behavior available to you besides standing sentry and running off any friends he might find attractive. Legal separation is one of them. Finding a way to accept and love your womanizing spouse, as-is, is another. Mentally reframing your marriage as a household-and-family arrangement instead of the romantic-monogamy deal you’d hoped for is another.

Are these all problematic, from a little bit to “wow”? Yes. But each one of them, at least, is a way to remove the element of torture you’re experiencing now as you hold tight to the idea he can ever be faithful the way you want. (And deserve, of course, but that won’t make it so.) Please think how exhausting — and demoralizing — it is to feel you must remain ever vigilant against incursions into your marriage.

By the way — wanting fidelity doesn’t make you one of “those women.” Women who live by tighter or looser definitions of monogamy are all fine and all entitled to their views. The so-identified “insecurity” problem stems from the mismatch, between one spouse’s expectations and the other’s.

So to be fair, and more precise, I’ll rephrase my earlier assessment: The problem here is that you and your husband are mismatched, seeing your marriage differently and expecting different things from it. Being “right” gains you nothing unless the other agrees.

Are you ready, then, to be honest with yourselves about that? With each other? Are you ready to do what it takes to live by your principles? Settle that, and then we’ll discuss this friend — but I’ll bet we won’t need to.

Do consider talking to her, though — with emphasis on asking, listening and receiving information without reacting to it. That could be one of your more productive steps toward understanding the man you wed.

Hi, Carolyn: Why do people persist in telling their friends or family their plans, and then get upset when they get feedback?

Many people take conversations like this as invitations for their opinions. Just do what you think is best for you, and then present it as fait accompli, fer cryin’ out loud. If you come out okay, then yay! If you fail, you don’t have to listen to any I-told-you-sos.

— Keep It to Yourself

Keep It to Yourself: Let’s do that one better: Choose friends with the social IQ to understand that sharing plans is conversation, not a request to weigh in.