Yeah, so the real reason I didn't come to your party....
June 8, 2014 1:04 AM   Subscribe

Do I tell a good friend that I've been avoiding him because my husband's jealous of the friendship? Gory details and backstory inside.

I have (or possibly had) a good friend, we'll call him "George". George and I met through work a little over three years ago and we clicked straight away. Our friendship was strengthened after we went through a torrid time at work together. After I left the company, we regularly caught up for lunch. George became one of those tell-anything-to-trust-with-my-life friends.

Most of my friendship with George was/is work-or-lunch based. We live at opposite ends of a big city so we didn't regularly socialise on weekends. Still, George and his fiancee invited my husband and I to dinner many times. As well, I tried to include my husband in things I did with George (for example, going for a beer after work). My husband was often reluctant to socialise with George. He would make excuses to not come to things, saying "you go ahead, I'll see you at home". When I broke my ankle and George and his fiancee offered to bring around dinner and DVDs, my husband made quite plain (to me) that he wasn't comfortable with that, so I turned the offer down.

George and his fiancee invited us to his wedding. When the invitation arrived, my husband hemmed and hawed and wouldn't give a straight answer about going. I went ahead and RSVP'd anyway, figuring that of course I'd want to go to the wedding of one of my closest friends. Three weeks before the wedding when I pressed my husband about going, he exploded. He accused me of having a friendship that was "something deeper" (he wouldn't say "affair" but I know that's what he meant), he referred to George as "that prick" and "that c*nt", and made quite clear that he didn't want anything to do with George and didn''t want me to either. I tried pointing out that I have lot of male friends ("no that's different, you're different with George") and that George had tried to extend the friendship to my husband as well. Not to mention that he'd hardly invite me to his wedding if he we were having an affair.

Attempting to save the relationship*, I said I wouldn't go to the wedding. I rang George, told him that my husband and I had a fight (but not what about) and that I wouldn't come. George was very understanding. He and his wife sent a nice note after the wedding thanking me for the gift I got them and saying how much they missed me on the day.

Since then, I've seen George a few times for lunch, without telling my husband. I've turned down invitations from him and his wife for parties, dinners and other social gatherings. I feel rotten for doing this to such a good friend and I miss the friendship so much. If I mention George's name my husband withdraws and changes the subject.

My question if you've read this far: should I tell George that the reason I've been flaking out on the friendship is that my husband is jealous of him and is convinced there's an affair going on? Or is that too much information, and I should just accept that the friendship isn't going to be as deep as it has been?

*To be quite clear, our marriage has been in trouble for some time, for a lot of other reasons, and DTMFA is a possibility in the near future. I'm seeking advice today about how to deal with George, not my husband.
posted by Gwendoline Mary to Human Relations (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could always say, "George I just want you to know how sorry I am we don't catch up as much. I really value our friendship and it's nothing to with you; I'm facing a few challenges art the moment but when it gets resolved I'm looking forward to seeing more of you and wife."

That way you accomplish your goal of communicating you still want to be friends, without going too deep and making him ask himself if your husband has a reason to be jealousand if he's crossing any lines.

I have mostly female friends, but however much i liked them, if they confided that me i would take steps to stay out of their marriage.
posted by smoke at 1:31 AM on June 8, 2014 [62 favorites]

Yeah. Don't let the drama touch George - that's not fair and what do you want to happen as a result of that anyway? As smoke says above it very well might distance your friend from you, especially if he's an ethical guy. You need to be really scrupulous about boundaries here.
posted by glasseyes at 2:35 AM on June 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do I tell a good friend that I've been avoiding him because my husband's jealous of the friendship?

