- Dr. Love in the Media
Wondering What to Do About a Former Friendship Gone Sour
August 28, 2000 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
My husband and I have been married for 17 years. We have been close friends with another couple for 13 years. Over the past two years my husband 's hobbies and mine have caused us to drift apart. We used to be comfortable with each other going our own way on a regular basis. But, now it seems we never spend time together. Due to my time spent away from my husband, he and the wife of our long-time friends, spent a great deal of time together, causing harm to our marriage.
After counseling, my husband and I advised the other couple, our friendship should end. As they are part of a large social network we socialize with, we informed them we did not want to cause them undue discomfort in our circle of friends, and would not discuss our dissolved friendship.
However, since the other wife was not willing to accept any responsibility for her inappropriate actions, she and her husband have resorted to vicious e-mails, phone calls, and disturbing comments to our family and friends.
With the help of our counselor my husband and I agreed, we would delete e-mails without reading them, and not socialize with this other couple. However, now my husband feels he should at least carry on small chit-chat with this couple, when in a social setting where his family and our common friends are.
I feel that he is not supporting me, when he chooses to socialize with people who have said mean and spiteful things about us, just to inflict pain.
My opinion is if we do not converse with them written or verbally, we will in no way fuel the fire. And, eventually they will stop their harrassment.
l to make his family and friends comfortable when we are all together. I find this somewhat hypcritical of my husband, and very painful for myself. What should I do?
You and your husband are locked in what sounds like a theoretical debate about what is the proper way to handle this mess. In actuality, the real issue isn't about what should or shouldn't be done, it's about how you feel regarding his decision to speak with this couple.
I think that you feel hurt and betrayed that he chooses to put family and friends' comfort ahead of yours. Does he understand that you feel betrayed by his decision? It sounds to me like your husband is a people pleaser and a peace maker, believing that behaving in a decent way will make everyone more comfortable.
But what about you? You need to feel that your comfort comes ahead of friends and family. The big question here is why is he more concerned about friends and family's feelings. I would ask him how he expects you to feel about his decision to put their comfort ahead of yours? What is he telling you? How does he want you to interpret his behavior?
I think the deeper issue, that isn't being discussed, is that you felt that your husband had a sentimental affair with this woman. I think that his unwillingness to cut her off makes you feel additionally betrayed and threatened, correct? You expect him to cut her dead, as proof of his devotion to you. And, when he won't, you feel that he is telling you, symbolically, that you aren't number one in his life.
The problem now is that you are locked in a power struggle. You want him to refuse all contact, and he is refusing to do so. You won't move ahead until you stop focusing on what he should or shouldn't do, and instead focus on discussing your feelings toward him, about the relationship, and so on.
If you can let go of the power struggle, focus off of his behavior, and put the accent on open discussions of the feelings that underlie this deadlock, you will break free of the impasse, and resolve the real issues underlying the struggle: from your point of view, I think you simply aren't feeling like his number one girl.
I don't know what his issue is. The relationship is in trouble. It feels exactly like a relationship that is ruptured by an affair. All you talk about is the other woman (or couple) and you aren't focusing on the the two of you.
Stop worrying about if he has social conversation, and focus on the bigger issue. Why are you so estranged from each other? What is he doing to break the connection? What are you doing that breaks the connection for him? What could he do to make you feel like his number one and vice versa?
Let me know how you make out.
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