Happy new relationship brings more drama
Carolyn Hax gives her advice on managing unhappy friends while feeling happy yourself.
Carolyn Hax Syndicated columnist
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.
DEAR K: 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.
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.
The first was an admission that being around your happiness is hard. While it’s good you didn’t respond with anger or by taking it personally — all too common responses — you still leapt to take responsibility for her feelings. Say instead, “I understand, take any time you need.”
The second was a misunderstanding — one you were apparently in a position to clear up by reminding her of your prior school commitment.
If it does turn out these two were related parts of a larger mistake you’re making, then you’ll soon find that out without scrutinizing your every move for error.
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. 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 moves. When she stepped into a brilliant and high-paying career, she left him behind. He knows I don’t like him contacting her, and he knows it infuriates me when he speaks highly of her. Am I being a control freak?
— Weary of Ex-Wife
DEAR WEARY: You are expecting your husband to fix your jealousy problem, so, in that sense, yes, your stance on his ex-wife is a controlling one.
I can also argue that it’s illogical. Doesn’t it sound more bizarre for two people who used to spend every day together just to up and stop talking, forever? I don’t doubt the ex put your husband through a wringer, but people are complicated, as are the relationships they form. He could remain justifiably annoyed by her infidelity and opportunism while still valuing her opinion on, say, his mom or work or a recent gallery show. They can be “over” without snipping every last little thread.
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.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living.