Hax: Consider context of uneasiness

The Washington PostMarch 27, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: My spouse "friended" an old flame on Facebook some months ago. When I said I felt uncomfortable with this, I was told that they are just friends and not to worry. We've actually had several emotional discussions about this, but nothing has changed.

Now when I see that the friend has "liked" or commented (which is often), I feel increasingly uneasy. Am I being unreasonable? How can I just let it go?

SPOUSE

Dunno. This can be a problem because it really is, or because you only think it is, and I don't have enough information to tell which is true.

So, I can only advise you to pay careful attention to the context. Has Spouse started behaving differently? Does Spouse have a history of crossing lines, with this ex or with anyone else? Or, do you have a history of being jealous and/or feeling threatened when a partner has any friend at all who could also be a romantic rival?

Some old flames are harmless and some aren't, so it's essential not to go into this with any preconceived notions.

Dear Carolyn: Whenever I bring up a concern I have over a female friend of my boyfriend's, he automatically assumes I want him to just stop being friends with that woman. I've never said, "I don't like you being friends with X." It's always, "I feel uncomfortable with the way you treat X, can we talk about it?" What do I do about this situation?

ASSUMPTIONS

Unfortunately there's no one right answer, there are only possibilities: that you're jealous; that he has something to hide; that these friendships are innocent but he's either a poor communicator or experience has taught him to be defensive; that you have bigger problems or incompatibilities and the female-friend argument is just where they're showing up.

All I can advise you is to tease out more of what's going on - look to the broader context, not just this one issue - and address it for what it is, with guidance from a good therapist if you can't crack it yourselves.

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

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