“First let me start by saying this is partly a problem because of other problems in our (wife [25F] and I [27M], any more plurals will be us) relationship but that is for another discussion that we are already in therapy for. we have talked to our therapist and pretty much her answer, while obviously the correct one of don’t touch it with a ten foot pole, is unhelpful. We have 2 kids, 6mo and 3, and we spend a large about of time at my in-laws where Kara [22F] (not real name) lives when she isn’t at college. She is in college but is close enough she comes home every few weeks for a weekend. This has been happening on and off for roughly the entirety of our 5 year relationship. Now as to why I and my wife feel the title statement.
Firstly I am generally very clueless when it comes to flirting or getting picked up, and if when I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t act on anything. … [W]hen I first started my relationship with my now wife, she knew I had no experience and told me if I needed help shopping for condoms, she would be happy to help me pick good ones.took me 2 years to get that one.
Second Kara has a bit of a reputation within her family of giving my wife’s exes and guys in general too much attention. I understand she definitely does have a flirty personality, so does my wife, but her last relationship before her current one she was definitely emotionally cheating and probably physically cheating on her boyfriend while at college and allegedly not the first time she has cheated. I was spared this attention immediately after our first date partly because at that time I was maybe a 5, and partly because she started a relationship with guy at the same time that was much more attractive than I. Since then anytime she was away from her boyfriend, they were having trouble, or she was single, my wife would notice an increase in her actions directed at me. I started to really notice more blatant signs after her and her one long time boyfriend started to have serious problems. And since then there isn’t a time we don’t visit that there is at least one instance of something peculiar, to down right WTF.
With all this said I do think Kara is attractive and most see her as the more attractive one between the 2. However she is not my type in almost every way and my understands that mostly, so neither one of us is worried. There is some concern though from both of us because of other factors both within our marriage and out, if she does decide to come on to me harder. Now that most background is out of the way, i want know if
A. Are my wife and i blowing this out of proportion.
B. If we aren’t blow this out of proportion how do we go about confronting Kara and actually getting the truth and working towards a solution.”
You said yourself that you have always been a bit more obtuse about picking up signs of flirting from others. But I do think that the signs are pretty clear here that Kara is very flirty with you. From what you’ve shared about your wife’s exes and other guys, Kara’s natural tendencies might just be that she is incredibly and naturally flirty with a lot of people. And some level of harmless flirting is okay, especially if you enjoy that give-and-take. But if the flirting is making you feel uncomfortable, especially in mutual social gatherings, you can definitely do something more concrete about it. Your list of weird moments do stick out as a bit above what feels normal between in-laws.
You and your wife are obviously aware of Kara’s personality and these weird moments of flirtation. Now it’s up to you (and your wife) to determine if this kind of flirty behavior is okay with you. Like I said, some level of harmless flirting can be acceptable. But it doesn’t sound like you are comfortable with Kara’s level of flirting which quickly appear to be getting a bit more out of control.
If you have determined that this is not okay for you, then you need to determine the kind of boundaries you want to set around Kara so that this sort of behavior is limited. If you want to set some personal boundaries as to not be around on weekends that Kara is around, that could be reasonable for you to enforce. Just make yourself scarce so that she isn’t around when you’re around. The most reasonable boundary you can set and verbalize is “I will not be around people that make suggestive remarks or indulge in inappropriate behaviors around me.” Should you decide to set any boundary, it is time to communicate and enforce those boundaries. You can handle this in two different ways. You can either own the boundary yourself or your wife manage this relationship for you. I strongly suggest the former as it is much more proactive.
If you want to own and enforce those boundaries, you can determine how this relationship gets played out but there is also more at risk. The next time you experience an obviously suggestive or outlandishly flirty moment, just mention, “Hey I am really feeling weird about this. Can you please put some clothes on?” Directly acknowledging how weird and inappropriate she is being around you will clue her in stopping this behavior. If she doesn’t understand at first, continue to enforce and reinforce your discomfort with these situations. And if she continues to breach your boundary, you will have to find other places to shower your little ones when Kara is around.
If you want your wife to own and enforce those boundaries, she will have to directly communicate in no uncertain terms that Kara’s behavior doesn’t just make you feel uncomfortable, but your wife also feel uncomfortable as well. You and your wife can sit Kara down together when you communicate your boundaries. Your wife could enforce these boundaries by continuing to acknowledge when things are weird between you and Kara. She knows Kara the best, so she can find the best way to communicate those discomforts on your behalf. One negative downside is that you are sort of at the mercy of your wife to be the mouthpiece of a major pain point that is not directly related to her relationship with her sister.
Understand that both of these routes to set boundaries can feel uncomfortable for everyone involved. But if you let things just fester and continue to cause friction between you and your wife, this is going to get much, much worse. Whatever the case is, I hope that things work out for you, your wife, and Kara.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!