Saturday, March 7, 2020

Disloyalty Ruins Relationships

Normally, Guardian advice columnist  Annalisa Barbieri is sane and sage. This weekend was not one of those times.

The letter writer, presumably male, writes to explain that his fiancee’s girlfriend’s husband is a pill. He is rude and obnoxious, prone to insulting the letter writer. As a result, the letter writer has chosen never to associate with the man. It makes a considerable amount of sense.

We note that the man has sworn to himself that he will never again frequent said husband. 

Now, the fiancee wants the two of them to visit her friend and the husband. She wants to show a united front or to show that the two of them are a happy couple. Apparently, she considers that exposing her fiance to ridicule and insults will show how happy they are as a couple.

As you read the letter, you will first think that the fiancee is tone deaf. She has doubtless talked to the friend she holds in such high esteem and has chosen to take her friend’s side. Thus, to force her fiance to spend time with a man he has sworn never to spend time with.

Now, if you were sensible you would think that the fiancee is notably disloyal to the letter writer. And notably disrespectful. She is choosing her friend over her fiance. It is a bad omen for future conjugal bliss. 

See if you agree. Here is the letter:

I don’t get along with my fiancee’s friend’s husband. They are not a big part of our lives as they live far away and we rarely see them. However, my fiancee holds her friend in great esteem (they have been best friends for a long time). This means that, every few years, the spectre of spending time with her husband arises. I have tried with him, but we have never clicked. I find him overconfident to the point of rudeness and more often than not he offends me in some way, notably by making disparaging remarks about how I look and my career. The last time we met, I told myself I would have nothing more to do with him.

That was a few years ago and now my fiancee wants to visit them. I have tried to explain my reservations, but she downplays previous incidents and seems deliberately deaf and blind to my objections. I have no problem with her maintaining her friendship with the couple and I have encouraged her to visit them on her own, which she has done. However, this time she is insisting that I go, too. I feel she wants to show her friend that she is part of a healthy and happy couple (and other than this we are: we have been together for many years and are to marry this year). But she doesn’t seem to realise the damage this is doing to my mental health and subsequently our relationship. 

The prospect of this impending trip is causing me a great deal of stress and anxiety. I feel as if I am beginning to hate her when she refuses to acknowledge my feelings. Am I wrong for wanting to avoid exposing myself to further hurt and unhappiness?

Now, Barbieri takes the fiancee’s side, and starts trashing the man for being overly sensitive to slights:

You’re not wrong, but it’s not realistic unless you narrow your life to an unhealthy degree. Negative emotions aren’t nice, but we all need to learn to deal with them and believe that they will pass. We need to have resources to draw on, that tell us we will be OK.

You’ve made some fairly opposing statements, but the one I want to focus on is where you say you are happy and plan to marry, yet you are starting to hate your fiancee. That’s strong. How does your fiancee react when this man makes these derogatory statements? Does she give you back-up? Is it solely this man who winds you up, or is it your fiancee’s reaction to the situation? I wonder who/what this reminds you of. I think that’s key.

These are the right questions. Naturally, a mind oversaturated with therapy refuses to see that the man might not be the problem and that discovering infantile antecedents is a monumental cop-out. In effect, the problem is more the fiancee’s attitude than her friend’s husband’s attitude. Again, the fiancee is being disloyal and this is a very bad sign.

Now, Barbieri throws a bit of empathy into the mix, and immediately turns it against the letter writer:

This individual doesn’t sound nice, for sure. When someone has to belittle someone else, it does, of course, tell us everything about them, and not the person they are deriding. Overly confident people are rarely as secure as you think – and something about you seems to threaten him. But it’s exhausting and corrosive having people project all their stuff on to you. He can’t have been the first annoying person in your life, so how have you coped with other difficult situations?

Her nonsense about niceness sounds like girl talk. It will not reach him. And the notion that the man has deficient social skills, and for that reason is incapable of dealing with the situation misses the point. The implication that he is reliving a childhood conflict is therapy talk, the kind that will make it all his fault.

The letter writer has found a way to deal with the situation: by writing the rude, insulting, offending fool out of his life. If he were to return the offense, he would be ruining the relationship that his fiancee has with her friend.

Unfortunately, Barbieri does not understand the situation any better than the fiancee. She thinks that it all goes back to past history:

This man is obviously bringing something up that you find really painful. Will not going on this trip really silence these feelings? I wonder.

So, in my view, he should not go on the trip. He should keep his word, sworn to himself and to his fiancee. If the fiancee does not understand, he should end the engagement. He should not marry a woman who is fundamentally disloyal.

The fiancee's inability to understand what is happening, her willingness, sustained by Barbieri, to rub salt into the wound by saying that the letter writer is too weak to deal with the situation, is a very bad sign indeed.


Cheryl said...

Right on the dot. I hate this nonsense of you be a better person or turning the other cheek. If you tolerate and accept and continue being around a person who does not basically respect you you are giving them a free pass to continue their obnoxious behavior. I learned the hard way after years of abuse that cut off/ staying away from personality disordered characters is the best to protect yourself. In the long run, the letter writer will be better off without this disloyal fiance.

Anonymous said...

The fiance should put his foot down and state, "I'm not going and that's final." Then let the chips fall where they may. It's not complicated. Either he has pride and dignity or he doesn't. If his fiancee can't understand that then sayonara. Maybe she will respect him for being a man.