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What happens when your friends don’t like your partner?


Some of you might know Anna as one third of the team behind Any Other Woman. She has a very serious, very important job, she can rock a yellow cape dress like nobody’s business, and had an actual owl at her wedding. So when she gave us this post, I expected it to be intelligent, thoughtful and a little bit fierce. What I didn’t expect was this kind of gut-wrenching honesty. As Anna herself admits, she’s British through and through, and as a nation we’re not exactly known for laying ourselves bare. We tend to smooth things over, keep the peace, smile grimly and carry on. But what if your partner ignores these carefully-constructed social boundaries? It’s hard to admit that our friends’ approval matters, and even harder to accept that sometimes they simply won’t agree with our choice of partner. Ultimately, though, that’s what it is: our choice. Ours. Not theirs. Here’s Anna.

Kirsty, APW UK Guest Editor

What happens when your friends dont like your partner? | A Practical Wedding

By Anna

 

I always wanted a partner who highlighted all my best bits in front of other people.

Looking at that written down, it sounds ludicrous. And selfish. But that’s what I wanted. I thought that’s what they were for, partners. I was twenty-three, and more than a little naive. I had vivid fantasies about being in a long-term relationship, spending time with my friends and someone, anyone, standing by my side, laughing at all my witty jokes, agreeing or (intelligently, but skilfully) disagreeing with my firmly-held political opinions. Someone whom my friends would see as an extension of myself, someone they would see as grown from the same roots as my own but with different branches, someone who matched me, complemented me, someone my friends loved as wholly as they did me.

That is not what I found. That is not at all who I married.

My husband does not tick any of the above boxes. He never has, and frankly, he doesn’t care. In the early stages of our relationship I would bring him to parties, hoping he would compliment my sparkling wit, or at the very least engage me in constructive debate so my friends could see how quick-footed we were, how politically aware. That’s what they knew I’d always wanted, that’s what they felt I deserved.

Again, he couldn’t have cared less. He doesn’t like small talk, that great British institution, or being amongst large groups of people. Instead of impressing my friends with tales of his (frankly incredible) life and story, as I’d hoped, he’d sit down on a sofa in the corner of the room and fiddle with his phone, talking to people as and when they came over. He wouldn’t ignore people. He just wouldn’t perform.

I could see my friends were confused. They could see I was frustrated. I had a brand to promote, my brand, what was supposed to be our brand, and he wasn’t playing his part.

Part of this is cultural. I’m British, through and through. I’ve travelled, I’ve lived and worked abroad, but England is where I belong, where I miss. Its hundred shades of green are what I call home. My husband has family from the Middle East and the Caucasus, and grew up all over the world: the Middle East, the Gulf, Europe. He doesn’t believe in cultural identity, because he’s never had one.

I’ve tried, believe me I have fought tooth and nail for it, but it’s very, very difficult to share roots with someone who does not share or understand your cultural background. A relationship can work, absolutely, in those circumstances, but it needs to work on different terms. You’ll never quite have the same foundation of humour, you’ll never be able to reminisce about being a kid in early 90s Britain, you’ll never have a shared history. Even things as fundamental as how you communicate and interpret each other’s behaviour will be different. They will have to be re-learnt. This can make you stronger as a couple, but I underestimated how much work it would be. And back then, eight years ago, that kind of thing wasn’t even on my radar.

We would be travelling with my friends on the Tube, and he would say something unusual, or provocative, in front of strangers. In Britain, you do not talk to strangers on the Tube. It’s a cardinal sin. Some of my friends laughed, some looked uneasy. He’d meet my childhood friends for the first time, and say something completely out of left field, so far away from gentle small talk it was preposterous. They’d laugh and look polite, because that’s what you do when you’re British, but I could see they were surprised, and not in a good way.

With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been far better if they’d called him on it, and explained why they felt he was rude. He’d have responded well to that, to that searing kind of honesty. But I didn’t understand that was what he needed, and of course he didn’t understand that with the British, there are a thousand things being felt under the surface, but my God they will never make it to the surface, not if the British can help it, not if we can keep this carefully-controlled, carefully-crafted social situation ticking along calmly, as it should.

