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My Best Friend’s Marriage

Nov24

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smackdown_marriage.jpgDear Amalah,
Woe is me! My best friend married a harpy of a woman! Not really, we just have a tendency not to get along. I made a big effort to get to know my best friend’s wife after he got married almost 4 years ago, and to get along with her. But she has a tendency to be… easily offended, shall we say? We got along really well at first, but after awhile I felt like she looked for ways to be upset by me. Several times she took things I said in passing to someone else (about things having nothing to do with her– politics, parenting, etc.) to be a slight against her. I don’t think it was jealousy as I am married, as well. Anyway, she started to do this a lot and each time would call a few weeks later and apologize and we’d make up. But eventually it got to just be too much drama; I felt like I was back in high school. She and I didn’t really have anything in common, I was only tolerating her for the sake of my friendship with her husband and I felt like I was censoring everything I said that she MIGHT see and it was driving me insane.
Finally, after the 12th time or so she blew up at me about something minor (believe it or not, she got angry that I said something negative about the weather) I decided I’d had it. I told her she was a nice person but I felt like our relationship was a source of stress for both of us so maybe it would just be best if we tried to co-exist in peace without actually interacting with one another. Which wouldn’t be too hard seeing as we live in different states. She responded by blocking me from their family blog and facebook and at that point some nasty words were exchanged. The term “drama queen” may have been uttered on my part.
This was about four months ago. Her husband and I have spoken a few times since then, but only when he has called me. The problem is they share a phone AND an e-mail account and he doesn’t have anything normal like his own facebook account. So basically I’ve left it up to him to keep in touch to make it less awkward for his wife and I. However, I just found out that I will be in their town for a family event in the near future and I haven’t seen my best friend, or his two adorable kids (whom I love) in over a year. Not only do I not know what the etiquette is for getting together with a husband without his wife, I don’t even know how to go about contacting him to let him know I’ll be around. I honestly don’t know what she would do if she answered the phone when I called. She is the type to hold grudges and not the type to keep her opinions to herself and I just do not want to deal with the drama.
At this point, though, do I even have a right to expect anything more than the occasional phone call from her husband? Did severing ties with her mean I am doomed to lose touch with him? He and I have seen each other through a lot and he seems unconcerned with our issues, or at least content to ignore our bickering. He’s the kind of friend you keep in touch with until one of you dies. If we did the godparent thing, he would have been my son’s godfather. So are we doomed to keep our relationship strictly on a phone call-only basis? My husband has a female friend I’m not interested in befriending, but I don’t mind if he sees her when she comes to town. So it seems reasonable to me to expect the same from someone else, but maybe I am totally off the mark for social norms? Please, Oh Wise Amalah, tell me the proper way to proceed!
Sincerely,
Warring with my best friend’s wife

