While husbands and wives should be each other’s best friends, we all need other people in our lives as well. But what do you do when you feel like your spouse’s closest friendship with another person isn’t enriching your marriage or when it’s driving a wedge between the two of you? Are your spouse’s friends a negative influence on your marriage?
Maybe she feels like his friend, Bob, is coaxing him to spend too much time away from her and the kids. Perhaps he doesn’t like it when she comes home from a night out with Jane gushing about how wonderful her life seems to be and, as a result, becomes discontent with him and their marriage.
Neither blowing up nor bottling it up is a good option. Anger alienates and resentment rejects. But you need to deal with this before it causes a rift that threatens your sense of unity. Being on the same page—unity—is essential for a healthy marriage. It doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything, but it does mean you hold your relationship as the most important one each of you has, and anything that threatens that should be faced.
But there is a positive way to do so, which seeks to close the gap rather than widen it. These 5 questions should be asked when you think your spouse’s friend is causing problems in your relationship.
1. Ask yourself why. What are the feelings that rise up when you think about this friendship? Is it irritation that your spouse seems to be investing too much time and money there? Is it insecurity, that they seem to look forward more to being with them than being with you? Is it fear that they are talking too openly about your relationship to someone else? Remember that all of life is interconnected somehow, even if we don’t see how at first. Try to drill down to understand what’s going on beneath the surface. It may be that it’s not so much the particular friendship that is a problem, it’s just a symptom that your lives are too busy and you are not taking the time you need to connect as a couple. If that’s the case, here are 5 C’s For Staying in Sync With Your Spouse.
2. Ask yourself how they are changing. Seek to identify specifically the ways in which you see your spouse’s friendship having a negative impact on your marriage. Do they come home negative and critical because of what their friend has said, or are their views on important issues changing? I remember the wife of a couple we knew who hung out with a group of women who had all been through a divorce. Over time, their negative views and experiences of marriage rubbed off on our friend, who began to view her husband negatively. In due time, she too divorced. It’s a reminder that unhealthy comparison can be toxic to marriage.
3. Ask your spouse what they like about their friend. Simply telling your spouse that you don’t like their friend isn’t likely to change their mind—their friendship is clearly giving them something they like or want or need. Get them to talk about what they value in their friend—what you hear may help you see that person in a different light, or at least give you a better understanding of what’s going on in your spouse.
4. Ask your spouse to consider how you feel. Invite them to a conversation about this friendship. If you come in vulnerability, sharing your concerns in a gentle way, your spouse is more likely to be able to hear what you have say. Explain how and why you worry that this friendship is damaging the unity you have, and why that matters. Make sure the emphasis is about you as a couple, not you individually. Reading The Right Way to Prepare for Difficult Conversations might help you.
5. Ask yourselves how you might both change. Having talked things through, perhaps your spouse will see them your way and agree to end or dial back the friendship. More likely you may both be willing to compromise somehow. He might cut back to once-a-month golf outings. She may agree to be careful about what she divulges to her friend. You may realize you need to step up and be more proactive about leisure activities together. To help in this process, consider these 8 Secrets of Conflict Resolution.
Finally, be aware that this tension over a friendship might bring to the surface areas you both recognize you need to work on in your marriage, so that the needs and concerns of each of you are better taken into account. In that way, what was something that had the possibility of driving you apart can become something that brings you more closely together.
Have you faced this issue in your marriage? If so, how did you work it through? Share your experiences here.