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Amy: Newlyweds clashing over his ex-girlfriends

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • October 10, 2012 - 1:52 PM

Dear Amy: My man and I have been together for three years and just got married. Unfortunately, we continue to have an unresolved problem, even though we have been to counseling.

He has a few exes whom he keeps in touch with. I have only one ex whom I occasionally talk to, but my husband has met my ex, and I tell my husband whenever my ex and I speak.

I have no problem with his being in touch with his exes, but he refuses to let me meet them and gets defensive if I ask about them. He says he does not spend time with them socially and so there is no need for me to meet them.

I ask to get an update every now and then, but he only tells me about two of them. I know he's in touch with more than two women because I've glanced at his phone (he guards his phone with his life and won't let me see it, even though I've asked).

I'm not asking for a transcript. I just want to hear about this contact because I'm uncomfortable with these relationships, but he says this is unreasonable. I'm trying really hard to trust him, and I'm tired of fighting. Other than this he's a wonderful man.

Is it appropriate for a man or woman to have private relationships and regular communication with a member of the opposite sex when in a committed relationship?

Amy says: You shouldn't have to try all that hard to trust your husband. Trust should be braided into the fabric of your intimate relationship.

As you point out, transparency is vital between partners. The more opaque or secretive your husband is, the more it will interfere with the intimacy you should share.

Your relationship should be the primary relationship for both of you. Your husband's choice to maintain secret relationships with other people interferes with your intimacy. It's as if he has invited other people into your relationship but he won't let you meet them.

The most illuminating book I've read on this subject drills to the heart of why secret relationships are so painful and destructive. I highly recommend "Not 'Just Friends': Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity," by Shirley Glass and Jean Coppock Staeheli (2004, Free Press). Read this book together, and discuss it in counseling.

Compliments unwelcome?

Dear Amy: Is it proper for a married man to compliment a woman on her appearance? I realize it can be overdone, but occasionally a new hairstyle or a certain outfit really stands out.

In such cases, I would like to tell a lady that I think she looks nice, but my wife says it makes most women uncomfortable and would not be appreciated. My 21-year-old daughter says she enjoys receiving compliments and thinks most women do. Who is correct?

Amy says: I suspect the woman whom your compliments make uncomfortable is your wife. I think it's delightful for people to compliment one another. Unless this praise is too intimate or goes galloping out of control ("Wow! Your radiant complexion would give Nicole Kidman a run for her money!"), you should feel free to parcel out the praise -- and direct some of it toward your wife.

Not enough

Dear Amy: In view of an important and close presidential election (where, sadly, religion is a factor), I question the wisdom and timing of your column wherein a restaurant customer, described as a Mormon, displayed truly despicable behavior toward a server sporting tattoos.

Your answer did not go far enough. That type of behavior is not a value of the Mormon Church, and rather than simply saying, "It isn't about religion, but about rudeness," you should have pointed this out. There is much ignorance about the Mormon religion.

Amy says: Several readers thought that I let this letter writer insult the Mormon Church, and though I addressed this religious reference in my answer, I apologize to readers who were offended.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Av., Chicago, IL 60611.

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