“Do I even have a right to expect anything more than the occasional phone call from her husband?”
No. You don’t.
“Did severing ties with her mean I am doomed to lose touch with him?”
Maybe not for-sure 100% guaranteed, but it certainly didn’t help, and is definitely not something that can be done consequence-free, that’s for sure. Yes, he is your best friend, a friend you thought you’d have until death do you part, but…SHE’S the one he’s actually made the death-do-us-part vow to. And you have no right to expect him to choose you over her, or take your side in this fight, or ignore the fact that yes, there ARE sides in this fight. You may think that it has nothing to do with him, but I’m gonna go ahead and disagree: if one of my husband’s female friends essentially broke up with ME, and yet wanted to continue being friends with HIM, I would be hurt. I wouldn’t have escalated it to the degree that your friend’s wife did (BLOG BLOCKING! SO THERE!), but I would definitely expect my husband to respect my hurt feelings, maybe even feel them on my behalf, and…yeah. Take my side in the “what a BITCH” debate. He may downplay the conflict to you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s displaying a similar level of passivity to the drama around his wife.
You can argue that she probably didn’t seem too fond of you to begin with, which could be true…or she could just be That Sort Of Friend, the endlessly negative, overly sensitive everything-is-DRAHHHMA sort. Judging by the force of her reaction to your break-up attempt, I might lean toward the option that she is just the overly-sensitive sort and was genuinely blindsided by the idea that you were merely putting up with her on behalf of her husband. Or not! But really, that part of the story is done and over. Now what?
You mention that your husband has a female friend that you don’t mind him seeing independently of you, but I don’t think that’s directly relevant to the other situation, for two main reasons: 1) You and that woman have not had any sort of spectacular falling out in the past, I’m assuming, and 2) you and your husband have a very different dynamic than your friend and his wife, going by the joint phone/email/Facebook accounts. That’s a BIG TELL about how their relationship works. And about just where YOU fit into that relationship.
And speaking of BIG TELLS, unfortunately it sounds like your friend has been trying to give you one. It doesn’t sound like his wife is comfortable with your friendship. She may be petty or way off base or completely selfish for making her husband dump one of his oldest friends and he may be a henpecked little chick who needs to put his foot down when it comes to her drama, but…she’s his wife and the mother of his children. And you are not. So if you really want to save your friendship, or hope to restore it to a fraction of its former glory, I see two options:
1) You continue to wait for HIM to initiate contact, with the assumption that he knows when that contact won’t cause friction in their marriage. Because YOU do not want to do anything that could cause friction in anyone else’s marriage. Oh, no, you do not. Let’s make that the etiquette guideline of the century, excepting for cases of like, violence and cheating and substance abuse. Don’t overstep your boundaries in other people’s relationships because of things YOU want or need. But the next time he calls — TALK TO HIM ABOUT THIS. About your concerns, your disappointment, your (maybe) regret about how it all went down. Don’t let him brush off “the bickering” as no big deal when clearly it’s impacting your friendship and you aren’t sure what’s okay and what’s not. Don’t try to get him to take your side, don’t trash talk his wife, don’t encourage a separate sneaky email/Facebook account, just find out what YOU can do to maybe make things right between all three of you and find out where he sees your friendship fitting into his life now.
2) If he doesn’t call before your trip, send an email to the joint account about it. Either openly address it to both of them or keep it very deliberately vague about just who you’re talking to — do NOT openly snub or exclude her. Yes, you’d rather just get together with him and his kids, and yes, I do think a married man and married woman can get together as friends without it being inappropriate and weird…but I’m not sure that’s going to work here, unless SHE makes the decision to sit out your get-together. By making it clear that you have NO interest in mending fences or interacting with her again, she’s possibly a little justified to be suspicious of you and/or tell her husband that she’d really rather he not spend a ton of time and energy on someone who openly dislikes her.
If no one responds and you think she deleted the email and is holding a grudge, you can either try one last time, appealing directly to her, apology and all…or go back to option number-one, letting your friend set the new boundaries of the friendship, followed with an honest heart-to-heart about finding an arrangement that respects everyone involved.
Photo credit: Rev Guzman


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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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22 Responses to “My Best Friend’s Marriage”

  1. caleal Nov 25 at 12:57 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with Amy.
    It sucks, but it seems as if when male friends get married, they often phase out/drop off their female friends. I’ve had more than my fair share of super awesome male friends suddenly disappear/stop responding to emails/become cold.
    I’ve never had direct conflict with a wife, but I did have a girlfriend hate me on sight. And that friend disappeared until a year and a half later, when they broke up.
    It’s tricky, but you need to be diplomatic and essentially the bigger person here. If it means losing your friend, it was probably always going to happen. Just… waiting for the time.

  2. class factotum Nov 25 at 1:04 pm Reply Reply

    I totally don’t get the joint email account for married couples. Every married couple I know (except my husband’s parents) with a joint account has divorced and there is still hope that my outlaws will split up except that would just escalate the holiday drama so maybe that’s not the solution.
    But honestly. Email accounts are free. What is it with people?

  3. Margo Nov 25 at 1:55 pm Reply Reply

    Sorry, I have to agree too. There is no way you can be “best friends” with this guy if he’s married to someone else, especially someone who doesn’t like you, no matter how petty/stupid her reasons. I think you need to back way way way off and let him do any/all of the contacting, and even then, I’d be careful. You don’t want to mess with someone’s marriage, even if you knew him before/longer/better than she did.

  4. Beth Nov 25 at 1:58 pm Reply Reply

    Joint email/facebook account thing is freaky/lame. I mean, really? Are they 78 years old? The only people I know with a joint email are my grandparents who barely understand how to USE email.
    Also, I can’t help but wonder how they do any online shopping for birthdays, xmas, etc. Shipping confirmations would TOTALLY ruin any surprise gift.
    But yeah, sadly, I have to agree with Caleal. This person is trying to unfriend you.

