Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom. Each week, we offer up a problem for you to weigh in on, then publish the most lively responses, with a final word on the matter delivered by our columnist, Lynn Coady.
A reader writes: A few months ago, my daughter discovered my fiancé's Facebook account. On it, we counted 31 very attractive blonde "friends." He did list his status as engaged and had photos of me, but he still refuses to let me on it as a "friend." Two months later, we went to his high-school reunion. On the second night, he connected with an attractive former classmate.
This woman was very affectionate with him the entire evening, even stroking his upper thigh and his shoulders as she spoke with him. He did nothing. When I mentioned the disrespect to him on the way home, he became extremely angry at me. The next morning, he said he was going golfing with strangers at his golf course. I went to check up on him. I found him there with the woman from the night before, just the two of them. I had an outburst that was not pretty. He later chastised me for embarrassing him and demanded I apologize to her! The thing is, he has forbidden me, from day one, from seeing any friends of the opposite sex. One on one we have fun - great sex, good conversation, similar interests, etc. Am I being too picky, or should I move on?
Trust is the key
This has nothing to do with pickiness, and everything to do with trust. The words you use are accusatory from the get-go: "31 very attractive blonde 'friends.'" I'm sure there's at least 31 very attractive blonde 'friends' on my list, but it's never occurred to me to keep track. The second issue - the flesh-and-blood golfer - is different, but related. I think you've got to be straight-up with him - not only about his feelings (you have no trouble here), but with your own. "Babe," you could say, "I love you. And I'm a nervous wreck. That's just part of who I am sometimes, and now, that part's on overdrive. It doesn't feel good, and it's not good for us, and we've got to figure out how much of it is based on fact before it kills us. What's really going on?" You sound like a strong person who's ready to face whatever you need to.
- Maggie Panko, Montreal
Get some therapy
Why are you contemplating a lifetime with a man who expects you to offer him blind trust while he trusts you enough to live in the social equivalent of a cloister? Meanwhile, you have violated his privacy by spying on him and he has every right to be angry. The lack of respect is clearly mutual. Would you want this marriage for your daughter? Do you want her to live in yours and see more "ADULTS BEHAVING BADLY"? Run, don't walk, with what's left of your self-respect. Then get yourself some therapy and try to figure out why you were willing to agree to such a ridiculous situation in the first place.
- Celeste Sansregret, Winnipeg
Time to re-evaluate
This guy is dishonest, doesn't respect you, is controlling, and will always be that way. Move on immediately. Then ask yourself why you picked this guy in the first place and revaluate what to look for in a man. Look for more important qualities than great sex, good conversation and similar interests. Try honesty, respect, stability and a positive outlook on life. Great marriages are not 50-50, they are 90-10, 90 per cent give and 10 per cent take by both partners.
- Roger Bradley, Montreal
The Final Word
I once knew a woman - call her Jezebel - who used to take her wedding ring off whenever she went out on the town. Questioned on this, Jezzie would shrug and explain she simply "didn't like the way people treated her" when they saw her ring. By "people," of course, she meant "men," and by "the way they treated her" she meant "like a married woman unavailable for sexual indiscretion." Jezzie's husband took this poorly - too picky, I suppose.
Now. It's a subtle distinction, I realize, but let's think of your boyfriend's upper thigh as being metaphorically equivalent to Jezebel's ring finger and let's say his allowing the attractive blonde's hand to dwell there is metaphorically equivalent with Jezebel's removal of her wedding ring. Are you still with me? Jezzie taking off her wedding ring was a metaphor for the fact that she had no real desire to make herself unavailable to men who were not her husband. Your fiancé making his thigh available to the hand of an attractive blonde is a metaphor for his being perfectly happy to have an attractive blonde's hand suggestively stroke his upper thigh.
What can this possibly mean? I try not to abuse people who are open-hearted enough to share their problems with me and my readers, but in this case I have to ask: Do you feel at all stupid yet?
I say this on the assumption that sexual fidelity is important to you in this relationship. If not, then, yes: You're being too picky - coast on the good sex and lively conversation by all means. But it strikes me you wouldn't be troubled by this blonde deluge if you'd agreed to keep it casual.
Unlike Maggie and Celeste, I'm not going to castigate you for spying on Facebook. Facebook's very lifeblood consists of the human urge to peep. Your boyfriend knows this: That's why he tried to make it as difficult as possible for you peruse his Hef-like collection of blondies by not accepting you as a 'friend.'
And how's that for a metaphor? Your fiancé has no desire to be your friend. Oh, and he also yells at you for ruining his nice time on the golf course with the thigh-stroker, which he lied to you about. Run, says Celeste. Re-evaluate, says Roger. Amen, says I.
Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of the novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy, with another one currently in the oven.
Next week's question
A reader writes: My husband has kids from a previous marriage, who have each treated me with disrespect and rude behaviour, all in front of him.
One kid was even stealing from us (personal items, credit cards, our cars) while she lived with us. I feel violated by them, and made it clear the two eldest aren't welcome in our home, but of course my husband is free to see them somewhere else whenever he likes. He continues to pine for them and for the freedom to let them come to my home (the only safe haven in the world to me). What to do? I feel his focus on this issue has completely drowned our relationship. He continues to carry his resentment, and I continue to give his kids opportunities to prove themselves, except all they do is confirm they are rude and untrustworthy. He doesn't see this.