my wife is modeling jeans for her boss, old owner keeps showing up, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My wife is modeling jeans for her boss

My wife works for a very small company, and it is only her and her boss in the small building. I will also add that his apartment is connected to the office. He takes her to lunch almost every day. Last week, I get a pic sent to me by a friend that showed the two of them drinking wine with lunch. A little troubling to say the least. Yesterday they went to a convention in a neighboring town. They had some downtime, so they went to a store. She was seen trying on jeans, and he was right there looking on as she modeled them. Should I be worried about this? I don’t want to be a jealous jerk.

Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you if you should be worried; that depends on things I don’t know, like what your relationship is like, whether she’s given you reason not to trust her, how the two of you communicate, etc. And also, I don’t know who’s reporting this to you and what their motivation is, and whether there’s anything that would make their decision to report to you less strange than it seems on its face.

However … Going to lunch with a colleague isn’t a big deal, and I don’t think the presence of wine changes that. Lots of people dine and have wine with coworkers. The friend who sent you a photo of that is stirring up drama and should be told to stop.

The jeans modeling does seem a little … unusual. That doesn’t mean anything inappropriate is going on, though (and you might not be getting a fully accurate picture of what happened there).

Really, I think the thing to do here is to pay attention to your relationship, reflect on the source of the info (and at a minimum tell the lunch photographer to knock it off), and consider laying this all out for your wife (in a collaborative, “help me understand” way, not an accusatory way) and talking it through.

2. Old owner keeps dropping in

I run a branch location for an equipment dealer in the Midwest. This location was a single dealership and was sold to a multi-location dealer about two years ago. They brought in a manager from another location to run this one until a permanent manager was hired (which is me).

Here’s the dilemma I have now. The previous owner will not go away. Except for times when he is gone on multi-week vacations, he will come by the dealership 2-3 times a week. Every time I feel like I’m making progress with employees, he comes in and knocks us back to the “good old days.” It’s very disruptive, and he’s even gone so far as to have hats made for employees and customers with the old dealer’s logo on it. Is it wrong for me to tell him he’s no longer welcome here and ask him to leave?

Nope, it would be reasonable to ask him to stay away. I wouldn’t frame it as “you’re no longer welcome here” though; that’s pretty adversarial. Instead, I’d say something like, “Having you come by so frequently when we’re moving forward with new ownership is creating a distraction and making it harder to rally the employees around our new management. I’m sorry about this, but I need to ask you to stop coming by. I appreciate you understanding.”

3. What to say when I hear someone has been laid off

My field is experiencing layoffs right now. How do I respond to folks when I get the email saying “I’ve been laid off, but let’s stay in touch. Here’s my personal address…” Of course I’m going to stay in touch, but it’s the condolences part I’m having trouble with. What do I say? “My sincere condolences!” “I’m so sorry” “That really sucks and I’m so sorry that you’re going through that.” Or, do you have an opening to suggest?

I’d go with “so sorry to hear that — I’ve really enjoyed working with you.” (You could also add specifics about what was great about their work if it would be genuine.) I don’t think you need to lean too heavily on the condolences beyond something like that; most people really aren’t looking for much of that and want to focus on what comes next.

4. Time off around the holidays when starting a new job

I’m starting my very first full-time job on December 1! I know it’s typically frowned upon to take time off in the first months of employment, but do you have any suggestions on how to navigate this with Christmas and New Year’s coming up? The hiring manager mentioned that typically employees take most of their vacation time at the end of the year. Is this something I can address before day 1?

Time off around the holidays is often — but not always — the exception to the “don’t ask for time off when you’ve just started a new job” rule. (Also, note that rule has an exception for time oft that you already negotiated as part of accepting the offer, which is always the best way to handle this, but it’s too late for that now.)

It’s possible that it’ll be a slow time so not a problem to take a few days or a full week off. It’s also possible that they won’t want you taking off this soon. But it’s reasonable to ask. You could send your new manager an email before you start saying something like, “I wanted to check with you about how you normally handle time off around the holidays, especially for a new employee who won’t have accumulated vacation time yet. Should I plan to work through the holidays, or would it work for me to take off, say, the day before and after Christmas? I can make it work either way but wasn’t sure what would make the most sense.”

Also, as you get more senior in your career, this will be less something you need to ask for and more something you can just arrange.

5. Applying for a job with a company that’s a potential client of my current employer

I am looking to switch jobs very soon. I’ve been with my current company for quite a while and want to make a change for many different reasons.

I went to a meeting with a potential client of ours to discuss the results of a pilot program of our services we ran with them. Our contact there happened to mention an opening within their organization and asked my colleagues and me to send along anyone we knew who may be a good fit. Well, I think that person is me! The role is similar enough to what I’m currently doing, just a little more senior. There are so many positives to this job – a step up from what I’m currently doing, it’s a company I am passionate about, and it cuts my commute down significantly. I’m really excited and want to apply soon.

If I did get the job, I would have no intention of jeopardizing my current company’s relationship with this client. In fact, I would welcome them and if they did decide to pursue a partnership, I would have a lot of knowledge about what we do and how to make it work for this client. However, I just don’t know the “politics” of applying – do I send my resume through their application system or try to get our contact’s email and apply through him directly? Will it look bad to this client if I express my interest in leaving my current role? If I *don’t* get the job, the client will know I want to leave and may not end up pursuing a future relationship with my current company (if they have a negative impression of “the company must not be good if their employees want to leave”). I know that’s a little unlikely since people leave jobs all the time, but I would like to figure out the best way to approach this to not hurt my current employer for this deal (it will likely hurt them a lot if I leave, but that’s an entirely separate issue).

Is there any chance that it will feel like a conflict of interest to the client since they’re currently considering working with your company? If so, I’d call your contact there first and say, “That job posting you shared with me was so in line with what I’d like to do that I’d love to throw my hat in the ring. Will that cause any conflict of interest on your end?” Then, assuming your contact tells you to go for it, apply through the regular channel.

If you’re positive that won’t be an issue, I’d apply first, then give your contact a heads-up (saying something like, “That job posting you shared with me was so in line with what I’d like to do that I couldn’t resist throwing my hat in the ring and just sent in an application — but either way, best of luck filling it”).

I wouldn’t worry at all that they’ll assume your company must suck just because you’re applying for a single job somewhere else; people do that all time without it meaning anything about their current company.

{ 395 comments… read them below }

  1. Green*

    Modeling the jeans seems weird, but my test for whether something is inappropriate is whether or not you feel the need to conceal it from your spouse. Why don’t you have have a conversation with your wife? Let her know that you’ve gotten some weird updates (from whoever), that you’ve asked that the person not check up on her and send you mundane things that might cause drama (like them eating lunch together — which you should definitely ask this person to stop doing), and then ask what boundaries she has with the boss. Married people should be able to have conversations about this kind of stuff! I’d be more concerned if you can’t.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      Yes, this!

      I was friends with a previous boss (he was my boss, then we became friends when I quit working for him, and then I began working for him again). When I moved to a new town to work for him, we worked a lot of long nights that frequently finished with work conversation over dinner. I drink, he doesn’t, I would have wine and occasionally a cocktail. My husband was taking some well-deserved time off (and settling our entire household, ZOMG), and was often out at yoga or some other fun thing in the early evenings.

      I wouldn’t have modeled jeans for my boss, but that’s because he wouldn’t have been able to give a good opinion! But on the other hand, I totally shared a room with a (lesbian) woman who reported to me. There was nothing untoward, and because we talk about things, my husband was unbothered by any of this.

      Seriously, OP. It sounds to me like the person “reporting” on your wife is shit-stirring. If you have reason to suspect your wife, well, then, you don’t need secret-PI-style reports, you need to start counseling or some other mediated discussion. If you didn’t suspect your wife until this report came in, then, just be straight up with her: “Honey, I need to talk to you. Someone sent me an email implying that you were having an affair with your boss. I think it’s kind of creepy that they sent me this email, but … is he pushing you to behave in ways that you aren’t comfortable with? I can tell you the specific events that the person reported, but mostly I want to know that I have nothing to worry about and can write this person off as shit-stirring, and also that you aren’t being taken advantage of by some weird power dynamic with your boss.”

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        “Honey, I need to talk to you. Someone sent me an email implying that you were having an affair with your boss. I think it’s kind of creepy that they sent me this email, but … is he pushing you to behave in ways that you aren’t comfortable with? I can tell you the specific events that the person reported, but mostly I want to know that I have nothing to worry about and can write this person off as shit-stirring, and also that you aren’t being taken advantage of by some weird power dynamic with your boss.”

        This is absolutely brilliant. OP, forget the lunch and wine, that’s perfectly normal behaviour between coworkers and, frankly, not the sort of thing that absolutely, definitely has to be mentioned to a spouse (“I had lunch with Jim today” thrown into a conversation is pretty much where it’s at, and if it’s happening every day it probably just becomes assumed at some point) The jeans are a little more unusual but not entirely out there either (I’m thinking of the boss who wanted to buy her employees underwear) and it could have any number of innocent explanations.

        The fact that you don’t trust your wife is the bigger problem here (although her not mentioning the clothes shopping is a wee little orange flag – but totally explicable as well, without knowing more) and Connie-Lynne’s wording is brilliant. It assumes the best and is supportive and understanding, whilst opening lines of communication (and not blaming your wife in any way). I think that phrases like “A little troubling” and “she was seen” could be interpreted as being quite hostile, suspicious and passive-agressive, and are more likely to put someone’s back up and make them defensive. You really need to assume the best of your wife here, and acknowledge that while there may be something going on, this may be a problem in your head which your “friend” has caused and she may be upset at the implications.

        I hope that you don’t mind my saying, but the problem seems to have arisen because you don’t like your wife working alone with a man; but this is your wife’s career, so you need to find a way to make peace with the idea that a man and a woman can work side by side, and even be friendly, without any untoward shenanigans.

        1. Myrin*

          I hope that you don’t mind my saying, but the problem seems to have arisen because you don’t like your wife working alone with a man
          That’s the impression I got as well, especially because he notes that the boss’s apartment is connected to the office which doesn’t actually seem relevant. It’s not like if two people want to start an affair the absence of an adjacent apartment is somehow going to stop them; likewise, two people not wanting to have an affair won’t suddenly find themselves thinking about it just because there’s an apartment next door.

          1. Ad Astra*

            The OP may just be hypersensitive to this because he and his wife have had trust issues in the past, or because his weird paparazzo friend is putting him on edge, or because the OP himself is the kind of person to have affairs at work. Or, perhaps The Artist is right, and the OP feels weird about his wife working alone with a man because of some deeply ingrained taboo that stems from the idea that men are insatiable and women are temptresses who are also somehow helpless.

            It’s worth examining why you feel the way you feel, OP.

            1. sunny-dee*

              I took it to mean that the boss didn’t need to eat out every day (or at all) for lunch since he is literally at home. Which makes going out for lunch an unusual choice.

              1. Chameleon*

                I have a perfectly good kitchen in my house. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to go out for dinner sometimes.

              2. Oryx*

                Not if he’s trying to keep a very strict line between his business life and his home life.

                Or maybe he doesn’t cook. Maybe he gets sick of eating sandwiches or leftovers all the time. If it’s just two people in the office, there’s hardly going to be a big lunch room to eat with different people every day. Why not go out?

              3. LD*

                And that reminds me of a friend who told me after she moved in to a new house: “I love my kitchen. I dust it every day.” She was saying that she never uses her lovely new kitchen. Some people don’t even heat up soup. They eat out or eat take out all the time.

          2. MashaKasha*

            likewise, two people not wanting to have an affair won’t suddenly find themselves thinking about it just because there’s an apartment next door.

            Very true!!

            1. Artemesia*

              This kind of very cozy relationship day after day with alcohol with asking the boss how her butt looks in jeans (I mean, jeans, come on) is risky behavior. Yes the reporter is a shit stirrer but the situation is one with a lot of potential. I have seen several people slide into affairs with people they are spending most of their waking hours with. I had a boss with whom I really hit it off and with whom I worked very closely on major business challenges. We avoided frequent lunches and drinks together — and there was no bedroom steps away. There will be several people over the course of a career that the average person would like to jump into bed with; knowing how to keep things professional is important especially when you really enjoy working with the other person. The situation here: two people who spent a lot of time alone together and who appear to enjoy each others company coupled with lunches and drinks day in and day out — not wise.

              The husband probably ought to have the conversation being suggested.

              1. Artemesia*

                For example. She needs jeans — so instead of going to lunch with the boss that day, she runs that errand on her lunch hour. This is the natural way to keep that bright line and keep things professional. Have a few drinks and then go model jeans for Mr. Wonderful? A slippery slope choice. Lunch with drinks on Friday, sure. Every day — uhuh —

                1. fposte*

                  She wasn’t running errands, though; they were both out of town at a convention. I’ve killed time with colleagues at a convention doing more risqué things than that. I’d be a lot more worried if my wife had spent her downtime at the convention in private with the boss than shopping.

                2. AnotherAlison*

                  See, I am really hung up on the jeans myself. I think hitting the bar at the convention hotel to kill an hour. . .totally normal convention behavior. Trying on jeans – weird. It’s so weird to me that I’d be less weirded out if they went to a strip club together (which I would see as not too weird at a convention, if there were 3-4 of them, but still weird if the two of them alone). I guess the jeans shopping trip has a little bit of a sugar daddy vibe, the way I’m imagining it. It could be the other way around, though – she said she needed to stop and buy some jeans, and he rudely invited himself along. I need more information, hence, OP should talk to his wife.

                3. A Bug!*

                  See, it doesn’t really strike me as that weird at all. My town doesn’t have great shopping; the town an hour’s drive away does. If I need new jeans and work brings me to Big Town for a day, I’m going to take advantage of that opportunity. If my boss and I are traveling together and/or there’s nobody for my boss to spend time with for that period, then I wouldn’t find it weird to have them join me for it and offer an opinion on the fit.

                4. Chinook*

                  “If I need new jeans and work brings me to Big Town for a day, I’m going to take advantage of that opportunity. If my boss and I are traveling together and/or there’s nobody for my boss to spend time with for that period, then I wouldn’t find it weird to have them join me for it and offer an opinion on the fit.”

                  Another small towner and I could so see this being the explanation. That is why asking the question of your spouse is a no-brainer. That being said, the photographer is very much a drama-stirrer and needs to be told to butt out.

              2. MashaKasha*

                The husband needs to have this conversation for two reasons: 1) for his own peace of mind, 2) to shut up the nosy friend. Lunches, wine at lunches, and swinging by a shopping center while at an out-of-town convention all seem legit to me. It was jeans, for crying out loud, not a bikini. Not exactly the sexiest item of clothing if you ask me!

                Also, I would really like to know who “caught” them shopping at the convention. Don’t OP1’s friends have anything better to do? what on earth is going on there, why are they all playing PI and snooping on his wife.

                1. Laurel Gray*

                  Depending on the body shape and the jean fit, jeans can absolutely be a very sexy item of clothing. Also, in determining fit, the hips/thigh/butt area are the focal point. Totally not normal or appropriate to be shopping and trying them on how OP’s wife did.

                2. fposte*

                  Huh? That seems a remarkably omniscient claim. You get to agree with your partner that it’s not appropriate, but you really don’t get to make the call for the rest of us.

                3. Spiky Plant*

                  And maybe the wife meant to pack a pair of jeans for the conference, forgot, and the two of them are sharing a rental car, so they went to the store together because they’re friends? And popping in with her was less boring than waiting in the car? There are so many ways that this can be perfectly appropriate (not to mention that, while some people maintain a bright line between co-workers and friends, many do not. Even with bosses, even across sexes. I’ve known plenty of people who were good friends with their boss. Maybe not the greatest idea in general, but in some situations, that’s the reality and it doesn’t make an affair any more likely).

                4. MashaKasha*

                  And maybe the wife meant to pack a pair of jeans for the conference, forgot, and the two of them are sharing a rental car, so they went to the store together because they’re friends? And popping in with her was less boring than waiting in the car?

                  I’m willing to bet $100 that this is exactly what happened.

                5. Joline*

                  And like AAM mentions…we really have no way of knowing how intimate of a clothes shopping this excursion was – no matter what type of clothing. If it was him admiring her rear in a variety of styles or her saying “hey, I have to by some jeans…you want to come or should we meet up later?” and then him coming in to flop on the waiting chairs and check e-mails on his phone rather than wander around on his own while she checks out her own rear in the more extensive mirrors that are often outside of the cube.

                  The OP really does have some interesting friends, though, it sounds.

                6. Honeybee*

                  Spouse doesn’t have to have a conversation to shut up the nosy friend. That is accomplished by telling friend “Friend, I do not appreciate you spying on my wife like this; please stop.” It’s really none of nosy friend’s business whether OP’s spouse is doing anything worrying.

                7. Jillociraptor*

                  Right, I’m curious too what’s happening that the wife seems to be under constant surveillance? Is it the same person who always “happens” to see her out and about, colleague with an axe to grind, or just a small town situation where this kind of news travels?