It got worse. I was very overweight when I met my husband. He was matter-of-fact about it. Not “I don’t love you because you’re fat,” but “if you carry on eating this much, you’re going to have a heart attack.” Yet another example of the cultural divide. For many Brits, it’s rare to address a subject bluntly. My husband saw no problem in discussing the issue of my size, wherever we were, whoever we were with. To him, it was a fact. “She is overweight, therefore it is a problem to be resolved.” My friends seethed on my behalf. I didn’t want them seething, because I knew he was right, and because it prompted me to lose much of the weight and feel much healthier as a result. But they seethed.

The first four years of our relationship are peppered with examples such as this, of expectations not quite met, of cultural misunderstandings, of me trying to reconstruct a social situation that he had just elbowed his way through, clumsily. Of friends trying to understand, but not quite doing so. Of some friends accepting him, but the majority expressing reservations. Of me feeling torn, and on unsteady ground. I read about other people’s marriages, and how when they met they just knew. That’s never been our story. Not by a long way.

I have teachers for parents. I’ve never really stopped searching for an A. For someone who, eight years ago, sought validation from others like crack, and who still responds to praise like an overly-enthusiastic lapdog, learning that many of my friends didn’t particularly like or understand my partner was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to swallow. I deeply respect my friends’ opinions. I choose them to be part of my life because they are wise, sane and make my world a better place. So I struggled profoundly with the idea that I disagreed with them on this fundamental issue, on the person I wanted to marry.

But I ignored them, and listened to myself. I married him anyway.

And now, what do I feel? I wish I could say that I’ve learnt to navigate and manage the situation. I wish I could say that my friends now love my husband as much as they love me. I don’t think that’s true. I think my friends now love my husband because I love my husband. I have my wedding to thank for that. Anyone who had reservations about our future together put those to rest four years ago when they saw me unable to wait for the registrar to finish the vows, and start jumping up and down with excitement and throw myself on my husband. That kind of love has a way of burying misgivings.

He’s still rubbish at parties (true story, at my friend’s wedding, my husband spent the afternoon napping because he found a well-placed sofa. Try explaining that one to the mother of the bride). He’s still provocative in his views, and in how he expresses them. Trying to diplomatically engineer a social situation with him in it has become so tiring that now, I just let it go. It turns out that people can cope with the unusual and the unexpected, and if he makes a mistake, it’s his to clear up. We’ve both softened. He’s my equal and opposite. He’ll never be what I wanted him to be. I’ve learned to let it go.

I’ve also learned that if you listen to your friends and to their concerns, and you think about them long and hard, and you still disagree, then that’s okay. A single voice, your voice alone, can drown out a chorus of well-meaning friends and family. Ultimately it’s your life, your story, your mistake to have the right to make. Friends are your crew, but they do not steer that ship of yours. You crash it, it’s on you.

Photo by APW Sponsor Lauren McGlynn

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  • http://Www.fieldandfallow.com Amy

    It’s funny because whenever I’ve heard you talk about A you sound remarkably well suited, like 2 opposite sides of a coin. I think you seem to bring something out in each other that other people couldn’t.

    I’m going to come at this from a different, and very raw, angle so I’m sorry in advance – it might be long!

    Last night my former best friend ‘broke up’ with me and told me she never wants to see me again because I had omitted photos of her fiancé from my wedding gallery. Up until my wedding I had tried, for her sake, to make an effort and had had many things thrown back in my face. My reasons for not being keen on him were quite complicated, his behaviour mirrors that of my ex who was abusive towards me so I was both concerned for her, and had anxiety relapses myself triggered. I had explained why I found this difficult but that I was wanting to support her and been told I was being stupid and that ‘just because you put up with that doesn’t mean I would’. On my wedding day (which he was late to, having ‘forgotten’ when it started) I only spoke to him once or twice, we were both friendly and civil, I thought no more of it. I have since been informed of his behaviour and do not want to be reminded of him in any way – to be brief he made sexually suggestive comments to two friends, and to my mum, made really offensive sexist jokes to another female friend, made racist remarks to my mixed race friends husband, and got into an argument with the taxi driver on the way home resulting in all the people in the minibus almost getting stranded (thankfully the cabbie was nice to them). The most upsetting thing though, and the crucial difference to most ‘I don’t like him’ situations, is how her behaviour has changed since they have been together. She has been cruel to mutual friends, was pretty awful towards me in the run up to the wedding, and has cut herself off – refusing to attend gatherings and not letting most of our friends meet him (until the wedding).

    I fully admit I haven’t behaved in the most level headed or mature way at all times (the photos thing was probably childish but I want to look at them and see only happy memories) but its sad that all the effort I did make over the past year has now been for nothing.

    • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.co.uk/ Siobhan

      That sounds really tough Amy. I really hope this situation works out. I have no idea how but I really hope it does. x

    • http://www.anyotherwoman.com Anna K

      Amy, honestly, right now I just don’t think there’s any more you can do. You need her to know that the way he behaved at your wedding is not, under any circumstances, acceptable. You wouldn’t have forgiven your father, or siblings, acting like that, so the fact that he’s her fiancé makes no difference. He’s a human being who behaved in a sexist, racist, disruptive, unforgivable manner.

      She knows you love her, and deep down, she also knows you can’t accept that kind of influence into your life, unless he apologises and shows a clear commitment to change (and even then I imagine it would be with sincere misgivings). You can’t rescue her from this man, she has to rescue herself. She knows how you feel. The reason she’s acting like she is with you is because she’s like a wounded beast. She doesn’t want to accept that you’re right. She won’t accept it until it’s time for her to do so.

      I’m sorry you’re having to watch her go under like this. Just make sure she always knows you’re there.

      • http://www.fieldandfallow.com amy

        Thanks K. Lucky I had so many utterly wonderful people there really wasn’t it :)

    • http://Rippingback.wordpress.com Amber

      I have a sneaking suspicion that ten years down the road your once-again best friend will be very glad that her abusive ex isn’t in your wedding pictures.

      Because when your friends don’t like your partner, sometimes it’s like Anna’s situation, where they don’t understand him or her, or they’re suspicious of the change this new person represents, or they remember all the things you said you wanted in a spouse and your partner just doesn’t match up.

      But when none of your friends or family like your partner, it behooves you to look at *why*. None of my friends or family liked my ex, and I thought it was just because they didn’t understand our great and epic love story, and they’d see how wrong they were! (Did you feel this way about your former abuser? The epic passion, the great drama, how I would save her and make her better?)

      They didn’t like her because of the way she treated me, because of all the shiny red flags I skipped merrily past. Because I trusted myself, I trusted my own judgement over theirs, and I trusted her – and because my trust in her was violently misplaced, the other trust I had was wrong.

      Skip to the end: I got away from her, and I have a wonderful husband who is a fabulous human being – and my family LOVES him.

      • rys

        The post and these comments are so interesting to read, in part because I’m currently dealing with a situation in which a friend is dating a woman I — and many others in our circle of friends — dislike. Many of us knew her casually before they started dating and would have placed her in the acquaintance category, but now see her far more frequently than we would like while she thinks we’re friends because, as a whole, we’re pleasant and civil.

        There’s a long list of aggravations that we’ve each experienced in various forms, but the biggest one is that she acts warm, bubbly, and independent in front of men (including friend and his male friends), all the while being needy, dependent, and imposing her need for emotional validation on women she considers friends (aka us). There’s starting to be an undercurrent of resentment of having to see and deal with her that I’m not sure can be contained (perhaps if we were stoic Brits, we’d be better at this sort of thing). I’m not really sure how it’s going to resolve itself or what should be done (speak up and cause problems? stay silent and seethe?), but it’s certainly a challenge to navigate.

    • Copper

      I think all you can do is tell her, I still love you, even if I don’t love the way you act when you’re with him. And if you ever decide that you need my friendship again, I’m here for you.

    • Laura’s friend

      If she was your best friend I’m surprised it came to this. My best friend is a wonderful person and i trust her judgement, often taking her great advice. If i despised her choice of partner i would be asking myself a lot of questions, not least was my opinion based on facts or my own misgivings. Sometimes people are jealous of others and their relationships if it means we feel less important in their lives. You clearly have strong feelings about her fiancé which couldn’t be resolved. If one of Anna’s friends (or let’s say a small group strongly influenced by one member) didn’t like her choice of partner but her family and all of the rest of her friends who knew him better and had spent much more time in his company really liked him, I wonder if she would have ditched her husband or the one jealous friend?

  • Del678

    Wow this sounds so much like my fiance! He ‘doesn’t play the game’, the game being small talk, talking yourself up to future in-laws, going out of your way to earn the respect of friends and family, behaving in an extroverted fashion when you’re actually an introvert. He says provocative things in a satirical way- my mum does not get his sense of humour. It’s awkward.

    But I don’t mind bec I hate the game too. and I think he’s funny.

    In his words, “the only evidence they need that I’m a good guy is to look at you and see how happy you are.”. And it’s true. We are so happy together!

