Tuesday, May 24, 2011
When Your Married Friends Argue Publicly
DH and I went to a party recently with a bunch of married couples. Among them were I and M, who are a married couple with 4 daughters. I and M have been married for about 14 years and now have an Obviously Dysfunctional Relationship. Not the kind of dysfunction involving anything one might ever feel the need to report to the authorities or anything, just enough passive aggressive tension and spite to fill an entire episode of Dr. Phil (and to take that cloying shine right off his scary white teeth, too). Let me give you a flavor.
At the party, I goes over to DH and one of my girlfriends, C, and starts in about his wife M's incessant nagging of him; how M is a bon-bon-eating SAHM who is constantly out with the girls while he busts his ass working (sorry, I, not true - M is constantly doing Kid Stuff, like schlepping her passel of kids around to way, way too many activities, but I digress)... and his little diatribe goes on to the point where it all gets reeaaallly uncomfortable for DH and C, as they eventually realize I is 1) not at all joking, not even a little bit, and 2) has NO IDEA how socially-inappropriate he is being, and how everyone feels about it. (Granted, I'm not the world's most socially-appropriate human being ever, but well, it takes one to know one I suppose.)
Then I heads over to another group, including M (!!!), and repeats the same conversation/diatribe to a new group of innocent bystanders, including yours truly. M handles it as gracefully as possible, kind of disses him playfully, and ignores I for the rest of the night. Later I ask M if she's ok, and she denies that anything is amiss or bothering her (which I don't believe for a nanosecond.)
A few days later C calls me up and eventually gets around to her main reason for calling: after what went down at the party, she was trying to figure out if I is a total dick or if she's taking crazy pills. I assure her that I is a total dick - and we bond over that for a minute. I've always thought one of the best beginnings of a friendship is disliking the same people and things.
Then when DH and I finally have a date night to ourselves, DH brings up I's party commentary, and says he feels like he needs to say something to I about it. He rehearses a few things with me, and we come up with something like a bottom line: "Dude, at that party you chose to make your marital problems public, and you talked shit about your wife in front of her friends who happen to like her a lot, and it was totally awkward, and we're worried about you guys...WTF, man?" (My guyspeak is not very fluent, but that's the gist of it.)
Then DH said, "you know, I really think therapy would be good for them. It turned things around for us." Amen, honey! We learned how to put the fun back in dysFUNctional.
And then DH says, "M needs to hang around with you a little more so she can learn to be bitchy in a good way, because there is no fucking way you would have ever let me get away with disrespecting you like that in public. You would have been like, 'Excuse us everyone, we need to leave now,' and you would have dragged my ass out of there, and I would have dreaded the ride home..." Um, thank you, DH? But he's right - that does sound exactly like me though - all sweetness and light. ;)
Then we talked a bit about maintaining boundaries around friends' issues - such as how do you draw the line between giving unsolicited ass-vice that will 9 times out of 10 be disregarded anyway, and making an observation that might actually open the door to a welcome conversation. Like in this example, "Dude, I, it seemed like M was really on your last nerve at that party...." and see where that statement takes the conversation?
What would you do?