                  I think there might be something relevant in WHO is reporting. It’s possible they have an agenda that would inform how the hubby approaches the situation…

              3. Beezus*

                I had a coworker years ago, with whom I frequently had lunch, followed by a quick trip to a store around the corner to try on and model clothes for each other. He was single and I was in a long distance relationship at the time. I’m sure someone looking to create scandal could have made something of it, all they’d have to leave out is that he was the Jack McFarland to my Karen Walker…

              4. Katniss*

                Who said anything about her asking about her her butt looks? And what’s so ridiculous about jeans? Am I missing something? My jeans fit me the same as the slacks I wear to work and there’s nothing inherently sexy about them.

                Here’s what we know about her interaction with her boss:

                1. They work in an office together
                2. They have once had wine with lunch
                3. She has once worn jeans in front of him

                Why is this cozy, exactly? Seems like people are projecting like crazy here.

              5. Rat in the Sugar*

                “I mean, jeans, come on”

                I’m not really sure what you mean by this or why you keep acting like jeans are meant to be sexy clothes. They were originally designed as sturdy work clothes and that is how many, many people still wear them.

                1. Ellie H.*

                  I don’t have an opinion on the original question but if I asked any male friend or coworker to help me/watch/come with me trying on pants (really any item of clothing, maybe not mittens or a hat or a scarf) it would definitely have a flirtatious valence. I don’t think everyone feels the same way I do but I personally, as one woman, wouldn’t do something unless I meant it to be a little flirtatious. I actually think there’s some room in some colleague/friend relationships for a little flirtation without it being ethically wrong but it’s 100% dependent on the people in question.

                2. Honeybee*

                  @Ellie H. – I think the key is that not everyone feels the same way, which you mentioned. It’s entirely possible that the spouse wasn’t even trying them on for the boss; he just happened to be in the same room at the same time. Trying on jeans at a mall during a conference doesn’t sound fun and flirtatious to me.

                3. Pennalynn Lott*

                  @ Ellie H — I can think of at least a dozen past male colleagues and bosses where I’d feel comfortable coming out of a dressing room and asking them if something fit me OK (“Should I get these darker jeans or the bedazzled ones I just had on?”) without it being flirtatious. But I’ve also shared rental houses and hotel suites with male colleagues without any of us thinking that meant we needed to get down with the sexytimes.

              6. Marian the Librarian*

                “If I need new jeans and work brings me to Big Town for a day, I’m going to take advantage of that opportunity. If my boss and I are traveling together and/or there’s nobody for my boss to spend time with for that period, then I wouldn’t find it weird to have them join me for it and offer an opinion on the fit.”

                I agree with this one, too. If there’s nothing in your relationship that indicates you shouldn’t trust her, give her the benefit of the doubt on this one. Her reasoning could definitely have been that she wanted to get a male perspective on the fit/style of the jeans, or even just a second opinion from anyone available. I don’t always (or even usually) buy clothes based on whether or not I think my husband would like them, but I’ve gone shopping with (straight, single) male friends before and come out of the dressing room to see what they thought, thinking their taste is probably closer to my husband’s than mine is.

            1. Barefoot Librarian*

              I agree that context is everything. I have a really good friend (male, also married) at work whom I stay after work chatting with, go to lunch with and sometimes dinner, and would totally go clothes shopping with at a conference if we had down time (he’s got a great sense of style). However, there’s nothing even remotely romantic going on. We just hit it off when I started working here. His wife actually stops in to chat with me from time to time (she’s also on the campus but in a different building). I think that this is either a case of insecurities that already existed (justified or not) that are coming to the surface OR the “friend” who is reporting info back to the OP is trying to make trouble by blowing things out of proportion.

            2. Just another techie*

              My dad works in a male-dominated field. And for all his faults, and they are legion, he is not sexist. He often takes it upon himself to mentor young women in his field, in part because he’s seen how much his daughters (who all went into male-dominated fields) struggled in our early careers. He takes his mentees out for lunch, often at out of the way or secluded places so they can talk honestly about nasty coworkers or sticky office politics without worrying about being overheard. I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has tried to stir shit by telling my mom or the coworkers’ husbands about these lunches. The most hilarious was the time someone tried to tell Mom all about one of these lunches and Mom was like “Uhhh, I was at that restaurant too, having my own business lunch with one of my colleagues.”

              So from my perspective it looks like LW’s friend is a busybody, trying to stir stuff up because their own life isn’t full or interesting enough.

              1. Anna*

                The most aggravating thing about your example is that’s one of the big reasons men have said they aren’t comfortable mentoring young women in their field; they don’t want the perception they’re up to no good. Ugh.

              2. BeenThere*

                Love, love men like your dad. Every time I am lucky enough to be mentored like that it has advanced my career exceptionally!!

            3. Decimus*

              This reminds me of something my aunt told me once. She used to get odd looks from her husband’s co-workers. Then finally someone admitted to her they thought her husband was having an affair because he’d go off and meet a woman most days for lunch.

              Which he was. He was meeting my aunt, since she was working nearby at the time. Apparently whoever saw him had not met her and just made assumptions.

              1. Honeybee*

                I don’t understand this…why can’t people just assume the best rather than the worst? And why does a man and a woman having lunch together have to be instantly romantic rather than professional or friendly? I mean, it’s *lunch* during the workday, not a candlelit dinner.

          3. neverjaunty*

            Hey, let’s not scold the OP into gaslighting himself. Maybe he’s seeing something that isn’t there, and maybe he’s in fact seeing something that is. He should absolutely try to think clearly about this, but it is entirely possible that he has some other issues AND that something hinky is going on.

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              The only solution here is to talk to his wife.

              Otherwise, as you say, there’s just gonna be a lot of second-guessing.

              I am reallly side-eyeing the “friend.”

              1. neverjaunty*

                Oh definitely. I’m just cringing a little at all the “relax! be the Chill Dude!” comments. It isn’t helpful to tell the OP that he must just be imagining things or is clearly just sexist or jealous.

                1. Katieinthemountains*

                  Exactly. OP, your wife and her boss have a close working relationship and your drama llama acquaintance thinks there’s more to it. Something is bothering you enough that you’ve written in, whether it’s a past experience or something in this current situation. I think she deserves to hear the rumors, that you love her and aren’t trying to interfere, but that you want some reassurance. Listen to what she says, and if you trust her, try not to let this eat at you.

              2. Chalupa Batman*

                Me, too. The OP may or may not have a wife problem, but he almost definitely has a friend problem. I very much got the impression that the “friend” could be making these activities seem more nefarious than they would have had the OP seen it himself. I remember coming home once to find my mother quite concerned-she’d gotten an anonymous call that an older man and I were hanging all over each other at the city bus stop. The older man was a mentally disabled man in his late 50s that I made small talk with and usually gave a hug before getting on the bus. We’re talking the kind of hug you would give a distant relative that you feel warmly towards, but don’t know very well, and it was consentual and uncoerced on both sides. I still have no idea who would be able to track down my mom to tell her this. I’d have understood if it was even close to true (I was about 16, and looked younger), but it was so far from the truth that it was meddlesome at best, and likely malicious. It took me a while to even figure out who she was talking about.

    2. ginger ale for all*

      LW 1, I am a bit worried that your first thought is to write an advice columnist about this before speaking to your wife to see what might be going on. And why is a third party so interested in your marriage? Who is the third party and what is their stake in this situation? Is it the bosses wife? Is it a family member or friend? It is worrisome but to me the most worrying thing is that the communication between you and your wife is such that you wrote someone outside of your marriage before seeing what your wife says. Talk to her and open up the lines on this. It is probably someone else trying to stir up something out of nothing but have a conversation first. Best wishes.

      1. nofelix*

        Yeah, agreed. Trying on jeans is not the important issue here.

        With my fiancée, we generally tell each other if someone has been inappropriate or creepy. So trust is built up that we can both identify inappropriate behaviour and don’t feel guilty talking about it. If I did hear about something like this I would likely just dismiss it, or just ask about her day and see if she wants to talk.

      2. Random Lurker*

        What troubles me most is that he asks a career advice blog instead of a relationship advice site (I would have preferred to see that space go to a letter that addressed a problem that many of us run into at work instead of relationship drama, but it is Alison’s site). If OP has a breakdown in communications in his relationship and his first thought is, “Let me ask a manager if this is OK”, then that’s very telling he isn’t communicating well or even able to recognize the difference between a work concern and a home issue. Or he’s trolling.

        1. MK*

          While the main issue is a personal one, I think the OP is unsure whether the things he is worried about are totally normal interactions between coworkers or signs of something inappropriate. Maybe he isn’t familiar with office norms or knows he can’t be objective about this; it’s not odd that he asked a manager.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s my take. He’s asking for a business perspective on it because he’s trying to figure out if it’s odd for a work relationship.

            (Also, please don’t accuse letter-writers here of trolling! People writing in are often making themselves vulnerable, especially with questions like this, and that’s got to suck to hear.)

        2. Helka*

          I don’t think that’s necessarily true. We don’t know that the OP hasn’t asked advice elsewhere, and asking here on AAM gets him the work perspective on it (ie, how far outside boundaries is this for a working relationship) and a pretty levelheaded commentariat.

        3. Erin*

          Well, that’s a kind of silly and strange comment. Alison often takes on relationship issues, which can inevitably bleed into work issues. If someone’s trolling here it’s not the letter writer.

          1. Badmin*

            I agree, I don’t understand why people critique the OP so much, OP came here for advice because they are worried about something, to get an objective opinion.

        4. OP Anon*

          Trust me I’m not trolling. I have tried communicating with her. I do know the difference in work and home but an innapropriate work relationship can become a home problem. I asked here simply for a manager’s opinion on this issue. I am desperate for answeres and knowledge. I have a larger more in depth addition at the bottom now if you care to look. Sorry if I have inconvenienced you and interrupted your casual reading.

      3. LNB*

        I understand your concern but you should definitely visit the site weddingbee to see just how bad communication issues between boyfriends, fiances, and spouses can be. HA. I totally agree and get your point though. I guess I am desensitized to how messed up writing about your significant other/close friend on a message board is thanks to that wacky site that I chose to visit during my engagement.

    3. snuck*

      I would say that the fact that the OP is asking these questions and has such strong feelings about it that yes, it is possibly a problem. I get the impression that the OP is very conservative in their views, the two examples given are indicators of this.

      I am wondering if the OPs wife has given cause for concern – to the OP, or their community of busy bodies. If it’s the former then sure, the OP needs to talk it through (and writing here and asking if this sort of stuff is normal is a way for him to balance his own view of the world, which if deeply conservative isn’t a bad move on his part). If it’s the town gossips making assumptions then I’d ask the gossips directly (now that I’ve had confirmation that htis isn’t a sign of a torrid affair in normal business) about it “why do you think this is such an issue?” and let them explain themselves.

      The jeans thing is odd, but not completely… they might have had 20mins to kill between meetings, and she might have passed a shop with what she wanted and said “look give me five minutes in here ok?” and he sat and checked his email on his phone and wasn’t that involved. Or they might be great buddies and he was more involved… as a way to pass time. Doesn’t mean they are having an affair. She might think he has a good eye for picking fit on jeans and worth asking. Ask her in a curious way. It’s ok for another person to be better at picking the cut of jeans than you are… you get to appreciate them even more then.

      I wonder if the OPs wife is an attractive woman in a position that more conservative people around her don’t want to approve of, and are undermining.

      1. FurnitureLady*

        I’ve gone shopping with my old boss (a man) many times because we traveled together frequently and honestly, never thought anyone would find it odd. He used to work in retail and had a great eye – and believe me, he would tell you if something didn’t look good! (Obviously I wasn’t trying on anything revealing) Of course, I didn’t keep secrets from my spouse but my husband was relieved he didn’t have to go to the mall and watch me try on 400 coats.

        1. KarenD*

          Same here. When I was much younger, I worked in a very small office. I socialized quite a bit with the owner/boss, both in a larger group of employees and one-on-one (usually lunches or dinners, occasionally movies). Sometimes my boyfriend came along, but basically, “Tom” was doing stuff with me that my boyfriend didn’t enjoy (like science fiction movies or certain types of ethnic restaurants).

          And yeah, that included shopping, and he’d help me pick stuff out.

          20 years later, Tom is still a friend. And he finally came out, so any lingering suspicion has been put to rest.

        2. snuck*

          Yup. Exactly.

          When I say there’s cause for concern I don’t mean *I* am concerned, I mean the OP is… this is obviously outside *his* normal parameters.

          I’ve had work colleagues I’ve done shopping runs with. I’ve had bosses I’ve ordered take away to the office and sat on half dark floors eating and chatting with for a half hour break before going back to work for several more hours, I’ve even driven a colleague 1,000km to visit his family the weekend of his kid’s birthday (because the airline he was booked on had collapsed, two days earlier we’d had notification that the national centre we were creating was to be moved to another city entirely and we’d move in two weeks, and he only had a motorbike until his family relocated to the new worksite).

          People can see this stuff as suspicious if they want, or they can chat with me and find out I’m just a person open to enjoying the company of others, not bonking them, not even in my mind!

      2. RVA Cat*

        Can she wear jeans to the office? Because the immediate thought I had was that she can if they’re a certain color/fit and she was just checking with the boss that they were okay?

          1. TL -*

            They’re actually super practical and durable items of clothing that a lot of people wear solely because they’re practical and durable.

          2. Ad Astra*

            I wear jeans primarily to, like, cover the lower half of my body in casual environments. They don’t “show off” my cute butt any more than dressy office pants do.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think that’s the case (at least for many people), but I do think that when trying on jeans, the question of how one’s butt looks is a central part of the evaluation process.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Depends on the jeans and why you want them. Any pair of jeans that raises the question of how my butt looks is either too low or too tight, and I would notice that without asking because they’d be bloody uncomfortable.

              I wear jeans – grudgingly! – for two reasons only:
              1) When sturdy pants are needed for hard work. (Needless to say, these are not “fashion” jeans, many of which are less-sturdy than my average pair of business casual slacks.)
              2) When I need to, to signal “I can be casual with the rest of you, yay!” (Why are jeans so bloody necessary for casual? Why why why?) For this latter purpose, I usually get a pair of “slacks” that happen to be made out of lightweight denim. :P

            2. MashaKasha*

              I might be an exception, but when I’m trying on jeans, the only question I can ask is “are they long enough?” “are they too short?” because, for some reason, I can never find the right length. And it is hard to gauge if the pants are long enough unless you have a good full-length mirror.

              I can get a pretty good feel of my own butt, so there’s really no need for me to ask anyone.

              Again, I could be in the minority.

              1. Ezri*

                I don’t think I’ve ever considered how my butt looks when picking jeans. 0_0 My biggest concerns are a) are they flare or bootcut, b) are they long enough to cover my ankles even when sitting and c) are they loose enough to not strangle my pelvis. Then again, jeans are my day-to-day wear, so I view them as casual ‘meh I don’t care’ rather than ‘I’m trying to look cute’.

          4. Spooky*

            I’ll remember that the next time I see construction workers wearing them. Or hipster tech guys, or professional men in offices with Casual Fridays.

            Seriously, they’re jeans. It’s not like we’re talking about slinky little bandeau dresses or tube tops. It’s one of the most practical forms of clothing for a lot of people.

          5. MashaKasha*

            Really? That must be why everyone’s wearing them when gardening, hiking, walking their dog etc. Also, thanks a lot, I will never see my coworkers the same way again on casual Fridays! “cute butts” heh heh

          6. teclatrans*

            I…most certainly do not wear jeans to showcase my butt. This assumption probably is why OP is concerned, so it is useful as a demonstration, but I would like to chime in with all the other commenters to say that this is absolutely not the only interpretation (and I would argue it is somewhat limited in perspective).

          7. Rat in the Sugar*

            No. They were originally designed as work clothes and are still used that way by many people. “Fashion” jeans are a more recent invention and are still not the primary purpose of jeans.

          8. Biff*

            What. The. Hell. No they are not. Normally I feel you are pretty reasonable, Artemesia, but this is not one of those moments.

          9. Chinook*

            Umm, no? Around here, that is what you wear on casual Fridays because they are comfortable and the cultural norm. They are durable and one of the few pieces of female clothing that comes in various dimensions (unlike dress pants that don’t take into account differing inseams and rises). They are also true work clothing that can take wear and tear of dirty work.

          10. Oh no not again*

            You’re getting a lot of flack for this, but I don’t think you’re far off the mark. It all depends on the context. Everyone keeps mentioning jeans as non-sexy apparel. Well, yeah, that’s pretty much the case for men, but not women. Much of women’s fashion is designed around being super sex-ay!, so there’s that. I wonder why she needs her boss’ opinion. Aren’t there mirrors in the dressing room? I’m not into putting my butt in jeans up for critique from my coworkers. I find it odd. Others don’t. Wish we had more context, but there is a difference between “how do these look?” and “how do THESE look” (paired with a flirty gaze and emphasising one’s *ahem* assets). I’d love to hear an update from the OP.

