As a single woman working in a male dominated field, I do run into some weird situations. But I’ve never been confronted by a jealous wife before.
A year ago I relocated to a city about an hour’s drive from home so that I could be closer to my new job. A few days ago I was in a bad car crash. I survived it unharmed but my car was totalled. As the wreck was being towed, I called a few people, who I knew lived in the neighborhood, asking for a ride. I was very shaken up after the accident and was too scared to take a cab.
The first person to respond was a coworker who is a good work place friend of mine. He was close by and came to give me a ride. He had his two kids with him and they all dropped me off at my place. The next morning he texted to ask me if I needed to get a ride to work. My insurance company was going to give me a rental later that day, and I did need a ride to the office till then. He picked me up from my apt and dropped me at the office and I thanked him and that was it.
The next day I got a call from his wife in the middle of the night asking me about the text messages. She accused me of having an affair with her husband and said that he’s prone to having such dalliances and that I wasn’t the only one. I tried explaining to her that it was nothing and he had only given me a ride. She kept grilling me about why I’d call him of all people if I had an accident. She just wouldn’t buy any explanation that I’d give her. She has threatened to call my boss and complain to him about me. After I begged her to calm down and promised her that nothing was going on she asked me to not say anything to her husband about this conversation and ended the call. This has freaked me out a lot and I am confused about how to handle this.
I did mention this call to my coworker and asked him to not contact me anymore because I don’t want to be in the middle of this. I guess he talked to his wife about this because I got another call from her and this time she yelled at me to stay away from her husband. I don’t want to do anything with this guy but we work together and I will have to communicate with him. How do I handle this situation? But more importantly, did I do anything inappropriate here?
Not interested in anyone’s husband
Dear Not Interested:
1. You did nothing wrong.
2. Your coworker did nothing wrong (at least in his interactions with you).
3. The wife is TOTALLY out of line. Calling in the middle of the night? Threatening to tell your boss? JEBUS. I guarantee that any steps like that she takes will reflect more on her than on you, so if it ever comes to that tell HR exactly what happened, document her behavior, and prepare to ride it out.
4. The way you deal with your coworker is to say “Thank you for helping me. Your wife is really out of line, and I will not be taking her calls or interacting with her ever again. I am pleased to have you as a coworker and a friend and sorry you have to deal with that. Are you ok? Is there anything you need to talk about? (The wife is, after all, exhibiting many “abuser” red flags by trying to control your coworker’s relationships and making threats.) Or, shall we agree to forget this ever happened? Because you have nothing to apologize for and I’m so sorry if you feel weird and embarrassed. I know that this isn’t your fault.”
5. The way you deal with the wife is to never interact with her again. If she calls you again, you say “Look, this is completely out of line. Do not call me again.” Then you never, ever take her call again. If she calls from his number and you find out it is her, hang up immediately, or let it go to voicemail and only call back when it is him. Do not tell her more than once not to call or make threats (Courtesy of Gavin De Becker – obsessed people take any response as a cue to remain engaged, your only hope of getting rid of them is to disengage completely and wait for them to find someone new to fixate on). Document the calls in case things DO get out of hand, and if she makes threats about talking to your boss again give the company a heads’ up. If you see her at a company event, walk the other way when she walks toward you. Your attention: She gets zero of it.
I’m sorry you have to deal with this on top of the shock and difficulty of the car accident (glad you are ok!). Some people are just unreasonable, and there is nothing you can do to placate them or smooth it over. They violate the social contract so completely that they force you to question everything, and the only solution is to avoid them hard. Soon your coworker will say “Thank you” to the drive-thru barista a little too enthusiastically or take 5 minutes too long to come out of the drycleaner’s, and then those poor ladies will get weird calls and threats.
Here is a video that illustrates a situation of coworker/spouse jealousy in an awkward, ridiculous and funny manner. To find it I had to watch some horrible fanvids that actually tried to (gag) ‘ship Zoe/Mal as if that were ever a thing, so I hope you appreciate my sacrifice.
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