    And I’m sure that on our wedding day, like on yours, everyone will see it.

    • http://www.anyotherwoman.com Anna K

      See, I wish I could say I hate the game, too. On paper, I do. But in practise, I play it, the same as so many others do. I think if I’d met him a few years later, a lot of this would have ironed itself out – I’d have been more confident in myself and my choices, and I’d have been able to see it for what it was – that I loved someone who enjoyed challenging the norm. But I have to say, at 23, I just didn’t get that.

      • Del678

        I can say I would have been the same at 23. And I’m definately not saying there aren’t days when i just want him to go along with it! :) It’s one of those things about the 20s, every year i think i have it figured out then every subsequent year I look back and think how far I’ve come, but being challenged is a part of getting there I guess.

  • http://www.aphroditesworld.com Emma

    Anna, this is a beautifully written piece – as always. I have also been in the position where my friends (and family) didn’t like my partner and I know it can be tough at times.

    It didn’t work out. But it was not because he was never really accepted by my inner circle. Whilst they were right about so many things, I still firmly believe they didn’t get to see the person that I knew and loved.

    My relationship didn’t last because it wasn’t true love and it wasn’t mean to be – we were too different, but it is great to see that true love can triumph against the doubters. Wishing you a lifetime of happiness :) xx

    • http://www.anyotherwoman.com Anna K

      That’s such a huge part of the frustration, isn’t it – others not seeing the person you know you love. But I suppose then, you could argue that we never really know the inner workings of anyone’s partner, only what they show us. The inner circle is a powerful, persuasive place – and so it should be – there’s a fine line between knowing when to listen and when to drown it out.

      • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.co.uk/ Siobhan

        I see friends where sometimes I don’t get why they work, but then I don’t see them when they are being just themselves together, so I say nothing. And then sometimes I get a little glimpse into what they have and it is so magical I see it, fleetingly and I am so VERY glad I kept my nose out. Because you can never know what it looks like from the inside. x

  • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.co.uk/ Siobhan

    This is beautifully written. For far, far too long I did not trust my own opinion about the person I was, or the person I was with. This all goes abck to some ridiculously poor choices and what not in my teens but in short, I always thought it mattered if my family and friends liked who I was with. Or approved. I did not trust my own approval.

    This is such an eloquent piece on trusting your own judgement, and that bit of you that does know it is worth perservering even if the doubts of others make you doubt yourself. I love it.

    I’ll be honest I was relieved when M fit so well with my lot, BUT I think they knew he’d have to so even if they did have doubts they never really showed them, because I think my confidence that this was it was so unshakeable.

    Side note: whoever I have been with, my big brother has always, ALWAYS made a point of making friends with them and finding common ground even if there does not seem to be any. And when it came to M, he met him months and months before the rest of my family and told them that this was the man I was going to marry so I will never know if they always really liked him, or if they just realised that they had better. But I LOVE him and though some of the things he does were not in my list of my perfect man, I am pretty sure I don’t look exactly like his perfect woman. But we work really.

    Also: he got you an owl right? Surely that showed everyone he was right for you?!

    Love this xxx

    • http://www.anyotherwoman.com Anna K

      Siobhan – he DID get me an owl. Or he hired me an owl at least. That’s an extremely compelling argument!

      Good on your big brother. I like to think I always try to find common ground, but if I’m brutally honest, I probably don’t, not enough. I make too many snap judgements about whether someone “deserves” my friend. And yet, here I stood in the above position. Love you, karma.

      • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.co.uk/ Siobhan

        I came to see that thinking no one was good enough for my friends was not fair on my friends. That came from a friend of my brother (seriously him and his friends are just fantastic)

  • Cathy

    So with you on this! My soon-to-be hubby is very much tell it like it is, in any situation! This has caused some serious awkward moments in conversations with my mum in particular, which meant that they didn’t get off to a great start. He doesn’t understand our family’s want to keep things on positive note – which is fair enough. We are rubbing each other’s corners off – me by persuading him to see things in a better light, me to be more honest about things that annoy or upset me. He puts it down to him being Scottish!

  • http://peoniesandpolaroids.com Cara

    This is amazingly written Anna, really beautiful and moving and compelling. It sounds really really hard but I hugely admire you for accepting the situation and admitting that you find it hard and that it’s not what you want but trying to make it work anyway.

  • http://www.ouatinreallife.blogspot.com Erin

    I just have to say how much I enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.thelittlepip.com Rachel

    Lovely post Anna.

