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Is having a drink with a woman cheating?

From Friday's Globe and Mail

THE QUESTION

I am a priest and a woman in my church group was used to calling her husband three or four times a day or more. She is extremely jealous and basically uses the cellphone to track his movements. A while back he must have sat on his phone or something because he "ghost-called" his wife when having drinks with another woman. He was supposed to be at work. His wife overheard some of their conversation. She didn't hear anything incriminating but she feels it's enough that he was lying and has told me it confirms her worst suspicions about him.

She told me she's decided to ask for a divorce. Both have come separately to ask me for advice - he has confided in me he's "interested" in other women - but I'm not sure what to say. Do you have any thoughts?

THE ANSWER

Thank you for putting your faith in me, father. It shall be my honour to attempt to help you.

Though I have a feeling a lot of people will disagree with my advice this week.

I can practically hear the chorus of mostly male voices.

They're saying: "So he had a drink with a woman and never mentioned it to his wife - so what? Our wives have to know everything we do? It could have been perfectly innocent!"

And there may be some truth to that.

Basically, there are two types of jealousy: founded and unfounded.

The unfounded variety is based on insecurity, self-doubt and Lord knows what kind of personal or psychological issues (e.g. abandonment by a parent), and tends to contain a certain control-freaky component: "Ooh, you're not going to wear those jeans to work today, are you? They're too sexy! Every man in the office is going to be undressing you with his eyes!"

And there's certainly some evidence of that kind of jealousy on display here.

Using one's phone as a GPS-style spousal tracking device - that's clearly an infraction.

But at the same time, padre, your church-group lady seems to me to have pretty good grounds for her fears.

From what you've told me, I am forced to conclude the husband in this case is, at the very least, "adultery curious."

And to those who say "an innocent drink," I would say: "Gentlemen, please."

Confession is good for the soul. Admit you know how it goes: First she's his "special friend," then his "secret friend," then his "sweet sorrow"... then his mistress. Men pass through several shades of grey, morally, before finally getting their ticket punched to "the cheatin' side of town."

If these two desire a marital future, I would say they probably both need to get their minds right.

You could help with that, padre. Convince her to find her inner independence and self-reliance, back off of her husband, give him room to inhale and exhale.

And convince him that if he wants to remain married he needs to decide if his wife is really the centre of his universe.

Maybe divorce is too extreme a reaction. And I wish I had more information, such as whether they have any kids.

But maybe she should just issue him an ultimatum: "I need to feel in my bones I am the only woman for you. Otherwise pack your bags and don't let the door hit you on the way out." You could help her, padre, to find the inner strength to do that.

(And, of course, if you feel uncomfortable in that role, you could attempt to steer them toward a marriage counsellor who may be better qualified to sort it out.)

But a big part of me - my gut, and that's huge - feels that adultery is inevitable in this case, a train steaming down the track.

Maybe she's being smart getting out while the getting's good, before all the tears and trauma, betrayal and drama.

Should she really waste all those years of her life sitting around waiting for that anvil to drop?

She deserves the chance to find someone she trusts - like I trust my wife, Pam. She's very attractive. But she could kiss me on the cheek and say: "Bye, Dave, I'm off to a Jell-O wrestling party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the invention of the Chippendale dancer."

And I'd just say: "Have fun, dear."

Okay, I exaggerate a bit. But everyone has the right to hook up with someone they trust. There's nothing worse, and less healthy, than that gnawing feeling of mistrust in the pit of your stomach.

Maybe your best bet, padre, is just to give her your blessing and let both parties go their merry, unmarried ways.

David Eddie is a screenwriter and the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad.

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