I have had a falling out with some friends in my social circle. It seems that they were gossiping about me at a recent dinner and word got back to me. These aren’t close friends, just acquaintances through my kids’ school. I know that I will no longer trust any of them with anything personal, but it has been my husband’s reaction that has me angry.
Despite knowing the whole story, he has continued to act normally around these women. One “frenemy,” in particular, has always spoken highly of him. In the past she would cling to us as a couple whenever we were at school events, and has gone on and on telling me how great he is and how he gives wonderful advice, really “tuning into” her. She’s single and wants to find a partner and I have always felt uncomfortable with how she treats him. Knowing that she was part of the mean girl group talking about me has done nothing to change his interactions with her. Shouldn’t he know how hurtful that is to me? Why can’t he defend me in some way?
— Hurt Feelings
Thank you so much for this question. It gives me the chance to validate the pain you feel when it seemed that Husband doesn’t have your back. It also lets me highlight that desiring him to just know what you want is a faulty (and very common) expectation.
Your description of Frenemy has me wondering if it feels like she’s bragging about the intimacy she has with Husband? Of course you are angry and, possibly, anxious about her
behavior. It makes complete sense that you would view her as a threat just based on this, but then you get real intel that she was talking about you behind your back? I get it. You don’t trust her.
But let’s not confuse the distrust you harbor toward her with sending a clear emotional signal to Husband about how you need him to support you. While telling him not to speak to her feels a bit like junior high school to me, noting that you — as an adult in your married, adult body — actually feel like you want him not to speak to her might make the point more clearly. When you are emotionally vulnerable and express a need for reassurance from Husband, you give him the chance to succeed in making you feel secure and loved. Spoiler Alert: That’s all he wants in this world.
Telling him about your pain connected with his relationship to her — focusing on the pain you feel without blaming him for his part in it — will queue him up to reassure you about how important you are to him. That’s the magic formula. Go ahead and cut her out of your own life (she’s not adding any value), but heal that pain by giving Husband the opportunity to show up for you.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at stacymurphylpc.com. She is taking a break from her column in the new year. As always, this column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling.