Q. My wife is a member of an online support group for people who are going through difficulties in their marriages. Her involvement with the community has made our marriage stronger and so I support her continued involvement with the community wholeheartedly; however, I recently discovered that during her nightly (and necessary) chats with members of her group, she was using term like ‘dear’ and ‘sweetie’ to members in the chat room and on personal IMs. There is also the usage of those cute icons being sent with her messages, like ‘hugs’, ‘winks’, etc. I told her that I felt these things are not proper and explained my reasons why. I have no problem with her being on line with them, since I realize that is it is important for her to be with them, but what I call the affectionate stuff, is not appropriate. She told me that it was OK and they all do it and it is normal between the members of their group. I questioned this since I know that she is sending these to the male members. Is this appropriate etiquette? Even amongst male friends? Even though her motives are good, how does the one on the other end of the conversations interpret these things? I feel it can open too many doors for someone who may misinterpret her friendliness. ]
A. It probably is true that the group uses affectionate terms because they are connected and feel comfortable with one another, and there is no flirtation meant or interpreted. Each circumstance is different, and this probably is well intended and received on those terms. In general, however, you are correct that one must be careful using too many terms of endearment with others who could misconstrue one’s attempt at friendliness as being an invitation for a closer involvement, and it is best not to use them because one doesn’t really know for sure how something meant innocently is being received. It is a matter of personal safety and of not being misinterpreted that you are concerned about, but you might let this one go assuming the group isn’t suddenly planning to meet or change the manner of their relationships.