No, your loyalty to your husband and respect for his private feelings should come before George, even if your relationship with your husband is tenuous.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:31 AM on June 8, 2014 [11 favorites]

Sure, mention it, going into however much detail you feel comfortable with. Friends talk, there's nothing wrong with explaining what's going on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:42 AM on June 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd just give him a heads up you need to work on your relationship with your husband, and probably won't be as available for a while. That lets him know what's going on, preserves your friendship and doesn't throw your husband under the bus.
posted by Aranquis at 3:58 AM on June 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

To preface: I'm not married, but I've watched relationships with very jealous partners explode way too many times over a friend with perceived "better chemistry," even if it's not true.

George has probably noticed the marked shift in your attendance to his events; the fact that he and his wife are still inviting you to events and continuing to be warm suggests, at least to me, that he has some idea of what's happening. OR he's just an all-around awesome friend whose actions indicate you will REALLY appreciate him being in your corner should you divorce your husband. I would stick with Aranquis' suggestion and say something like this:

"George, it's been so long since I got a chance to hang out with you and your wife, but [husband] and I have been shifting our primary focus to strengthening our marriage. So while I can catch up with you about the latest nonsense over [dish] at [normal lunch spot]*, we really can't attend large events at the moment. But it means a lot to me that you guys keep inviting us!"

And then you immediately tell your husband that you had lunch with George. Once you start going behind his back, it gets very grey-area very fast. Keep all hands above board, and draw your boundaries clearly.

An anecdote: a good friend of mine and her then-boyfriend went to a party together, where [straight male jealousy-inducing friend] would also be in attendance. Then-boyfriend got drunk and, for obvious reasons, started picking on the friend he was jealous of. When my friend told him to stop, he started screaming at her, eventually calling her a bitch. Which was her breaking point, so she tried to leave - even though she wasn't the one driving. Jealousy-inducing friend offered to drive her home. The boyfriend said "if you leave with HIM, we're DONE."

And they were done. Not because she let jealousy-inducing friend a friend, but because she'd realized that all of the problems in her relationship with that guy - including his jealousy - could really be boiled down to insecurity, and eventually even staying at home with him every night would not be enough.

*Unless you're planning on withdrawing entirely from events and lunches. In which case, say you'll keep in touch some other way. It sounds like even if you and George AND his wife hung out, your husband would be furious, or else I'd suggest trying to reach some sort of compromise with him.
posted by Ashen at 4:28 AM on June 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

I tried pointing out that I have lot of male friends ("no that's different, you're different with George")

Are you different with George?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:32 AM on June 8, 2014 [21 favorites]

If you're going to DTMFA anyway, the there's no need to change how you act with George.

I've been cut out of friendships inexplicably before. It sucks. George and his wife are probably a little confused and miffed, unsure of whether they offended you somehow. Ask yourself this: are you and George close enough that if his wife were the batshit jealous type, you would hope he'd explain to you before dropping off the face of the earth? Then do whatever it is you'd hope George would do.

I think it's important for you to reach out to George and his wife and keep that friendship alive. If you're going to DTMFA, you're going to need friends to help you through it.
posted by mibo at 4:43 AM on June 8, 2014 [13 favorites]

I've been, for whatever reason, a female George more than once, and from that standpoint I'm another one who says give George (and his wife?) a rough idea of the situation, but no details. If only because if things improve between you and your husband you don't want George thinking of him as the guy who called him those names and thought him someone who would be unfaithful to his wife.
And I've been in your situation - personally I didn't do anything behind jealous partner's back, I was honest without rubbing my husband's nose in the friendship (though he was jealous of a couple of men). But it was a big factor in my marriage coming to an end. But perhaps the jealousy was more a symptom than a reason.
posted by sianifach at 4:51 AM on June 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

George hasn't done anything wrong here, and he's on the receiving end of unexplained rejection. I think that's unfair.

