WTF Wednesday: My friends think I’m hitting on their husbands


Dear Emma:

I divorced three years ago. It was a really nasty scene that dragged out for three years. We had been together 20 years.

After I picked my self up and got my act together, life started to be pretty good. The kids are doing great. I lost about 30 pounds, got a promotion at work and started dating. Everyone said how wonderful I looked. I haven't felt so free in years! I have to admit that I have been so enjoying meeting men and sex.

Most of my girlfriends are married, and you could say I “won” the friends in the divorce. At first these were really encouraging, setting me up on dates and loving all my dating antics. But after a while I started to get the cold shoulder from some of them. They called less, and I realized that I wasn't getting invited to barbecues and other family get-togethers. I was so hurt — was I being excluded because these are couples events, and I'm now single?

I eventually started confronting different friends. I kept hearing the same thing: no one wants me around their husbands because they think I flirt with them! I can't believe it! I think these women are just jealous. Over the past few years several have confided that they've been unhappy in their marriages for years (I had no idea), and most of them have let themselves go. They just see me having fun dating and looking great but they don't have the courage to leave their miserable relationships.

Tell me I'm right.

So effing sad in San Antonio


Dear Sad,

All these different friends are telling you the same thing. The common denominator is you and your sexuality.

Yes, your post-divorce success is certainly making these unhappily married women consider their own circumstances. A few years ago this study found that divorce is actually contagious – if you have a divorced friend, you are 33% more likely to split. I won't dismiss completely that they could be threatened by you. After all, if these women are a mix of unhappy in their marriages and unattractive, they sense that their husbands are also unhappy — and open to something better.

However, I will go to my grave saying this: You attract what you give off. Consider this woman, who wrote the viral essay I'm Fat, 40 and Single and I Have no Problem Getting Laid all the Time. After a breakup, this 300-pound single mom decided she wanted lots of great sex — and found it, with wonderful men who devoured her. She felt sexy and attractive and men found her to be so, despite that she falls way outside traditional beauty.

Same for you. You're putting something out there, and now it is's coming back to haunt you. I don't sense your motives are malicious or even manipulative. Instead, your sexuality is a kamikaze bundle of undirected energy. Who could blame you? It has been 25 years since you were last on the market, and you went through so many years either in a relationship or miserably celibate or in the trauma of divorce. Maybe, deep down, you see how unhappy these women are, how passively they stay in bad relationships and how they don't take care of themselves. Maybe you harbor a bit of resentment for your friends because you see in them yourself just a few years ago.

But now you are not them — you feel you are a better version of that woman you used to be. Now you are pretty and horny, and you don't know what to do with yourself. Somehow along the way you gave these women — and maybe their husbands — the notion that you were open to a roll in the hay — or more? — with these married men because you are not clear about who you are and what you want at this stage. 

The first step to remedy this situation is to own it. Accept that if all your friends are singing the same tune, you have responsibility here. Then forgive yourself. Accept that you are exploring this new and wondrous world of dating and sex again for the first time, and you're not completely sure of what you're doing. Which is so completely normal! Then speak with your friends. Tell them that you feel terribly for giving them the impression that you're out to snag their men. Tell them that that simply is not your style. Also: be vulnerable. Admit what a heady experience it is to be pursued and open to men at this late stage of life. Tell them that you are making mistakes and finding your way, and you appreciate their support and encouragement. And then welcome the invite to the next wine tasting — and check yourself.

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About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list. Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Heather -Dallas Single Mom on June 4, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Excellent advice Emma! I think she may also want to consider using her new found confidence to make more friends and network with those that are also divorced. She will always have the bond of her married friends but they need to get over their stuff. She can’t control their attitude towards her and she can only control her own attitude. She also may have to confront the fact that they may no longer want to be friends with her. That may become a reality and she has to accept that. True friends – whether married or single will stick by you. I had a friend who used to be jealous of me because I used to work alongside her husband (I knew him before her). She got to know me and realized that I would never have any romantic interest in her husband but she was able to talk to me about it. I respected that.

  2. Emma on June 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Heather- yes, single women need single friends. I’m really impressed your friend was open with you about her jealousy. That is very mature of her — and you, too for being open to receiving it without prejudice.

  3. DarthW on June 5, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    Emma, I think your advice is good, even from a male perspective. :) I’ve seen “divorce contagion” play out a couple times as one divorce spread like the plague.

    I would wonder if some of her friends jealousy is more directed from this quote from the study you presented: ““In addition, newly single people may be perceived as social threats by married friends who worry about marital poaching.” Perhaps some of her friends are affected the same.

    Now, with divorce so prevalent, and so many women also admitting to their female friends how unhappy they are in light of a mutual friend’s divorce (and married men admit the same to other men as well) why the heck do women seek after marriage so much in this day and age? I know some guys seek marriage, but the majority of guys I talk to just want someone to hang out with and have sex with, not marriage – especially after a divorce – they just give in to their girlfriends’ “dream” of marriage.

    I’ve read several blogs where studies and reports indicate women are as much, or more, unhappy than men in marriage. Wives initiate the majority of divorces, some for legit reasons obviously, but not every marriage is loaded with abuse, addiction, and adultery. Most of the women I’ve dated long-term, almost all were divorced, still got the “marriage bug” way moreso than I see in guys from similar situations. And in talking to the guys around me this is their experience as well. Why do you think this is so?? I would figure women would blink into the reality that short-term romantic, or sexual, relationships are now the norm, and give up the marital dreams of a bygone era.

    • Emma on June 8, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      Really interesting insights and questions, Darth!

      Why the heck do women seek after marriage so much in this day and age?

