DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I have had a long and wonderful relationship with another couple that had marital problems, which eventually lead to a divorce. They were both unfaithful over the years and the man’s relationship became his new wife. The woman found several men, then met and married a wonderful man of her dreams.
My husband and I attended both weddings. Now the woman is angry and not speaking to me because we attended her ex’s wedding. She says he has a “win” because now he will say we are better friends with him than with her.
We flew across the country to attend her beautiful wedding, but barely crossed the street for his — it was in our home town. His children invited us to his wedding and really, we are planning to continue to be friendly with him, even though I am closer to her.
Did I do wrong by attending his wedding? I have tried to talk with her and she keeps claiming hurt feelings. Now I am just angry and thinking I am being used as a weapon against her ex-husband.
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DEAR FEELING USED: It’s possible you’re being used, but I don’t think you’re a weapon against the ex. At least, that’s not at the root.
A grown woman angry to the point of ending a friendship because her ex got “a ‘win” is not playing with a full emotional deck. When you’re faced with anger that doesn’t make sense — when the stated reasons for it just don’t add up —– it helps to think of the anger as useful in some way to the person feeling it. Presumably she wouldn’t manufacture and maintain such a grudge otherwise.
So maybe this anger … helps your friend feel vindicated in the divorce? Keeps her connected to her ex where she’s not ready to let go? Keeps alive her hope of getting the apology or restitution or revenge she thinks she deserves? Satisfies a need to blame?
Or does it serve as a simple alternative to a more complicated anger she hasn’t reckoned with yet? Getting angry at you, after all — and through you getting angry all over again at her ex, nice bonus — is a lot easier than getting angry at herself.
That’s not to say she should (or shouldn’t) be angry at herself; her current tantrum notwithstanding, she may long since have reckoned with her part in the marital failure and served her emotional time. I’m saying only that anger turned outward is a lot less complicated than turning it inward, and as such comes in handy for people who aren’t ready to face themselves. It’s both a convenient distraction from uncomfortable things and a form of self-soothing, where she gets to be right and righteous. And, it’s common, therefore always worth considering whenever the feelings don’t fit the crime.
This is all to help you understand your friend’s reaction better; it doesn’t really affect what you do about it, because her not speaking to you (right?) takes care of that. You have two friends who divorced; you chose to stay friends with both; if you regretted that, then you’d need to apologize for it, but since you don’t, you don’t. You apparently see your choice as fair, so stand by it. I hope for both of your sakes she cools off and retracts her complaint.
HI, CAROLYN: We are a recently married couple, taking a vacation to New York City with my parents, brother, and his wife. My husband happens to have quite a bit of extended family in the city, so he asked me if we could join his family for lunch. This includes aunts, uncles, cousins, and his mom and sister, who happen to be in town.
I am certainly happy to spend time with them, but I feel awkward telling my parents we will be going to have a meal with my in-laws and they are not invited to join.
In fact, I find it a little rude because I know my family would absolutely invite his family over without a second thought. I know my parents will find it a little rude and unusual as well. It is simply a matter of courtesy and hospitality.
When I mentioned it to my husband that it was an awkward situation, he said my family was welcome to join us all at church. So clearly he does not think there is anything wrong with this.
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill, or should I press for my family to be included?
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: Neither, actually. It is important and it isn’t just about this lunch.
The circumstances of your trip have exposed a cultural divide between you and your husband, where his norm is your rude. For the health of your marriage, please point it out to your husband nonjudgmentally, explain how you feel about it, and say you’d like to talk about ways to reconcile it that both of you can embrace.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.