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Question

I have a friend I don’t see too often, and we’ve drifted apart, but occasionally we’ll get together with other mutual friends. The problem is that he’s said a few things that have offended my wife. I was annoyed with him but, knowing his blunt personality, didn’t think too much of it. Now, though, my wife doesn’t want me to get together with my other friends if he’s going to be there and gets mad at me if I want to. She says I’m not defending her, but when I ask if she wants me to talk to him, she says that there’s no point. I don’t know what to do. She seems to get angry with me for not being angry with him. I just want to let it go. We’re told to forgive everyone and not take offense, but it’s like my wife doesn’t want me to forgive him. I don’t really care about maintaining my friendship with him, but I do like the activities we do with my other friends. What should I do for my wife?

Answer

You may feel your wife is sending you mixed messages about how to handle your friend, but one message is clear: it’s time to pause this relationship with your friend until you and your wife are united. No friendship is worth undoing the marital bond.

Your wife had a bad experience with your friend that you dismissed as insignificant. While it may be something you can easily overlook so you can continue associating with the larger group of friends, there’s a reason your wife can’t move past his comments. It’s not a good idea to dismiss her concerns. She’s picked up on something that may be important for you and your marriage.

Dr. John Gottman found in his research on couples that women generally bring up relationship concerns 80 percent of the time.[i] Marriages are more successful when husbands accept influence from their wives. Put simply, this means that when a wife shares a concern, her husband takes her seriously. Your wife is asking you to take her concern seriously and I encourage you to listen to her.

This doesn’t mean that wives are right 80 percent of the time. It simply means that women will initiate important relationship conversations more often than men. Wise men know they need to pay attention to these concerns and stay with these conversations until understanding is reached.

My sense is that you don’t understand her concerns with your friend’s behavior. Perhaps she’s picking up on something deeper that would be important for you to understand. Whatever the concern, your wife is essentially asking you to put boundaries on the buddies and listen to her concerns. Make sure you don’t humor her and listen long enough so you can get back to socializing. Stay open and listen for as long as it takes so you can truly understand why she’s responding this way.

You say this friendship really isn’t that important to you, but even if it was your best buddy, it’s critical your wife knows that your loyalty is directed at her. You may feel it’s unfair that she’s putting these restrictions on your friendships. Please recognize that she may feel it’s unfair that she was unexpectedly subjected to something insulting or offensive. You both have been caught off guard by this development, so slow down and take the time necessary to repair your relationship. Your friends can wait.

I love President Gordon B. Hinckley’s wise counsel about loyalty in marriage:

“The bride and groom come to the house of the Lord professing their love one for another. They enter into solemn and eternal covenants with each other and with the Lord. Their relationship is sealed in an eternal compact. No one expects every marriage to work out perfectly. But one might expect that every marriage in the house of the Lord would carry with it a covenant of loyalty one to another.

I have long felt that the greatest factor in a happy marriage is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. In most cases selfishness is the leading factor that causes argument, separation, divorce, and broken hearts.

Brethren, the Lord expects something better of us. He expects something better than is to be found in the world. Never forget that it was you who selected your companion. It was you who felt that there was no one else in all the world quite like her. It was you who wished to have her forever. be loyal to your companion. May your marriage be blessed with an uncompromising loyalty one to another.”[ii]

Your wife’s reaction doesn’t make any sense to you. You’ve made some guesses about how to handle this, but she’s become frustrated with your approach. Instead of focusing on how you can get together with your friends, turn your attention to deepening your understand of her experience. Her responses will likely expose an opportunity for your own growth and development. Elder L. Whitney Clayton taught that happily married couples “know that no other relationship of any kind can bring as much joy, generate as much good, or produce as much personal refinement.”[iii] Never elevate a friendship above your marriage.

If you get stuck and can’t find a resolution, don’t give up and secretly resent your wife for being difficult. There is a reason she can’t support these friendships. Continue working to find a way for both of you to feel good about things. Elder Clayton further taught that, “Husbands and wives in great marriages make decisions unanimously, with each of them acting as a full participant and entitled to an equal voice and vote.”[iv] Stay with each other until you both feel good about the direction. Of course, seeking help from a qualified marriage counselor can help you both move through the gridlock.

Remember the goal isn’t to get back to your friends and activities. The goal is to understand your wife’s heart and let her know you will hear and understand her concerns. If these men are true friends of your marriage, then they will never put pressure on you to choose between them and your wife. True friends of your marriage will gladly step aside while you turn to your wife and create marital harmony.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:

Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

 

[i] http://www.gottmancouplesretreats.com/about/relationships-functional-good.aspx

[ii] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2003/04/loyalty?lang=eng

[iii] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/marriage-watch-and-learn?lang=eng

[iv] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/marriage-watch-and-learn?lang=eng