Relationship Connection: To hug or not to hug? My friend sees me as a threat to her marriage

Question

I have a friend who I generally get along with really well but lately she and her husband have been having problems. She said they were getting a divorce but when we hang out as couples they are very loving and seem quite happy. Lately her attitude has changed quite a bit. She is moody, depressed and very jealous. A year ago when we would all hang out, her husband would always give me a hug and my husband would give her a quick hug. It was never a big deal. Now, every time her husband looks my way, talks to me or gives me a hug, it causes problems in my friendship with her. She gets very irritated with me even though I never initiate the conversations or the hugs. I’ve tried to avoid the hug from him but its impossible without being rude. How do I not be rude to this man who has never offended my husband or myself but also stop the hugs that are causing her such insecure feelings? (These are brotherly, one-second hugs, mind you.) She still hugs my husband and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s to the point where I have just distanced myself from them as a couple.

Answer

I once heard someone say, “people respond in ways that make sense to them.” When a friend or loved one behaves in a way that doesn’t make sense to us, instead of making assumptions, it can be more helpful to enter their world and make sense of their response.

In the case of your friend, you already know she’s having serious marital problems. Throwing around the word “divorce” is no small thing, so it’s probably safe to say there are things going on between her and her husband that create shaky ground.

You are judging her strong reaction based on your good intentions. Obviously, you have no interest in being a threat to her marriage. You only want the best for her and her husband.

Instead of making sense of this through your perspective, start by looking past your good intentions to see if you can imagine why she might feel threatened by you, or any other woman, for that matter. Secure relationships aren’t threatened by these kinds of insecurities, so slow down and recognize that something significant has changed between them. This likely has nothing to do with you.

If you have the kind of friendship that would allow more candid conversation, don’t be afraid to address this observation with her. She might appreciate your sensitivity and efforts to help her feel more secure in her marriage. Sometimes addressing these unspoken, but obvious, interactions can provide great relief when there are real insecurities.

You might consider saying to her something like this: “I want to reassure you that I’m not a threat to your marriage. I realize things feel unstable between you and your husband and I don’t want to add to your insecurity. Is there anything I can do or not do to help support your marriage and help you feel safe as my friend?”

If your efforts to better understand her new response don’t lead to any change in your relationship, and you still value her as a friend, then you might consider looking for ways to support her in her crisis. Sometimes people are in so much pain they can be offensive in their asking for understanding and support.

You might back off from your previous ways of responding to her and her husband and continue seeking opportunities where you can learn what she needs. It’s easy to write people off as immature, reactive, and silly. However, true friends give each other room to figure out their reactions and support each other in times when things simply don’t make sense, hanging on until they do make sense.

Stay connected!

 

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to: 

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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24 Comments

  • philiplo September 11, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Perhaps, while discussing their marriage, he shared that he had at some point fantasized about you? Or other women? Without speaking candidly with your friend you will never know. If you’re close enough, talk with her and let her know you support her (if that is true).

  • St George Guys September 11, 2013 at 8:42 am

    With women outnumbering men about three to one in St George, I think it could be standard practice for men (even married men) to have extra women on the side. It’s part of the culture, right, starting with the practice of polygamy. I wonder what the rate of adultery is in St George. Bet it’s high. But as long as the guy lets wifey stay home to cook, clean and raise their brood, they probably won’t say anything if he’s occasionally getting between the sheets with another woman. You often see these wifey/moms with other wifey/mom types talking about their kids and house duties (cooking and breastfeeding?), but their hubbies are nowhere to be seen. Is it because he’s visiting another woman? You need to neuter tomcats if you don’t want them to roam.

    • A Mommy September 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Where do you get these statistic. I hate to say this St George Guys but Adultery is wrong and what you have said about stay at home moms is very offensive to me. It is called trust and if you can’t trust your spouse then there is a problem. Fix the problem. Some people….. I can’t believe the world we live in.

  • Molly September 11, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    She’s probably just feeling a bit insecure because if they are having marital problems she might not feel comfortable with him hugging you because she gets jealous even though you’re no threat.

    Try talking to her and let her know that you’ve noticed how she’s acting, maybe she doesn’t realize how much it’s bothering her?

  • Uncomfy September 11, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I feel uncomfortable about one’s guy’s woman hugging me. She likes to hug. She also got a boob job. Not only are they big, they are rock hard. When she hugs, it’s hard not to notice her boobs. Should I say something to him about it or just let it slide?

    • ladybugavenger September 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      try this: BE HONEST…i guarantee the hugs will stop. Stop worrying about offending people because it seems like its okay for them to offend. you are uncomfortable then you have to stop it. Tell her the truth just like you told us. In my opinion she does it on purpose…and when you speak up and be honest you will get respect for it and I guarantee when you tell the truth you will be comfortable afterwards. Answer this question: Why should have to live in discomfort?

