Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Secret friendship harms couple’s intimacy

- By Amy Dickinson askamy@amydickins­ Twitter@askingamy Copyright 2023 by Amy Dickinson

Dear Amy: I had a brief romance with “Frederica” while on a business trip in 2019. Sadly, we weren’t able to meet again due to COVID-19 restrictio­ns, but we were effectivel­y in a long-distance relationsh­ip for about a year.

Ultimately, we concluded we were not long-term material. We have both been in relationsh­ips since and have settled into a great platonic friendship. Frederica and I text and call regularly, discuss our current partners, exchange birthday gifts, etc.

We both work at the same company and always have lots to talk about. My partner, “Molly,” does not approve of this situation, forcing me to keep my contact with Frederica mostly secret.

The choice in front of me is to either cut Frederica out of my life or to keep my friend hidden in perpetuity. Neither option sounds appealing. I don’t want to lose one of my friends, but I hate the deceit, which is mentally exhausting.

I also understand why my current (and potentiall­y any future) partner would be suspicious of a close friend of the opposite sex. What should I do?

— I’ve Got a Secret

Dear Secret: Your romantic relationsh­ip with “Frederica” isn’t exactly ancient history. “Molly” would justifiabl­y be curious about the past relationsh­ip and your ongoing close friendship; your choice to give in to her (and your) anxiety about the friendship by keeping it a secret is hurting all of you. That’s the root of the problem, and that’s on you.

Be transparen­t about this friendship with the goal that your partner will get to know Frederica well enough to accept the friendship and trust both of you. The women do not need to become besties, or even meet. But the more natural you are about this friendship, the less threatenin­g it should be.

Do not leave the room if Frederica calls. Saying something as simple as, “Can I call you back? Molly and I are just sitting down to dinner,” will help open this up. When Frederica texts you and Molly is around, say, “Frederica is texting me about a work thing,” or “Frederica just sent me a link to an article. You’d like it. Let me forward it to you.”

You and Frederica have a preexistin­g friendship. That’s your right. But if you are going to be in a close relationsh­ip with Molly, you will have to make it clear that she is at the center of your universe; Frederica is one of many friends in your orbit.

Dear Amy: What does it mean (if anything) when a husband cuts off his facial hair, such as a goatee or beard, and his wife doesn’t notice for a day or two, even when you are together?

— Baffled

Dear Baffled: My mother had a friend who decided to test her family’s attention by appearing at the breakfast table wearing a full-on ski mask. No one said a word.

The point is that families sometimes stop seeing one another. Proximity can inspire invisibili­ty.

So yes, this lack of attention means something, but it doesn’t mean everything.

This may have hurt your feelings, however, so discuss it with your wife and be emotionall­y honest.

You should both ask yourselves how “present” you are in your daily lives. Do you notice positive changes your spouse has made and acknowledg­e them? When you do notice and remark on changes — small or big — you are quite literally saying, “I see you.”

Dear Amy: I am a former university president and my schooling was in clinical psychology. My wife and I read your column for entertainm­ent. The letters are interestin­g, and anyone can guess what your solution will be — see a counselor.

That way, people won’t have to face their stupid problems on their own and instead rely on some idiot who doesn’t have a clue to give them advice.

I’ve dealt with so-called marriage counselors, and they solved nothing that a few shouts and yells wouldn’t have resolved.

Anyway, you’re making a nice living giving out useless but harmless advice, and ensuring that all of those “counselors” out there also make a good living. Don’t stop. Your columns are fun with our coffee. —EdD

Dear Ed D: Your extreme bitterness makes me wonder if you would benefit from … oh, never mind.

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