      A few reasons, all fear-based. Fear of the unknown. Fear of loneliness. Fear of social stigma (of being a single mom and/or divorced). I know lots of people who met their husbands when they were very young — HS or college and simply never lived as a single person. They quickly jump into the first thing that comes along because that is more comfortable than no one — even when the guy is clearly all wrong.

      Why are women more likely to be unhappy in marriage?

      I haven’t seen this myself — maybe it’s my age, as most of my friends are still married — but I do hear often from older women they feel that men of their age don’t grow and and evolve as much as the women. What do you think?

  4. DarthW on June 10, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Emma, Firstly, I mean on disrespect regarding your blog or articles. I present my strong opinions for enlightenment perhaps, but not trying to offend.

    I really don’t have a “fear of loneliness” that would drive me to marriage, and so I don’t easily understand loneliness as a motivation. I recall one man mentioning that women say they want to marry so as “not to die alone”, but the truth is that we all die alone. Sure a spouse or kids may be there to hold your hand as you die, but they are wondering what the pizza in the hospital cafeteria tastes like while that spouse passes away. As oblivion takes you, you will be alone – so, so alone. ‘Tis a dark thought, but it is a reality even a married person shares with a confirmed bachelor.

    Fear of security seems prevalent. In my experience, women – single moms and not – seemed to really want the financial security that my good paycheck, no debt, and responsibility bring. I can understand – I guess – wanting a man who can fix things, protect boundaries, and conquer challenges as a sense of security as well. Men desire security as well, but for different things….Some deadbeat men do want women to just pay their bills.

    Women can feel better that the fear of social stigma should be fading quite a bit these days. Single people in the US far outnumber marrieds, and I see no reason that those numbers won’t continue to grow. Marriage is a failed institution, and as our elders die, the married rates will continue to decline.

    Fear of the unknown is real whether married, or not. As a man fear of the unknown is very real. Any man should fear marriage. I wouldn’t trust a woman in a marriage at all with statistics of marital failure abound, especially given that 70% to 90% (some reports I’ve read state college educated wives file in 90% of divorce cases) of wives initiate the divorce:

    Emma, you haven’t seen women unhappy in marriage, but you seem to have several blogs about it (I haven’t read them all, so I don’t really know a percentage)? Maybe not firsthand, but you have to be intimately aware of so many women being dissatisfied. I recall one recent reference to an article about married moms “feeling” like single moms and a number of unhappy women responding. (The article and comments helped reinforce my satisfaction that I’ve never married, by the way. I suspect other men silently read your blog, and similarly took away the same thought.) It was an interesting article, and I am not necessarily indicating how much you agreed with the content, merely mentioning it as an example that I would expect you to have more exposure to the unhappiness of married women.

    As for men not growing and evolving as women, some women do not necessarily “grow and evolve” any better than some men. On dating sites, I still see women in their late 30s and 40s, post divorce with children, stating that they are seeking their “prince” or “knight” like a 16-year-old school girl, instead of a woman with any sense after the bone chilling reality of divorce. Further, I’ve had single moms I’ve dated think I can’t possibly have grown beyond the age of 18 since I’ve not married and had kids, but I’m the one with no debt, a substantial 401K, and a house, while they still live as I did (in debt in a cramped apartment with no retirement savings) when I was in my early 20s. That isn’t to say there aren’t some men out there whom I myself have seen need to grow up. I recall a friend’s chronically unemployed ex-husband who would spend the day playing frisbee golf rather than seeking work, maintaining his part of responsibilities, etc – but he is a rare exception to this seeming majority of men that women seem to think they have “outgrown”. Now, do I think women marry men thinking men are just like they are, and then want to change that man into a “mangina”, and when he doesn’t change they assume he is more “immature”? Yes. Yes, I do think women do not have a realistic expectation of their man when they marry him. Women don’t like video games, so if man may enjoy them as a pasttime, he is assumed a boy simply because a woman, herself, doesn’t care for the entertainment.

    As a final thought on women outgrowing men. From my speaking to women and reading articles, at one time men being “players” was a perception that a man was still living out his college days, and not growing up. Interestingly, women – married, divorced, and single – spend as much time in sexual escapades these days as “immature” men were accused of in yesteryear. So, that is no longer a valid argument for women to use. Your blog has only reinforced these “childish” escapades in which women now engage…..Not that there is anything wrong with that, since I enjoy the benefits as often as I can.

  5. Truthfully on January 15, 2015 at 12:02 am

    I find that I’ve actually helped convince a few friends wanting a divorce to not divorce. I also find the phenomenon that while I get invited to ladies night out, I rarely receive an invite to the parties where husbands are present. Do people think I will be sad if I don’t have a significant other? Are they afraid I am a husband stealer? What is it?

    • Emma on January 15, 2015 at 11:34 am

      I face the same thing sometimes and I don’t know the answer. Sometimes I think that it is simply an oversight – like the host is forming a mental list of guests and, as a person in a couple, they just don’t see us as human :)

  6. Anonymous on August 31, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    It’s the fact that divorced women no longer have clear boundaries in their relationships. Divorced women are so busy trying to redefine their social lives along with possibly still rebounding from the emotional roller coaster of divorce that they say and do things that they would not have before. I found my friend to be needy and talking to the husbands, fishing for compliments and it was desperate. She didn’t contribute to the gatherings anymore, saying she was financially drained but always had money for salon visits and manicures. Divorced women are just parasites and though men eat up the compliments by “saving” this damsel in distress, women will see this BS for what it is. Get new friends, after all you’re someone that throws people away when you’re done with them anyways. Divorce your friends too.

    • Emma on September 1, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      This seems a rather bitter perspective based on one friendship.

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