Dear Thomas,
I have been married 5 years, and my spouse believes once you get married, your separate friendships either become mutual or don't exist, and friendships with the opposite sex are no longer permitted. I have a friend who has been there for me for 14 years. I guess I was wrong to "sneak" around and continue my friendship with him after I married. My husband found out, and he insists I was and still am sleeping with my friend. This was almost 2 years ago.

I have asked him to seek counseling, but he won't let this go. I get timed when I leave the house, if I'm gone too long, I get snide comments or remarks, and we fight all the time. I believe he loves me, and I know it takes time, especially if he believes I was intimate with this person. But shouldn't he seek help? He says I tore us apart and I don't love him; I sleep in another room and we don't talk much, only because I conditioned myself to not feel anymore since these comments hurt so much. At this point, is it a waste to remain together?

Dear Frustrated,
There's a difference between marriage and slavery, though it's difficult sometimes to tell them apart. In your case, it's slavery.

Marriage does ask for surrender, but it's never a good idea to surrender wholly to another person. If a marriage is alive and mature, you both constantly learn what it means to love and be with another intimately. You go through one experience after another, sorting out the competing needs of independence and dependence, for example. Jealousy can descend upon anyone, but when it does, it is a sign that you have more to learn. If you get stuck in the jealousy, you're no longer alive. The give-and-take turns into domination-and-submission.

Your husband has expressed his anxiety and insecurity in rules that amount to an intellectual chastity belt. His emotional immaturity has put your marriage on freeze. You don't feel love, you don't talk, you don't sleep together. It sounds like a delaying ritual in lieu of divorce. Something has to give.

The only sign of movement I see is your frustration. You have to own that frustration and live by it. At this point in a therapy session, I might ask a woman, "Do you have any feminism in you?" In other words, are you willing to be told what is permitted in your own home? Do you have to seek permission to be with an old friend? If your answer to these questions is "yes," then you may glimpse here your part in the conflict. If you have any anger about being controlled, now is the time to show it.

Your husband's jealousy is his own. It is unrelated to your continued friendship. His jealousy indicates that he has not matured to the point where he can engage in the flow of emotions required in a marriage. In desperate uncertainty, sometimes partners make demands of commitment and set up anxious rules. But the rules show that trust is absent and love has weakened.

It isn't easy for a jealous person to trust love, but that's exactly what he has to learn, the stage in maturity at which he has to arrive. Otherwise, your marriage will be stuck and have no future. I think it's usually best not to coddle a jealous partner. Live your life the way you wish to, acknowledging both your independent decision to keep a friend and your wish to be married. It isn't a matter of how far you can go outside your marriage, what you should and should not do. It's all a matter of love and trust. You have to love yourself first, and then trust the love and love the trust you share.

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