Friday, 28 May 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Isabella & the Wife Who Screamed


Will you be blogging about the "artificial barrier" between Married and Single people or will we have to wait for your next book? I hadn't thought about it until I read [your last post], but the more I think about it, the more I think there is something there.

This reminded me of (another state) when I had something break and went over to see a female friend of mine--"wife"--to help me fix it. She wasn't home, but "husband" invited me in, got out the toolkit, and fifteen minutes or so later, I was merrily on my way.

That night, "wife" called me and screamed that I was never to be alone in her house with "husband" ever again. I should state that there was no reason for this -- she was my friend first, and he was just a nice guy who happened to be MARRIED to someone I considered a friend. No flirtation, no touching up my makeup before I knocked on the door - nothing.

There have been more comments on this [on your blog] than almost anything in a long while, so there's something going on, but heck if I know what. I'd be very interested in finding out what that barrier is, because that incident ended my friendship with both of them and I still don't know why. I think he got an ultimatum not to talk to me and she never called again.

I'm reasonably OK looking but not so beautiful that men hurl themselves at my feet, so I would dearly like to understand what happened. FWIW I have always worked mainly with men and miss her more than him.


Dear Isabella,

First, this was not in any way your fault. You did absolutely nothing wrong. This, in fact, had nothing to do with you. At most, you were cast as a bit player in the psycho-drama between "husband" and "wife". I cannot even begin to imagine the script to that particular psycho-drama. For all I know, imagining infidelities between her husband and her friends is how your ex-friend gets her kicks. Sorry to be so blunt, but some people (and some marriages) are like that.

Nobody can really understand the dynamics between husbands and wives, including husbands and wives themselves sometimes. Marriage is not just an institution, it is a psychological condition. What is the line in the Song of Songs? Love is as strong as death, more powerful than the grave? That sums up marriage, if anything can. Love, strong, death, power, grave. This is not an artificial barrier, though. It is true.

But no-one approaches marriage tabula rasa. A child learns about marriage from her parents, and if a woman's father hit her mother or abandoned her or ran around with every weak-willed woman in town, the child may very well dread (or, worse, expect) that her husband will do that, too. This is where the artificial barriers between Single and Married people might go up.

A woman's feelings about marriage may lead her to freak out at innocent women who come by her house bearing broken items. The helpful guy with a tool-kit is a staple character in pornographic movies, I believe. And for all you know, "husband" and "wife" have been fighting over his or her porn habit. Sorry to be so blunt again.

Old-fashioned ideas about interacting with married people, once set in stone, and now maybe not as universal, can also create artificial boundaries between Singles and Marrieds.

I once found my Single self alone in a house with a married male colleague, and I was not happy about it. The first thing I said was, "Does [your wife] know I'm here?" And apparently she did and eventually she came home and made cheerful conversation. She was absolutely fine with my being there, even without her.

My male colleague thought my discomfort was hilarious, possibly in part because he and his wife are committed feminists and possibily in part because their marriage was rock-solid. But my mother has no male friends except my father, and no male colleagues either, and I had no template of how ladies are supposed to act regarding married men, other than (perhaps) to completely avoid being left alone with them. So that was part of my inner marriage script.

Another time I found my Single self alone in a flat watching Sex & the City with a dear now-married friend, and her husband came home early. I jumped up in a panic because my mother told me years ago that wives' friends should be out of the house and wives off the phone when husbands came home. That created more of my marriage script. It was not part of the marriage script for my friends, however, and my buddy's husband told me to relax: I didn't have to go home just because he was there.

But let us return to married peoples' private insecurities and expectations around marriage.

Married people are supposed to put each other--and never you or any other Single person--first all the time. ALL the time. But not all married people are as good at doing this as they are at expecting it of their spouse, alas. So a woman (or man) who feels that her (or his) spouse isn't doing a good enough job putting her (or him) first may begin to resent any time he (or she) spends with friends, especially friends of the opposite sex.

But marital insecurity is not the only barrier between Single people and Married people. There is also the envy of the Single for the Married, and the discomfort of Married people with the unhappiness of the Single, especially if the Single person complains or lashes out all the time. The unhappy Single person sees only the gorgeous kitchen equipment given as wedding gifts; she doesn't hear her Married friends fight about how to properly make a lasagna--"My mother made it this way"; "Your mother's version is choked with fat and will eventually kill your dad."

If you would like your friend back, I recommend sending her a card or an email saying, "Haven't heard from you for a long time. Hope you are well!" It could be that she was having a rough time in her marriage, and now feels ashamed that she made you bear the brunt of it. But don't be too disappointed if she doesn't respond.

I hope this helps. Once again, it was not your fault.

Grace and peace,


Sarah said...

This does remind me of a good male friend I had who I felt was spending an inordinate amount of time with a married woman to the point that those who didn't know she was married assumed they were a couple and those who did assumed they were having an affair.

Being good friends with him, I felt comfortable telling him that his relationship with her, or at least the way it looked, was dangerous. He completely misinterpreted my intentions and got really, really mad at me, insisting there was nothing going on. And I believe him, but I still think excessive time spent between sexes where one or both are married to another person can be very dangerous to the marriages in question.

And I know "excessive time" is not what you or the writer of the letter are talking about in this particular instance, but it did remind me of this experience.

Seraphic said...

You believe him, eh? I wonder if her husband did. But SO not my business.

I think you did well to speak up, and Mr. Butter Wouldn't Melt ought not have have gotten really, really angry with you.

Sheila said...

Yes, now that I'm married, there's one kind of barrier that popped up between me and my male friends, and another between me and my female single friends. It's the second one that really bothers me, because that's the one that isn't necessary.

Some barrier should exist between married women and male friends, though, however sad this is. The one thing that saves me is that almost all of my friends, I have in common with my husband. So I can hang with my guy friends all I want -- along with my husband. Alone, not so much; and I find that I feel my "spidey senses" going off when I end up alone with any of them, even though I trust them completely. It just feels "off" so I don't do it. Part of this is that someone I know did get into a bit of trouble that way -- not cheating on her husband physically, but spending enough time with the other man that she was becoming emotionally closer to him than her husband. Alert alert alert! So I enjoy the company of my male friends only when my husband's around. It's a sacrifice I'm happy to make if it makes our marriage just a little bit more secure.

theobromophile said...

I think that the "wife" went into the marriage not just with her own marriage scripts, but with some serious baggage from dating "husband" (and other men).

Seraphic, you aren't a predatory female (flirtatious, yes; predatory, no), and Les Girls probably aren't, either, so you don't see the predatory female mentality. I'm guessing that "wife" is engaging in a lot of projection; she may think that if she were Isabella's age (whatever that happens to be) and Single, she would be hitting on her Married friends' husbands, so she assumes that every other woman thinks and acts the same way.

Alternatively, she's watched so-called friends hit on her husband enough to reflexively be suspicious. Either way, I'm not sure if it's so much a marriage gap as a difference in personality that would have manifested itself some other way if both women were Single.