Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have been going to dinner nearly every Friday night for years with another couple, “Kay” and “Jay.” My husband considers Jay to be one of his best friends, and Jay is a great guy; he is smart, kind and sensitive.
For the past few years, Kay has become increasingly rude with me. She says rude things. She looks at me with contempt and irritation. Sometimes, I will ask her, “What is that look for?” and she will not say. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the reason for this. Kay seems to hate everyone she works with, so it’s not that surprising she has come to dislike me as well.
I finally reached my limit when she was exceptionally rude to me. I told my husband this is really hurting my feelings and I can no longer guarantee I can remain polite. I said he can go without me if he wants, but he does not feel right about that, so we have been declining their text invitations.
Based on Jay’s recent text response, we can see that he is feeling hurt. My husband, Jay and I have a few activities that we do together without Kay, like certain types of movies, because she is not interested in them. I am of the mind that I need to gently tell Jay the truth, that it is clear his wife does not like me, and it is too hurtful for me to be around. My husband thinks this is a bad idea.
I know it would be uncomfortable, but I do not want Jay to be wondering why we are saying no to dinner or, worse, thinking it is about him. What should we do?
Raising the subject is awkward for you, but not raising it is torment for Jay. Have you asked your husband how he likes being left to figure out why someone he loves disappeared? Or does he not know firsthand because no one has been cruel enough to do that to him?
Tell your husband it’s time to invite Jay out – pick a movie Kay doesn’t like – and admit you’ve been saying no because of Kay’s increasing hostility. Don’t ask him to do anything; just give him a chance to deal with it his way. Whether it’s to see you less or accept the truth about Kay more, it’s still better for him to have the last word in running his own social life than for you to do it for him.
You’ve also had a braver option all along: Stand up to Kay. When she says something unmistakably rude, then speak your truth plainly: “Kay, that was rude, and it’s been happening more often. If you have a problem with me, then I’d appreciate your just saying so to my face. If not, then maybe we can help with whatever’s bothering you.” You can also make solo plans with Kay to ask her – (BEG ITAL)kindly(END ITAL) – what’s wrong.
With an acquaintance, perhaps you have the luxury of fading away, but with an every-Friday guy your silence is a lie of omission that may soon become hard for him to forgive. To “remain polite” under these circumstances isn’t polite anymore.
Dear Carolyn: My brother told me and our five sisters that his daughter was not inviting nieces and nephews to her 350-guest wedding.
When I learned the nieces-and-nephews rule only applied to our family and not that of his wife, I felt deceived and betrayed and sent our regrets that we would not be attending the wedding.
This has created an irreconcilable situation where both parties have hard feelings. I do not see a solution to this problem. What are your thoughts?
My thought is that you chose to speak through an RSVP instead of to your brother directly. That’s not a response, that’s a reaction, and it invited your brother to react in kind. Predictable result: Huffiness all around.
Where speaking directly could have pre-empted a problem, now it will have to solve one, which is much more difficult. But it can still be done if you lead with a sincere apology: “I’m sorry I reacted the way I did. I should have asked you about the nieces and nephews instead of just lashing out.”
Assuming he accepts your apology, then say your piece in the (BEG ITAL)kindest, calmest(END ITAL) tone you can muster: “Here’s what I should have said to begin with: I was very hurt when I learned that kids from only our side of the family were excluded. I realize it’s your daughter’s wedding and her prerogative, but I’m struggling not to take it personally. Are you willing to share the reasoning?”
That information would allow you to respond to the invitation thoughtfully, vs. turn it down reflexively – a distinction that helps keep families speaking to each other as they age, grow, evolve, multiply and walk through the hellfire of nuptial-celebration events.
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