    I want to add that I know plenty of eccentric British people who don’t conform to social conventions – my Dad for one has been known to lie down and go to sleep at a social gathering if he is tired!

    • http://www.anyotherwoman.com Anna K

      I am not DETERMINED to attend a wedding with your dad and my husband…so I feel like the odd one out!

  • Ali

    Culture can be such a huge issue! My husband is Colombian and a very friendly and sweet person to everyone. However he does have a tendency to joke or be blunt about things that might be too much for Americans. In a way I thought it was a more British sense of humor – (I think the british are more sarcastic and biting than Americans for sure. Anyway I guess it is more a Colombian – (or just not American or British) thing to be more direct about certain things. We live in Colombia but were recently on a trip with a whole group of Americans and there were several instances where they took offense at his sense of humor and it really scared me because we are moving to the US soon. Its hard to find the balance between pointing out whats happening in the social situation (that he doesnt seem to get) and just leaving it be and letting them all figure it out for themselves!!

    Great Perspective!

  • Kristen

    “He’ll never be what I wanted him to be. I’ve learned to let it go.”

    This seriously has made me tear up 3 times in the last 10 minutes – each time I’ve read it. If someone had told me I’d feel much the same way about my husband, that we’d ALL feel this way about our partners in some aspects sometimes, I wouldn’t have believed it. At the very least it seems like a sad thought on the surface.

    Except then you grow up. And you grow together. And you realize that the strongest thing you can do, maybe one of the braver things about love is loving someone for who they are no matter what. In some ways I love my husband for being exactly what I don’t need sometimes because it forces me to continue to grow and change – something I think is integral to life.

    • KRIS10

      I wish I was the Kristen who wrote this. I hope one day I will be, because this is exactly what I’m going through right now, trying to reach this point. We called off our engagement because, though we love each other very much, we realized we were both trying to be this perfect version of ourselves, what the other person wanted, who they thought they fell in love in with and, ultimately, neither of us felt like we were being our real selves. So now it’s tough going; it’s like breaking a bone that healed badly so that you can reset it properly. But yes, I hope that we can learn to grow together, and challenge each other to become the best versions of ourselves.

      • Kristen

        I don’t know if this will help or not, but I find sometimes its incredibly easy to forgive my husband for not being perfect/without flaws/what I wish he was instead of what he is, by remembering my own flaws and how unperfect I am. I can both recognize that I have a lot of issues but that I’m also amazing and he is lucky to have me for his wife. Because I’m able to feel that about myself, I can feel it about him as well. He has lots of flaws (like every human) but I know I’m inordinately, amazingly lucky to have him as my husband. It helps get me over the humps when I run into something about him I find myself wishing I could change.

        I also (and I apologize upfront for being an armchair therapist here) but it sounds like you guys got filled up with expectations of yourselves and each other but never communicated them properly. Maybe just giving each other permission to express yourselves, maybe baldly and badly at first but without repercussion, maybe that would help bring you back around again to each other. Being vulnerable is terrifying (for me at least) but its also absolutely necessary to achieve true intimacy (trust). I haven’t perfected it myself by a long shot, but I at least know its the answer to the life I want, so I push myself to take the scary steps and to say the scary things to my husband, trusting he will still love me no matter what.

  • Samantha

    I think this is a fabulous post. I think they key in a situation like this is for your friends to realize how happy your partner makes you … however, in the past I was in a marriage where no one liked my husband, but it was because he was mean to me and I was so obviously unhappy (have since divorced him). I am currently seeing a friend of 23 years spend time with a man who reminds me so much of my ex-husband it sends me into anxiety, and I have witnessed on multiple occasions him being cruel to her. I think only in this kind of situation is it important to listen to your friends. No, they don’t have to like who you are marrying, or with, but if they see you being mistreated, then they are only being your friends when they speak up about it. Although, I know from my own personal experience, no one can make you leave – or decide you’ve had enough until you have. I am hoping that my friend comes to that realization before she marries him… they have now been together for several years so I am becoming less and less hopeful about it.

    • Samantha

      *sorry for the typos, etc …. comment editor won’t let me correct it :)

    • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

      i think there is an important distinction between “not liking” and “disliking” someone. in some cases, it’s not that there is anything *wrong* with someone or their relationship, it is simply that you can’t relate or enjoy them. in others it has more to do with actual problems.