            1. Panda Bandit*

              Just because some jeans are meant to be sexy doesn’t mean all jeans are sexy. There are plenty of jeans with baggy cuts in the women’s section.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Maybe so, but it’s still weird. I mean, it’s almost always weird to ask your boss’s opinion about any specific piece of clothing, especially before you buy it. Imagine if somebody said to their boss, “hey, do you think this sweater looks good on me and is appropriate for work? [twirl around to show all sides of sweater]” or weirder, “Here’s a link to a dress I’m thinking of buying for our next big presentation. What do you think?” How is the boss supposed to respond? by saying you look hot? that your ass looks good in that? telling you it doesn’t flatter your figure? These aren’t work conversations. If you want clothing input from your boss, you get it in a more general way – like “hey, it is okay to wear cardigans, or should we stick with blazers?”

          I’m not saying it’s sinister or gross, but it does indicate that the boundaries in their relationship are out of the ordinary.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              It reminds me of the rule that gift intended to be put on the recipient’s body are not work-appropriate. So perfume, lotion, nail polish, make-up, massages, vitamins, clothes, jewelry, etc. are all, as a general rule, too personal for work. Especially when there is a power difference between the giver and the receiver.

              Company-related clothing pieces like hats or t-shirts where the same thing is given to lots of people are an exception.

          1. Biff*

            I don’t know that I agree with that. What if the company is chasing new/different clientele and realizes that their presentation is out of step? Eg. “NewStartSoft is looking for our product, but when I went in to gauge interest, it was pretty clear that our look was off-putting. It’s too old-school. Let’s come up with some more youthful options.” I think at that point it’s perfectly reasonable to have conversations that are quite specific about clothing, especially in certain industries.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              But that’s about an overall “look”, which isn’t that different than having a dress code. I think it gets weird when you talk about specific items of clothing on a specific person. So, it’s one thing to say, “we need to look hip and cool, and that mean x type of clothing”, and another to say, “Hey Jane – you know that adorable black dress you wore last week? Wear that again on Monday”.

    4. Chinook*

      “Modeling the jeans seems weird, but my test for whether something is inappropriate is whether or not you feel the need to conceal it from your spouse.”

      I agree. Yesterday I tried on a sweater for a coworker because I happened to be the same shape as the friend she is giving it to and she wanted to check fit. From the outside, it would be weird but it makes total sense if given all the facts.

      Ask your wife to help you understand in a non-judgmental way (which, having been on your side of the suspicion, I know is not as easy as it sounds) and listen to what she says and how she says it. If she is smart and it is innocent, she will realize what it could look like and be willing to explain. If it isn’t innocent, then you will be able to tell.

  2. Little Teapot*

    OP1 -I’d be interested what red flags you think wine presents? Having a business lunch with wine isn’t creepy or weird IMO… But what I *do* find creepy and weird is someone is stalking your wife and taking photos!

    I agree, you need to talk to your wife about this. But if she’s given you no reason to think she’d cheat, why are you thinking she will? I don’t understand the big deal. It’s not like your friend caught them kissing in the restaurant over lunch.

    I’d also wonder about your friend that’s sending these pictures: what drama are they trying to create? I’d be all, “In the future if you could not act like a creepy stalk and send me photos you took secretively of my wife partaking in regular business activities that would be great thanks”.

    1. Green*

      “I’d also wonder about your friend that’s sending these pictures: what drama are they trying to create? I’d be all, “In the future if you could not act like a creepy stalk and send me photos you took secretively of my wife partaking in regular business activities that would be great thanks”.”

      Yes! I mean, if you see my husband necking at the bar groping some other lady, send me a heads up so that I can have a conversation with him. If you see him talking to someone in the grocery store, eating lunch with a business contact on a business trip, or if he’s eating at a bar and engaging in pleasantries with someone of the opposite sex while watching a sports game, then you need to just quit acting like a weirdo and mind your own business.

      1. SystemsLady*


        Even the modeling the jeans part isn’t *really* that weird given the context mentioned.

        I’ve gone shopping with coworkers and customers when stuck somewhere out of town with them, and people have tried things on and modeled them for the group regardless of gender dynamics (granted, come to think of it, there usually were at least two women in the group, myself included, but that’s just circumstance).

        1. MJH*

          Yeah, “modeling” is a weird framing. She tried on some jeans at a store and probably came out of the dressing room to get a second opinion. Most women who go to try on jeans couldn’t feel less like a model if they tried. (Jeans are the worst!)

          1. Ad Astra*

            I agree, “modeling” really colors the interaction in a way that may not be accurate. For all we know, she was just trying to get to the 3-way mirror.

          2. Not me*

            Given the pretty weird person telling all of this to LW, she could have just walked out of the dressing room and happen to be seen by her boss. Or anything between that and ~*modeling*~.

          3. Ezri*

            I wondered about this too. The few times I’ve taken my husband shopping, I’ll come out of the dressing room and ask him if he thought something was nice. It wasn’t really a flirty thing, even, mostly because he is bored out of his skull by clothes shopping .

            I don’t know what modeling means in OP’s context. There’s a wide range between ‘how does this look’ and full-blown runway strut.

        2. themmases*

          Yeah, I did not think the modeling sounded weird. Shopping on a trip is pretty normal and generally when you go on a work trip with a coworker, you end up spending a lot of time with them– even downtime. If someone is out shopping with you, I think it’s pretty normal to come out of the dressing room even if you don’t really need their opinion.

        3. Ted Mosby*

          Yea I totally agree. So they were wandering around and saw a Gap and she’s been wanting skinny jeans. It’s of course POSSIBLE it’s more sinister than that but if this was my boyfriend, that would be my assumption based on the fact that I love and trust him.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*


      Your friend seems to have already appointed themselves judge and jury, but there’s no need for you to buy into the same role. Who do you trust more – a “friend” who seems intent on causing mischief in your marriage, or your wife whom you presumably loved and trusted enough to marry?

      Honestly, the best response would be “Ha, yeah, she’s lucky to have that sort of time in her job – I wish I could be paid for downtime!” and then refuse to engage further.

    3. RVA Cat*

      + 1,000,000!

      You need to tell your wife that this person is stalking her and trying to undermine your marriage. The only relationship that seems to be in trouble here is the one with Creepy Friend. Sounds like you need to set boundaries with this person now and maybe cut them out if they won’t respect them.

      1. Ani*

        Oh I wish this would stop. It may be a friend from grade school. Or a friend who knows far more than this is going on but is sharing only that which is documented to be gentle yet give the friend a serious head’s up.

        1. Ani*

          It’s also not even clear that the same person shared both the photo and the info about the out of town jeans shopping.

        2. Laurel Gray*

          Or a friend who was observing in the moment and picking up on things like body language and physical contact and didn’t sense it was innocent so they decided to snap a pic. The OP called the person a friend, I don’t think there is any reason to be suspicious to the friend’s motives.

          1. fposte*

            Once you’re taking pictures of people without their knowledge or consent and sending them to spouses, I’m suspicious of your motives, because you’re displaying pretty questionable judgment.

            1. some1*

              Right. I’m not really buying that snapping a picture is the only way to tell your friend you have genuine concerns about what you witnessed.

              1. Ezri*

                You hit what was bugging me – I am a little less weirded out by a friend who just casually mentions, ‘oh, I saw so-and-so having lunch with her boss the other day’. But feeling the need to snap a photo and show the husband? It’s weird.

        3. sunny-dee*

          Yeah, this. The wine (for example) may not be a big deal for some people, but it may be really unusual behavior for this man’s wife. And if it’s a long-time friend or family member or former coworker, they may be thinking “Jane doesn’t drink at lunch time; this is bizarre.” Or there could be some really subtle behavior that just feels off, and it’s hard to articulate what it is but it’s there.

          I think a lot of this comes down to how well the OP (or wife) know the friend and how they presented it. If there is a relationship there and, in general, the friend does things from a good place and isn’t generally a gossip … then this is all a red flag. If the friend is generally a busybody or tends to think the worst, then this is something that could be blown off.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            If that’s the case, why is he writing in to Allison to ask if this is typical of a normal work relationship if he already knows that this is bizarre behavior for his wife? It’s also still weird to take pictures of people without their knowledge and send those pictures to the spouse.

            In any case, the only thing he can do is talk to her.

        4. Mochafrap512*

          This was my thought. They know there’s more going on, but was trying to get him to “discover it on his own.”

    4. JennyFair*

      I read the letter a couple times, and I don’t see where it says that the person who reported the wine lunch is the same person who reported the activities that took place in another town. And actually, the phrasing of the out of town account is worded in a way that could be intentionally ambiguous. “She was seen…”
      I’m actually wondering if the OP followed her or assigned someone to do so. And this raises all kinds of red flags. Is their relationship inappropriate? Likely. Is the marriage in trouble regardless? Equally likely, imo.

    5. Ted Mosby*

      Yes!! That struck me as odd too. We always have cocktails at work lunch; it’s just a part of our company culture. It’s not like he was doing body shots off of her and then taking a lime out of her mouth.

      This was a head scratch-er for me. Be honest with yourself: is there a deeper reason you’re questioning your wife’s behavior?

  3. Afiendishthingy*

    #1, I’d be a little worried about the person(s) spending their time observing your wife and her boss. I’m imagining the observers as Jane Goodall types, hiding in a ficus in the mall, wearing pith helmets and jotting down details of their rituals. Seriously though, sounds like you should be talking to your wife, not the primatologists.

    1. Myrin*

      Right? I can separately see a friend of OP’s happening to see wife and boss eating out together and another friend stumbling upon them during shopping. But both of these things together? I mean, I guess there are coincidences like that (and wasn’t there even a letter here about something similar once? Or was this on some other site? Anyway.) but really, how likely is that, especially in a matter of one week? Either it’s the same person who is weirdly obsessed with OP’s relationship or the whole county is somehow out to figure out if OP’s wife is cheating.

    2. Ad Astra*

      Yes, this is SO WEIRD. What kind of person sees a friend/acquaintance’s wife out to lunch and decides, apparently without any prompting, that he simply MUST photograph this as evidence of… something. If you’re going to bring unsolicited “evidence” of “wrongdoing” to someone’s spouse (not something I’d generally recommend), it better be a whole lot more scandalous than drinking wine at lunch.

      1. Lurker*

        Am I the only one who thought that this “friend” might be a PI that the LW hired to check up on his wife, and he just didn’t want to mention that fact in his question? That seems like the only reasonable explanation of why someone would have taken multiple pictures of her with her boss doing non-scandalous things and sent them along to him, especially since the two photos were taken in different towns, and his kind of evasive phrasing about who was sending the photos.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I had assumed the OP would mention that if it were the case. Other than that, it does seem plausible that he’s having her watched (either by a real PI or a friend that he put up to it) because he already suspects something.

        2. Mochafrap512*

          I thought about this. Also thought maybe this friend or friends knew a lot more was going on but didn’t want to have to say “your wife is cheating.” So they were giving him a way to start the conversation or to start digging around.

  4. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    I suspect with #2 that no matter how nice the words are, the former owner is going to be angry about it. He’s obviously having a hard time moving on. #2 OP should be prepared possibly to be yelled at when this discussion happens.

    1. JessaB*

      OP should also be ready for some staff pushback too, as obviously they’re listening to the former owner, even when it conflicts with current management policies. There will be hurt feelings if “Old Boss,” goes to the employees with “I’m being thrown out of the place we built together.” Just be prepared.

    2. nofelix*

      If I’m reading this right and Old Boss has no remaining stake or position at the company, then his behaviour is wildly inappropriate. Dropping in uninvited is bad enough, but branded hats!?

      I’m confused how he is ‘knocking us back to the good ol days’. Is the OP allowing the Old Boss to address staff and change behaviour? Definitely some boundary-setting needed.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        I used to work at a company that (at least by all appearances) worshiped the feet of the bosses (a fairly well-off local family). This family regularly bought gifts for employees, held nice dinners, etc. It’s the only place I ever worked where a gold watch was ACTUALLY given as a 20 year service gift (in the 2000’s). I could see one of them retiring and not being able to let go of the minor celebrity status that came with being a much-beloved boss. This might simply be a case of him missing the attention and wanting to recapture a bit of it.

    3. Artemesia*

      Absolutely there will be push back. And the OP should be prepared to fire people over it. Not as a first step, but if there is someone — an old buddy of former owner who is undermining the business and resisting the changes — then being clear on new directions and firing anyone who refuses to cooperate in the changes should be a possibility. Not something you ‘threaten’ but something in the back of your mind. Get rid of this meddler as firmly as you need to. Note if there is anyone continuously insubordinate. Put them on a PIP and if they don’t pretty quickly turn it around, get rid of them. I have had to fire people who were insubordinate and in each case, it was high time and almost immediately turned the place around. One or two people stirring the pot can make a transition difficult.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        Be careful with what that’s going to do to the morale of those remaining. I had a new boss do that at one of my college jobs; Oldboss had been slacking on the rules (knowing he was out the door) and Newboss weeded out those who didn’t shape up to the new order pretty ruthlessly. It left the rest of us scared and resentful–like we weren’t allowed to have any reservations about the change or express any opinion about it that was less than glowing.

        Now, many of the people she got rid of genuinely needed to go, as they had been poisoning things for a while. But the way she did it just wasn’t great–instead of documenting a pattern of behavior or whatever, she’d have an argument with someone, and then afterwards go over everything they did with a fine-tooth comb to find something to fire them for. It made all of us feel like we were walking on eggshells and there was much talk (even among those of us who had originally been happy with the change, too!) about how we wished Oldboss was back.

        So, it might be necessary to clean house, but remember that you want the remaining teammates on your side. Make sure everyone is clear that it was a pattern of uncooperative behavior that led to the firing, not “somebody argued with me and two days later they vanished” the way my boss did.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. Wine at lunchtme is one of those things where it depends on situation. I would only drink if it was a Friday (in a Let’s-get-the-weekend-started sort of a way) or if there was some celebration. (Birthday, anniversary, Thank-goodness-that-project-is-completed etc.) . I find it hard to concentrate when back in the office. I do agree that the mysterious lunch spy is up to something.

    2. The previous owner sounds bitter about losing his dealership. It reminds me of the story of the person who accepted a promotion but the old boss, who she would be succeeding, wouldn’t leave.

    4. Christmas day is on a Friday this year. Depending on how public holidays fall, it might make it easier to take time off (a long weekend). It depends on the kind of work too, as there are companies where people need to work in the week between Christmas and New Year for year-end closing.

    1. snuck*

      I don’t think #2 sounds bitter. I think he sounds like he’s having a hard time letting go… I wouldn’t go in with an adversarial mindset, but a partner/collaboration approach.

      1. nofelix*

        Yeah, like “as a boss too, you will understand how us leaders have to take a firm hand with a company to help it succeed…”

      2. BRR*

        Yeah everywhere I’ve worked seems to have retired people who drop by. That’s what I think of this as.

      3. fposte*

        And maybe with some scheduled appearances planned, like when you’re dealing with co-workers who want more socializing than you’re prepared to give. “Bob, we’re going to ask you stop with the spontaneous drop-ins, but we’d love it if you’d come on Friday the 32nd to be our guest at the end of year Car Smash.”

        1. Andrea*

          I think this is a very kind idea, and one I hope the OP will try. I feel for the new boss, because it does seem like the former boss is dropping by too much and causing disruption, but I too assumed that the former boss was just having a hard time moving on. Perhaps former boss is older, doesn’t have as much social interaction, and misses the workplace friendships. I think setting limits and inviting former boss to come at certain times is a good idea. The holidays are coming up, and maybe that presents an opportunity to invite him, too.

        2. snuck*

          Or even “Bob, instead of popping by while we’re all busy working and we can’t really chat with you about things, can you drop by on Fridays for afternoon smoko and join us then?” And give him a more regular timeslot to come in, that’s not interfering particularly.

          If you had spent thirty years or more of your life building something, and sold it to someone else, it’d still be your baby. The next owner doesn’t have to pander to the past one, just because they have an emotional attachment doesn’t mean they still own it in a legal sense, but it seems there’s loyalty and relationships between the past owner and the current employees, and if it’s not doing harm why not send a message to all your staff that you value their relationship with the business even after they are gone. Extend a once a month Friday smoko invite to all (favourable) past employees even… you might get teh chance to hire some good ones back who left, and your current ones will really appreciate the values you are setting.

          It’s the sort of thing you can do while part of a larger chain still… 3pm on Friday no one is really working anymore, once a month throw on a few cakes and warm the coffee pot up and make it casual.

