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Hax: Friends' break-ups, her happiness clash

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • December 2, 2012 - 4:00 PM

Dear Carolyn: A few of my close friends have recently gone through difficult breakups; meanwhile, I'm newly in love after many years of being more-or-less-happily single. I'm trying to balance grad school, being a good friend and developing this great new relationship, but a couple of comments from my girlfriends have made it clear I'm not really balancing the last two very well.

One friend recently admitted to being distant because she's not eager to see/hear about happy couple-y stuff so soon after her own breakup, and another was angry with me for canceling a "date" with her because she assumed I'd canceled to hang out with my boyfriend (not true, I had a school issue, which she knew about).

I thought I was doing a decent job balancing these things until these friends told me otherwise.

How can I figure out where the line is so I don't cause pain to these friends? I tried sincerely asking them what they'd like me to change, but that only yielded assurances that they're happy for me and that I should continue being happy.

Carolyn says: Consider this permission to take them at their word.

You're not causing them pain, their circumstances are. Merely by being sensitive to this, you fulfill your primary obligation to them as their friend. It is not your job to tiptoe around as if they're unexploded ordnance.

Maybe you aren't balancing well, sure, and your friends' concerns reflect that, but it seems premature to draw that conclusion from just two incidents, quite different ones at that.

Jealous streak

Dear Carolyn: I have battled a jealous streak my whole life. That said, I am jealous of my husband's ex-wife because he still gets in touch with her. He admitted he talked to her "just occasionally, maybe once a month." It is probably just phone calls and/or e-mail, but I can't understand why he would want to continue talking with her, and I wonder what they have to talk about.

She left him wounded from her serial extramarital affairs, and he lost considerable savings to support her career. When she found a high-paying career, she left him. He knows I don't like him contacting her or speaking highly of her. Am I being a control freak?

Carolyn says: Your stance on his ex-wife is a controlling one if you expect your husband to fix your jealousy problem.

That is illogical on a couple of counts. For one, doesn't it sound more bizarre for two people who used to spend every day together just to up and stop talking, forever? They can be "over" without snipping every last little thread.

Forbidding contact won't cure what ails you. You don't like his opinion of her? It won't change if they stop talking. You don't like that he wants to talk to her? That won't change if they stop talking (and in fact it might intensify). You don't like feeling that your marriage is vulnerable to other women? That won't change if they stop talking. Welcome to life.

Since you've had a "whole-life" jealous streak, please see the irrelevance of the ex to your feelings of possessiveness and insecurity. They're systemic, and all the relevant information is inside you. I don't like proposing therapy as an only answer, but it seems like it's time.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com

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