  5. Jess Nov 25 at 3:36 pm Reply Reply

    I totally agree with Amy on this one…except in my humble opinion I would encourage the writer to send an email specifically to the both of them and apologize. If you really want to continue to be friends with your friend you’re going to have to find a way to get along with his wife and that may require taking the higher road…talking rationally about what it is about you that upsets her and expressing how she makes you feel and maybe getting together just the two of you to work on building a friendship of your own. Maybe she is so hypersensitive to your comments (about anything) because she feels threatened by your friendship with her husband. If you make a separate effort with her you become a “mutual” friend rather than just her husbands female friend.

  6. Jenno Nov 25 at 3:40 pm Reply Reply

    Amy’s 100% right here. It’s completely in his court where your friendship goes from here. As much as you’d like to have some say in this, he’s the one who has to figure out how to work this and if he even wants to. Whether you meant to or not, you basically just said “your wife is not acceptable to me” to your friend. You’ve just stated that you don’t agree with probably the biggest decision he’s ever made. He thinks she’s great, good enough to spend the rest of his life with. You said that you don’t enjoy her company. He’s probably wondering what else in his life you don’t approve of.

  7. ms martyr Nov 25 at 3:52 pm Reply Reply

    To me it’s obvious that the wife is insecure and jealous of her husband’s friendship/history with you. That is not going to change until she feels you are no longer a threat. It doesn’t matter that you are married since that does not seem to keep people from having affairs. She sees him as desirable and probably can’t conceive that you don’t.
    I think Amy is giving excellent advice on how to deal with this.

  8. ms martyr Nov 25 at 3:54 pm Reply Reply

    P.S. – Why is this man your best friend instead of your husband?

  9. Lori Nov 25 at 4:12 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with Amy also, and I am also on the same page as classfactotum. My parents are the only people I know (and they are 80! and their computer has a treadle!) with a joint e-mail account.
    This guy seems to be pussy-whipped to death and watching a friendship twitch its last is no picnic, but the LW needs to take a GIANT step back and wait for her friend to make the next move. If he doesn’t, well, cherish the memories.

  10. Lori Nov 25 at 4:12 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with Amy also, and I am also on the same page as classfactotum. My parents are the only people I know (and they are 80! and their computer has a treadle!) with a joint e-mail account.
    This guy seems to be pussy-whipped to death and watching a friendship twitch its last is no picnic, but the LW needs to take a GIANT step back and wait for her friend to make the next move. If he doesn’t, well, cherish the memories.

  11. Eva Nov 25 at 4:30 pm Reply Reply

    For what it’s worth, here’s what I would do in the situation -
    Read a bunch of Miss Manners’ writings. She will guide you on how to act impeccably if you get together with your friend, his wife and children.
    As Amy said, send a note to the joint account. A polite, outgoing note about how you’d really enjoy getting together and seeing the kids. Make it upbeat, friendly, and include both of them in your salutation (i.e. Jen and Jeff!) I’d put her name first and extend a mini olive branch by doing so.
    Then, when/if you get together, be completely neutral, friendly, and kill with kindness.
    That is what I personally would do, and I’ve been in a similar situation, and it seemed to work, or at least neutralize the get-together.

  12. Kat Nov 25 at 7:52 pm Reply Reply

    Am I the only person thinking that this man isn’t a very good friend? What kind of a friend just ignores all the drama and barely calls you?
    It seems like he might be letting the friendship trail off, either consciously or unconsciously. If he really wanted to keep you around, he would have found a way to let you know that by now.

  13. LD Nov 25 at 10:34 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you, Amy. I don’t know why I would have doubted you, but I was afraid that you might try to appease the questioner by implying she might have a right to her old friend. Now I don’t have to break up with your blog.
    No offense intended, questioner.