          1. snuck*

            (This is said as someone who has married into a family that has built a very large agricultural business that has had some employees for over 35 years, and my father in law built the company from the ground up and while is now in his 70s he struggles to see his sons as able to take over… I can understand a little the previous owner’s mindset because I’m living it here :) )

  6. Felix*

    What email/phone should LW5 use to contact their colleague at the other org? It seems weird to do it from a personal phone or email account if they’ve only connected via the work accounts. And you wouldn’t want to raise alarm bells by being super secretive from a personal account. However, I’m uber paranoid about using my work accounts for anything private, personal, or work search related. Not sure which is the best in this scenario. Maybe LinkedIn? But that would be strange if they’ve never connected on there before…

    1. ace*

      I think either an email from a personal address that clearly identifies the sender (joaquin.teapots@…) or a phone call to the contact’s work line is OK. While I get the caution in using the OP’s work resources, recruiting is part of the contact’s work, so I don’t see any problem contacting him at work.

    2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      I was in #5’s position a few year’s back. My client sent me a posting that was perfect for me.

      I forwarded it to my personal and replied from their expressing my interest. But as ace mentions my personal and work email both are clear name identifiers, so it was obvious it was me!

  7. MK*

    #1, I have to say that the whole setup sounds “off” to me. I think people are getting sidetracked by the creepiness of the friend who reported these things to the OP; granted this person is creepy, but unless they are lying, the relationship as described sounds inappropriately close. Frankly, it’s how I have seen people behave right before they start an affair. That’s not to say this is what’s happening or going to happen, just that it’s not crazy for the OP to be concerned.

    That being said, I agree with others that what the OP should do is talk to his wife in a non-accusatory tone and see what she says. If for no other reason, because she should be aware there is a person who is spreading suspicions about her.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Well, it is how people behave before they start affairs, but it’s also how people behave when they’re friendly (and is even within the normal parameters of colleague interactions, if it isn’t something common) or just have to spend a lot of time with someone and don’t want that to be unpleasant. I just can’t help feeling that if it was two women, or two men, in that office, nobody would see anything suspicious in it, but because it’s a man and a woman then it automatically seems to become “But they MUST be having sex”.

      I agree that the OP’s feelings of wanting reassurance about this are valid, and talking to his wife is definitely the best way to go – even having the first thought of “are they having an affair?” is quite natural – but I don’t think it’s fair to automatically assume the wife must be doing something wrong just because she’s friendly with a colleague.

      1. anonanonanon*

        I just can’t help feeling that if it was two women, or two men, in that office, nobody would see anything suspicious in it, but because it’s a man and a woman then it automatically seems to become “But they MUST be having sex”.

        Exactly. That was my first thought, too. There’s an unfortunate tendency in society to assume that men and women can’t have a platonic relationship and it’s such an ridiculous, archaic notion.

        Though, you never know, if this was a letter concerning three women, the same issues might arise. Some people are just naturally jealous and suspicious of their partners interacting with anyone else.

        1. Minion*

          “Exactly. That was my first thought, too. There’s an unfortunate tendency in society to assume that men and women can’t have a platonic relationship and it’s such an ridiculous, archaic notion.”
          I think you may be wrong in thinking it a ridiculous, archaic notion. Sure, there are some men and women who end up having platonic relationships, and you’re right that we should all act like adults and be able to have a friendship without mucking it all up with affairs.
          But the truth is that affairs happen literally all the time. I’d be willing to bet that every single person reading this site either knows someone or is someone who has either cheated or been cheated on. I’d be willing to also bet that many, maybe even a majority, of these affairs began as a friendship, either with a coworker or fellow church goer or any number of initial relationships. How many times has a spouse heard the words, “We didn’t set out to have an affair; it just happened”?
          So, I don’t think that the notion is as archaic as we’d like it to be. In my opinion, and in my life, I believe that we shouldn’t put ourselves in situations that would invite temptations and risks. And maybe it’s just me – I’m the archaic one, but I wouldn’t do the things that OP’s wife is doing. An occasional lunch? Ok. Lunch every day with wine? Not ok. Doing a little shopping during downtime at a conference? Ok. Modeling jeans for my boss? Not ok. (Just FYI, my thinking on the modeling is this: I’m asking him for his opinion and, therefore, asking him to look at and evaluate my body and the fit of the clothing on it. I’m asking him to look at me in a way that he may not have looked at me before, or maybe he has and I’m offering him an opportunity to really indulge. I could be wrong, but that’s how I feel about it.)
          My opinions aren’t popular, I suppose, but I’ve been able to maintain a successful marriage for 24 years thus far, so maybe I’m not that far off the mark.

          1. Honeybee*

            It IS a ridiculous, archaic notion to assume that a man and a woman can’t have a platonic relationship. That’s not wrong. Sure, people have affairs all the time, but people of different genders have friendly platonic completely non-sexual relationships with each other all the time, too. If simply having a drink and wearing clothes in front of a boss of the gender you’re attracted to invites temptation and risks, then we’d have to live completely gender-segregated lives (and then that wouldn’t even work for those of us who are attracted to more than one gender).

            Of course many affairs start as friendships, but that’s no reason to suspect that every friendship your spouse has is going to end up in an affair. That is a cause for paranoia and trust issues. I honestly think that the constant suspicion and judgment is more toxic for a relationship than familiarity or even a little flirtation with coworkers.

            1. Minion*

              Let’s not exaggerate. I said some men and women can have platonic relationships. I didn’t say that simply having a drink and wearing clothes invites temptation and risks. I never said OP, nor I, nor anyone else should suspect that every friendship a spouse has will end up in an affair.
              Yes, constant suspicion and judgment is toxic for relationships.
              We’re all human and subject to failings. I’m just saying I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing those things and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with my husband doing those things. I like to think that I’m not archaic, however, if staying out of situations that may (in my opinion) lead to affairs is archaic, then I’ll just be archaic.

          2. Jane*

            I tend to agree with you. I have lots of friends (male and female, coworkers and not) outside of my marriage, but I would feel weird having one-on-one meals with wine with the males, and I would definitely never, absolutely not ask any of them to evaluate how clothes look on my body. If I were doing these things – well, my husband would have cause to worry because it’s totally outside my normal behavior. Now, maybe OP’s wife IS someone who does those things, but we don’t know, and OP isn’t necessarily crazy to question the behavior if it’s out of the ordinary.

            Also – do we know that it was the same “creepy stalker friend” reporting to OP both times? If multiple people are getting a “cheaty” enough vibe that they feel compelled to tell OP, well… Nosy or not, they may have a point.

      2. Observer*

        I don’t think that they “must’ be having sex. But, really, the circumstances really are such that it makes it more likely. It’s just not a terribly healthy set up.

        Having said that I totally agree with everyone who says that the first place to start is a conversation with his wife – in a non-accusatory fashion, accompanied by a clear understanding that someone (ie the reporter) is NOT his friend.

    2. Sarahnova*

      I disagree. The OP notes that they are the only two people in their office, so they are likely going to either have a friendly, companionable working relationship, or hate each other. Having lunch with a glass of wine is a totally normal thing to do with a friend (I’m not into lunchtime drinking, but one glass isn’t a big deal in many offices) and the jeans incident kind of sounds a bit like… she was trying on jeans because she had time to kill, and he happened to be there.

      It is of course possible that they are having an affair, or going to have an affair. It’s a thing people do. But the letter reads like anything the OP’s wife does in the company of a man without anyone to “watch” her is suspicious, and that’s weird, icky thinking.

      1. Andrea*

        I thought the jeans thing was weirder until I reread and saw that they were out of town for a conference that day, with time to kill. It’s not as if they left the office and went clothes shopping. They were out of town, had an extra hour, she wanted to look at jeans, and maybe he was all, sure, I’ll come too. Maybe the store sold men’s clothing too, and he happened to be nearby when she came out of the dressing room to look in the 3-way mirror or something. I would not necessarily find that a red flag. I mean, if they were having an affair and had extra time out of town, they could have gotten a room and used that time in a different way.

    3. Mando Diao*

      I agree. There’s an admirable tendency to want to give people the benefit of the doubt when this scenario is broached among people with certain leanings, but the OP is correct in his feeling that his wife and her boss do not have a typical working relationship. It’s not troubling that OP’s wife is enjoying her unconventional workplace dynamic, but it’s definitely broaching-on-worrisome if a male boss is establishing that kind of closeness with his female employees as a norm in his office.

      A little bit of harmless flirtation is fine in platonic social settings, but I raise my eyebrows when that dynamic trickles into an office, and especially when it’s coming from the boss, if only because it makes it impossible for other female employees and clients to establish proper boundaries. I’ve seen this kind of thing play out before, and at the very least, the boss definitely knows what he’s doing, and he likes the idea of being seen around town with a younger woman.

      1. Sarahnova*

        I kind of think you’re projecting some things into the letter that aren’t there. We don’t know the wife is “enjoying” this. We also don’t know that the boss is older. The letter doesn’t say that.

        1. Mando Diao*

          I went out of my way to include a bunch of caveats indicating that I don’t think the wife is wrong to go along with the working arrangement, since she’s not in the position of power. If OP is worried about his wife modeling jeans and having wine with a younger man…my feeling is that the email would have had a different tone (and I do think that a semantic analysis of my response justifies my defense of my reading of the tone of the email). I appreciate that people want to see nothing wrong with the possibility of two people of different genders being friends, but this situation sounds off to me, and as a woman, I’m in the habit of defending my gut instincts when other people would encourage me to just “be cool” with something that, frankly, isn’t cool.

          1. SystemsLady*

            Gut instincts are the opposite of helpful when you’re looking to talk to your spouse about something a third party is suggesting about them. Nobody’s saying “don’t talk to your spouse because everything’s fine” – this is more of a “don’t assume the worst before doing so” kind of thing.

        2. Ad Astra*

          We don’t even know if there’s any flirtation involved. Nothing about wine with a meal or trying on jeans is inherently flirtatious.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Unless it’s unusual for this guy’s wife. And it is weird to have lunch out with your bossy five times a week, especially when those meals involve wine. That may or may not be a red flag, but it is odd.

            1. BuildMeUp*

              I don’t think it’s all that weird when they’re the only two people in the office! And they might be eating while talking about work, who knows. Wine at lunch would not be normal for me, but for plenty of people it would be.

      2. Amberly*

        It may not be what you perceive as a “typical working relationship” but that does not mean it isn’t one. I don’t see anything at all unusual or “unconventional” about it. It sounds like you have limited experiences in a very conservative environment and are trying to extrapolate from that to a general rule, which is not workable.

      3. De (Germany)*

        “There’s an admirable tendency to want to give people the benefit of the doubt when this scenario is broached among people with certain leanings”

        I have no idea what you mean with ‘certain leanings’ here. Could you explain, please?

        1. Green*

          OP’s feelings are, of course, valid. Shit stirring friend has stirred shit. But the only way to resolve that is to talk to wife. The other alternatives (try and trap her in a lie, having friend continue surveillance, crack her phone or email password, blow out fight as full-on jealous spouse, forbidding her from going to work) would be more damaging to the marriage if there’s no affair.

          But more generally: women don’t need an escort in the company of other men. I worked in an office with a male boss. It was just the two of us. I was 22. We had lunch sometimes (true, no wine, but he was stingy… and also weirdly ate food off my plate, which might have looked odd to a shit-stirrer I suppose). I drove him around on errands sometimes. Absolutely no affair. All the previous assistants had been men, but I’m glad I wasn’t denied the opportunity for a good job because he was worried about “optics” of working alone with a young woman.

      4. Mookie*

        the boss definitely knows what he’s doing, and he likes the idea of being seen around town with a younger woman.

        You know nothing about this man. You don’t know that he’s straight. Assuming he treats women like trophies and baubles to impress people with is really ungenerous and weird, especially in this context.

        As TAFKA UKAnon (aren’t the rules that a unpronounceable symbol precedes TAFKA? Where is your unpronounceable symbol!?) says, it’s so, so, so very unlikely that if LW 1’s spouse and the spouse’s boss were the same gender lunch and wine and a fun bit of downtime would be interpreted as flirtation or as evidence of an affair.

        Also, LW 1 must have already had some kind of conversation about this with his wife, otherwise he wouldn’t know about the downtime or the daily lunches. Unless his Rear Window-y acquaintance’s on the clock for surveillance, she’s not keeping anything a secret.

      5. Colette*

        This isn’t a situation where the boss is closer to one female employee than the others, or where he’s closer to his female employees than to his male employees. She’s the only other person there. It’s not unusual to become close to the only person you work with.

      6. Katniss*

        What kind of closeness is being established? Seeing someone in jeans and having a glass of wine at lunch hardly seems strange to me. As others have said, you seem to be reading a lot into this, and there’s no evidence of anything you’re suggesting.

    4. SystemsLady*

      I don’t think that’s entirely true. Not to speak too much for others here but this was 1) a lunch and 2) at an out of town conference, and they by nature of a small office work pretty closely. Might be things some couples want to communicate about but that’s it.

      I’d agree were 1) a dinner and 2) in town (and then only if OP didn’t know about them), regardless of if this information was coming from a creepy source or not, but the context makes this seem less potentially inappropriate to me and I’m assuming others.

      The jeans modeling is the only part that seems suspicious to me, if it truly was “modeling” (and that’s not just a word the gossip used to make the tidbit juicier), but as I said upthread they might’ve just been shopping out of boredom when the jeans caught her eye and she wanted to try them on.

      Eiher way, the way to address allegations of cheating from a third party is to talk to your spouse about them in a non-accusatory manner. If I were OP I would try my utmost to assume the best, even if it did sound more clearly affair-level.

      1. Chinook*

        The more I read replies to OP #1s question, the more I realize I have a been there, done that perspective. Before DH went off for 6 month training for current job, he cheated on me. He promised to reform and the new job and subsequent move would be a new start. Then he was gone for 6 months for intensive training and ended up becoming friends with a fellow recruit who was a woman. I didn’t realize she was a s he (gender neutral name) until he said something and when he heard the pause in my voice, he quickly said that he didn’t mean to come it a secret and that he wasn’t at all attracted to her, just that they were bonding over their similar experiences. When I flew out to meet him at the half way point, I met her and I can tell you that he told the truth (having met a mistress or two of his in the past, I have developed a sixth sense). What was interesting is that everyone else on the course were treating them like they were having an affair and were awkward around me and couldn’t figure out why she and I were enjoying talking to each other (we even sat together on a plane ride home at the end of the course).

        The point of this is that a) innocent cross-gender relationships can happen even with those who have a predilection to cheat, b) a couple should always discuss such relationships as affairs have a harder time to grow when a light is shone on a relationship c) just because others think there is an affair doesn’t mean there was and d) meet the “other person” and see how they react (not in a marking territory way but more like letting them know that you know they exist – there is a subtle but important difference).

    5. De (Germany)*

      “the relationship as described sounds inappropriately close”

      It#+s really up to the people in a relationship to decide what they think is inappropriate. Which is why the OP really needs to talk to his wife.

    6. AnotherAlison*

      Sorry, but I agree with MK that this relationship between the boss and the wife sounds a little weird. If it were me, I would be concerned.

      Sure, it could be nothing, but it sounds like the OP 1.) isn’t comfortable with his wife’s working relationship (lunches daily, office connected to apartment, only 2 people in the office), 2.) REALLY isn’t comfortable with wine and dine lunches, and 3.) was unaware of some things like the jeans modeling.

      I feel like the wife is potentially being silent on a lot of what goes on at work, and that could be a red flag, not just because things are going on but because things are being hidden. If everything was all good in this scenario, the OP’s reaction to the friend who saw the wine at lunch would have been “Oh yeah, Jane’s boss takes her out for nice lunches all the time,” not, “What?!? I better email an advice columnist and get to the bottom of this.”

      1. LBK*

        But if the wife thinks it’s innocent, it could be that she’s not “disclosing” it because she doesn’t think there’s anything that needs to be disclosed. I don’t present an itemized list of every activity I did each day to my boyfriend to ensure there’s nothing disagreeable I’m not telling him about. If she’s dodging discussing it in conversation, that may be one thing, but I don’t think it inherently means something scandalous is going on just because she didn’t feel it necessary to make sure her husband knew her whereabouts at all times.

        1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          So much this. Could it be she’s having an affair and hiding it from the OP? Sure. But it could just be that she forgets, or doesn’t think it’s worth mentioning. I mean, how would “We went out for lunch the same as every day and oh yeah we had wine” really go? As much as weeks after an event I can suddenly realise I meant to tell my partner something and didn’t, then go “So you remember three weeks ago when…” No ill-intent, I just can’t remember every detail of my day.

          And unless and until the OP has concrete evidence of his wife’s infidelity, any discomfort on his part about her working arrangements are really his problem.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            If it’s such a daily routine for the wife and boss to have lunch and wine, why is the OP’s husband surprised? I’m not expecting that she provides a daily rundown of her innocent lunch activities to her husband, but if the routine is generally the same, why is it surprising enough to write AAM?

            My husband has lunch with his employee every day, too. If someone said they saw him at a bar and the employee was with him, I’d be completely underwhelmed by that information.

            The jeans thing is still weird, and my guess is that what really tipped off the OP, and now he’s looking at everything else that seemed innocent before a little differently. I’d love to know what the friend really saw. I mean, was the wife trying on jeans while the boss waited and scrolled through his phone, or was the wife trying on jeans while the boss was intently sizing up her ass?

