Dear Dr. Love, My husband & I have been married for 8 years. He has a very outgoing personality. The problem is that is flirts with women.On several ocassions, while we were out with friends, he even bought them drinks and stood talking to them while I was left looking like an idiot with our friends. This makes me feel like dirt!I’ve told him how I feel about this and when I ask him why he does it all I ever get is, ‘I don’t know.’ I feel that if he can do this in front of me, what will he do when I’m not around.Needless to say this does nothing for my self-esteem. None of my friends’ husbands do things like this. I don’t know what to make of it.Could you please give me some insight on this behavior?
You asked me to give you insight into the meaning of his behavior. I can throw out several theories. Realize that without his confirmation, we are only guessing. What we really want is for him to get in touch with himself and explain the meaning of his behavior.Here are some possibilites:First, he may be passive aggressive, meaning that by flirting with women under your nose he is indirectly communicating his anger toward you.Second, he may have a low self-esteem, and being surrounded by fawning women may build up his sense of self.Third, he may be terrified of intimacy, and flirting with other women may dilute his attachment to you, and reassure himself that he isn’t trapped; that there are other fish in the sea.These are the main possibilities that come to my mind.Now, let me give you a few pointers on how to get him to open up to you. First of all, you need to tell him that when a person says, ‘I don’t know,’ that means that the unconscious knows very well and doesn’t want to let the conscious part of the mind in on the secret.Next, to get him closer to owning his motives, you could ask him, ‘How do you want me to interpret your behavior? What do you want me to feel? What you want me to think? By asking these questions, you are getting at his motives through the back door. You might also ask him, ‘What is this behavior telling me?’This question encourages him to translate symbolic communication (his behavior) into words that are understandable.Finally, you can throw out the interpretations that I suggested, asking him if any of them fit. Keep in mind that just because you are upset by his behavior doesn’t mean that he is behaving the way he does with the intention of upsetting you. What do I mean?If his flirting is an unconscious attempt to build his self-esteem, then his flirting isn’t about you. It’s about him and his own weakness. In which case, you are simply catching the fall-out of his own self-preservational acts.Don’t think that I’m saying that you aren’t entitled to your feelings. You are. But, be clear on whether his behavior is meant for you, which would be the case if he’s passive aggressive, and sticking it to you.Talking to him the way I suggested should help you figure out what his behavior means.