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Ask Ellie: Husband and wife’s personalities at odds

Dear Ellie: My buddy at work, in his mid-30s, like me, got married eight years ago. They have a son. His wife is strong-minded, even controlling, which I found uncomfortable when we were two couples just chatting and laughing together.
Advice columnist Ellie
Ellie

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: My buddy at work, in his mid-30s, like me, got married eight years ago. They have a son.

His wife is strong-minded, even controlling, which I found uncomfortable when we were two couples just chatting and laughing together.

Four years ago, when she and their son went to her home country for six weeks in the summer, I could tell that my pal was breaking loose. He met an attractive woman at a bar and was out with her for several nights over two weeks.

I was somewhat shocked, but I also understood that it can’t be easy to be constantly ordered around.

My friend may have also been intimate with the new woman. He told me he’d been to her place a couple of times. I didn’t ask for or want to know details. I’m happily married and wouldn’t have behaved similarly.

He stopped seeing that woman and made sure when his wife returned that he’d kept their house spotless.

But he told me she immediately examined every room, complained that the curtains were open unevenly, and that his coffee cup was in the sink. The next morning, she pulled out drawers because his socks weren’t all folded into pairs.

My friend decided that he wouldn’t take it anymore. He left permanently that day.

I know he wasn’t perfect and that he’d cheated, but what makes a partner control the other’s every move down to even a sock drawer?

What should he have done to try to save his marriage?

Curious Friend

It’s easy to put all the blame on him for cheating, as if his wife always knew he couldn’t be trusted so she had to keep him in line.

But it’s also terrible to live with someone who’s always giving orders and never satisfied.

Their personalities were at odds, she wanting to be the boss, him yearning to be free. That imbalance nearly always strains a relationship. Or ends it.

The only way to save such a relationship is for both to want a better partnership. They’d each have to agree to make personal behavioural changes. It wasn’t going to happen for them.

Dear Ellie: My wife and I, semi- retired, own a Florida property. Last winter, we decided to spend two months there. I’d torn my rotator cuff slipping on ice and needed walking for exercise.

We got COVID health insurance and were careful about virus exposure.

The night before leaving, my wife’s best friend invited her over and lectured her on the common good during COVID. My wife got very upset.

I resented the friend’s timing just before our leaving. For six weeks, my wife was upset whenever her friend phoned.

I finally texted the friend that she was out of line and shouldn’t judge us as we wouldn’t judge her. When her friend called my text “bullying,” my wife then got upset with me, saying I should apologize. She insists that I fix this. I emailed the friend that we’d both upset my wife and should agree to disagree.

The friend didn’t reply so she thinks I’m the one responsible.

Need Your Thoughts

Your wife agreed to go to Florida. If she was worried, she could’ve insisted on cancelling or stayed home herself. Instead, you became the bad guy when her friend kept agitating her.

Your conciliatory note was a good try. But if your wife also still blames you, it’s not just about Florida.

Feedback regarding a sister remaining in contact with her sibling’s ex-husband (Aug. 24):

Reader: “My sister did that when I divorced 10 years ago. She decided she preferred to stay friends with him rather than have a sisterly relationship with me.

“I believe her reason was to be included in all family get-togethers and remain an active voice in my now-adult children’s lives.

“She and her husband are invited to my ex’s Christmas gatherings, she reciprocates. I’m not included, but my children, granddaughter and my granddaughter’s father’s family are.

“Now, even my granddaughter’s family haven’t invited me. Nor do they include my two sons. So, my sister’s choice of remaining friends with my ex has had far-reaching consequences.

“I suggested she and I get counselling to discuss this. She refused. Sadly, I conclude she gets more from her relationship with my ex than she does with me.”

Ellie: A very self-serving sister!

Ellie’s tip of the day

A controller and a freedom-lover, like a fish and a bird, can’t live together.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.