            1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

              I’d read it as “they typically grab lunch together at the same time, but now there’s WINE involved.” I may be misreading, though. I think that looking at everything differently might be what’s going on here – possibly because of the jeans, or whatever else the friend said with the pictures, or something else.

              1. Oryx*

                But it’s also possible that wine has always been involved, he just didn’t know it (because he didn’t have some weird friend snapping photos and sending them).

    7. RobM*

      It’s also how I’ve seen people behave right before they don’t start an affair.

      The concerning point is that the OP apparently can’t talk to their partner before posting to an internet site; there’s nothing wrong with having a drink with your work lunch or going shopping with someone from work.

  8. Sarahnova*

    Letter #1 is… reeeaallly weird. LW, why are you so fixated on your wife’s perfectly innocent public activities with – after all – the person she works very closely with, and would be expected to have at least a friendly relationship with? What difference does it make that there’s just the two of them in the office? If they wanted to have an affair, having coworkers wouldn’t stop them, and if they didn’t, they’re not going to get it on just because nobody’s watching. And who, as others have noted, is sending you these pictures, and trying to inflame your jealousy? I seriously doubt they are angelically out for your good.

    Either you trust your wife or you don’t, but she’s not going to jump on some dude’s jock just because nobody’s watching her.

    1. Mando Diao*

      I think the size of the company is relevant; atypical working relationships tend to crop up a lot in very small businesses. It’s only logical, and it goes unchecked because there’s no HR and because people who have worked at those types of companies for a long time are fairly removed from the more universally accepted norms and boundaries of the corporate world. The incidents in OP’s email don’t make me suspicious of anything, but they definitely remind me a lot of the things that went on when I’ve worked for these types of businesses, and yeah, there were ALWAYS rumors of affairs floating around. It’s just the stuff that ends up happening when a business operates outside of norms and hires people who don’t have a lot of work experience. It’s one of the reasons they hire people with little experience.

      1. Mookie*

        It’s just the stuff that ends up happening when a business operates outside of norms and hires people who don’t have a lot of work experience. It’s one of the reasons they hire people with little experience.


        Where are you getting this from in #1?

        1. Sunshine*

          Where are you getting that in general? Smaller companies hire people with little experience so they will have affairs with one another? Huh??

          1. DVZ*

            I actually agree with Sarahnova on this.

            Obviously it is not always that blatant, nor is it a universal phenomenon, but I think she’s spot on in that these types of behaviours often do crop up in smaller workplaces and in organisations where people are less experienced, and that does feed into the entire culture – including hiring practices.

            When you get a younger workforce and a small company that lacks an official HR department, you do find that there’s a lot of missing boundaries and people who really don’t know how a ‘normal’ workplace would function. These people then get promoted into management and start hiring people who show the same characteristics that they see in the office day to day.

            In the same way that a normal and professional organisation looks for people who are mature, sane, respectful, diligent and cognizant of personal and professional boundaries, a lot of small organisations or places that were founded by more inexperienced people (and a lot of the time it’s people who have started their own company and grown it, therefore have always been quite insular, or within niche industries) look for candidates who are ‘fun’ or ‘outgoing’ or have a ‘work hard play hard’ mentality, and gloss over actual skillsets. These are the type of places were weird behaviour just flourishes (lack of social boundaries, lots of personal relationships at the office) and it’s a cycle – people who are more professional and don’t fit the mold are either not attracted to the company or eventually self-select out of that environment. And the people in charge only hire young or inexperienced candidates – not because they are young and inexperienced, but because they want people who seem to fit the ‘culture’ of the place, which is then so far removed from a normal professional environment that the only people who fit into it are people who don’t know any better or are just lacking in boundaries in general and thrive in that environment.

            1. Mookie*

              We don’t know anything about LW1’s spouse’s experience or lack thereof. There are no “norms” being trumped in the behavior he describes.

              Again, there are weird, loaded assumptions going on here.

      2. Sarahnova*

        …I really think you are projecting a lot of your own stuff into this letter. Your responses repeatedly make assumptions about things that aren’t in the letter.

      3. Alma Mater*

        You seem to have some really odd ideas around this stuff. Might be worth exploring where those are coming from before they sabotage your own career.

      4. V.V.*

        Mando Diao is on the money. As Alison responded to a reader a few weeks ago, that it isn’t non-profits that have bizarre problems crop up the most, it is small businesses, for the reasons that Mando Diao reiterated.

        Stuff tends to get amplified when there are less people running around.

        “The incidents in OP’s email don’t make me suspicious of anything, but they definitely remind me a lot of the things that went on when I’ve worked for these types of businesses, and yeah, there were ALWAYS rumors of affairs floating around.”

        I like how everyone calling out Mando Diao are ignoring this, and focusing on this:

        “It’s just the stuff that ends up happening when a business operates outside of norms and hires people who don’t have a lot of work experience. It’s one of the reasons they hire people with little experience.”

        Yes these last sentences may or may not be true in our particular case. But I don’t see that as the take home message.

        Frankly it would be even more odd if these things were going on and it was not a small business. What if it was a larger business with other people to answer to? Would HR like the boss going out every day with one employee? I can tell you right now that if I were in an office where I saw this one employee being taken to lunch by a boss every single day when no one else was, I would be pretty miffed and think they were getting special treatment.

        Since it is a small business, the rules are weird. There is only one person to take out to lunch. There is no built in litmus to whether or not this is okay as there would be in a larger business. Which is probably why OP asked in the first place.

        But hey, seems people are more interested in debating semantics and jumping all over others for a verbal misstep than acknowledging their valid point.

        1. Sunshine*

          I guess I didn’t see the mis-step. I don’t know about the others, but I was genuinely confused by the comment.

          But hey, thanks for the unfounded assumptions. Lots of that in this thread!

          1. V.V.*

            I know right? There was no way this thread was going to be a nice one, and I honestly I should have refrained from reading it at all or commenting because by the time I got to this point in the comments I should have known it was all a lost cause anyway.

            “But hey, thanks for the unfounded assumptions.”

            What I am genuinely confused about is why you think what I said was refering to you in the first place?

    2. Observer*

      If they wanted to have an affair, having coworkers wouldn’t stop them, and if they didn’t, they’re not going to get it on just because nobody’s watching.

      That’s actually not true. Many affairs are matters of opportunity and propinquity. I think that refusing to acknowledge that does no one any good.

      On the other hand, “PI style” investigations are an utterly non-useful way of handling things, unless you are looking for evidence to bring into a divorce court.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        I think most people start having sex with each other because they want to have sex with each other, not because they’ve been standing too close together.

        +1 for “propinquity” though, new vocab word for me today.

          1. LBK*

            Sometimes, sure, but you’re saying it like it’s a given that you’ll always fall for someone if you work with them long enough or that you’ll eventually want to have sex with them even if you don’t at first.

            1. Observer*

              I didn’t come close to saying that. Please don’t try to blow off the issue by taking it to an absurd extreme.

              1. LBK*

                I agree that sometimes inconvenience may prevent an affair, or at least prevent a mutual crush from evolving into something more. I disagree with the reverse – that convenience may cause an affair, which is what I under the impression you were arguing. As others have said, generally you don’t develop feelings for someone just because they’re there and it’s easy.

                1. Observer*

                  You can believe what you want to believe. But, that doesn’t make it reality. Reality is that this type of setup does raise the risk of an affair, beyond just not just not putting inconveniences in place.

      2. Sarahnova*

        But if the OP’s wife doesn’t want to have sex with her boss, she is not going to have sex with her boss, even though there is a bed RIGHT THERE.

        I agree that circumstance and opportunity can play a role, but generally only when people actually want to have sex, which is more the core problem than the fact that there is a bed near the office.

        1. Observer*

          That’s not what actual events tell us. As others have mentioned, LOTS of affairs start as “just a friendship” that turned into something else.

          I’m not saying that this is the case here, but it is a legitimate issue.

          1. LBK*

            There’s a difference between “two people who are in close quarters may eventually develop a romantic relationship” and “two people who are in close quarters will always develop a romantic relationship just because it’s convenient.” I think what Sarahnova is saying is that sometimes you just don’t feel that way about a person and you never do, no matter how easy and convenient it would be to have an affair with them or how long you work together.

            1. Observer*

              Again, that’s not what I said.

              The simple fact is that when two people work closely together and alone, the chances of it turning into an affair are significantly higher than under other circumstances. This is not “archaic”. It’s reality. That doesn’t mean that EVERY situation like that is going to turn out that way, possibly not even MOST. But, it’s a real issue, and it’s something that raises legitimate discomfort.

              Recognizing that reality is not an accusation that someone is having an affair.

              1. LBK*

                The probability may double or triple, but it’s still low overall. We’re maybe moving from 1% to 2% or 5% to 10% – the way your comments are phrased is coming off to me like we’re talking a 50/50 shot at having an affair if you work with someone one on one.

                1. Observer*

                  Based on what I’ve seen over the years, I don’t believe for one moment that the probability is anywhere close to 5%, and highly unlikely to be as low as 10%.

                  Even 10% is high enough, though, that it’s worth thinking about and it would certainly lend more weight to overly close behavior between two people.

                  What’s hard to tell is whether there really is overly close behavior. To me going into a clothing store with my boss or with any male friend or acquaintance is quite odd.
                  But, the filter through which we are getting this information is even more odd, to be honest. It’s not just the “what” – although it seems to me that finding wine to “troubling, to say the least” is a something of an over-reaction. It’s the way it’s presented. “she was seen”, “I got a pic sent to me”. You would almost think that the picture took itself and sent itself to the OP via a human automaton. And that she “was seen” by a robot that somehow managed to drop this information on his head.

                  All of which is to say that I think there may be a workplace problem here, or not. But there is certainly a home issue that the OP really needs to address.

          2. Panda Bandit*

            Well then I guess nobody who is married should ever speak to anyone else lest they start having an affair with them.

              1. Panda Bandit*

                It’s as big as the jump where you said people start having affairs just because they’re around each other.

  9. Mike C.*

    Re: #5

    Please, please be sure about conflict of interest issues. This happened a few years back around a contract issue, and now one of the folks involved is sitting in Leavenworth, and no, I’m not talking about the fun one in the Cascades.

    1. Brett*

      Hopefully the OP has looked into these things, but contracts, government work, post-employment restrictions, formal professional ethics, professional licensing, etc can each complicate a conflict of interest situation. Some of these only lead to sanctions or fines, but a few can lead to jail/prison.

  10. Bekx*

    Maybe it’s just because I’m reading the 3rd book, but #1 reminds me of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacot in The Cuckoo’s Calling… Working in a two person office, drinking at lunch, trying on clothes….

    Honestly I think it would depend on the modeling context. The drinking doesn’t seem too weird to me. If they had time to kill, and they popped into a shop, I could see someone reasonably wanting to try clothes on. Now, if I were in her shoes, I’d just stay in the dressing room since those usually have a mirror BUT I have been in dressing rooms that don’t have a mirror and would require me to step outside. I think the modeling thing is weird, but you should talk to your wife.

    1. Mkb*

      Me too! I’m reading it right now! Also I have to say this “friend” who is sending the pictures sounds like a PI tail to me. Based on the letter I’m assuming it’s not, but my first thought was that it sounds like someone is intentionally spying on the OP’s wife.

  11. Brandy*

    #3. If you are willing, I would say something like, “I am so sorry to hear that. I am happy to serve as a reference m, just let me know. If there is anything I can do or intros I can make let’s stay in touch.” And then do it.

    i worked with a woman who was a department VP. She moved to a new role, I got her job pretty much immediately. New role didn’t pan out and she was laid off. I’m a much stronger VP than she was, but the whole thing stunk. She got a year of sev and I have spent a lot of time introducing her to some friends in consulting that have had great work for her.

    1. notfunny.*

      Yes. When I was laid off, there were a couple of people who offered to help in various (concrete) ways, and those are the people who I still think of. Also people who were close enough to offer to listen and would check in to see how I was doing… I was actually relieved to get laid off as that was not a good job for me, but you never know what people are thinking. They will likely appreciate some help moving forward though!

    2. OP 3 here*

      This is a great tip! Thank you! Part of writing the letter to AAM was that I felt so helpless when I received the news from colleagues and couldn’t think of anything but condolences to express. Concrete expressions of assistance, like being a reference, are a great way to be more helpful!

    3. Development professional*

      Yeah, this is good advice. Also, even if you’re not able to offer concrete help, sometimes just reciprocating the sentiment that you do want to keep in touch with the person can help boost their morale without being too overt or condescending about it. Heck, sometimes when I’ve left jobs voluntarily I’ve been surprised about who was/wasn’t interested in actually keeping in touch. When you’re let go, it’s easy to feel like a pariah. A simple gesture of friendship in offering to stay in touch can be meaningful. Maybe even reply with your non-work contact details, so if you happen to move on they still know where to find you.

  12. Brandy*

    #1. At my company this would be SO WEIRD. But we are a Fortune 100 firm. Fwiw I have wine with my bosses (male and female alike), do tequila shots, the works. The majority of the people I work with are 10-15 years my senior (I’m 33) and one of my direct reports could be my father.

    That said, for a 2-person company, they might have a much different relationship. Spending all day/every day with someone may or may not make trying on jeans less weird. If I were on a work trip and wanted to go jeans shopping and trusted the opinion of my male coworker who was willing to come with me instead of belly up to a bar (the odds of that perfect storm are about 0), I’d do it with a second thought.

  13. Jm*

    It sounds to me like OP1 might be part of a tight knit immigrant community. I’m sure there are other possibilities like a large church organization but I can only speak to the immigrant experience. I’m american and my husband is an immigrant. When we first started dating, there was a lot of ‘we cant go to x restaurant because the owner is y and if she sees me with you she will call z and gossip.” Also, other stuff like “wakeen called and told me that he saw you walking our dog on x street. He thinks its too dangerous for you to be out by yourself. ” we always got a chuckle out of it and it was no big deal. He’s not really entrenched in the community and its not super tight knit in our city. But if they had seen me out to lunch or shopping with another man, you can be sure that it would have been noted. Especially when we were first married before we had kids.

    Im not trying to shit stir here re immigrants but i recognized some of my husband’s family friends and their behavior in OP1’s letter. If he is learning to navigate life here, it is totally reasonable for him to reach out on this site. He truly might not have a benchmark for appropriate workplace behavior.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I bet this would vary a bit depending on where, exactly, someone has emigrated from and what their cultural expectations are. It’s also possible that OP isn’t an immigrant but lives in a small town, which can also be tight-knit to the point of insanity.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I was thinking small town, too! But I’m not sure if OP’s friend could get away with randomly taking pictures of people having lunch at a restaurant if it was a small town… word gets around.

    2. V.V.*

      Thank you for your perspective Jm. It is nice to read another take on this, and one that gives everyone in this story the benefit of the doubt.

  14. some1*

    #1, did you ask your “friend” to follow your wife or something? When I run into a friend’s spouse having lunch, I go over and say hello, I don’t take a pic and send it to my friend. Also, your wife might have been “modeling” the jeans for the salesperson to get an opinion on whether she should go up or down a size, or get a higher rise, etc. I do that all the time because sizes vary so much and the store employees know them better than me.

  15. Andrea*

    OP1 – ask yourself if you would feel the same way if the boss was the same gender as your spouse. I think you’re reading too much into this behavior, and the person sending you reports on it has to stop. Talk to your spouse.

    1. Artemesia*

      The idea that behavior appropriate with a same gender person is also appropriate with a different gendered person assuming every one in the scenario is hetero is absurd. My girlfriend with whom I share secrets and have lunch a couple of times a week is no threat to my marriage; my male co-worker with whom I have a cozy relationship is a potential threat which is why wise people who don’t want their marriages to founder are careful to not slide into compromising situations.

      I am not naive and I worked for over 40 years closely with men including traveling with men and sharing meals at conferences one on one and even worked in my hotel room on upcoming presentations. But I knew enough to avoid too much close contact when it was someone I found attractive or who I suspect found me attractive. It is easy to make sure those dinners at the conference are with other conferees and that meetings take place in more public places.

      This kind of work relationship easily slides into inappropriate behavior and it is fairly easy early on to arrange one’s day so that a certain distance is maintained.

      And yes I totally agree that the ‘friend’ taking photos is a creep.

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        I think the point (and please correct me if I’m wrong!) is that where it’s two women, the automatic assumption is it’s all fine. When it’s a man and a woman, the automatic assumption is that it must be shady and involve sexual attraction. When each relationship is different, and on the surface there’s no reason to see any sort of sexual attraction between the wife and the boss, and OP wouldn’t automatically see one if the boss was female.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Agree. And that automatic assumption, IMO, stems from a deeper assumption that we’re all really animals who cannot be left alone with a member of opposite gender, because, if that happens, sex will be had, commitments and professional relationships be damned.

          I’m not a huge fan of the “men and women cannot be friends” school of thought, specifically for that reason.