      • Uncomfy September 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm

        But then, maybe I secretly like it ☺

        • ladybugavenger September 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

          My husband told me you liked it lol 😉 he will be happy to know he was right, once again

  • ladybugavenger September 11, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    You call it a brotherly hug. Keep the brotherly hugs between the brothers. You are a female and it is inappropriate to hug another women’s husband. I get the impression that because you do not get jealous that you believe there is something wrong with your friend when in turn there is something wrong with you. Keep your hands to yourself and your spouse. I am not sure that your marriage is any better condition than hers, because of your lack of jealousy you don’t have discernment on whether your husband is giving “hugs” to others outside of your eyes. Women it is inappropriate to hug other people’s mates. You may think you are better than others because of your lack of jealousy, but my friends you are deceived. Maybe, you are the ones cheating. Husbands watch your wives.

    • Tracie September 11, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Really? Females manage to hug married men all the time without it meaning anything at all.

      “Women it is inappropriate to hug other people’s mates” Just women? It’s ok for men to hug other people’s mates?

      Obviously in the case in the article, there are issues. But in general most people can hug someone without being inappropriate. Give me a break.

      • Uncomfy September 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm

        I don’t hug dudes. It’s weird seeing football players pat each other on the butt. They should get a room.

      • ladybugavenger September 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm

        Tracie, In this case I was talking about women because the article is about women…. This was my input to this article and you are entitled to disagree with it. Yes, men can do a brotherly hug to someones husband.Women can hug someone’s wife however, It is inappropriate for married people (im talking men and women in a marriage not homosexual marriage because thats too complicated and i mention it because i wouldnt want you to feel the need to twist it that way) to embrace with someone of the opposite sex….of course its done all the time….AND ITS NOT APPROPRIATE!!! definition :suitable or proper in the circumstances.

      • ladybugavenger September 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm

        Appropriate: suitable or proper in the circumstances. Inappropriate: not suitable or proper in the circumstances. Not Appropriate: not suitable or proper in the circumstances. Tracie, perhaps you are confusing appropriate, inappropriate and not appropriate with sexual feelings or desires….therefore, I give you the definition.

    • eternaloptimism September 12, 2013 at 9:33 am

      Ladybugavenger, you’ve GOT to be joking!! A HUG breaks up a marriage?? Honey, if a HUG breaks up a marriage, my guess is there were already some very deep issues in that marriage to start with! Most secure individuals in a relationship are going to be ok with a casual hug from the opposite sex, especially if everyone, as in this article, is friends. Get real!! If you have to WATCH your spouse, you have some deep-seeded insecurities and need to address those before you start freaking out over a hug!

      • ladybugavenger September 12, 2013 at 11:30 am

        More like Deep seeded convictions and morals…I wont be hugging your husband either 😉

  • Sgnative September 11, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Ladybugavenger you are right on the money. If you are married full fidelity is all about keeping appropriate boundaries in thought and deed. I don’t care if you’re the “hugging type” or not. Hugging can be too easily misconstrued as affection by too many people.

  • Sgnative September 11, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    …I do also Agree with Tracie to a point. There may be times when receiving a hug is unavaoidable. But I think if you are married avoid being the one to initiate hugging others spouses as you never know if it is making them or their spouse uncomfortable. Best to avoid the awkwardness and jealousy in the first place I say.

    • Can't stop laughing September 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Hilarious!!!! Only in Utah!!!! NO HUGGING ALLOWED. LOL

      • ladybugavenger September 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

        How many marriages have you broken up? You must be an extremist…LOL I am passing through Utah…born and raised in California and and soon to be on my way to Oklahoma. GO SOONERS!!!

      • ladybugavenger September 11, 2013 at 7:50 pm

        Hiarious, polygamist….I must be in Utah….it was creepy seeing polygamy for the first time…I can see that our value systems and moral compasses are different. But guaranteed I wont be hugging your husband…

        • uncomfy September 12, 2013 at 8:37 am

          Yup. Utah. Where it’s okay for men to have more than one woman. Utah women have told me about their ex-spouse’s or soon to be ex-spouse’s affairs. Even some still married women have talked about the hubby having a fling. Seems a common thing, maybe even an expected thing.

  • Sgnative September 11, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    To I Can’t Stop Laughing: I never said no to hugs. A lot if people I know would feel uncomfortable hugging their best friend’s spouse no matter how long they had know them. It’s one of those things called boundaries that our society likes to stretch and bend until there aren’t any. I bet its not just Utahns that would share my view.

    • uncomfy September 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Hugs from other dudes’ women aren’t the cause of my discomfort. It’s their comments which can be taken as come-ons and invitations. I’ve been here long enough to know that a lot of men and women, even the married ones who go to church, are guilty of flings while in a relationship. Don’t let anyone bullshit you about that.

  • Sgnative September 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Those boundaries also include words we speak and gestures we make. It all comes down to each individuals moral compass what is appropriate to them. If there is a spouse involved I would hope for the couples sake that they are open honest and transparent with everything including something as simple as a hug. As far as this article goes if you feel uncomfortable in a situation that involves others speak up and get yourself out of the situation or avoid it to begin with. Those that play with fire will most likely get burned.

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