Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My sister saw my husband having dinner with a woman. This woman is someone he met at a support group for an issue he has dealt with for many years. She has become a wonderful friend to him and I'm very glad he has her in his life.
However, my sister felt they seemed "intimate" in the way they were talking, and when she went up and talked to them at the table he was "evasive" about who she was — which was because he was respecting the confidentiality of their support group. She is now beating me over the head with her suspicions that my husband is having an affair and telling me I'm naive when I say I'm not concerned.
I'm not going to tell her the whole story because I'm not going to violate my husband's friend's confidence, but I'm getting really sick of telling her to drop it and listening to her refuse to drop it. Is there anything I can do other than hang up or walk away when she says things?
Carolyn says: I'm sorry. Lousy position to be in.
You don't have to resort to hanging up on her, though — not yet.
So far you've been telling your sister why you want her to drop it, to the extent you can — i.e., saying, "I am not concerned." That should be enough, of course, and your sister's ongoing interference is a clear boundary violation, no matter how well-meaning it might be.
But you can take your approach a step further by turning your response into a question. "I have asked you to drop it. I have said I am not concerned. And yet you keep pressuring me about this. So I'm asking you now: What will it take for you to stop pressuring me about this?"
If she responds by refusing to drop it, then you have one more arrow in the quiver:
"Has is occurred to you that I have my own reasons for not sharing your concerns about this, and that I have simply chosen not to confide in you? For good reasons? And that maybe you should trust me to handle my own personal life?"
If she responds again by refusing to drop it, then it's time to implement the hang up or walk away response. Make a statement to her beforehand, though, so there's no room for doubt about what you are doing: "I have tried to make it clear to you that your further involvement in this is not welcome. I feel I have no choice now but to hang up or walk away when you bring it up."
Re: suspicions: Thank you. There have been times when my professional life and my sobriety life cross paths. I attended a "Christ-centered" program, so I can always say "a friend from church," but it is a delicate path to not "out" a brother or sister in recovery. I applaud your efforts to keep the sanctity of confidentiality when the truth could take the heat off. Bless you for your compassion!
Carolyn says: And you for yours, thank you.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.