          1. Tara R.*

            This whole thing just becomes completely absurd when you consider non-hetero identities. The assumption that your closer friends will be the same gender as you doesn’t really go away, and that clashes with the tradition that you cannot be close with people of the same gender as your significant other, and eventually you say f*ck it and maintain close cuddly relationships with whoever you damn well please regardless of gender or sexual orientation. I always laugh when I clarify that I’m not in fact dating one of my male friends who I’m particularly physically affectionate with and get scandalized looks– two people can in fact hug frequently without being romantically involved.

            1. MashaKasha*

              This possible ramification did cross my mind. But anytime I’ve tried mentioning it to the “omg men and women can’t be friends cuz sex” crowd, I’ve gotten a deer in the headlights look and no response. The whole assumption just doesn’t make sense. Most of us humans are decent people who understand the value of a commitment, and are on top of it pretty selective when it comes both to choosing close friends and choosing sex partners. I’ll agree with what someone said way above and say that I don’t believe I know anyone who’ll jump a person’s bones just because their apartment happens to be next door. I’ve had a pretty long life by now, filled with friends of either genders and much talking behind my back, and somewhere along that road I’ve come to the same conclusion you did – f*ck it, I’ll do what I want, because people are going to talk anyway no matter what I do or don’t do. Maybe some of them get off on gossiping. Who knows? Good for them.

  16. Minister of Snark*

    My question re: #1, is – why are you having people spy on your wife? Because that’s not OK.

    I’m not saying the wife or the boss’s actions are OK either, because they seem to have an inappropriately close dynamic at work. Unless the jeans are part of her work uniform, there is no reason for her to try them on for the boss. And even if they were part of the uniform, that’s pretty sketchy.

    But instead of having friends report to him on wife’s behavior, LW needs to have an adult conversation with her about their relationship and what is happening with her boss. Stop letting other people do your dirty work for you, LW, and talk about it.

      1. some1*

        He also doesn’t say anywhere that it’s unusual for his wife to drink wine at lunch or go shopping for jeans, as you keep implying.

      2. Minister of Snark*

        No, he doesn’t. But his friends are coming to him with this information. And rather than saying, “Hey, why are you watching my wife and reporting your findings to me?” He’s absorbing this information and concocting theories about what his wife is up to. He needs to grow up and have a conversation with the person he’s married to.

        1. Erin*

          It’s tough to say. Everyone has their phone out these days, I could see grabbing a picture in the moment happening really quickly. And then they felt obligated to share it.

          But yeah, if he’s literally *having her followed* that’s a different story. For the purpose of his obtaining advice here, I think it’s safe to assume the former. Regardless of how he obtained this information, it’s now out there and he has decide what to do/how to broach the topic with his wife.

          1. Erin*

            Okay. After rereading the letter I do see your point. There is a definite implication that she was “seen” more than once.

  17. Zillah*

    I have a slightly different take on #1 than everyone else, I think.

    If the OP’s gut is telling them that something is off, it may be because something is – I don’t think that any of the behaviors they’ve reported are necessarily indicative of anything, but they may be having a difficult time identifying why. So I don’t dismiss him quite as quickly as most other commenters seem to.

    That said, OP, you need to talk to your wife and get to the bottom of this. Don’t dismiss your gut, but don’t let paranoia and anxiety rule you, either, particularly if a lot of your concern is rooted in what all of your theoretically-well-meaning friends think about all of this. It seems like they may be swaying you to their way of thinking when you wouldn’t have gone there initially, which isn’t great.

    1. Charityb*

      It’s funny – I think nearly every comment I’ve seen so far has the same advice (“talk to your wife” but each one is worded as if they’re disagreeing with everyone else).

      I don’t think anyone here is suggesting that there’s a 100% chance that she is having an affair or a 0% chance that she’s having an affair. Pretty much everyone concedes that there’s no way to know if anything wrong is going on prior to actually talking to the wife and that should be the next step. No one is suggesting that he just let the matter drop or that he initiate divorce proceedings immediately, so I think we’re all on the same page about the value of communication and open dialogue over paranoia/indifference.

      1. Zillah*

        Sure – by my take being slightly different, I meant that I feel like there may be a reason he feels like something is off but he’s not articulating it well, where I think a lot of people are assuming that he’s off base. As you said, it’s pretty clear that the right course of action is to talk to his wife regardless.

    2. LBK*

      But I think in situations like this, your gut is thrown off a lot by how we’re socialized. For a lot of people there’s still a subconscious trigger that says “man + woman + spending time together = must be having an affair” and sometimes we just have to tell that part of our brain to shut up.

      1. LBK*

        (FWIW, I do think that your gut is useful in many situations – The Gift of Fear and all – but I’m not sure this is one of them, because paranoia, jealousy and mistrust are common reasons relationships fall apart.)

        1. Zillah*

          Yeah, it’s tricky. Because while what you’re saying is absolutely true, I also think that many people do genuinely sense when their partners are cheating on them, and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what feels off in the first place. I don’t know which camp the OP falls into, and I hesitate to assume one way or the other.

    3. some1*

      I’m not sure I agree that the LW should trust his gut here. If my friend sent me a pic of my husband having lunch with his employee, MY gut would tell me to ask my friend, “Why in the F are you following my husband??”, not write to a business expert to find out if it’s normal.

      My point is that sometimes people’s instincts are off on this kind of thing. Plenty of people get cheated on and have no clue, and some people get irrationally jealous for any number of reasons: they have trust issues, they have been cheated on, they have anxiety, etc.

      1. fposte*

        Seriously. I mean, sure, the wife could be having an affair, emotional or otherwise, because anybody could be having an affair. But if she’s not, there’s a good chance that the scrutiny is going to be pretty hurtful to the marriage in its own right. I’m hoping, OP, that at least this isn’t something you asked anybody to do but instead you have an out-of-line friend who has been told to knock it off since then.

        1. Zillah*

          I totally agree with both of you – I’m definitely not saying that the OP should assume that his gut is right, for exactly the reasons you’ve both said! I just think that he should reexamine the situation with a critical eye to see if there really is something there that there might be a reason for his gut going haywire that’s got nothing to do with irrational jealousy, because I think it’s an important thing to be clear about going into the conversation. Whatever is going on between them needs to be genuinely addressed, and for that to happen, the OP may need to be able to identify what’s really making him uncomfortable. It may be the things he laid out in the letter, but it may be something different.

  18. Erin*

    #1 – Weird, but circumstantial. Obviously, there are other things at play here we readers are not aware of, like the normal dynamics of your relationship we’re not privy to. But the bottom line is you’re uncomfortable, and this is a reasonable thing to bring up to your wife.

    I’d approach it in a similar manner as The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon suggested. Approach it like you’re assuming this is a ridiculous mistake and you can’t believe how creepy your friend is acting. Don’t go in there guns blazing (which I don’t think you will – judging by your tone you seem like a fairly calm and non-confrontational person). Honestly, I’m sure everything really is fine, so don’t assume the worst. But you do need to talk to her about it.

    #3 – What Alison suggested is perfect. There are a few other variations that could work – just keep it short and sweet. Don’t dwell on the negative, depressing stuff. “Thanks for reaching out, please do keep in touch.” “Sorry to hear about that, I’d love to grab coffee sometime.”

  19. Dasha*

    #4 great answer but I have a silly question for the other readers- how senior were you before you started asking less and arranging more? I know it will probably vary from person to person but I’m curious!

    1. themmases*

      I wasn’t particularly senior, I’d just been in my role a long time and knew the drill. For some jobs, I’m not sure you need to be that senior so much as have a good reputation on your end and clear policies on management’s end.

      I had one counterpart and we weren’t supposed to be out of the office at the same time, so we’d arrange all our time off between ourselves and then I’d email my boss with the dates and a note that I’d already confirmed my coworker would be in the office.

      My boss was the admin I reported to and my real bosses were a bunch of doctors. I never asked them for permission because a) there were too many of them; and b) they knew I could be trusted not to take time off on a day we had something going on.

      1. themmases*

        Oh and now that I’m a grad research assistant, so not very senior at all, it is still about having trust. I tried to be super accommodating at first and offer my bosses a bunch of times I was available, but I quickly picked up that they wanted me to choose as long as I was in at predictable times and made my hours. So it wasn’t long before I started telling more than asking. For important stuff, like visiting an ill family member, I booked the flight first and told my boss the next time I was in and it was fine.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I think it depends on the boss and your relationship more than anything else, really. I feel like I’ve done “I’d like to take off X and Y — let me know if that’s a problem” for a long time.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, that absolutely is true with my current job–I was so used to asking “Can I take X day off?” and my boss was like, “You can manage your own time.” It took a mighty effort to say, “Hey, I need to take Thursday off but here’s the TPS report now because I know it’s due on Friday.”

        At Exjob it, was more like, “I would like to have the Monday after [holiday] off so I can go out of town,” and that would unleash a barrage of, “Well, I would like to have that too! Snarksnarksnark,” etc.

    3. Development professional*

      For me, it came at the point where I had a direct report whose time off I had to approve. I think the expectation is that if I can manage her time off, I can certainly manage my own as well.

  20. Bowserkitty*

    Thank you for posting #4!! I’m in this same boat (but started early October) and will not be eligible to use any PTO until the end of this month after having accrued very little, but like most people I want to go home for the holidays at least a couple of days.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I wouldn’t ask for more than two days at the most if you just started. I know every office is different, but our new employees are expected to be here Xmas week. A couple of them are taking the 23rd and 24th off, but asking for more than that tends to get a side-eye from our boss.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Actually, now that I’ve looked at the calendar it looks like Xmas Eve and Day are sidled up to the weekend, so I may not have to take any time off – no more than a half day, anyway.

    2. themmases*

      It will really depend on your employer, so it’s best to just ask.

      Many offices close on certain holidays so there’s no question of making you work even if you normally wouldn’t be eligible to use your PTO. The last place I worked that did this, employees accrued PTO during their probation period and just couldn’t use it until it was over. If a holiday fell during that period, the PTO was used and they just couldn’t ask for more. For example, they would get PTO for Thanksgiving because we were closed, but couldn’t request the day after. Where I work now, I’m part time so I just make up the hours.

      I think it’s totally fine and normal to ask, especially about major holidays. It definitely doesn’t look bad as long as you don’t ask for something really tone deaf (e.g. the week after Thanksgiving in retail) and do approach it as wanting to check rather than assuming you’ll get everything you want.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        I’m certain my boss would be fine with it (I just confirmed with my company website and it does not appear we get Xmas Eve) but it’s more a matter of HR. I checked my PTO balance and it says “as of (DATE)” which was one day after my hire date…so I doubt I’ll be able to check it again until December 1st. Sigh.

        I appreciate the advice, everyone!

    3. neverjaunty*

      I think AAM’s script is very good. Obviously employers know that everyone would like the holidays off, but it’s a good way of asking without coming across as entitled.

    4. Bowserkitty*

      ok, just testing to see if I can get my avatar to show up. I’ve been posting enough as opposed to my usual lurking, so I signed with Gravatar in hopes it works :/

  21. Cucumberzucchini*

    I once was working on a project for a parochial school and whenever the client came in for meetings the marketing manager and the IT people would not drive together. They took separate cars even though they were coming from the same workplace to the same meeting and back because it’s not appropriate in their community to have unmarried people of different genders drive (or be alone) together without a third party. I thought it was super weird. I wonder if there is the “reporter” in post #1 is part of a similar religious community. There’s not enough context but I just think it’s so strange to have someone passing this kind of info along to the OP. I want to know more. Does this reporter person work at the same company?

    1. Observer*

      I’d say it’s unlikely. It’s one thing not to spend time alone with someone of the opposite gender. It’s a whole other kettle of fish to send pictures of a public lunch to a spouse, because there was wine on the table. I speak as a member of a community in which it is considered highly inappropriate for a man and woman to spend any substantial amount of time in private together.

      1. some_guy*

        I should have been more clear originally. Anyway, like most of the comments are saying, we don’t know enough about their relationships (question asker and his wife, wife and boss, etc.) to come to any meaningful conclusions.

        I just thought I’d offer my “support”, as it were, since most of the comments here are treating it as something non-chalant or nothing to be concerned about, or in fact demonizing the friend who took the pictures in the first place – I don’t think the asker is crazy to be concerned and if I were him I’d have problems with both my wife’s actions, and I’d actually prefer my friends to tell me about this kind of stuff rather than hide it.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Sorry, the friend is totally wrong and weird for sending covertly acquired photos to someone’s spouse, even if you’re right that he has cause for concern.

          1. Marian the Librarian*

            Yeah, this is really weird. The OP mentioned that the boss and OP’s wife work alone, so it’s not like this “friend” is a coworker or would have any real excuse for running into them multiple times, especially when one of the times was when boss and OP’s wife were out of town for a conference. It seems like the “friend” was following the OP’s wife.

        2. neverjaunty*

          But there’s a difference between “hey, I saw something a little weird the other day”, and taking photos.

          That said, yes, I also am feeling like some people are trying to push OP into ignoring what may be warning signs because, you know, a mature husband would be totally chill with this.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t disagree with your contention that there’s been overpush in the other direction. I think it’s more a response to some insistence that these events are de facto problematic, though, than an insistence they could *never* be related to something worth worrying about.

            They could be. These are two people who are really close. If I were married to one of them, I would want to have context it sounds like the OP doesn’t have. I don’t blame the OP for wondering about this. But one of the tough things about human behavior is that there aren’t many actions that unambiguously mean only one true thing behind the scenes; I think people are pushing back on the notion that this automatically does.

            And speaking definitely for myself but not just for myself, judging by comments–the external scrutiny element is weird and concerning in its own right, and I don’t think the OP could fairly expect to have a conversation about the one thing and not the other.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Sure, but I think there’s a difference between “having wine with lunch doesn’t automatically mean an affair” and insinuating that what’s really going on is that the OP has some kind of sexist resentment of his wife’s career. Suggesting that one’s partner must be overreacting, jealous, etc. is bog-standard gaslighting (‘why can’t you be the Chill Girlfriend?’ is sort of a classic trope in that regard) and it’s puzzling that people are doing it here.

              1. fposte*

                I’m not seeing much of that, though. I’m seeing people talk about how they do this stuff innocently all the time.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Well, view from the other side: My best friend at work is male and we do stuff like this all the time. Our relationship is completely platonic. Completely. He has helped me pick out clothes before, I have helped him choose eye glasses and shoes. We go out for drinks once in a while. My friend is married and he made it a point to introduce me to his wife so it would be clear that we have no chemistry (you know a wife can always sense it!). However, we are careful to keep conversational boundaries with each other and I never contact him outside of work (unless it’s something his wife is involved in as well like when I gave them tickets to a show I couldn’t use).

      1. MashaKasha*

        +1000. Here’s my story. I once went out for dinner with a male friend on my husband’s birthday.

        On the surface? OMG AFFAIR!

        In reality? It was a platonic work friend, married, with four kids, who lived several states away and came to our office on an odd week. That was the one week he was in town, and the one evening he was free. We both pretty much worked through lunches, so, if we wanted to catch up, it had to be early dinner after work. Which is why my husband did not mind one bit. (Also, I explained the whole situation, apologized like crazy, and we celebrated his birthday on the next day or the one after.)

        Morale? things are not always as they seem to a well-meaning friend with a camera.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Exactly. While I can’t imagine trying on jeans with my coworkers (male OR female… that just seems weird to me), I also know that my husband wouldn’t think anything of it if I did (except that it was weird, in the same way I do). I may or may not tell him about it, but it wouldn’t be about hiding it – it just may or may not be something that rose to the level of bothering to share with him.

          Healthy relationships are relaxed. At least, that’s been my experience.

          1. neverjaunty*

            On the flip side, unhealthy relationships can also be “relaxed”, in that one partner gaslights the other into ignoring red flags by suggesting that paying attention to those red flags is a symptom of being jealous, uptight and uncool and gosh don’t you trust me? We really do not have any context here to know what’s going on, other than having wine with lunch with your boss isn’t unusual, and trying on jeans with your boss kind of is, in terms of workplace norms. OP needs to talk honestly with his wife. He doesn’t need to be told that people who are more evolved than he is wouldn’t have a problem with any of this.

            1. LBK*

              Ugh, I overheard this from my neighbors when they were fighting loudly the other day. After she defended herself against a bunch of stupid accusations he made, his response was “Are you really going to be *that* kind of girlfriend?” No apology, no further discussion, just throwing it all back on her to live up to some kind of super chill ideal image of a girlfriend who doesn’t care when her boyfriend is being unreasonable and hypocritical. I wanted to slap him on her behalf.

            2. MashaKasha*

              He doesn’t need to be told that people who are more evolved than he is wouldn’t have a problem with any of this.

              TBH, what I’m getting from OP’s letter after re-reading it is that he’s getting pressure from his friends, who imply that he should have a problem with it; and that he himself doesn’t really know if he should or not. IOW, I am getting it from his letter that he didn’t really have a problem with his wife or her work/personal relationship with her boss, until his friend(s) showed up with the photos and the updates.

