From Paris: I have been married for 21 years. While we were going out, my wife had this weird relationship with her old boyfriend. They spent hours talking on the phone; he tried to get her to go out with him on “friendly” dates; and never stopped asking her about me. He was in a serious relationship (now has wife – 2 kids). My wife even invited him personally to our wedding. He sent her a congratulations note with “marriage” written weirdly. For me, it was obvious, from the start, that this guy was trying to win her back.

I have had several relationships before my wife and never felt or been jealous.

The story is that this guy was here at a time in my wife’s life where she really needed someone (family crisis). She always told me he was more a friend of the family than a boyfriend. Their relationship was not a success. I have no doubt that, if my wife wanted more, she would’ve got it.

For 21 years, I asked to my wife to make this guy stop hitting on her, at least out of respect for me. She never did. They even met by chance on four occasions since our wedding and, each time, he would ask her something about her marriage.

This story made me suffer a lot and I never stopped trying to convince my wife to admit this guy was out of line and that she was sorry. I just needed to make sure she got my back.

Lately, I ended up flirting with a girl I don’t even like and confessed to my wife in tears. We fought for weeks about everything and I finally got her to admit that this guy was out of line and that she was sorry. She also said she never realized it had made me suffer so much. She also said that I can’t blame her for what the other guy wanted as long as she didn’t want it. She also said that, at a certain point, it made her feel safe to make me jealous and let me know she’s not “acquired”.

This “story” has been coming out of the closet every couple of years. I just need to know if I can trust her (or how) to push away firmly any “contender”, including this one.

A: Why, oh why, are you torturing yourself and your wife with this? Your insecurity is the issue, not your wife’s behavior. As your wife has told you, you can’t blame her for being attractive to someone. She has nothing to be sorry for. She can’t “make him” stop hitting on her – no matter how much respect she has for you. It’s important for you to look at why you aren’t satisfied with being the lucky “winner” for 21 years. I worry that your need to win a senseless argument may result in the very thing you fear. You’re now flirting with someone to make a point. Your wife probably feels disrespected and distrusted. I suppose you could ask her to stop talking to this guy completely but at this point her sense of pride may make that difficult.

I strongly urge you to get into some couples therapy to resolve this once and for all. You want to spend your remaining years together without this old story lurking in the background and threatening your peace. Deal with it so you can just relax and enjoy the rewards of a long marriage.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Sep 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). I can’t get over my wife having had boyfriend before me. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/09/05/i-cant-get-over-my-wife-having-had-bf-before-me/