Husband requests "hall pass" to see other people while away on business


**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a close friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

One of my oldest friends called me in tears, “He asked for a hall pass.” I was confused. She and her husband were married for eight years with two beautiful kids. They never fought, and she couldn’t understand why he would want to stray. She gave me the short version of their story:

He’s a successful businessman who frequently travels for work. A few weeks ago, he asked her how she would feel if he “stepped out” now and then while he was away on business.

“I asked him if he was unhappy, and he was adamant that he is still madly in love with me, but he wants to experience other people. He says it’s not a big deal and that lots of people do it.”

My friend is torn. On the one hand, she doesn’t want to rock the boat and risk losing her happy marriage. But on the other hand, she feels this request might be a step too far.

“Do you think he’s trying to keep his options open?” I asked her.

“I don’t know,” she said. “But I know I’m not ready to let him go.”

I played devil’s advocate, “What if you gave him a hall pass? What’s the worst that could happen?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “But I’m not sure I’m ready to find out.”

In my line of work, I have watched similar scenarios play out again and again. All too often, one partner cheats, and it destroys the relationship. But sometimes, couples can overcome infidelity and come out stronger on the other side.

Is it cheating if you have permission?

What’s different about my friend’s situation is her husband isn’t cheating…yet. He’s asking for permission. But is it cheating if you have permission?

The short answer is it depends on who you ask. But what I do know is this request has the potential to do severe damage to their relationship. If she says yes, she’s permitting him to cheat. And if she says no, she’s risking his resentment and possible infidelity down the road.

I don’t envy her position.

“Boundaries can help you retain a sense of identity and personal space, and they’re easier to create and maintain than you might think.” — Chantelle Pattemore, PsychCentral

Open relationships can be healthy.

In some cases, “hall passes” can work. I have another friend who is in an open relationship. They’ve been together for two decades and have grown children. They decided early on in their relationship that they wanted to be “emotionally monogamous,” but they also wanted to keep their options open. So far, it’s working for them.

They have established boundaries and rules and frequently communicate about their needs and wants. They are both happy with the arrangement and say it has brought them closer together.

But not all couples can make non-monogamy work. Many couples who try it fail. And even in the best-case scenario, there is always the potential for hurt.

What happens when needs change in a relationship?

My friend’s situation highlights an important truth about relationships: needs change over time. When you first get together, everything is new and exciting. But as the years go by, it’s normal for things to settle down.

For some couples, this settling is a good thing. They’re comfortable with each other and don’t need the same level of excitement they did in the beginning. But for others, the settling can feel like a loss.

It’s not unusual for one partner to want more than the other. And when that happens, it can be tough to find a compromise.

In my friend’s case, her husband is asking for something she may not be ready to give. But that doesn’t mean she can’t try to understand his needs and see if there’s a way to meet in the middle.

I’ll be honest; I don’t know what the correct answer is for her. But I think it’s essential for couples to communicate openly and honestly about their needs, even if it’s tough. After all, a relationship is a partnership, and both people need to be happy for it to work.

What do you think? Should she give her husband a hall pass? Or is this request a step too far? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Intimacy + Relationship-ing Coach | Writer. Helping singles & couples create healthy loving relationships.

Los Angeles County, CA

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