              I do agree that he needs to talk with his wife. And I like the very first commenter’s suggestion on how that conversation should go.

            3. Oryx*

              I’ve actually been on the side of that kind of gaslighting — I even told him later that the worst thing he did, even more than the cheating and lying, was making me doubt and question my instincts.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        I went skiing with a male friend on my husband’s birthday. My husband was working. I was home shortly after he got home from work and we celebrated his birthday accordingly. People went nuts though that I was off skiing with another man on husband’s birthday. Apparently, I was supposed to be just sitting at home waiting for him to get out of work.

      1. some_guy*

        It’s genuine. I’m not saying “divorce her yesterday!”, but I’m also surprised at how many of the comments here are like “yeah that’s totally normal”. I think the asker is right to be concerned, as simple as that. I think this behavior has the potential to not be 100% innocent.

        1. Sarahnova*

          There’s ONE picture of them having wine with lunch. It’s possible that they have wine with lunch every day, but it’s a leap we don’t have grounds for.

          There’s also one shopping incident… which appeared to take place when they were out of town together for work purposes, and had some time to kill. And it’s not at all clear that the wife was “modeling” the jeans in the sense of asking the boss to admire them, vs. “modeling” them in the sense of trying them on while he hung around in the front of the store bored and reading his emails.

          The behaviour has the potential not to be 100% innocent. Of course it does – all behaviour does. They could be having an affair, or fixing to have an affair. But the “evidence” is extremely thin and a “friend” or somebody is playing a really weird role in trying to fan suspicions.

          1. fposte*

            And there’s a significant intervening lens here. This is being reported to the OP, by somebody or somebodies who sound suspicious, in behavior that is pretty unusual from people with no axe to grind. I’m willing to offer the OP good faith, but I’m not necessarily going to extend that to the witnesses.

  22. Laurel Gray*

    A few weeks or months back in the weekend open thread I recall a few divorced people chiming in that they wish people who knew them and saw their cheating/trifling ex-spouses misbehaving spoke up when it was happening. While I too would raise a brow to the snooping pic taker, obviously the OP considers them a friend, their loyalty may be to the OP and not his wife and therefore they didn’t see a reason to go and say hi. Calling this person a spy etc is a little extra IMO, think this kind of backlash is exactly why people see trifling stuff going on and keep their mouth shut as a person gets hurt.

    You have every right to be concerned OP. Talk to your wife and put it all on the table, if everything is innocent, she’ll do the same. Good luck OP!!!

    1. Allison*

      I think there’s a world of difference between speaking up when you know someone is cheating, and sending someone pictures of fairly innocent activities saying “look how close they are, they might be having sex!”

      1. fposte*

        The combination of the pictures and the out-of-town reports is what makes this really a problem to me. If I were the wife, I’d be pretty appalled by those.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      We don’t know for sure that the OP’s friends were sending this information to him with High Alert. For all we know, someone sent him a snapchat of the wife and boss.. . “Spotted your wife @ Restaurant today. Too busy to say hi, but hope y’all are doing well.” (I think that’s more words than snapchat allows, but you get the drift.)

      The second spotting at the store may have been a different friend, and there was no picture. It could have been as innocent as someone saying, “Oh, hey, I saw ‘Jane’ at the mall today.” Perhaps the OP prodded for more detail. What was she doing, was she alone? Who knows? I’ve had stuff like that happen. . .usually vehicle spottings.

    3. Just another techie*

      It’s just so weird that the friend took a surreptitious photo though. I think my reaction would be totally different if it the friend had just called him up and mentioned it, in a “Man, this is awkward, but I thought you’d want to know” way. But taking a secret photo is just so creepy and boundary-violating to me. I’d be freaked the hell out if I were the wife.

  23. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

    LW #5 I was in your shoes a few years back and successful transitioned to a role with my former client.

    The key is expressing with this job/this company. For me it was being able to say I loved XYZ corporation and wanted to focus on building their brand strategy, as opposed to working on strategy for 250 clients.

  24. Eliza Jane*

    OP1, not to pour paranoia on paranoia, but I would personally wonder if the friend who sent you those pictures has a vested interest in breaking up your marriage. Might this friend have disliked your wife before? Is there a chance this friend is hoping to be your consolation if you and your wife split over this, or possibly your wife’s consolation?

    Most of the time when I’ve seen this dynamic, the reporting party has a strong motive for wanting the conflict in a couple.

  25. KarenD*

    On No. 2, the old owner hanging around … Allison had a great response, and I have learned from personal experience that something like that needs to be nipped in the bud very quickly. We had a very similar situation and it put a lot of people in our community in very awkward positions, not knowing how to interact with the old boss who wouldn’t go away… and in the end it did get adversarial and unpleasant.

    In the writer’s position, I would also talk to the employees. They shouldn’t be giving old boss information about the business, or soliciting, listening to or taking his advice. If there are employees who are doing this now, that needs to be addressed – sensitively and individually, but with no room for misinterpretation.

  26. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

    This scenario makes no sense to me. There are no other employees but his wife in the business. Therefore, it wouldn’t be like another employee (that the husband knew) sent a photo unless someone random who knew them both accidentally was in the restaurant and for some unknown reason decided it was appropriate to send a photo to the husband? If I saw someone I knew having a drink with lunch with someone else, it would not cross my mind to take a photo and send to the spouse. AND, if they were out of town at a convention, who was tracking (following!) them to know they were at a store? All just seems very odd. Is husband following them around? Or has he put a spy upon them? Don’t want to disparage LW, but just strange. Or is wife telling him info and he is getting upset by what she is telling him? Aaaaawwwwww

  27. irritable vowel*

    So many of the comments regarding #1 are making me laugh! I wish there was a like button…

    I agree with many who say that if the OP is concerned, he should bring it up with his wife–but not in an accusatory manner. One commenter suggested framing it as being about the nosy friend, and how inappropriate he/she was being, which I think is a great way to do it. There is probably nothing going on between the wife and the boss, but since the OP is concerned enough to write a letter about it seeking advice, he should bring it up.

    I will say that the behavior that’s been reported is a) completely G-rated and b) happening in public. If this is such a close-knit environment that the same nosy friend happened to see them at least twice together in public, they would probably be more circumspect if they were actually doing something they didn’t want getting back to the OP and any romantic partner the boss might have. (Assuming that the nosy friend isn’t actually following them around but just happened to see them coincidentally.)

    As for the workplace context in which the issue was presented, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with two people who work together so closely being friendly to the point of lunches with alcoholic beverages and clothes shopping. Men and women can be friends without any hanky panky happening, especially if they have a valued work relationship that they don’t want to jeopardize. (Or the boss could be gay, who knows.) I worked in a similar environment with my supervisor of the opposite sex (who was married), and we definitely socialized outside of work. I valued him as a colleague and a friend, and thinking about having sex with him is like thinking about doing it with my brother, ick.

  28. Melanie*

    @OP#1 – Please keep in mind that the person telling you this information may have malicious intentions (even if they don’t realize it). And just my two cents – the way your wording your letter gives me the impression that you may have seeked out advice from additional parties who reacted in ‘disgust’ or ‘shock’. Please, keep in mind that most people listen will react in the context your putting it in and/or react the way they think you want them too (instead of giving you sound advice like AAM would).

    Speak to your wife and from there, you’ll want to just trust your instinct.

    I personally don’t think it’s odd to have a work friendship that that’s close.

  29. matcha123*

    It looks like letter #1 is getting the most attention…as I suspected.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the relationship. If you don’t trust your wife, then that’s something you two have to work out. It sounds like the letter writer is living in a town small enough for gossip to travel fast.
    The boss wasn’t in the dressing room with her. And heck…maybe those were a pair of jeans she’d been interested in, but her husband never finds the time to help her pick out a pair, so she asked her boss for advice.

    Who knows?
    But, I don’t think forbidding wines at lunch or picking up clothing is going to stop someone from cheating if that’s what the worry is.

    1. some_guy*

      >but her husband never finds the time to help her pick out a pair, so she asked her boss for advice.

      Impressively you managed to make the asker seem like a bad husband in one fell swoop of your imagination.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Also, seriously, whose go-to is “My husband hates clothes shopping. I’ll ask my boss if my butt looks fat in this!”

      2. MashaKasha*

        Not to mention, this is the first I’m hearing that we need a man to help us pick out a pair of jeans. How do single women ever manage to own jeans?

    2. Melanie*

      Or she could have been asked to dress in dark jeans only and wanted his opinion after their work lunch?

      See.. I have an imagination, too. :P

    3. matcha123*

      Oh come on. This is what you come up with? People upthread were rushing to fill in details and yet I cannot offer an innocent supposition?

      I’ve been single the majority of my life, currently in an LDR with someone who can only say “meh” when I ask if something looks nice on me and I have no friends in this city that would be willing to spend time with me looking at some clothing. If a friend, male or female, were up for telling me a pair of pants looks OK or not, I’d be very happy.
      And who checks out their butt when trying on pants? When I try on pants, I look at fit, whether or not they are appropriate for work and whether or not they look weird. I don’t care what my butt looks like.

      And how am I making her husband look bad? Someone not wanting to or not being good at giving clothing advice doesn’t make them a bad person.

  30. Minister of Snark*

    Re: #2

    My grandfather purchased a restaurant location in the 1980s. Picture one of those classic old Italian restaurants you might see on Kitchen Nightmares, where it used to be great, but time and weak management ran it into the ground. The owner wanted to retire and his son didn’t want to take it over, so he sold it to grandpa.

    Grandpa immediately renovated until it was no longer recognizable as the failed Italian Restaurant and changed it to a steakhouse. Former Owner was NOT happy. He seemed to expect my grandpa to keep everything exactly the same down to the menus. Please note, Grandpa bought the building, not leased, and there was nothing in the purchase agreement about keeping anything the same. He did hire on a few of the servers who lost their jobs when the old place closed, but that was about it in terms of consistency.

    As soon as Grandpa opened the new place, Former Owner showed up, took up a booth and started loudly extolling the virtues of Italian Restaurant and how it was far superior to the new steakhouse – better food, classier, etc. He would stop the servers he used to employ as they were trying to wait tables and try to get them to agree that yes, the new steakhouse – that employed them – was tacky and awful and the old Italian Restaurant was much better. So, interfering with their ability to work AND the customers overheard the Former Owner talking smack about the restaurant. And the servers felt bad for the Former Owner and didn’t want to ignore him. Former Owner was coming in about once a week. It really interfered with productivity and staff morale.

    Grandpa tried approaching it gently, telling Former Owner, “Look, I know this is a big change for you. I know this place was a big part of your life, but that time is over now. And when you come in and distract my employees and criticize my restaurant, it interferes with my business. And that I won’t tolerate. So if you can’t come in and be polite and let the staff do their work, I’d rather you didn’t come in at all.”

    Of course, Former Owner took great offense and accused Grandpa of being ungrateful and heartless and disrespectful. He stormed out. Former Owner came back once more to test the boundary and the minute he started talking crap about the restaurant, Grandpa went to his table and said, “Your bill is covered. Get out and don’t come back.”

    And he didn’t. Grandpa ran the restaurant for another 10 years or so.

    So the lesson is:
    1) Approach it gently AT FIRST. The guy sounds like he’s trying to capture/preserve the time where he was in charge and his life had order/structure. (Bringing in the hats with the old logos.) And while that’s sad and he deserves some consideration, that doesn’t mean he gets to take over your business day or distract your staff.

    2) State the problem. His visits are distracting your staff and interfering with productivity. Former Owner wouldn’t have allowed someone to interfere with his business when he owned it and you’re not going to allow someone to do that now.

    3) State his options. Do you want him coming to visit the office at all? Then tell him, “You can visit the office for an hour or so every month, but anything more than that is a distraction I won’t tolerate.” If you don’t want him coming to visit, tell him, “Please don’t visit the office again.”

    4) Expect backlash. Expect the Former Owner to accuse you of disrespecting him, that you wouldn’t even have this job if not for him, etc. And then don’t respond. Don’t try to Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain (JADE). Just say, “OK then, I’ll walk you out.” And then walk him out. And then call your boss who oversees your branch and explain what happened, emphasizing your need to protect productivity and morale. You don’t want Former Owner to call your boss first.

  31. Donna*

    #1 – I think a lot depends on your wife’s history. Is she someone who craves a lot of male attention? Has she had physical or emotional affairs in the past? Or is she a friendly person whose friendship is often mistaken for interest and it gets her into trouble? If your answer to either of the first two questions is yes, then I’d be a little concerned.

    My husband is very friendly and comfortable around women. He usually has a “work wife” in whatever job he happens to have, and it’s been this way for over 15 years. They usually go out to lunch, talk a lot, and text each other, but rarely hang out together outside of work. They might go to the occasional work happy hour or be invited to a family event, but that’s it. I’m okay with this and as far as I know it’s never crossed the line.

    If you think that this is probably friendship, then I would still have a conversation with your wife because a co-worker is following her and taking pictures. If the people in the office perceive that she and the boss are having an affair it can be incredibly damaging to her career, and unfortunately it only takes one person to start a rumor.

    I once worked with two people who were suspected of having an affair. I’m pretty sure they weren’t– my office was across the hall from the man’s office and I could hear them. They always had the door open and were frequently joined by another friend. I was also Facebook friends with the woman, and saw that she spent a lot of her time outside of work taking her kids to sports practices, games, and catechism as well as taking care of her grandparents. I never saw them touch each other, and I was the one who probably saw them together the most. But at least 10 coworkers were convinced they were together and would not stop gossiping about them. The woman was a temporary employee who was a good reliable worker, but her contract was not renewed and someone else was hired in her place.

    1. neverjaunty*

      argh, “work wife”. If it was a guy it would just be a “close friend”. I understand what you’re saying here, and don’t disagree, but it’s frustrating when that phrase gets thrown around to describe a friendship between a man and a woman as if there’s no other context for such a thing except romance.

      1. Donna*

        It’s not my favorite term either and I think it’s overused, but I have to say in my husband’s case, it’s a pretty close description of the relationships. These women actually take care of him, to a certain extent. They counsel him, bring him occasional treats, they tell him who to watch out for in the organization, and are very supportive. Maybe more motherly than wifely? I don’t know. I don’t think these are gender-specific traits, but he seems to choose male friends with different qualities.

        (I’ve met the female friends before–all of them are awesome and caring. I don’t think they’re like that just for him, I think they’re like that for everyone in their lives. One of them even gave me a baby shower when she found out my friends were all living in different states.)

    2. Erin*

      These are all good points, although I’d argue if she tends to really thrive on male attention, that could mean she’s just overly flirtatious with this guy. While concerning, that’s still far away from a full blown affair.

      And yeah, I can think of at least two instances of people in work relationships that you just described – a close, work wife/work husband type of dynamic, but I would be very, very surprised if something sexual was actually going on.

    3. AnonXWife*

      I hear you 100%. My ex-husband is like your husband in that, while he’s friendly and outgoing, he does not have a cheating bone in his body. In the 18 years we were married, he didn’t have as many opposite-sex friends as I did, but he did have a few. I was never worried. I knew that nothing was ever going to happen. I got mildly upset once when he and I were on a bowling team with another couple and he and the other wife befriended each other. They’d sit together and chat and ignore both her husband and myself. What made things worse was that the three of us have the same native language, but the husband did not, and he could not understand a word those two were saying. I finally sat my husband down and told him, Look, I know there’s nothing going on, but you guys are being disrespectful to Bob. Bob needs to be included in the conversations. Bob also needs to know what you guys are talking about, otherwise Bob might get ideas. They started including both of us, and my husband and Bob became best friends (still are 10+ years later). Problem solved.

  32. FiveByFive*

    #1 – I agree with everyone here about OP talking with his wife, but I would start in a very general sense, and not even bring up the gossip. I would just say that sometimes I’m uncomfortable with the idea of you working so closely with your boss, and that I could use some reassurance. I would ask what the daily activities are like and how the conventions work.

    Hopefully the wife will be open about activities such as lunch and shopping, and provide reassurance that there are no flirtatious implications at all. Or (hopefully not) in the event that she says they never have lunch together and that she spends all her down-time at conventions alone in her room, now there might be some red flags, given the information you were given. In that case, I’d let it sit for a while, then maybe in a few days mention again that you still feel uncomfortable, and that you got a weird email from a co-worker about lunches and jeans modelling. You’ll learn a lot then about how she reconciles that with the original information she gave you.

    But I wouldn’t start a conversation around the gossip. Talk about your feelings, and only bring up the gossip if it becomes apparent that it has a role to play.

    1. fposte*

      My concern with that approach is that you’re seeking openness while offering secrecy. I think you’re better off treating her as you want to be treated–by sharing the truth. “Honey, I’ve been getting some weird communications about your work relationship with Bob. As I said, I think it’s weird that I’m getting them, but I’m human and I love you and I’m worrying that people are trying to tell me something. Can we talk about how this dynamic works for you, and maybe make some plans for us to spend more time together while we’re at it?”

