Advice

Dear Julie: “I’m Stuck in a Marriage and My Friends Don’t Approve”


DAME’s Friendkeeper helps a woman ease her people pleasing and tells another to mind her own beeswax.



Dear Julie,

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not in a great marriage. It’s not abusive or anything, but I think it’s been a long time since my husband and I have actually been in love. But he’s not just my husband, he’s also the father of my children. And though there are plenty of times when I don’t care for him very much, my children mostly do, and I’d rather keep our family unit status quo, especially with one of our kids going off to college next year, rather than disrupt everyone’s lives and create a really complicated situation. I can deal with this myself, but the problem is my friends. They’re not huge fans of my husband either, and they can’t seem to understand why I’m staying in the marriage. I’m a people pleaser at my core, I can’t help it. So I feel like I’m stuck trying to please my husband and my kids by making this marriage work, but I find myself apologizing to my friends for staying with a guy when they think I deserve better. I end up feeling like I’m disappointing everyone. And worst of all, I have no one I can talk to about it.

What can I do?

Polly People Pleaser

  

Dear PPP,

Being in a crummy marriage that you aren’t in a place to do anything about, either because of kids or finances or just not being ready, is an incredibly common situation. I have a friend who talked to me about splitting up with her husband seven years ago and is just now starting to move on it, and I know many people who’ve stayed a hell of a lot longer, like forever.

The thing that happens, though, is in order to stay in the uncomfortable situation, you need a place to vent. I always tell everyone to get a therapist, but I know that for some people, the idea of that is too scary, because they feel like if they look that closely, they will have to make the split or move towards it or accept that they are choosing a less than happy life. This isn’t necessarily true, and a good therapist will never push you unless you’re in real danger. 

That said, most people then turn to friends and family. Family sometimes can be even-tempered and fair-minded and tolerant and understanding about bad spouses, but mostly they sprout seven devil heads and they want you TO DO WHAT THEY TELL YOU RIGHT NOW AND GET OUT AND STOP TAKING THAT SHIT AND BLAH BLAH BLAH, without any real idea of how the hell you’re supposed to do it. JUST DO IT AND UNTIL YOU DO I’M KEEPIN’ ALL MY HEADS SO SHADDAP. So we turn to our friends. We tell them our problems and they give us advice and we do what we can. And sometimes it gets so bad we tell them in tears and frustration and they see how unhappy we are and all they want is for us to be happy and they think the only way for us to do that is to get out, so they start sprouting devil heads, too.

But unlike family, you can talk to your friends about where you are and what you need. And you can tell them that if they can’t be supportive of your need to stay until it’s right for you to go, then you won’t talk to them about the issues. Not as a threat, but to maintain the friendship. But what you really need now is to find the scaffolding to manage the marriage. And understand that this is a lot to ask friends and some people may not be able to do it (that’s why I suggest the therapist). 

Even in great marriages, people need to vent about things, but if it’s all you’re saying, then people are going to start to think that’s all there is. It’s all a balancing act. You can’t say everything bad (or everything good Mr. And Mrs. Here’s A Selfie of Us Having Cocktails In Cancun With Our Arms Intertwined And Right After The Picture Was Taken We Went And Had Fabulous Sex). And sometimes you need to preface what you say with what you need to hear: “Listen, I love my husband, Mr. Brad Pitt, very much. But last night he was out with George Clooney and I know he declined my call and it really pissed me off. I don’t want to leave him, especially with what’s going on with Shiloh, but I need to vent.” Hopefully, they’ll get it. I wish you very good luck and peace. 

xx Julie

 

Dear Julie,

A very close friend just told me what I consider a fairly upsetting and horrible story about someone I know. I realize that he may have actually told me this story shortly after the death of his father, but perhaps he did not mention the person by name or because I was not so friendly with her at the time I never connected the dots. But I now realize that this woman, who also seems to be among the besties of another good friend, and who has invited me to several occasions and seemed to be someone I might want to socialize with more is the person who had an affair with my first friend’s father—a well known, powerful, very married (although not to my friend’s mother, his first wife) executive. And her reaction upon learning of his death, was to call up my friend, not to offer condolences, but to ask that he give her a very expensive, designer…let’s just describe it as piece of luggage, that she claimed his father knew she had always admired. My friend was forced to explain to her that if his late father had wanted her to have it he would have given it to her in his lifetime, but given that his father had left very explicit details regarding the disposition of all of his property he was not free, no matter how much he might like to accommodate her request, to violate the terms of his will and give it to her.

My friend of course, like anyone who loses a parent, had many things to deal with at the moment—and anyone who actually cared about his father (never mind him) would never have thought upon hearing of his passing, “Oh, I’ve got to get my hands on that fill-in-the-blank bag, I wonder if he gave it to anyone.” And he’s had far more important things to deal with since—in other words, he’s gotten over it. But I am beyond appalled. I never want to have anything to do with this person again. I am not the kind of person who simply gives others the “silent treatment,” though I know I can always beg off any future invitations by claiming to be busy. But I am even more afraid that if her name comes up in conversation—particularly with my other acquaintance, who seems to spend a lot of time with her—I will not be able to control my thoughts or feelings about what I consider to be her despicable behavior. Do you have any advice? Thanks.

Spinning on My Exercise Bike

 

Dear SoMEB,

It sounds to me like your friend handled this unpleasant exchange extremely well in the moment. The woman asked, he told her, the end. She didn’t come back with a lawyer. In other words, it’s done. For some reason, though, it’s not done for you, but if you don’t mind me saying, it actually has nothing to do with you.

People do a lot of rude things in life. If they’re done to us, we need to address them. This wasn’t done to you. You say you’re not the kind of person to give someone the silent treatment, so I’m fairly certain when she asks you to get together you’re going to tell her just exactly why you don’t want to be her friend anymore. Go nuts.

As far as controlling your thoughts around the other friend—you have control if you want it. Just know that relaying this situation is simply gossip. It isn’t like this woman who slept with the “very married” guy (who by the way, was the one who took the vows—not her—and deserves at least some of your ire) is going to go around sleeping with everyone’s friend’s father and then when they die, demand their suitcase. Seems like a one-time deal. One you shouldn’t feel the need to stress about.

xx Julie

 

Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.

 

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