  • dawn

    Thanks for writing this post. “He’ll never be what I wanted him to be. I’ve learned to let that go” is a great line and so true of all relationships.

    My FH is not like your husband in regard to all of the specifics you mentioned, but we’re definitely an intercultural couple, and I worry about his lack of engagement in some social situations. I think he spaces out when he feels out of place and isn’t sure how to engage. I know that certain situations (where people actually know each other) are stressful for him, even if he doesn’t recognize this himself. In such cases, I try to facilitate his engagement as well as force myself to do social activities that I don’t care for (events in which people don’t know each other well or at all) because that is what is comfortable for him. At the same time, I have basically forced he and my best friend’s husband to hang out together by doing things with all four of us. That friendship is worth the trouble, and the poor guys have definitely gotten more comfortable hanging out over the last couple of years.

    I haven’t had the issue of disapproving friends. It’s interesting to think about the way our ages shape our relationship and the reactions of others to us. My FH and I met near the end of grad school as more mature, independent people than we would have been earlier. I think our friends and relatives trust us more than they would have if we had been younger, and I think we trust ourselves more too. We have an awareness of our differences that is probably recognizable from the outside, so people are less likely to think we are oblivious and in for disappointment.

    Having very different frames of reference– in terms of everything from childhood experiences to finances to native language– doesn’t mean a relationship can’t work, but it is challenging. Because we live in my country, I know what other people mean and can often tell what they are thinking. I recognize misunderstandings and try to clear them up when feasible. We also talk a lot about cultural context and use analogies: Potatoes are to me what rice is to you–never out of place in any meal.

    Despite the “extra” challenges, I think the advantage of knowing that you are dealing with cultural differences is significant. Plenty of couples think they have the same frame of reference because they’re from the same country or watched the same TV shows as children. Then they are unpleasantly surprised to discover that their assumptions about various things are quite different. I see others talk past each other and clash when, if they realized they were dealing with cultural differences and talked openly through their assumptions and perspectives, they could deal with the situation much more productively and less painfully. Knowing up-front that we’re not only different people but have different perspectives has helped me understand the issues we have and respond more thoughtfully.

    • dawn

      Ahhh— I can’t edit this post. Not being able to fix things is maddening. Sorry!

  • http://asafemooring.blogspot.com/ Kirsty

    Sorry, not sure what’s happening with the comment editor – that’s above my pay grade I’m afraid! If you have a really huge mistake that you need fixed, email me and I can fix it for you – asafemooring [at] hotmail.co.uk.

    But don’t worry too much. What’s the odd typo between friends?

    • ItsyBitsy

      “What’s the odd typo between friends?”

      This made my morning. You’re the sweetest. :)

  • KB

    “Friends are your crew, but they do not steer that ship of yours. You crash it, it’s on you.”

    WORD. I have to say that I think it’s really mature of you to be able to take a step back and realize why your friends think the way they do and, even if you don’t like it, you can make the logical connection without feeling bitter about it. I’ve had pretty much the same types of issues with the significant other of a friend and it ultimately hurt our friendship, although it’s slowly healing. I think at some point you realize that your friends aren’t dating your partner; you are. And it’s kind of sad to think that you won’t have that ideal perfect intertwining circle of friends and family – but your friends and partner are people and you have to accept the 3D versions of them, imperfections and all. I also think that, in the event of a “crash,” it takes a lot for friends to shut their mouths and refrain from the “I told you sos” and just be there.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Anna is much more brave than I am. In our marriage, I don’t tolerate much deviation from our region’s cultural norms. “You have to be polite to my friends.”

    It even took me awhile to not care about what he wears. There are cultural narratives about wives “dressing” their husbands, and how he looks being a reflection on me. I had to teach myself that he’s an adult, and just like I would chafe at being told what to wear or how to do my hair (outside of a professional uniform situation), he can, too. [I do still give him advice on what to wear to "my" events - like to see my parents or to alumni events for my schools.]

    • Rachel

      This is really interesting to me. I feel like on the one hand, women are told not to change their boyfriends/husbands because that will “scare” them…but on the other hand, people sort of assume women do strongly influence their husbands’ behavior and dress, so then women are sort of held accountable if the man isn’t dressed appropriately for a situation. One can sort of see why women feel compelled to tell their husbands how to dress if the women are going to be blamed for how the men look.

