Dear Captain Awkward
I’m asexual, and all my friends are aware of this. I’m not incapable of forming relationships – I am actually heteroromantic – but I rarely do. However, possibly because I’m asexual and therefore there is no possible sexual element to complicate matters, I tend to form close friendships with men. In particular, my three best friends are all male.
Now one of these three is in a difficult situation. We’d been building a very good friendship for about two years, mostly by e-mail (he’s a professional singer and he works all over the world, so I don’t physically get to see him very often), when all of a sudden his wife decided to object. At about the same time, I discovered that he didn’t have his own e-mail address; the one to which I had been sending e-mails was an account shared with his wife, although you might think a professional singer would have a separate account. She had been reading everything both of us had written, and on the basis of that she announced that I was not to blame for anything – meaning, apparently, that he was. She then forbade him to contact me directly again, which was a distinct problem because by that point I was running his official fan website. He was allowed to speak to me only at concerts (these being public places), and if he had anything really important he needed to communicate, he was to e-mail it via a mutual friend. I thought I would get round this to some extent at first by e-mailing him, since she couldn’t stop me doing that, but he soon had to tell me that any e-mails from me resulted in her making life difficult for him, and I really didn’t want that to happen, so I had to stop. I am allowed to write to him regarding the website, which I do about once a month, and of course I put all the other news in as well; this letter has to be sent via his agent, although the agent presumably doesn’t get to read it as I put it in a sealed envelope inside another one.
I absolutely cannot understand his wife’s behaviour. Although I’m asexual, I am by no means clueless about when someone is making unwanted advances towards me, because I’ve beaten off plenty of them in my time. I have never had the slightest sense that my friend has been trying anything of that sort with me; knowing he is married, I would have bristled at him if he had, and I’d have done it even faster than normal. I can’t find anything in any of his e-mails that she could possibly have misread. It seems pretty clear from where I’m sitting that his marriage is not a happy one, and what particularly worries me is that he’s terrified of his wife and will do anything to keep her appeased. Nonetheless, he seems to be actively trying to improve the situation, and he’s never once actually complained to me about his wife. The strongest thing he’s ever said to me about her is that he wouldn’t blame me if I bore a grudge against her (which I don’t, because I can only think there is some piece in the equation she’s missing somewhere).
Some time later, I got his wife’s explanation of her behaviour from a third party who was trying to help. Apparently his wife said that the problem was that my friend had too many unnecessary contacts, and she was trying to help him cut them down. She may well believe this; he does have an awful lot of contacts, and he does spend a lot of time e-mailing people. It’s quite possible that he spends too much time on the computer and she has legitimate reason to feel he ought to be doing a bit less of this and spending more time with her. Nonetheless, as far as I know I am the only contact she has “cut down” in this way, and I’m hardly unnecessary. I’m someone whose friendship he values – he’s stated that in so many words – and I run this website for him. Therefore her explanation doesn’t figure.
Before all this ridiculous situation blew up, I had told him many times that I would like to meet his wife. That’s in the e-mails which she saw. He agreed, and said he would like me to meet her too, but at that time she was not often able to come to his concerts as they had a rather overactive small child. Since then, I’ve said the same thing: I would like to meet her, but now it would be with the intention of trying to work out exactly what is going on here and hopefully make peace. However, she has made it more than obvious that she does not want to meet me. The child is a little older now and able to sit through a short concert, so I have now been to two concerts which the whole family has attended. I strongly suspect my friend’s wife knew exactly who I was on at least one of those occasions, but she made no effort to talk to me, despite knowing that I would be happy to do so. I’d have walked up and spoken to her, but my friend looked terrified and implored me not to do that, as it would make things worse for him. So I didn’t. I’ve got to say I feel as though she’s picked me out of a hat; there is such a complete lack of reason behind this that I think if it hadn’t been me it would have been some other random woman.
Captain Awkward, I do realise that this is my friend’s problem rather than mine. I know I can’t solve it for him and I’m not asking you to help me to do so. But if there is anything I could possibly do to make things easier for him – given the fact that neither of us is willing to sacrifice a strong and perfectly innocent friendship for the sake of this woman – I’d love to hear it.
Thank you for all your wisdom.
