I recall once seeing a coworker and his wife out at a restaurant. The guy smiled politely, but quickly averted his gaze after a perfunctory greeting in my general direction. I exchanged a brief salutation in return, and then we passed each other as if nothing were amiss. My heart actually hurt for this woman as I thought of the inappropriate things her husband had said to me before in the workplace, and as I thought of his very different behavior just moments before I wondered if he would have looked me up and down like a piece of meat and made a flirtatious compliment of my physical appearance had his wife been present. Not likely.
I had never given this man any inclination that I had even a speck of interest in him, and even without the wedding rings on my finger, surely he had noticed the string of pregnancies I had blossomed through during our time working together. I suppose to some men this didn’t matter, but I wondered under what circumstances it might. Perhaps circumstances like the one in the restaurant. One where his lovely wife was present.
If his wife happened to be standing in the hall at our workplace would he have said such things? Doubtful.
How many times had I seen jokes that went too far, or even innocent shoulder massages that had no place? Pretty often. But what if each man and woman, every husband and wife, in their respective work places considered one very simple question. What if before saying something to that coworker or placing your hand on them in an extremely friendly manner you paused with internal reflection and asked yourself this.
Would I do this if my spouse was standing right here beside me?
I think it’s really that simple. If you can ask yourself that question and the answer is “no” then you really have no business doing it. If you wouldn’t flirt with that coworker while your wife was present then why do it at all? If you wouldn’t strike up a conversation with that stranger at the gym if your husband was there then why do it if he’s not. To respect your spouse means you respect them even if they cannot see your actions. It’s a loyalty that extends beyond immediate vision, and a mutual trust that is built in relation to treating your partner the way you would wish to be treated.
That opens a whole other line of thinking. You might even begin to question, “would I want my spouse speaking to someone of the opposite sex the way I just did?”
Would I want my wife rubbing another man’s shoulders?
Would I want a woman complimenting the way my husband’s butt looks in his jeans?
Are the conversations you’re having something better shared with your spouse? We all want someone to listen to our deepest hopes and dreams with interest and intrigue, but are your conversations outside of your marriage something that you should be having at home instead?
Would I want my husband to share with another woman his most secret dreams?
No. I want those conversations for our special relationship.
Would I want my husband to share my inadequacies with a female coworker?
So why would I share his with another man?
It’s almost like the Golden Rule of marriage. You treat your spouse the way you would wish to be treated, and they in turn do the same. You don’t act in a manner that would make your spouse uncomfortable or hurt their feelings, and you don’t do anything in their absence that you wouldn’t also do in their presence. So if you’ll ask yourself would I do or say this if they were here, and if the answer happens to be “no” then it’s time to change your behavior. It might just end up saving your marriage.
This article originally appeared at BrieGowen.com.