  14. Kate Nov 26 at 9:32 am Reply Reply

    I am actually completely with Eva here – Ignore the drama. If you wish to be friends with him and his kids, you cannot cut her out. Period. However, actively addressing the fact that she cut you out will cause more drama. Dragging your friend through this, more drama and general frustration for you. I would try the time-honored method of straight up ignoring it and pretending it didn’t happen. Be impeccably polite to her, and just because you don’t like her and she doesn’t like you, it doesn’t matter. Especially since you wish to see the kids leaving her out is even less likely. treat her like that person that you didn’t really like, but was really important to a friend of yours – be polite, keep the conversation small and comfortable, and ignore any drama.
    I think that is likely the only way to keep your friendship around.

  15. Anonymous Nov 27 at 11:44 pm Reply Reply

    “be polite, keep the conversation small and comfortable, and ignore any drama.”
    What kind of friendship is that!! Forget it, he’s gone. If you have to watch yourself and stick to impeccable behavior around someone (and you do, cause you aren’t going to be hanging out with just him and the kids guaranteed) you are not friends.
    The same thing happened to me, and I actually told him how I felt about it, which just made it worse. (Because he insisted on telling her about it.) I did option one, didn’t trash talk her and avoided words like phony and insecure, I just said how very uncomfortable/anxious she made me feel, like I couldn’t be myself. Big mistake, should have just stopped all contact and saved the effort for people who don’t suck.

  16. Hey You Nov 28 at 2:06 pm Reply Reply

    Right. Um. So am I really the only one who thinks that all of this friends of the opposite sex that are not “couple friends” when married is inappropriate?
    Friendship is a very intimate thing, real friendship anyway, so why would it be okay to be that intimate with someone other than your spouse? If you can’t be couple friends with them–meaning all four of you hang out together, then it is time to say bye to this relationship and concentrate on ones more healthy to your marriage. It is not about trust– it is about what is appropriate or not. (This obviously means I think it is weird that OP husband has a female friend who does not hang out with her.)

  17. Michael Nov 30 at 8:01 am Reply Reply

    The one where Ross picks Rachel over his wife… (yeah right!!)
    Being a happily married bloke, I am at liberty to divulge that I have not kept in touch with any female of my acquaintance with whom my wife did not really get along i.e. ALL of them.
    Dear ‘warring with my best friend’s wife’, you are absolutely not his best friend. He married her already. If you want to make him happy, respect the sanctity of his marriage, and leave him alone.

  18. Jessie Nov 30 at 10:11 am Reply Reply

    “So am I really the only one who thinks that all of this friends of the opposite sex that are not “couple friends” when married is inappropriate?”
    No, you are not the only one who thinks this.

  19. Olivia Nov 30 at 11:28 am Reply Reply

    I agree with Amy and Caleal. I have a couple of male friends who I considered a best friends when we were younger. We have known each other since kindergarten (26 yrs, holy cow!). As we each got married our friendships changed. It’s not bad necessarily, just different. When I’m in town we get together with our spouses, we keep up on facebook and send xmas cards.
    As hoky as this sounds, I think we all consider our spouses are our best friends now. I like to see and keep in touch with my childhood friends, but my husband is my very best friends now.

  20. Alias Mother Nov 30 at 1:26 pm Reply Reply

    Hey You, I think it depends on the friendship. I have a good male friend and we are both married. It’s different from this situation in that the wife and I like each other (and he and my husband like each other) but the clear friendship vibe is between he and I. We can hang out as couples, but it’s a different situation than when it’s just the two of us. Since getting married (the friendship predates both marriages) we have grown a little bit apart out of respect for keeping our spouses being #1, but he remains one of the critical people in my life. I think think it would be sad to give up our friendship, which is based on easy humor and mutual interests and not anything based in romance, just because he’s male and I’m female.
    In my experience, it’s extremely rare to find TRUE couple friends, in that all four people are equally on the same wavelength. I only know one couple who we interact with that way. And I guess I’m not willing to restrict my social circle that much.

  21. lolismum Dec 01 at 2:30 pm Reply Reply

    Wait a second, the writer considers him a best friend and does not have a private cell phone or work phone or work e-mail to contact him? Yes they have a house phone and maybe a cheezy joint email account, but that cannot be the only way the husband communicates with the world. This story just does not add up. You may consider him a “best friend”, but he sailed to other seas. Just drop it and move on.

  22. umi Dec 03 at 11:02 am Reply Reply

    As a non-married person… I’m a little on the fense about this. On a separate note, what the heck, neither of them has a separate work email?

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