      Now, if the OP did authorize or request the scrutiny, that’s such a huge thing to have done that I’m not sure it matters if you hide that huge thing or admit to it.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, this feels like setting a trap. If you ever find yourself planning something to “catch” your spouse/significant other rather than just communicating directly and openly, I think that’s a huge red flag that there’s something deeper you need to address. It signals a lack of trust – that you don’t believe you’ll get the truth unless you trick them into saying something you know is false and then confront them about it.

      2. FiveByFive*

        fposte, understood. I don’t intend for the initial conversation to be setting a trap of any kind, though it could certainly come off that way. I just think it’s about OP’s feelings and concerns outside of the gossip, since the gossip might be significant or might be garbage. I wouldn’t feel comfortable presenting something like to my wife and asking her to explain. I trust her, and if I didn’t, I would have *that* conversation first. But I know what you’re saying.

        And yes, I’m assuming OP didn’t authorize the snooping. If he did, everything changes.

  33. Sue Wilson*

    I’m really surprised with other people being surprised that the nosy person took a picture, tbh. If you think your friend’s SO is having an inappropriate relationship, but you also think there might be blowback on you for seeing it at all, then the advice (although not necessarily good advice) from many corners is to get a neutral observer/proof, aka a picture, because, that advice also says, “kill the messenger” is a common result.

    I’m not saying it’s a good thing to do, I’m saying that it’s such a common thing to advise people who ask for help when they notice something that might be romantically inappropriate, that I don’t see why everyone’s up in arms about it.

    1. Panda Bandit*

      I’ve never heard that and the pictures don’t sound like great proof either. Now if the pictures showed they were making out or going into a hotel room together, that would be real proof.

  34. FiveByFive*

    LBK, I hear you, but what signal does it send when you tell your wife that it’s worth considering some gossip you’ve heard, but yet you say you have full trust in her? And what answer can she possibly provide in response to the gossip? Either denying the jeans thing happened, or saying it happened and was no big deal. Either answer doesn’t seem like it would allay OP’s concerns.

    1. LBK*

      I think you’re imaging this being a more drawn out conversation or more of an accusation than it needs to be.

      “So something weird happened today – someone sent me pictures of you and your boss drinking and shopping today as if they were trying to tell me something scandalous was happening?”
      “Wow, that is weird. We were just killing time before the next round of presentations started.”
      “Yeah, that’s what I figured. What do you want for dinner?”

      Done and done.

      1. FiveByFive*

        But to be fair, if OP’s wife is indeed exceeding boundaries, or if OP suspects she might be, how does that conversation resolve anything?

        Regardless, this is getting away from OP’s original question, which is in regards to whether or not this is appropriate and typical behavior within boundaries between a boss and a subordinate.

        1. LBK*

          Well, I’m assuming he does trust her. If he doesn’t, then that’s a different conversation, but I still don’t agree that withholding the info about the photos is the right way to go about it. Like fposte says, it’s fighting deception with deception (and you can say you’re not trying to be deceptive if you want, but there’s no way that withholding information and then surprising someone with it to catch them in a lie isn’t deceptive).

        2. fposte*

          If OP’s wife is indeed cheating, the odds of a conversation resolving the situation aren’t great, period. So you focus on the conversation that resolves things for you if she isn’t.

    2. LBK*

      And your advice also ends up with the same conversation I proposed in the first place, but now you’ve stacked layers of deception on top of it. What’s the advantage of that instead of just skipping right to the part where you talk about the emails?

      I also think it’s unlikely that you’d be able to raise a vague, general concern about her relationship with her boss without her asking where that concern came from.

  35. KL*

    In regards to question 5, I’m actually in a similar situation and would love the advice of the community here on it. I also am a relationship manager, but the potential client in question (from the OP) component is different. They are currently an active client of mine (and have been for the last 2 years) and I have several engagements active with them right now. My role is to grow the relationship and identify related opportunities. The new role is actually connected with an active project. How can I reach out to inquire without making it awkward and without jeopardizing a large contract renewal? The client also has a notoriously difficult online application system to navigate and is infamous for auto-rejecting applicants.

  36. OP Anon*

    Hi all. I am the OP. Thank you all for the input and advice. I am sorry if it sounds like I don’t trust her. I do. I’m just a little concerned. I have had a guy feeling that something just isn’t right for a while now. We have been going through a little bit of a rough patch too. There are a number of other things that have happened that have added to my awareness and I will list a few of them.
    1-I called her one day to see if she needed anything from _____blank town I was working near. She didn’t answer the phone. I give her about 15 minutes and I call again. She answers on the 3-4 ring and is out of breath. Like really out of breath. She said she ran from the bathroom 15 feet away. She is in great shape.
    2- she comes home one evening with a scratch on her right thigh from her knee to her hip. I asked her what happened. She said she scratched her leg climbing into her boss’s company truck. Her jeans showed no signs of such event. For her leg to get scratched that badly, either her jeans would show signs or she didn’t have her pants on when she got scratched.
    3- my wife had worked there about 6 months when she went to her OB for her yearly pap. Her Dr found Molluscum on her genitals.
    I got checked and they found nothing.

    If you want more, I’ve got a few more. I love her and trust her, but I have a bad feeling. I just want to fix what we have. I have talked to her about alllllll this in a very non accusatory fashion. She got very defensive. As for the people who told me about the other things, I have asked them to not worry about it. I know they are just looking out for me though. They love her to death but don’t want to see me get hurt.

    1. Anon E. Mouse III*

      You wrote an anonymous letter to AAM instead of talking to your wife. You provided an itemized list of “infractions” here in the comments. You have a bad feeling.

      Yeah … you definitely don’t trust your wife, there, friend.

      1. OP Anon*

        Let’s just say my trust is in question at the moment. When things add up trust usually comes down.

      2. Laurel Gray*

        So snarky and for what? Half the letters asked to AAM are people doing similar only it may not be related to a spouse.

        This letter really brought on some super bizarre soft-attacks on this OP.

        1. voyager1*

          Yes. But honestly it isn’t surprising and it isn’t the first time I have seen LW’s getting attacked for not having the same moral standard of the person writing the comment.

          Just because something is okay or no big deal to you doesn’t mean everyone feels the same way or everyone else has the same kind of relationship as you.

          If my wife found out I was clothes shopping with another woman she would be deeply hurt and mad as heck. And frankly I wouldn’t blame her for feeling that way because she knows I would feel the same way if the situation was reversed with her and another man.

    2. LBK*

      I think you need to have a really serious talk. If you’ve discussed these issues and you’re not feeling any better about them, that conversation isn’t over.

    3. quick reply*

      For your #2, I took a bad fall off of my bike not too long ago and while my elbow was banged up and bleeding, the jacket I was wearing at the time was fine. I’ve gotten some terrible scratches that have strangely left my jeans OK.

      Just ask her. It takes two people to make something work. Not the hopes of one.

      1. voyager1*

        Dude she is cheating. Molluscum? Really. Only one way adults get that in their gentials. I would be getting a good divorce attorney.

        1. LisaLee*

          Not necessarily. If you have an infection on one part of your body and accidentally touch a different part of your body, you can spread the virus. You might also get it from pool towels, possibly pools themselves (the jury is out on that one), gyms, etc. The virus disappears once the actual pox disappear, so it is completely possible that the LW did have it and just got over it by the time his wife discovered it.

          All of this to say that OP, you really need to stop listening to strangers on the internet speculating and have a serious conversation with your wife. Don’t harangue her with “evidence,” just tell her your feelings and ask what’s up.

          1. Laura Renee*

            “All of this to say that OP, you really need to stop listening to strangers on the internet speculating and have a serious conversation with your wife. ”

          2. HB*

            Kids get them from sandboxes all the time. Not that I think OPs wife is in a sandbox, but… just talk to your wife. We could speculate all day.

        2. matcha123*

          Yeah. I don’t know what that is, so I didn’t touch that. Just wanted to say that it is possible to get a scratch or some other injury requiring a Band-Aid without ripping up your jeans.

        3. Effective Immediately*

          Late to the party, but I work in sexual health so I feel compelled to chime in:

          Molluscum can be present without lesions for a fairly long time (~1 year). It has various modes of transmission; hell, it’s super common in kids under 10 and people that live in very warm areas. It also self-resolves relatively quickly, meaning you could have had it and never known.

          I would be defensive, too, if I felt like I was under constant surveillance and had to explain every scratch, lunch and pair of jeans in my life. Good grief.

          1. 匿名*

            Yes, any one of these things could be innocently explained, but once you put them all together it does start to seem to stretch credulity that they’re all just funny coincidences.

      2. Koko*

        Heck, the whole reason jeans were invented was to provide a durable pants for miners to wear that wouldn’t easily rip or tear when they were kneeling and scraping against jagged rocks all day.

    4. A Cita*

      Well that was a long, dark, deep rabbit hole. I had to google molluscum, and well, I have a malignant fascination with weird and gross skin things, so dozens of webpages worth of reading, a gazillion photographs and technical drawings, and a few extraction/curettage videos focusing on “removing the highly contagious cheesy cores” later, all I can say is GROSS! (and AWESOME!). But that’s beside the point–can you be sure that you didn’t have mollusum that healed prior to her finding out about hers? The fact that she didn’t know she had it until her yearly exam tells me it wasn’t a terribly virulent infection, so maybe it went unnoticed by you since all my deep, dark, web scouring told me the condition heals itself.

      All that to say, the evidence is still circumstantial, and as others have mentioned, the best bet is communication. If you can’t discuss this without her getting defensive, is counseling an option?

    5. Katniss*

      When you talked to her about this, did you phrase it similar to how you phrased it here? If so, I can see her getting defensive because your phrasing is pretty accusatory.

      I also feel like there still must be more background here because the three things you listed, even along with what’s in the letter, don’t add up to much for me.

      I’d speak to her again (in a non-accusing way) and maybe suggest seeing a counselor together.

    6. Observer*

      I’ve been thinking about this.

      For starters, be honest, because anything else will just make things worse. And the simple fact is that you SAY “I trust her” but your lack of trust is glaringly obvious. I don’t entirely blame, you because some of what you are describing is disturbing.

      But, another thing you need to realize before you go forward is that you need to get your “friends” to BUTT OUT. Friends who “Love her to death but don’t want to see you get hurt” don’t act as though they are your private Baker Street irregulars, nor stir the pot. Honestly, the idea that someone would send you a picture of your wife having lunch with the guy (something that you knew about) because THERE WAS WINE ON THE TABLE just blows be away (unless you are practicing Muslims or Mormons, who don’t ever drink alcohol – which changes a lot of things.) Even reporting on clothes shopping, as odd as I find that, really seems gratuitous.

      To be honest, I would not be shocked if you were to find out that your wife is having an affair. But, and this is not to defend her having an affair if she is, there is a lot more going on in your relationship, some of which is on you. The issue of the infection really is a biggie. Yes, there may be innocent explanations but “Think horses not zebras” does seem to make sense.

      But, most of the other stuff just doesn’t come close, and some just leaves me scratching my head. I’ve already mentioned the wine at lunch bit. But also, the whole phone call bit. Think about what you are suggesting – Your first call caught her in the act. The second call caught her at the end of it, and she grabs the phone while still panting and heaving from the after effects and lies to you about having run 15 feet from the bathroom instead of waiting to catch her breath and then calling you back and saying “I see I missed two calls from you. I was in the bathroom.” Does that make any sense?

      While I agree that the fact that she’s defensive is not great, it’s hard to see how you can say stuff like this without being highly accusatory. If you really want to fix what you have then, as I said, keep your friends out and then go see a good marriage counselor, preferably with her, but yourself if she refuses to go.

    7. Iron Thunder*

      Dude, I hate to say it, to me, it REALLY sounds like your wife is having an affair. Too many things are sketchy here. She was modelling clothes for her boss? WTF That is outrageous! I have never heard of a such a thing happening in a professional work environment. Unless she was a model or an actress (which I’m assuming she’s not) and the predilection for women to cheat on their husband with their male boss… (If they’re going to cheat in the first place) Some people posting here are just clueless about gender dynamics.

      You need incontrovertible proof for at best, an emotional affair, or at worst, a real one. If there is a real affair, often times there is a record of illicit conversations between them.

      1. hiring a PI,
      2. putting a voice activated recorder under her car seat
      3. Contacting this employee and asking for more photo evidence. They may even be able to put a voice activated recorder in the bosses office for you. Mind you, this is probably illegal.
      4. Get into her cell phone and look up her text messages and phone logs.
      5. Get into her social media and see if she texts him through there
      6. Get into her emails.
      7. You can get spyware that records and then emails you all the keystrokes on her computer and smartphone if she’s not leaving a paper trail.

      Often your best bet is to do this on the sly and not alert her so she can’t delete the trail of evidence. If you must have her give you the passwords to gain access and she doesn’t share? Huge red flag. She will pitch a massive fit, call you kind of names and accuse you of things you wouldn’t believe of.

      This is how she can continue to hide the affair.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Whoa, no. If you’re doing those things, the marriage is already over. Counseling, and figuring out if you can trust her. If you can’t, there’s nothing to salvage.

      2. Laura Renee*

        Thanks for making a great argument for staying single forever and never giving men power over you. Thanks for letting us know that you consider all those methods fair play. Even the illegal ones!

      3. Koko*

        “If you must have her give you the passwords to gain access and she doesn’t share? Huge red flag. She will pitch a massive fit, call you kind of names and accuse you of things you wouldn’t believe of.”

        To be fair this is how most reasonable people would react whether or not they were having an affair. If they were, it’d be to cover the affair, and if they weren’t, it’d be because the idea of their spouse needing to monitor all their communications is deeply invasive and controlling.

  37. J*

    I’m having a really tough time understanding how trying on clothing in front of someone who isn’t spouse/partner isn’t crossing the line. Sure, you can rationalize it all you want (maybe she really needed jeans!) but it seems pretty bad. I wouldn’t be comfortable if I were the LW.

    1. LisaLee*

      Are you a man? I feel like maybe this is an issue that divides along gender lines. I don’t see anything weird at all about trying on clothes in front of another person who isn’t your spouse. It seems like a totally normal friend behavior to me. Being friends with your boss is a bit more weird, but lots of people are.

    2. Katniss*

      Unless you’re getting naked or down to your underwear in front of them, why is this an issue? They’re just clothes.

    3. Harriet Vane*

      Most retailers don’t let mixed-gender pairs or groups into a fitting room together. She’s almost certainly not changing in front of this man if they were in a shop together! What’s vastly more likely is that she changed in the fitting room and came out to show him the jeans, and I don’t see what is wrong with that.

      1. voyager1*

        I am still trying to get around how getting mulloscum on her gentials isn’t crossing a line…. or pretty clear evidence that she cheated.

        1. Laura Renee*

          It’s also been pointed out that it’s a self-healing condition, which means the OP may have already had and it cleared up on its own a while ago.

          1. voyager1*

            I stand by what I said. I am well aware of the condition molluscum and how it is treated. If you reading websites then understand that children and treated differently then adults. And if you are getting it on your gentials or gential area you got it from sexual relations. Go ask any MD.

    4. Laurel Gray*

      I am a woman and agree. Sure, u go into a stall and then come out with the clothes on but I feel like a boundary gets crossed. I don’t think any of the wives or girlfriends of my platonic male friends would be comfortable with me jeans shopping with their man.

  38. voyager1*

    Friends is usually how Friends with Benefits starts. I am a man and you darn right I would have a problem with my wife trying clothes on in front of another man.

    1. Laura Renee*

      “Friends is usually how Friends with Benefits starts.” WELL, you just made an argument against your partner having any friends at all. That’s a possessive, controlling, and distrustful attitude. Also, you’re making it sound like she changed in front of him, when that’s not what was described.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      I’m actually quite surprised at how normal it is here for people to shop (had no idea many men liked to shop let alone with a platonic female friend) with someone of the opposite sex who has a spouse or they have a spouse. Also surprised at how much benefit of the doubt the wife is being given both before and after the OP provided additional context.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I’ve shopped with SOs before. It’s exactly like someone described above: one person is actually shopping, the other is sitting in a corner looking at their phone. Not exactly a romantic, couples-only experience.

        The additional context was unexpected to say the least! Talk about going from 0 to 70 mph in 1.5 seconds. I didn’t see it until I logged in today, though. And I’m staying way out of it after I’ve seen it. Whatever is going on there, it still doesn’t change my opinion that having lunches together and popping in to buy a pair of jeans while on an out-of-town trip together is okay.

      2. Laura Renee*

        It well may have been less of a purposeful shopping trip than an impulsive “oh hey I need to run an errand while we’re out.” Why on earth is clothes-shopping such a damning indication of adultery?

        The point is, we’re getting a VERY narrow picture of what’s going on, and it’s dumb to jump to the worst possible conclusion. It’s safer to suggest totally normal explanations for the OP’s list, while also suggesting he talk to her directly and try something more helpful to deal with his concerns than a horde of internet commentators who don’t know either of them.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Just don’t take them with you to buy jeans, and you’ll be fine. You know, those jeans are quite the slippery slope!

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