I have a concern regarding making friends with women.
I am dedicated to my wife and have been for a long time. We are incredibly close - best friends, definitely - and I have never been unfaithful to her. However, she is VERY threatened by other women and becomes quite jealous. Then it's disguised as insults or slams on who the other woman is as a person (looks, talents, job, etc). This generally happens even if I'm friends with the other woman, and my wife is not. When she becomes good friends with the women I make friends with, everything is fine. But if it's someone I just met, or someone she rarely sees, she gets very catty and makes me feel like they're not worthwhile having as a friend. She’ll often do this until she actually meets the person – then she’ll either dislike them and stay catty, or suddenly try to be better friends with them than I am.
So - here's my dilemma. I am going through counseling to try and be more independent. Part of this is me growing beyond fears of my wife's over reactions to things that are considered socially acceptable by others. I am an actor, so having female friends is just accepted as normal (and necessary, even). Here's what I see happening repeatedly with women:
I meet a woman on the first day. It usually goes incredibly well and I feel like a friendship is definitely a possibility. Then I go home and tell my wife about the friendship - and she seems utterly disinterested in hearing about it, and often makes me feel "guilty" that I'm talking to other women at all. I'm not trying to flirt with them, I'm not trying to get with them - but it's as if any excitement over a female friend (or, hell, even many male friends) is quashed by some sort of insecurity in my wife. Then I start feeling awkward around the woman and the friendship sort of fades away. Maybe I'm doing something subconsciously, respecting my wife's wishes? Maybe it's that I don't show interest in them as women? I have witnessed a lot of women aren’t interested in being my friend once they know I'm married (I wear my ring, and I always tell on first meeting once I get to it in the conversation).
What bothers me is how other men's wives feel about these sorts of friendships. I can't tell if I'm just naturally more respectful to my wife, or if I'm afraid to bring out this competitive woman my wife becomes, or if she's convinced me that these women are really as bad as she claims. She acts like every woman is after me so she clings. And it's always "It's not that i don't trust you, but it's that I don't trust them."
So - battle lines are often draw. I've lost a lot of platonic girlfriends over her. My counselor says that's probably a sign of something wrong within my wife which she needs to come to terms with and there's nothing worng with female friends. I've also heard that a lot of married men have healthy relationships with women that have an element of flirty-ness" to them - but I feel like I can't even compliment a woman on anything without encouraging the wraith of my wife.
So what is a healthy way for a man to be friends with a woman? How can I show my wife that they are not threatening this relationship? And can anybody explain how married men in healthy relationships can maintain a healthy female friend relationship, still seeming like a man, but not crossing any inappropriate lines of complimenting or touch? As I said - I don't feel like I can even touch or hug other women whom my wife hasn't "approved" of, mind you, without her getting angry.
And - my wife has conditioned me into thinking that any compliment will be misconstrued as sexual interest. I never viewed it that way before meeting her, but that's how she views the world. And I feel like I am viewing the world that way on an artificial level - like I'm struggling with that concept, disagreeing with it on the inside, but hitting into it like a brick wall when I try to confront it. Because I've listened to it for so long, I think I now believe it. Is that true? Or is it safe for me to pass a compliment without it being construed as such? I just want to stop feeling like I can't say ANYTHING to a woman without it being taken as a flirtatious advance. My wife thinks that if someone is nice to her, it means they're interested - earlier in our relationship, I disagreeed with her opinion, but I feel that sort of drifted away somewhere and I don't know how to express that anymore. And I wish my wife would trust me enough that I know if and when it gets too far, and that I will put on the brakes. What ends up happening is that I never get close to anyone (although she does all the time). And I want that to change (and we've talked about it, and she knows my feelings, but I still feel that level of tension from her).
So I guess this might be even broader than I believed - how do I get over these fears of being close to someone as a friend (male or female) without feeling I will incur my wife's anger over the friendship?
Thank you for the advice.