I don’t want to so­cial­ize any­more with my wife’s ex

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - el­liead­vice.com DEAR ELLIE

Q. My wife of 15 years is best friends with some­one in her ex-hus­band’s fam­ily. When her friend has any so­cial gath­er­ings, we’re al­ways in­vited and my wife al­ways wants to at­tend.

Her ex also usu­ally at­tends. I go to ap­pease my wife. I’d like to so­cial­ize with her best friend and part­ner, but not in the com­pany of her ex and his fam­ily.

My wife knows how I feel, but still ex­pects me to go.

I don’t feel threat­ened by her ex in any way. But he al­ready knows so much about us through my wife’s friend. I’m a pri­vate per­son and of­ten feel my/our pri­vacy is be­ing in­vaded.

Is it wrong to draw the line at so­cial­iz­ing with her best friend and part­ner separately, and not at­tend when her ex is in­cluded in events?

A. It’s not wrong at all. But af­ter 15 years of ac­cep­tance, change will present some dif­fi­cul­ties.

Try to head these off in ad­vance. Ex­am­ple: You should have some idea why your at­ten­dance is so im­por­tant to her.

If it’s to be close cou­ples with her best friend, sug­gest you go out with her and her part­ner, just the four of you, and in­vite them to your place on their own, too.

If you think she has a need to show her ex that she’s in a solid, happy mar­riage, point out that he al­ready knows that through the best friend. How­ever, when that friend’s in­vi­ta­tion is to cel­e­brate some­thing im­por­tant, go along. But if there are less sig­nif­i­cant events, tell her you’d like to start miss­ing some, since they’ll be bal­anced with see­ing the cou­ple at other times.

Feed­back re­gard­ing the self-cen­tred ac­tress who wouldn’t let her hus­band “on­stage” so­cially (April 25):

Reader #1: “As the hus­band of an ac­tress/singer, I know this is so com­mon in artis­tic cir­cles, that it has a name: “spot­light fever.”

“The most in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple was a com­ment I heard from a fashion model, be­fore I met my wife.

“I’d ca­su­ally asked, ‘What do you think is the world’s most com­mon mo­ti­va­tion, i.e. what makes every­one do ev­ery­thing?’ “Ac­cord­ing to this beau­ti­ful young woman, the most com­mon mo­ti­va­tion is to be the cen­tre of at­ten­tion.

“I dis­agreed, think­ing it couldn’t be that sim­ple, but over the years I came to see that she was right. To be the cen­tre of at­ten­tion is the whole story, at least in the arts.

“So when I met my wife, I was used to self-cen­tred peo­ple, and that in­cludes my­self. But my wife is the most ex­treme ex­am­ple I’ve ever met.

“I’m still try­ing to get a word in edge­wise with the wife, and it’s an up­hill bat­tle, but it makes life in­ter­est­ing.

“What else have we got to do with our time, be­tween gigs, ex­cept to play one­up­man­ship games with my wife? She keeps me on my toes.

“Maybe a self-cen­tred woman isn’t to­tally wrong, and maybe this isn’t a se­ri­ous prob­lem. Per­haps it’s up to the guys to step on­stage and put on our own show.”

Reader #2: “My long­time friend be­haves in a sim­i­lar way.

“When I’m telling an anec­dote, my friend of­ten doesn’t lis­ten, then does or says some­thing that up­stages me.

“I gen­tly in­ter­rupt and say, ‘This is a short story but I wasn’t quite fin­ished.’ Then I quickly start the rest of my story. “This usu­ally works. “I’m not very con­fi­dent this pat­tern be­tween us will ever fun­da­men­tally change, as it seems to be more per­son­al­ity-driven than a habit. But it helps our con­ver­sa­tion to be more re­cip­ro­cal in the short term.”

Ellie: Thanks for ap­ply­ing “spot­light fever” to or­di­nary ex­changes. I’m sure many read­ers have ex­pe­ri­enced this sit­u­a­tion whereby one friend, rel­a­tive, or col­league re­peat­edly steals the lime­light in a so­cial con­ver­sa­tion or work gath­er­ing.

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