Advice Column Thursday: When People Marry Idiots

Hi Leslie,

I have a person “in” my life that I have been trying to befriend. My reasoning is because this person has a history with my partner and I would like to be friends with the people my partner is friends with. I don’t like grudges or unnecessary awkward situations. CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG!?

After an entire year, nothing has changed. Not only has this person gone out of their way to not befriend me but continues to talk with my partner constantly and pretty much ignores my existence. I have reached out in a personal way to her, my partner has even talked with her about it and yet she still hasn’t befriended me in any way.

My question is: Is it safe to say this is not worth my time anymore? Also, how do I move forward with my partner feeling like this person gives me weird energy as she continues to constantly email/call/text him?

THANKS LESLIE! You are the best!

Ruthie

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Ruthie, I’m going to out you as a real person with a real job that I know and has e-mailed me, and not just a voice across the internet… Because there are about five people (in multiple countries) in my life that will swallow their teeth when they read your letter.

Basically, Ruthie, I need people to know that you are real because this is exactly the kind of question that these people would think I made up just for fun. I have so much experience with this that it’s written on my heart, right next to the recipe for guacamole. I will tell you, in my experience, that there are two main reasons you get into this situation:

You hate him/her because of something that he/she does to take your partner’s attention away from you. Attention is so precious that it is the ultimate prize. You watch them together and the way they interact drives you up the wall, so you become defensive to get the person out of your space. It gets weird when your partner starts feeling like he/she has to defend themselves when they go out with this person. It’s here where you need to tread carefully, because sometimes the road that takes is toward each other and away from you. If you want to keep your partner on the ground and connected with you in your relationship, you need to suck it up and deal. As you ice out your partner and the friend, you are silently giving them permission to sneak off without you, if that’s how important they are to each other. If your partner is more vulnerable with the friend than they are with you because they think you won’t listen and don’t care, those are two excellent justifications to start an affair. It’s still not right, but you tell yourself it is, which is what we all do when we want something to happen that has overwhelmingly positive results for us and negative consequences for others. It is the universality of the human condition- how we deal with fallout. I am covered in life’s shrapnel, and Dana’s slowly helping me take it all out.

In my own life, I feel the way to stay close to your partner and keep their attention long enough so that romantic bursts of energy don’t leap towards other people is to be stern enough to parent each other and vulnerable enough to be their child. You are both heroes, and you are both worms. This is the journey of my life with Dana, to roll over and over as parent and child because sometimes, you know you need to drive, and sometimes, you know you need to sit in the back seat with your Kindle and your iPod and shut the hell up. It takes a lot of energy to sustain that close a connection, but we do it. We have to. We have ATTENTION DEFECIT DISORDER. Our marriage depends on us being able to pay attention to each other despite our brains changing channels every five seconds. We need each other, and you and your partner do, too.

Healing this relationship is in your best interest, because it may just be that you’re not giving this person a chance because you’re so wrapped up in what he/she did to your partner that you can’t forgive them and move on. If you’re holding in all these negative feelings toward your partner’s friend, you aren’t having any affect on him/her at all. You are poisoning your own connection to each other. That anger and unresolved “stuff” you’re not saying is what needs to be said! If I were in your shoes (cute shoes, btw), I would talk to your partner about it, first. This conversation is one of the most important you’ll ever have in your entire relationship, so make sure that you are both in a good space to go the distance. This one conversation has the power to make or break you as a couple, so have a goal in mind from the start and stick to it until the end. If you start with the premise that you want to stay together, then finish the discussion with staying together. If you start the argument with “she’s a whorebag and I want you to fucking kick her into next week,” be prepared for this to go poorly. Incidentally, a great way to stay married is to kick the divorce argument off the table entirely. That’s when staying married becomes a challenge, like The Game of Life with two pink people in the car. That’s when you will hate anything that will take your car back ten spaces.

Which leads me into my second point as to why people don’t generally like the people who have history with their partners.

You cannot watch your partner’s interactions with this person because it hurts. This could be for a number of reasons, but I think this is the worst case scenario, and I had it. I couldn’t watch interactions between my partner and this person because she loved him independently of her hate and embarrassment from her abuse. Hearing details damages you in some way, and now you have to heal a wound you didn’t cause.

To me, that’s about as deep as a wound goes, which is why I bring it up. Everything about this situation is all in your mind. Not as in, “you’re making it up.” As in, “what you think will control the outcome.” Do you ever think about how much power you have in your relationship? Do you really know the ins and outs of how far your partner would go for you if he/she had to? Your opinion means everything. Dismissing your own power lets you take up the cross of victimization. Everything happened to you, and you didn’t affect anything. People that think this in a marriage are banging their heads on their kitchen counters trying to make marriage harder than it really is.

In short, if you don’t deal with the friend one way, you’ll deal with them in a different context. Make sure it’s positive, but don’t let the friend smack you around, either. If you catch anything like them trying to make you look bad in front of your partner, say so and have some witty banter about it with your partner. That should be enough to embarrass them into playing nice. If it’s not, you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands, and you have to count on the fact that your partner is clever enough to see it for what it is… just like you.

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