Can Attractive Women Be Friends with Married Men?

Iowa Woman Is Fired Because Boss’s Spouse Thought She Was A Threat

melissa nelson

Photo of Melissa Nelson from

Can attractive women have married male friends?  It seems the answer is no.  Face facts, spouses just don’t like it when their significant others seek out the friendship of an attractive member of the opposite sex.  In the workplace, where connections are critical to career success lack of friends can put a career on the slow track.  Unfortunately, attractive women may have more difficulty establishing these important connections at work, particularly to married men.  Often spousal jealousy is to blame.

In a recent case of extreme spousal jealousy, dental assistant Melissa Nelson lost her job when her boss’s spouse decided Nelson “was a big threat” to their marriage.  Nelson had worked for her former employer, James Knight, for ten years, and Knight reported that Nelson was one of the best dental assistants he ever had.  So, why fire her?   Ultimately, it was Knight’s wife, Jeanne Knight, who had enough and ordered him to fire Nelson.  Jeanne felt that the “irresistibly attractive” Nelson was a threat to their marriage.

Nelson had done nothing wrong.  She considered Knight a friend and father figure, and denies ever flirting with him or seeking any type of romantic or sexual relationship with him.  She was fired because she was attractive, and her boss’s wife thought she was a threat.

Often women’s lack of parity with men in the workplace is blamed on women’s exclusion from the old boys network.  Yet it’s not always the old boys that are excluding them.  The wives of the old boys are often to blame for keeping women out.

So what are women to do?  The biggest blunder cross-sex friends make is trying to keep their friendship a secret.  Perhaps admirably, they attempt secrecy so that their spouse won’t get jealous.  Unfortunately that secrecy implies there is more to the relationship than a mere friendship.  Knight’s wife became particularly jealous when she found that her husband had been texting Nelson.  The texts involved updates on the kids’ activities and other innocuous matters.  Stuff you would text to a friend.  If Knight had regularly shared these texts with his wife, perhaps she would have been less suspicious of their friendship.  Instead, she discovered the texting on her own.  Then Nelson was fired.

Nelson sued for sex discrimination, and her case went all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.  After all, Nelson claimed, if she had been a man, she would still be employed.   Knight countered that Nelson was not fired because of her gender, indeed, he hired another woman to replace her.  Instead, Knight claimed that Nelson was fired because she represented a threat to his marriage.  In July 2013, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court sided with Knight, ruling that no sex discrimination had occurred.

I guess the wives of the justices told them to vote that way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *