Relationship Connection: My wife is controlling my friendships

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Question

I have a friend I don’t see too often, and we’ve drifted apart, but occasionally we’ll get together with other mutual friends. The problem is that he’s said a few things that have offended my wife.

I was annoyed with my friend but, knowing his blunt personality, I didn’t think too much of it. Now, though, my wife doesn’t want me to get together with my other friends if he’s going to be there and gets mad at me if I want to.

She says I’m not defending her, but when I ask if she wants me to talk to him, she says that there’s no point. I don’t know what to do. She seems to get angry with me for not being angry with him.

I just want to let it go. We’re told to forgive everyone and not take offense, but it’s like my wife doesn’t want me to forgive him. I don’t really care about maintaining my friendship with him, but I do like the activities we do with my other friends. What should I do for my wife?

Answer

You may feel your wife is sending you mixed messages about how to handle your friend, but one message is clear: It’s time to pause this relationship with your friend until you and your wife are united. No friendship is worth undoing the marital bond.

Your wife had a bad experience with your friend that you dismissed as insignificant. While it may be something you can easily overlook so you can continue associating with the larger group of friends, there’s a reason your wife can’t move past his comments. It’s not a good idea to dismiss her concerns. She’s picked up on something that may be important for you and your marriage.

Dr. John Gottman found in his research on couples that women generally bring up relationship concerns 80 percent of the time. Marriages are more successful when husbands accept influence from their wives. Put simply, this means that when a wife shares a concern, her husband takes her seriously. Your wife is asking you to take her concern seriously and I encourage you to listen to her.

This doesn’t mean that wives are right 80 percent of the time. It simply means that women will initiate important relationship conversations more often than men. Wise men know they need to pay attention to these concerns and stay with these conversations until understanding is reached.

My sense is that you don’t understand her concerns with your friend’s behavior. Perhaps she’s picking up on something deeper that would be important for you to understand. Whatever the concern, your wife is essentially asking you to put boundaries on the buddies and listen to her concerns. Make sure you don’t humor her and listen long enough so you can get back to socializing. Stay open and listen for as long as it takes so you can truly understand why she’s responding this way.

You say this friendship really isn’t that important to you, but even if it was your best buddy, it’s critical your wife knows that your loyalty is directed at her. You may feel it’s unfair that she’s putting these restrictions on your friendships. Please recognize that she may feel it’s unfair that she was unexpectedly subjected to something insulting or offensive. You both have been caught off guard by this development, so slow down and take the time necessary to repair your relationship. Your friends can wait.

Your wife’s reaction doesn’t make any sense to you. You’ve made some guesses about how to handle this, but she’s become frustrated with your approach. Instead of focusing on how you can get together with your friends, turn your attention to deepening your understand of her experience. Her responses will likely expose an opportunity for your own growth and development. Never elevate a friendship above your marriage.

If you get stuck and can’t find a resolution, don’t give up and secretly resent your wife for being difficult. There is a reason she can’t support these friendships. Continue working to find a way for both of you to feel good about things. Making unilateral decisions in marriage is a dangerous slippery slope. Stay with each other until you both feel good about the direction. Of course, seeking help from a qualified marriage counselor can help you both move through the gridlock.

Remember the goal isn’t to get back to your friends and activities. The goal is to understand your wife’s heart and let her know you will hear and understand her concerns. If these men are true friends of your marriage, then they will never put pressure on you to choose between them and your wife. True friends of your marriage will gladly step aside while you turn to your wife and create marital harmony.

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 his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

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

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer  

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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6 Comments

  • Hataalii March 22, 2017 at 9:16 am

    If this is a situation that is unique to this problem, then I wholeheartedly agree with Geoff. If she is not normally trying to have control over you, do whatever it takes to let her know that she is the most important person in your life, and your marriage is the most important thing in your life.
    However, if this is just one more in a long list of things that she is trying to control you over, then you have a much bigger problem. If this is the case, then your marriage is in deep trouble. Seek counseling, sooner rather than later. If she refuses counseling, then go by yourself.
    In either case, you owe it to your wife, your marriage, and yourself, to get busy working on the problem.

  • comments March 22, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Guy needs to man up and make it known who wears the pants in this marriage.

    • .... March 23, 2017 at 1:03 am

      Oh wow Bob your such a tough guy

      • Real Life March 23, 2017 at 7:25 am

        How many passwords do you have written down for all of the different screen names?

  • Sapphire March 22, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    If someone offended my sons’ wives… if they lived through it… there wouldn’t be a friendship anymore. Real men protect their woman, they don’t brush her off and make her the enemy. If there are no kids, and he refuses to apologize profusely, then she should leave him. Even the scriptures say you cleave to your wife, not your buddies. Who needs a jerk for a husband. I bet he wouldn’t like it if the situation was reversed.

  • Rainbow Dash March 22, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    I’m gonna be quite honest here. I wish we knew what was said. If the wife is offended because the guy said something about her PERSONALLY then, yes, the husband should stick up for his wife and the guy should apologize. On the other hand if the wife is “offended” because the guy aired his feelings about something like politics or religion, etc that is contrary to her BELIEFS or OPINIONS (e.g not a personal attack) then the wife needs to remove the stick from her butt.

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