      Sigh. Just another damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

  • ItsyBitsy

    Beautiful piece, Anna. So relatable. I’ve been in similar situations with my fiancé & friends, which I always find so upsetting and especially strange because we not from two different cultures (both northeastern American)… unless you count that our “friend cultures” are very different. I’ve learned that for us this is a huge, important thing to recognize for us.

    Also, I laughed out loud at “They’d laugh and look polite, because that’s what you do when you’re British, but I could see they were surprised, and not in a good way.” I think my friends and I might secretly be British.

    In any case, thank you for putting this out there. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who’s gone through things like this (as it sometimes feels).

  • ellebee

    This was a bit uncomfortable for me to read, and I thank you for writing it. It has made me think very hard.

    See, I do not like my friend’s husband, and it’s for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned here. He acts completely disinterested in speaking to anyone, and I can’t abide when people sit playing on their phones in a group. He might not actively ignore someone who spoke directly to him, but he is ignoring the whole group and only interjects to say something snarky about the conversation surrounding him. When he does speak on his own, he is frequently boorish, lewd, or just plain aggressive, but he says he’s “telling it like it is.” She apologizes and says “He likes to be provocative.” We are not British, and really, none of these issues seem entirely cultural to me. Sometimes people just have bad manners, or worse, enjoy making others feel uncomfortable. She says he’s just an introvert, but I know several other introverts including my own husband who might not love parties, but will find someone to talk to quietly and will still participate politely in their own way. We watch her make excuses for his behavior and apologize to restaurant servers, friends, her family because she says he can be “socially awkward,” but we think he’s really just sort of unkind.

    I also find it hard to read about how he criticized your weight but it was ok, because “he was right.” He may have been right, but I still don’t see how it was his problem to solve, and I understand why that would bother your friends. I see this man criticize my friend in public and belittle her “jokingly” for things like her weight, her clothes, and her intelligence. She also thinks he’s just being honest, but as her friend it is extremely hard to watch because we all love her how she is. Even if your husband isn’t belittling and is simply matter-of-fact as you say, friends generally are primed to defend you and resent someone who says you should change. I would seethe too.

    I’ve had to accept this man and am trying to see him how she does, for her sake. She says that he makes her laugh, and she really does seem happy most of the time. I also remember how happy she looked at her wedding, just like you were, and I try to remember that whenever I think of the ways that he makes me uncomfortable. I really hope that eventually we will all grow to understand each other a bit better, and I hope the same will happen for your husband and your friends. At the same time, it’s hard not to remember just how painfully RIGHT my friends were when they told me they didn’t like my ex. I couldn’t see it at the time, but he didn’t treat me with kindness and he didn’t treat my friends kindly either. I suppose now I see everything as a red flag, and I imagine some of your friends might have had similar experiences.

    I truly hope he continues to make you happy, and I really do appreciate you writing this as it has made me think long and hard about what my friend must see in her husband. I just wanted to give a little bit of perspective as someone who loves her friend but finds it hard to love her husband too. I really wish you the best of luck navigating between these relationships.

    • Aubry

      You’re right, this is an interesting article, both from my perspective of living it as well as seeing it from the outside. My FH definitely falls into some of these, and other, habits that don’t quite fit with the rest of us. The napping, spare me! I also doubt my judegment because ofprevious big mistakes.

      But I also see it from the other side, and try to be compassionate. My friends husband often acts imappropriately, and sometimes it makes me concerned. Just the other day we were all hanging together and he (among other things) pushed her over while they were seated, as a joke. I was outraged on her behalf, as was our other friened who spoke to her in private about it the next day. It turns out they are often that way together in private, ambushing each other and tickling etc, but we had never seen it in public. She didn’tthink anything of it, and didnt know we were were taken aback.

      To give some social things perspective, the weight issue is a good example. Another friend of mine spent 10 months in Taiwan, and as a Canadian was quite surprised by thier casual mention of weight. Random people would say something like “why are you so fat?” to her, in public! But here, being overweight is a health hazard, and people are genuinely concerned for you. For the record she is a fit and average weighted beautiful woman.

      So, I guess we are all living different experiences. And someone cannot ever know a relationship they are not actually in.

