Dear Amy: I recently found a photo of my wife posing with an old boyfriend. She was 19 years old and very beautiful. They were walking arm in arm.
Though we have been together for 30 years and the photo was taken two years before she even met me, this picture has made me jealous for over a week. Why is this? Is it that I see her with him? Is it that she was thinner and prettier than she is now? (I have aged and put on weight, too.)
Any suggestions for how I can shake this feeling? I don’t want something out of my control to ruin my marriage.
Amy says: This is not out of your control. And it will only “ruin” your marriage if you let it.
Your reaction to seeing this photo is both common and complex — that’s why you find it so confusing. As we age, many of us find it difficult to look at younger versions of ourselves or our partners — some parents even develop irrational jealousy toward their own children, for the sole reason that they possess the dew of youth that is now a mere memory for the parent.
Jealousy thrives on secrecy and rumination. Take your feelings out for a spin and share them with your wife. Be completely candid with her, using “I” statements: “When I see this picture I feel jealous, but I don’t really know why.” Do not put her on the defensive.
There is a strong likelihood that your wife can understand your emotional reaction to this. This episode could spark a new, deeper and intimate understanding that you are in fact growing old together. And that’s a truly beautiful thing.
High-tops a hurdle
Dear Amy: A group of six co-workers decided to have lunch at a popular restaurant. “Betty” said she would arrive early to secure a table. Well, she arrived early, secured a table and waved us all over to join her in the bar area at one of the high-top tables.
Good going, right? Well, there’s just one problem: Due to the fact that I have MS, I am in a wheelchair.
I was totally dumbfounded by this. When I questioned her choice, her response was, “Well, I never thought about your being in a wheelchair.” By now, the restaurant had a long waiting list for lunch, and arranging seating for six people at a regular-height table wasn’t going to happen.
I didn’t wish to create a scene and explained I had another appointment to go to (total lie) but just wanted to tell the group hello. I then left the restaurant. I was beyond hurt and haven’t spoken to Betty since. What would you have said or done if you were in my situation?
Amy says: I would hope to respond as gracefully as you did in this situation.
It is hard to imagine being so thoughtless. Your colleague “Betty” owes you more than an “oops, my bad” sort of explanation. She should have sought you out after the fact and genuinely apologized for her oversight.
Rather than simply not speak to her, you should follow up to say, “I want you to know that I found that pretty upsetting.” After this bit of honesty, you should do your best to turn the page.
Love shines through
Dear Amy: I’m responding to the letter about putting kids first.
As my beautiful mother is in hospice care, the children of my dad’s second marriage are bereft at the prospect of losing this woman, whose grace and loving acceptance toward them is the sole reason that I love these byproducts of my father’s dalliance with a “girlfriend.”