Breaking News Bar
updated: 3/10/2013 4:11 PM

Ex drives a wedge between spouses at events

hello
Success - Article sent! close
 
 

Q. My husband, "Jeff," and I have a really great relationship. Marrying him was one of the best decisions I have made. He is good to me and kind and does an amazing job overall of being a husband.

We do, of course, disagree on a few issues. Several years ago he dated and was intimate with "Nancy." After the flames fizzled, they went their separate ways. But Jeff's relative married into her family, and Nancy and her husband are now at family functions. Initially, Jeff was dishonest with me about their history but eventually came clean.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

Had he been honest, I might not feel the way I do. I know she is married, and Jeff is obviously married to me; however, I feel uncomfortable with his feeling the need to hug her hello and goodbye. He claims they are strictly platonic and he doesn't even really like seeing her, which I counter with, "Then why do you feel the need to hug her if you aren't even friends?"

I have no problems with being around her at the functions or with his talking to her, no point in being petty about that, but I really wish he would not feel the need to touch her.

He claims I am being controlling and he doesn't want to make her or the situation uncomfortable.

I do not ask much of him and don't give him rules, so I was hoping he might realize this actually means something to me.

She is not particularly friendly to me either, but is very happy to give him a nice, big hug whenever they see each other. What do you think?

A. There are several answers to this question, starting with:

(1) Trust. Trust your husband to be the person he has shown himself to be over the years, of course -- but more important, trust yourself to handle this single, isolated, upsetting-but-ultimately-inconsequential thing in your relationship. Don't expect Jeff to handle it for you.

(2) Pragmatism. You've already insisted many times (right?) that he handle it your way, and he has declined to do so. What is left for me to suggest -- that he wear a shock collar and you hold the remote? Plus, when someone else initiates a hug, dodging it is awkward. Awkwardness is fine when it's necessary, but it isn't necessary here, not really.

(3) Forgiveness. Yes, he was wrong to lie to you about Nancy, and, possibly more relevant, he was stupid to lie. You've both had ample time to marinate in the consequences, however: You've tortured yourself with speculation about his secret feelings for Nancy, and he's had you all up in his grill.

(4) Proportion. Either these hugs are significant (meaning, this is not an isolated or inconsequential issue after all), in which case they deserve much more serious attention than "I'm OK with everything else as long as you wear this protective bubble when you say hello and goodbye" -- or they're insignificant, in which case your only rational choice is to drop this.

Pick one. The alternative is hedging, and that produces what you have now: both of you feeling imposed upon and misunderstood.

(5) Respect and love. If true, your "don't ask much" would be a big point in your favor. But this no-hugs thing isn't a mere request -- it's an accusation. Either you have grounds for one (see 4), or you don't (see 1), or you know you're being irrational and want Jeff to acquiesce anyway (see 2, though admitting you're being irrational might help). Nancy's coolness to you might spell trouble, but, remember, when the hugging starts, you're throwing eye-darts at her. Count on it.

Whichever scenario is accurate, your interests are best served by feeding the love you share with Jeff, as opposed to protecting it -- which backfires more often than not.

Q. I'm No. 2 of four sisters (in our 30s/40s). Nos. 3, 4 and I are the best of friends; we hang out and talk often, visit each other's homes, and know each other very intimately. No. 1 has a life of her own going on -- different region, busy job, crazy schedule that prevents her from being available when we're getting together -- and as a result is not as close as the rest of us are.

She has expressed to me that this hurts her feelings, but she hasn't taken steps to change it because she doesn't want to intrude. I do feel it's her responsibility to get close to us, but I feel bad, too. Any suggestions?

A. Yes -- you urge her to intrude, intrude, intrude, because her making an effort wouldn't be an intrusion at all, right? You also invite her to everything.

Unless, of course, the "busy" and "it's her responsibility" are disingenuous, and what you really want is a fig leaf for leaving her out.

• Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at 11 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.