'Billy Graham Rule' is insulting to both men, women

Posted9/27/2019 10:23 AM

By Carolyn Hax

Q. What is your take on the so-called "Billy Graham Rule"? I am in my early 60s and have been married for 30 years.


I have a business conference each year that is sponsored, in part, by one of my clients and is the premier networking event in my field. I am expected by my partners to attend.

I work closely with a female employee, who is also married and 20 years my junior. My associate works on all my client matters and is expected to attend with me.

This conference has become a major source of discord with my wife, who objects that I travel with a female employee. There is absolutely nothing inappropriate between this employee and me. We travel to and from the conference together, stay in separate rooms, and have dinners together, sometimes with clients or colleagues, sometimes alone.

My wife has falsely accused me of having a romantic relationship with this woman and/or looking to begin one.

I have always been faithful to my wife and have given her no reason to think otherwise. She rants that all men will stray given the opportunity, and I believe her frame of reference is skewed by the experience of her sister, whose husband cheated on her.

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I am hurt and resentful of the untrue and outrageous accusations. Not appearing at the conference is really not an option for me, professionally, nor is telling my employee she is no longer able to attend.

She has a professional need to be there and, after all, it is not her fault my spouse has unsubstantiated concerns.

How do I address this dilemma? By the way, my wife has attended such conferences, which I have no issue with. She dismisses that comparison because she does not attend with a male colleague, although there are obviously men attending.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A. The "Billy Graham Rule" is a profound insult to men and women alike, reducing them to unchecked impulses and plumbing. Its stubborn survival is an embarrassment.

Not to mention, it's a laughable barrier to infidelity; every day brings opportunities to stray, whether by chance, familiarity or intent, among friends, in the community or at work.


What the rule does manage to impede is people's ability to do their jobs a cost, given our still-male-dominated power structure, borne disproportionately by women. Not that it would be OK if it were male wings getting clipped. The rule can't go extinct soon enough.

As for addressing your situation, you need only put the pieces together: Your job is to go to this conference; your employee's job is to go to this conference; so you both go to the conference.

Since the accusations are false, yours is not a career dilemma; it's strictly marital. So you need to address it as such.

For example: "I can't remain in a marriage to someone who doesn't trust me and maligns all men, and I don't understand how you can stay with me, or any man, if you really believe what you say. I hope you don't mean it, and I hope to stay married."

And if she doubles down: "Please come with me to marriage counseling." Find a skilled therapist and go, even if she won't.

• Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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