I Tried to Befriend My Husband’s Ex. So What?


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Christoph Niemann

My husband and I fought (again) today about something that happened eight years ago, when we were newly married. He was devastated that I tried to have a cordial relationship with his ex-wife (who wronged him). He felt betrayed that I didn’t mirror his feelings toward her, and abandoned by my attempts to create a workable relationship for their children. Frankly, I can no more apologize and have a hand-holding cry with him than fly to the moon. I am emotionally detached, and he is wildly demonstrative. How to bridge this gap?

S. C.

Creating categories can be comforting, even when they are utter nonsense: the four humors of the ancient Greeks, for instance, or the blood-type diet. Your husband is not upset with you because of your incompatible temperaments. No, he’s distraught because you are not (and I suspect, never were) sorry for your behavior. Any apology you made would be unsatisfying. You feel no actual remorse.

Instead, you made a pragmatic call about the best way to deal with his ex-wife. (You rationalize it still, and I may agree with you.) But deciding how to interact with his ex, early in your marriage, was mostly your husband’s call. You robbed him of that choice, probably accidentally, but you seem not to have acknowledged your mistake.

Give him his due now. Say, “I’m sorry I overstepped with Susan, and even sorrier for dragging my heels in apologizing sincerely. I promise that I have your back.” If that’s too “demonstrative” for you, get yourself to a therapist. But if you make an honest go of it, you may be amazed at how nicely your different temperaments align.

Cool It With the Selfies?

My boyfriend and I are in high school. My parents monitor my social media like hawks, which is annoying. His don’t, but I wish they did. Let’s say he goes shopping for new sunglasses. He’ll post 15 pictures of himself on Snapchat in different pairs — which makes him seem pretty vain. And it’s dangerous too, because it gives people the wrong idea about him. Should I say something?

GINA

When I was a kid, happily singing along with my mother to “Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall,” my brother blared scary rock music from his bedroom upstairs. I remember one song he played, over and over, by the J. Geils Band, about a guy who is deeply distraught that his former girlfriend posed for a naked centerfold in a magazine. Danger is relative, Gina.

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