Carolyn Hax: Cultivate emotional safety in marriage

May 11, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: I'm a newlywed and sometimes I get unnerved. Is it stupid to ask how not to end up in a bad situation? I love my husband very much and I would really like him to tell me if something is wrong, rather than be miserable for years. I would like to think I could pick up on his unhappiness if it ever happened, but I wonder if that is possible.

GRASS IS GREENER

That depends on how good he is at concealing feelings and how good you are at spotting them - and how good both of you are at not rationalizing away any problems, especially while they're still small.

The easier you make it for people to be honest with you, the more honesty you will receive. Be flexible, be nonjudgmental, be slow to draw conclusions. It's an attitude worth cultivating from the moment you meet someone, but if you haven't established that precedent yet, there's nothing saying you can't start now.

Dear Carolyn: My husband has this infatuation with a woman we both know. She is pretty and available, and I can understand why he's drawn to her. I don't believe he would cheat on me, and I don't even think he knows how aware I am of the way he responds to her (staring, paying extra attention when she talks, going out of his way to include her in things, other "crushing" behaviors).

What should I do about this? How do I keep my sanity without blowing this out of proportion?

NOT EXACTLY JEALOUS, BUT …

Deal with it head-on - and with humor. Apparently he's giving you plenty of opportunities to note his behavior, so when the next juicy one comes up, say, "I see how you look at Crushious … no, don't bother denying it … just keep it in bounds, please. I like our marriage. And you, if you must know." Being open about it will allow you to stay close, perhaps ironically - and maintaining the intimacy of your marriage is your most potent defense against outside temptations.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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