Would it be possible to say, "Hey, I know I've been turning down a lot of your invitations recently, and I'm really sorry. There are reasons -- none of them your fault -- and we'll talk about it someday. For now, please keep trying to connect, because I want to maintain this friendship, and thank you for being understanding."?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 AM on June 8, 2014 [31 favorites]

Whether or not it's fair to George, it is an extremely bad idea to bag on your husband and reveal his private feelings if there is a chance the marriage will continue. Two reasons: First, George will always know that piece of you husband's dirty laundry, and that opens an absolutely inappropriate relationship with him. Second, your husband knowing that you respected George's assumed need for details about the very private parts of your relationships more than his privacy will kill any remaining chance of success for the marriage, and rightly so.

Also, keep in mind that your willingness to share this info with George kind of demonstrates that you have the type of relationship with him that your husband probably fears you do. Between that and meeting secretly, maybe you should approach this less from a victim standpoint.
posted by Willie0248 at 6:06 AM on June 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

Is your primary loyalty to your husband or to George?

The answer to that question is going to determine what you tell George now, as well as how much you continue to confide in him going forward.

Honestly, I'd suggest answering "neither" and focusing instead on yourself and your own happiness. Being caught between other people and at the mercy of their feelings is not a healthy and happy place to be.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you work things out with your husband, you don't want to have betrayed this confidence and told this to George.

If you are for sure going to divorce your husband, sure, you can tell George what's been going on.

But unfortunately, you have to choose, at least for now. I'm not going to judge this jealousy or your connection with your friend, but in this kind of situation you are going to hold or betray confidences, and keep secrets from someone. It seems like you have to choose your husband, then, unless you are through with the marriage.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:45 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for don't tell George. In addition to other arguments made against it, if your marriage is ending, it's going to change your relationship with George anyway. If there is any level at all on which the two of you are emotionally involved, it'll be different when you are single and he is in a couple. And even if there's not, the balance of the the multiple friendships involved will be different. They'll all change in the wake of any breakup.

Plus, I would agree with Willie0248 about preserving George's privacy if you are staying in the marriage-- but even more so if the marriage is ending! I can well imagine this being a scenario where your husband is feeling insecure and projecting his insecurities onto George, or one where he doesn't feel respected at home and sees you being more enthusiastic around a friend who happens to be male and attractive. That probably really stings. And if he and his fiancee have that early-relationship glow, it may be making him feel worse about your marriage. So I'd say, take the high road in everything where your husband is concerned. This is probably really hard for him.
posted by BibiRose at 6:47 AM on June 8, 2014

I am George right now. I find it helpful to know how my friend's wife is feeling about our friendship, if only because it lets me know where I stand, and gives me the opportunity to choose how much to invest in the friendship, knowing that my friend's wife has made him end a previous close friendship. It sounds like you haven't talked to George in detail about your relationship with your husband, and there's no need to change that. But if I were George, I would want to hear something like, "Our friendship is still important to me, but right now I'm needing to focus on working on things with my husband. Thanks for keeping the door open while I've been unable to accept invitations."
posted by not that girl at 6:49 AM on June 8, 2014 [16 favorites]

I think not that girl's framing is the best. The reality is that while your husband is probably making false emotional assumptions about the relationship, his issue with it isn't baseless - it sounds pretty clear that you do NOT have a "tell him anything, trust him with your life" relationship with your husband. His perception that you have a deeper emotional connection with George seems accurate. So it seems to me you really need to put George on the back burner for the moment and figure out your marriage. It's fair and not a betrayal of your husband's confidence to given George the basics of what's going on without getting into the details (in all likliehood George will read between the lines).

I don't think you should get into having lunch with George a few times without your husband knowing with your husband. From the little you say I suspect he'll be looking for any excuse to divert his attention away from his own role in the state of your marriage (a significant part of the reason to put your relatiooinship with George on hold for now). You didn't do anything wrong and you didn't make any promises not to see him. But put a stop to it, it just clouds the water.
posted by nanojath at 7:03 AM on June 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

I really like the way smoke put it. You can tell George something; and as a friend perhaps you should. But don't tell him how your husband feels about your relationship with him. That's none of George's business and could cause problems.

