My wife of 15 years is best friends with someone in her ex-husband's family. When her friend has any social gatherings, we’re always invited and my wife always wants to attend.
Her ex also usually attends. I go to appease my wife. I’d like to socialize with her best friend and partner, but not in the company of her ex and his family.
My wife knows how I feel, but still expects me to go.
I don't feel threatened by her ex in any way. But he already knows so much about us through my wife's friend. I'm a private person and often feel my/our privacy is being invaded.
Is it wrong to draw the line at socializing with her best friend and partner separately, and not attend when her ex is included in events?
It’s not wrong at all. But after 15 years of acceptance, change will present some difficulties.
Try to head these off in advance. Example: You should have some idea why your attendance is so important to her.
If it’s to be close couples with her best friend, suggest you go out with her and her partner, just the four of you, and invite them to your place on their own, too.
If you think she has a need to show her ex that she’s in a solid, happy marriage, point out that he already knows that through the best friend.
However, when that friend’s invitation is to celebrate something important, go along.
But if there are less significant events, tell her you’d like to start missing some, since they’ll be balanced with seeing the couple at other times.
Meanwhile, know that this isn’t a unique situation.
Countless post-divorce couples attend weddings, babies’ births, graduations, etc. where ex’es are present.
Many do it for the sake of their partners, and their children. Only politeness is required but it can say a lot more about caring and support.
FEEDBACK Regarding the self-centered actress who wouldn’t let her husband “onstage” socially (April 25):
Reader – “As the husband of an actress/singer, I know this is so common in artistic circles, that it has a name, “Spotlight Fever.”
“The most interesting example was a comment I heard from a fashion model, before I met my wife.
“I’d casually asked, ‘What do you think is the world’s most common motivation, i.e. What makes everyone do everything?’
“According to this beautiful young woman, the most common motivation is to be the center of attention.
“I disagreed, thinking it couldn’t be that simple, but over the years I came to see that she was right. To be the center of attention is the whole story, at least in the arts.
“So when I met my wife, I was used to self-centered people, and that includes myself. But my wife is the most extreme example I’ve ever met.
“I really appreciated your focus on this common situation, and your detailed answers about how to respond to it.
“I’m still trying to get a word in edgewise with the wife, and it’s an uphill battle, but it makes life interesting.
“What else have we got to do with our time, between gigs, except to play one-upmanship games with my wife? She keeps me on my toes.
“Maybe a self-centered woman isn’t totally wrong, and maybe this isn’t a serious problem. Perhaps it’s up to the guys to step onstage and put on our own show.”
Reader #2 – “My long-time friend behaves in a similar way.
“When I’m telling an anecdote, my friend often doesn’t listen, then does or says something that upstages me.
“I gently interrupt and say, "This is a short story but I wasn’t quite finished." Then I quickly start the rest of my story.
“This usually works.
“Also, when I finish, I often ask my friend for an opinion on something I’ve just said. This gives her an opportunity to talk, but also encourages her to listen.
“I’m not very confident this pattern between us will ever fundamentally change, as it seems to be more personality-driven than a habit.
“But it helps our conversation to be more reciprocal in the short term.”
Ellie – Thanks for applying Spotlight Fever to ordinary exchanges. I’m sure many readers have experienced this situation, whereby one friend, relative, or colleague repeatedly steals the limelight in a social conversation or work gathering.
Tip of the day:
Understand why your partner wants your presence when the ex is around, before you try to make changes.