My close girlfriend for years is a very smart, attractive woman.
I couldn’t help wondering why, when she married at 37, she chose a man who’s often dull company and also controlling.
She’d dated several interesting men but remained single till meeting this man. On the positive side, he’s proven over several years to be loyal, dependable, and they seem to love each other.
But whenever I’d been in a social group with them, he’d try to control the conversation.
He’d raise something he’d read and researched, so that he’d sound like an authority.
If anyone tried to interrupt, he carried on over us. But if she added a comment he’d glare at her and she’d go silent and fade into the background.
Due to social distancing, I haven’t seen her for these past months but kept in touch online and by phone.
She always had good humour in her voice and comments, which put me at ease that being quarantined together hadn’t brought out harsher control from him.
At least, nothing that was discernible.
I’ve never asked her directly whether everything is “all right” because I didn’t want to alert him to my concern.
Also, I’ve seen them in past casual circumstances and they seemed very companionable when he’s not vying for everyone’s attention.
Am I overreacting to worries for her safety? What should I do?
Proceed delicately. You mention no sign of her having shown reluctance to go out with him socially. There’s no current strain in her voice or terse comments on the phone or online.
There’s no direct evidence that there’s abuse going on. Yet, you’re a close friend, and worried.
That’s enough to warrant asking her - when you find an opportunity when he’s not around (possible as our lockdown is opening up) - to go for a walk and chat together.
Then, it’s a risk whether you’re close enough to be forgiven if you ask a question, albeit delicately, and stressing that it comes from caring and concern.
Example: “I’ve sometimes been surprised that when you’re with your husband socially, you let him dominate the conversation.
“All I really want to know is if you’re okay.”
Be prepared that her response might still be outrage and to walk away.
But hopefully soon enough, you’ll know if her helping him to stand out, is a loving gesture to boost his ego, or a necessary one to keep peace… and be safe.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman whose sister-in-law (SIL) bullied her after her husband’s suicide attempt (May 15):
Reader - “The wife needs to begin to assure her legal rights.
“Now, together, they must seek legal advice and obtain an authorization for each to be responsible for making decisions concerning their property and any assets when the other is unable to do so.
“This gives legal rights (a power of attorney) to make decisions when the other party is incapacitated.
“Access to any of their funds would be stopped, unless she has her own bank account with funds in her name only.
“If the SIL treats her badly, it’s because she’s allowing it to happen.
“She should tell her husband and his adult children how the SIL actions make her feel and how they’re interfering with their marriage and family life.
“She either accepts the SIL’s behaviour or she speaks up herself and takes action to have this stopped. Otherwise, she just continues to think of herself as the victim.”
I don’t know how to “go forward” with changed social rules.
Friends assure that they’ll still observe social distancing. But I can’t trust them. They repeatedly let one child have a play date during lockdown. My kids only had each other and accepted that rule.
My husband’s close buddy is a great guy, but he’ll move closer now when we go for a walk in the same area.
I don’t remove my mask when he’s around.
Now they want our two families to barbeque together as in the past. But I’m resisting, with everyone annoyed at me.
Know what you can and cannot handle. Say that you’d like to see them but still need distancing reassurance.
Suggest eating outdoors only, with chairs the appropriate distance apart. Have each family prepare its own food rather than share from the same serving plates/bowls etc.
If they find that unnecessarily restrictive, just say you’re not ready for closer contact.
Tip of the day:
Suspect someone’s being abused? Call helpline’s (listed online e.g. under Domestic Abuse) and ask how/where to get specific help.