My Best Friend’s Marriage
I don’t like his wife and she doesn’t like me. Can this friendship be saved?
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!
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