Telling George you have a lot going on but value your friendship and will want to hang out more in the future will send the message you need to send here. Ask yourself this: what else could telling George the details accomplish?
posted by J. Wilson at 7:54 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

From reading your question it sounds like your husband is being silly since your friendship with George does sound non-threatening and platonic, with the majority of social invites coming from George and his wife, so I don't quite get where your husband's hang-up is coming from beyond an archaic "My wife shouldn't be friends with any men other than me, period!" viewpoint. My opinion on that would change if it turned out you were using your friendship with George to confide intimate details about your marriage troubles, which is exactly what you would be doing if you told George, explicitly, why you were turning down so many invitations from him and his wife.

Perhaps it's not fair, but a female friend going to her male friend and telling him all about how jealous her husband is of him and how close the two of them are and how it is causing all sorts of problems in her marriage, reads exactly like the approach she would take if she was hinting she wanted to take the friendship to a different level. In confiding something so personal about your marriage to George, you would be making the friendship as inappropriate as your husband suspects.

I think it is fair to tell George that you appreciate the invites and apologize for having to turn down so many, but you've been going through some personal issues (or similar phrasing), which lets him know what's going on without betraying your husband's trust or putting George in an awkward position.
posted by The Gooch at 9:01 AM on June 8, 2014

Most people in your husband's shoes would probably consider the jealousy a private matter. In that case, your disclosing it to George would betray your husband's confidence. You share embarrassing emotions with your spouse because you trust that person not to tell anyone else. And since you mention divorce as a possibility I'll add that personally I think if you're going to be a halfway decent person, this trust should survive divorce. Just because two people divorce doesn't mean the marriage didn't happen. Your spouse trusted you to keep his secrets. You accepted that trust.

But here's the bigger point. We are all projecting our inferences and experiences onto your short Internet question, but I'm going to take a shot here. You write about George's wedding, "I rang George, told him that my husband and I had a fight (but not what about) and that I wouldn't come. George was very understanding." People aren't stupid, and your husband's jealousy of your opposite-sex friendship isn't, like, a totally alien circumstance that no one has encountered before. Have you put serious, objective consideration into the possibility/likelihood that George already knows what the issue is?

It's okay for things in life to go unspoken. This is different from things which are said aloud, and it's also different from things that are secret. I'm sure that if you spend five minutes thinking about it, you can recall examples from your family or social circle: things that everybody knew, but that went unsaid. Sometimes that's appropriate. My advice is first to ask yourself how likely it is that George truly doesn't have any idea, and then second to ask yourself whether this is something that needs to be said aloud. If you answer yes to the latter, then I'd concur with everyone else who suggested, "But not while you're still married."
posted by cribcage at 9:17 AM on June 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think that if George is continuing to invite you to things, then I doubt he's as fazed as you are by the drop off in contact/face time and that it may not be necessary to talk to him about it.

Secondly, it sounds like you're in denial about how you feel about him. Not that there's an affair there, but that there's a level of intimacy in this friendship that's not there with your husband. Not telling your husband about the lunches, RSVPing to the wedding without agreeing with your husband... If you were truly honest with yourself and with George here, I think the truth would be that you've been putting the friendship ahead of your marriage. Not that you should say this to George, but you really are going to need to own that you've been doing this if you want any sort of clarity here.
posted by alphanerd at 10:27 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your husband is rightly insecure about your relationship even if he's wrongly insecure about George.

I think it's telling George the truth if you let him know that you will be less present because of focusing on your marriage, without getting into greater detail, as others have suggested.