  • APWReader

    Awesome and needed post. This is kind of my life. My fiance is very smart, funny, fun, clever, loving, and the most interesting person I have ever met – with a wide variety of interests and passions, many of which we share – but he is not an extrovert. I am. I like to go to lots of social events and keep in touch with lots of people. He does not, always. He is totally fine with my going to events and is happy to stay home working, reading, or watching a sports game (but sometimes I wish he’d come). Or he prefers to hang out in much smaller groups. He has a few good friends, who are terrific people and have terrific significant others. He sometimes likes to make provocative or honest statements in social situations. Deep down, I admire that and was attracted to it, but can still get embarrassed by it. Or he will disappear at a party, in search of somewhere quieter, more interesting, or to see where there’s better food. He hates small talk! Which also is significantly socially important in the States, btw. So, people do not understand these things. I’ve dealt with disappointment and confused questions from people, but I think you’re right – that they’re beginning to love him because I love him, and he adores me. I love that you said that this is a process that you continue to learn to navigate. Our wedding is in 3 weeks, and I don’t think that things will magically change after we’re married – but we’ve already changed each other, and I hope to continue changing together – not who we fundamentally are, but to become the best individuals and couple we can be, honoring our differences and similarities.

  • Emma

    I understand where the writer is coming from – it is so important to find your own truth within the context of partners and friendships, bravo for making your own decision there. That is when we go from being girls to grown up women I think. However, some of the behaviours decribed on the part of the husband in this scenario just sound rude. Napping at a wedding?! That is not okay, not respectful, to the people who invited him OR his own wife. These are her friends, it is not “going along” or “playing the game” to treat your wife’s feelings about how you act with disrespect. Socialising together is an important act of give and take in many ways within a marriage. I wonder if the husband here is perhaps socially uncomfortable and uses some of these behaviours to ‘opt out’ of the situation (perfectly understandable, just not very helpful or mature not to address it?). The writers feelings should count here as his wife, surely?

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Exactly. As I said above, your husband does not get to be rude to your friends.

      I try not to be condescending about it, but I often give my husband choices (or ultimatums, depending on your perspective): “You can shave your stubble, or you can stay home from the event.” “You can read in the other room, or you can put the book away and take part in the conversation.”

      He has mental illnesses that make empathy and socializing a bit harder for him. Also, he’s an immigrant and doesn’t know the social subtleties. By giving him choices, it’s clear that the behavior is not wrong in itself, it’s just wrong in the social context. Change the context, and he can do what he wants. Putting it as a choice also means I’m not nagging or controlling.

    • http://www.anyotherwoman.com Anna K

      He’s defintiely socially uncomfortable, and unwilling to address that. Lots of reasons for it, which I can’t go into here. It’s an excellent point, and one I hadn’t considered. Rude, he absolutely isn’t. The bride didn’t mind in the slightest, and he actually inspired a couple of others to go off and have some quiet time. I don’t think I could be with someone willfully rude.

      What is interesting though, is that this is similar to a comment made below, about how it could be coming across as rude/disinterested, even though it isn’t. It’s very important to me that that doesn’t happen, and I wish I’d written this post eight years ago to get this advice/perspective! If he displays any of those behaviours again, that’s the first thing I’d address with my friends upfront.

  • never.the.same

    Sure, there are cultural differences in small talk and humor and ways of looking at the world. And then there are people who just aren’t willing to make an effort. I having a hard time seeing how going off to sleep at someone’s wedding falls into the former category and not the latter.

    This post was really interesting. Because I can see how both you, Anna, and your friends are right. Your husband might be a great guy to you and loving towards you and your “equal and opposite.” I totally get that. But if I was one of your friends, I would really struggle with having someone around who clearly was uninterested in me or anyone else, and acted like being around me was a burden (which is how I’d interpret, rightly or wrongly, his behavior if I were one of your friends). I have a good friend who has a husband like yours. If we go over for dinner he’ll spend the night playing games on his iPad and go to bed early, even if we’re still chatting. He’s not a bad guy. He makes my friend really happy. I support their relationship. But he makes me feel awful, as a person and friend outside their relationship.

    I’m really curious how you feel about that aspect. If you’ve accepted that you can’t change your husband, and that you don’t agree with your friends’ opinions, how do you handle seeing your friends? Do you continue on and hope for the best, or go to events without your husband, or talk to your friends afterward? Do you just expect your friends to just sort of deal?

    • http://www.anyotherwoman.com Anna K

      I just see my friends separately from my husband most of the time. Genuinely, the whole thing has settled down so much now, they’re used to his eccentricities. I like seeing my friends separately, because it gives me space from my husband, which is important to me, and would be in any relationship. When we’re all together, he’s much better behaved than he used to be.

      The uninterested point is really compelling -I absolutely hadn’t thought that’s how he might be coming across, but of course he must be.

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