Carolyn Hax’s Wife Says It’s Not Her Fault She Hurts Him
A.: I would say his communication is ruthlessly efficient and clear. She has no intention of changing anything to ease your emotional distress. Your move.
She is a tough communicator because the viewpoints she communicates are tough.
Yes, you decide how you feel and behave. But the same applies to her – so if she is knowingly hurtful, then blame you to hurt? She alone can decide to act like this, to use her phrasing. And his choice seems abusive. She may decide instead to listen and acknowledge your point of view, even when she disagrees. It’s something non-abusive people find ways to do respectfully.
His point of view is a common and self-serving distortion of emotional bases. I will explain using the royal “we”. We are responsible for our own behavior and feelings, yes, but that includes our effect on others. It’s our job to read this and respond morally, compassionately, productively, judiciously, to the best of our abilities. This does not mean giving in, but simply being aware of our impact.
The royal, we can also choose to be a complete donkey instead, since we have the option – but the repercussions of that choice are on us. To be despised and shunned, for example.
Now for you: when someone does things that you find hurtful or offensive, you can decide speak. Then, if nothing changes, you can decide to weigh whether you are solely at fault or to adjust your behavior in hopes of obtaining different results.
Then, if the results are disappointing, you can decide that there is no healthy way to be with behavior like his and decide what’s next for your wedding.
I am happy to validate you: your feelings matter.
But the validation you need is yours. Treat your feelings as if they are worth defending against your wife’s resistance. The purpose of marriage is to combine resources (emotional, physical, material) for a stronger unity than each of you was alone. If you are diminished by yours, then it doesn’t work. Solo therapy or a call to RAINN, 1-800-656-HOPE, can help you start to rebuild.
Dear Caroline: How to break up with a friend? The ghosts came out because we’re too close, and I want to do that in a mature, honest way. However, if I’m being honest, it will hurt him.
Basically, she has changed in the last few years and so have I. I find her materialistic nature unbearable since she remarried. The way she talks to her new husband reminds me of the unhealthy ways I used to act years ago before many therapies.
Frankly, she’s different from all my friends and I don’t find it amusing anymore.
– It’s not you it’s me
It’s not you it’s me: If you’re too close to walk away, then you’re close enough to speak the truth in the progressive, relevant, and productive ways people do when they share an intimate connection:
“When you talk to your husband that way, I feel really uncomfortable. What’s going on?”
“Noooo, please stop talking about shopping!”
“I’m surprised to hear you say that.”
“If we keep bragging about our holidays, we’ll be the people we used to sympathize with.”
“I think of us a few years ago, and it feels really different.”
Some of them are also difficult. But these are bite-sized truths as opposed to a big “I don’t love you anymore” on the insult side. What’s more, they adapt to the moment – and, what’s so important, they allow her to understand how she presents herself to you and respond immediately. She can control herself, change the subject, thank you for your frankness, confide in you. She may challenge your interpretation of her. She may try to keep you or decide she’s done.
It all seems right. Law? Make her an equal partner in the direction your friendship is taking? You might even find it salvageable, if she’s not too far away or you haven’t waited too long to talk.
Either way, talking to him this way gives you a shorter way to go if you decide it’s time to back out of the friendship. “I told you about it, but nothing really changed – I just feel like we’re going in different directions.”
In fact, it’s really a back door to knowing if either of us has been fair and honest with someone in a relationship: when we say we’re done, how much the other person Will she be caught off guard? Assuming they are not in denial, how much of our displeasure will they hear only now for the first time? Someone we call a friend deserves that chance to stay that way.