Virgina Ironside's Dilemmas: The one that got away

Her husband emails his closest female friend daily and they have long chats on the phone. Should this reader put a stop to it?

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The Independent Online

Dear Virginia,

My partner and I have been together for five years and have a daughter aged two. We are extremely happy except for one thing. He has admitted that before we met he was very much in love with a woman who wasn’t interested in him. She has a partner of her own. But even now, they often meet for lunch and have long chats on the phone and I hear them laughing. They email daily. He promises there’s nothing in it and he loves us, but it upsets me. I’ve met her and she seems nice, but I still feel excluded. Should I insist he gives her up?


Yours sincerely,


Virginia says...

I can well understand how utterly maddening your husband’s relationship must be. And jealous-making. And hurtful. But I’m afraid I can’t see how you could ask him to drop it without causing tremendous resentment

Could you not grit your teeth, telling yourself that it’s unlikely to last all that long? Your lives will, eventually, become so different that they just won’t have so much in common any more. Time – known as the great healer – also works in some cases in an entirely opposite way, and can cause the lessening of ties, however much people do to maintain the status quo. They’ll move. You’ll move. Something will happen and things will change. Does she have children? It sounds as if she’s got rather a lot of time on her hands, which she wouldn’t have if she had a baby – which she might well do at some point.

Until then, have you had both of them over to visit? Has she actually witnessed your close family situation? Exposure to your partner as a family man might shift her view of him and make her realise that rather than being central to his life she’s just a pleasant adjunct. And have you met her bloke? I wonder how he feels about all this. By meeting as a foursome you might be able to joke about how jealous you feel and get it all out in the open in a friendly way, enabling her chap, perhaps, to express his feelings on the relationship. Or why don’t you take some of the sting out of the situation by sometimes meeting this woman on your own?

It sounds as if this relationship, which is clearly harmless, is important to your husband. Indeed, while some men can’t stay married unless they’re having a mistress on the side, this may be your husband’s non-threatening version of it. He may be one of these men who just can’t stay married without some kind of female side-interest. Perhaps better that it’s a platonic and open relationship rather than a secret affair.  

I’m not someone who believes that every relationship a man has with a woman is based in some way on sexual attraction. And even if there is some twinkly undertone, surely you have men with whom you have semi-flirtatious relationships? Relationships which can only exist as such precisely because there is no possibility of them going anywhere?

Meet this woman, talk jokingly of your jealous feelings, and remember – it’s you that your husband loves most, not her.

Virginia Ironside’s new book is ‘No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses!’ (Quercus £14.99) 

Readers say...

Be her friend

Insisting that he give her up is asking for trouble; she is clearly important to him. That doesn’t automatically mean that she is more important than you. You say that you have met her and she seems nice. Why not suggest to your partner that you all make up a foursome for an evening out some time, and create a possibility that they could become part of your social circle. Seeing “the other woman” and her partner interacting may help to reassure you that she is no threat.  

Ian Hurdley, by email

Stop worrying

Policing each other’s friends is the fast track to relationship problems as it signals a lack of trust. What’s stopping you from believing your husband when he says there’s nothing to worry about?

We all come to relationships with a history. Most people have a “one that got away” but that doesn’t mean they’d drop everything for the chance to be with them again. People change. If you’re happy in all other aspects it doesn’t sound like he’s just hanging around waiting for her.

Suggest that you all meet up together more often. It could be that  you’ll realise that there really is nothing to worry about.

Sarah Rudston, by email

Next week’s  dilemma

Dear Virginia,

We’ve been married for 20 years and have reached the end of the road. We’re fond of each other, I suppose, but I get irritated with his lifestyle, which involves staying up most of the night and not getting up till lunchtime. We could afford tiny flats each if we sold our house, but our children have suggested that, instead, we either convert our house into two or buy a large property in a cheaper area and divide it into two flats so we’d be in the same house but leading separate lives. My partner’s very keen, but I’m uncertain. What do you think? 

Yours sincerely,


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