Be careful about accidentally 'moonlighting' your husband, which I think would be the effect of repeatedly assuring him that all is innocent with regards to George without validating his correct suspicion that something *is* off with regards to your commitment to the marriage and him (and giving him the chance to face what is really wrong). It is likely to make things worse for his behavior towards George (or whatever/whomever else he might land on as he flails and fails to pinpoint what is really wrong).
posted by Salamandrous at 1:07 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

You do not mention whether or not you are attracted to George. Is that the case? That would help a lot, because if so, your husband may be detecting this.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:49 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be careful about accidentally 'moonlighting' your husband, which I think would be the effect of repeatedly assuring him that all is innocent with regards to George without validating his correct suspicion that something *is* off with regards to your commitment to the marriage and him

I think that's "gaslighting."
posted by jaguar at 3:42 PM on June 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another thought: George is perfectly capable of reaching out to you and asking you what's up if he feels like the friendship is deteriorating. He apparently hasn't done that.

Also, you seem to be the only one, between you and your husband, who's using the word "affair," and you're an autonomous individual. So I think it's dishonest of you on two counts to phrase things as, "the reason I've been flaking out on the friendship is that my husband is jealous of him and is convinced there's an affair going on." If you're curtailing your contact with him, it's because it's causing conflict in your marriage and you are making the decision to put the marriage first, and, like you said, your husband didn't use the word affair, only the description that something deeper is going on.

And from what you've written about the secret lunches and the way you seem to be prioritizing this friendship over your marriage, your husband seems to be 100% correct here.

Like I said, George is perfectly capable of making it known to you if the friendship is meeting his needs. That he hasn't and that he keeps inviting you to things makes me think this means much more to you than it does to him.
posted by alphanerd at 12:41 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

should I tell George that the reason I've been flaking out on the friendship is that my husband is jealous of him and is convinced there's an affair going on? Or is that too much information, and I should just accept that the friendship isn't going to be as deep as it has been?

You've framed this question in False Dichotomy form here, with EITHER Choice 1 = Tell George the whole truth, OR Choice 2 = Have a so-called shallower friendship with George, by demoting George from "tell-anything-to-trust-with-my-life friends"-status.

Or, to put this another way, EITHER Choice 1 = Betray Husband's Secret Feelings, OR Choice 2 = Betray George By Omission. Or something?

Anyway, there is a vast array of other choices you could also make here, OP. Such as Do Both Of The Above. Or Do Neither Of The Above. Or accept George & wife's invitations more often. Or drop George as a friend entirely. Or see George as often as you like but stop hiding it from your husband. Etc. See what I'm getting at, OP? Why this Either/Or thinking, when you could do Both/And instead?

I mean, IS George some sort of a threat to your marriage, like, on a subconscious level? Not in the sense that you feel sexual attraction to George necessarily, but in the sense that George, as a man, is kind of showing you -- just by George's overall wonderful way of being in the world -- everything that your husband is not. Like a foil character so to speak. I get the sense that once you finally solve for "the possibility of DTMFA in the near future," as you put it, you will suddenly get clarity on the George issue. Good luck!
posted by hush at 1:56 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think that you need to stop thinking about this as "the reason I've been flaking out on the friendship is that my husband is jealous of George" and start understanding that in fact the reason you've been declining his invitations is that your "friendship" with George is seriously damaging your marriage. You pin all the blame here on your husband, but you're also sneaking behind his back, lying to him, and in many ways putting George ahead of your husband. Your husband is right -- you're "different with George." He's not a blanket jealous husband; he's attentive to your behavior and your feelings, and his anger at George is his way of showing you his insecurities about your marriage. You're making it worse by sneaking around, essentially confirming his beliefs that you're untrustworthy when it comes to your relationship with George.

You should break things off with George by admitting to him that your relationship with him is corroding your marriage, without providing any details, and then go basically no contact. I know this hurts, but when you chose your husband, you picked him over all other men on the planet. Most of the time you can have strong friendships outside of the marriage, but when one -- and only one -- is damaging your marriage, you need to end it. The theoretical "I should be able to have male friends" has run into the reality that "My marriage can't co-exist with this friendship" and you need to put your marriage first. That's what your vows were about.
posted by Capri at 2:43 PM on June 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

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