Ace of Baffled
Dear Ace of Baffled,
Your friend might in fact be in an unhappy marriage with a controlling and jealous woman who is isolating him from his friends and monitoring his email. (Am I the only one who finds the whole couples-sharing-a-single-email-address completely bizarre? My mom and dad do that, and I have to put subject lines like “DAD DON’T READ THIS IT’S ABOUT YOUR BIRTHDAY SURPRISE LOVE, JEN.”)
Since you are at a distance and he has backed her up by asking you not to contact him except once-a-month about the fan website, there’s not a lot you can do here. The way you can “make this easier for him” is to take him at his word and communicate with him only by requested channels at requested intervals. So let’s focus on making this easier for you.
I say this because it is 2012. He has all your contact information. Since he has communicated with you via email before, we can assume that he understands the technological wizardry that goes into making his own private separate email address where he could email you if he wanted to take the ten minutes out of his busy day to continue this friendly correspondence. If he’s asking you not to get in touch, and he’s not contacting you from YourAwesomeSecretSingingFriend@FreeEmailServiceThatEveryoneKnowsAbout.Com, he’s making a decision to put your friendship on a back or a side burner for now. The best thing you can do is show him that you respect that by respecting that.
The other thing I want to address in your letter is the way you present your asexuality as evidence of the wife’s unfairness because this friendship couldn’t possibly be romantic or setting off anyone’s boundary alarms.
I’m a…is “sexual” the opposite of asexual? My closest female friend and I call each other “Wife.” I also have close, awesome, fierce, “you-are-my-brother-from-another-mother” friendships with men that have no romantic or sexual element. It’s not a factor of sexual identity, it’s a factor of specific individual feelings and choices to never take it there. I feel really strongly that a close friendship is in fact a lot like falling in love. There is that same spark of joy and recognition when you find one of your people, you look forward to time with your friends, you get the same happiness and comfort from growing trust and shared experiences, you feel like your best self around them, you think of them often and want to tell them your good news and hear their good news and sit with them during bad times. There has to be chemistry in friendships for them to be real friendships. That’s why I hate the concept of “the friend zone” so much because it reduces the concept of a friend to a person you don’t feel like sleeping with or who doesn’t feel like sleeping with you but you keep them around for some reason (in the hopes that that will change). You can have different degrees of friendship – certainly not every friendly acquaintance you like seeing at parties sometimes or Facebook “friend” or work buddy is a kindred spirit – but the attitude that friendships are somehow romantic relationships that failed to launch is so insulting to what close friendship really is.
Asexuality describes your sexual identity, but your sexual identity doesn’t completely describe you. It doesn’t encompass all feelings that you will ever have and it doesn’t describe feelings that other people might have for you (whether or not they share those out loud or make advances). It also doesn’t control how the friendship is perceived by others. The wife may perceive your intense friendship with her husband as an emotional affair. He may have developed an irritating case of mentionitis that annoyed her. She might see you (whether fairly or not) as a fan who is overstepping boundaries. While there’s something off about spouses trying to control each other’s friendships, if she’s asked him to back off your friendship and he’s complied, that’s a decision they get to make. There’s also something off about this paragraph:
“I strongly suspect my friend’s wife knew exactly who I was on at least one of those occasions, but she made no effort to talk to me, despite knowing that I would be happy to do so. I’d have walked up and spoken to her, but my friend looked terrified and implored me not to do that, as it would make things worse for him.”
She may not have recognized you or have been thinking about you at all! Or she may just not feel like socializing with you or getting to know you. She’s not attending concerts where her husband is performing AT you, and I strongly suggest that you try not to look at her behavior at those events as a referendum on you.
And, you’re not going to want to hear this, but the husband might be using his wife as an excuse to cut back on contact with you because he senses that the friendship has crossed some invisible line. Even if your behavior has been totally above-board and this is completely unfair. That doesn’t mean he never liked you or got anything from your correspondence, just, he doesn’t want to be the bad guy, so he’s making her the bad guy.
Whatever’s going on here, whether the relationship was romantic or not, whether it crossed boundaries or not, there are some constants:
- You’re clearly thinking about him/her/them way more than they’re thinking about you, which is bad for you.
- You have been or are on the verge of being dumped. “Write to me only via my agent no more than once a month” is a breakup in disguise, no matter whose idea it was.
I think the best idea would be for you to treat this like any breakup and focus on taking care of yourself. Some possible steps for you:
- Accept that you might never get a satisfying explanation or any kind of closure. Make your own closure: Acknowledge that it sucks, respect the wishes of the person who doesn’t want to communicate with you, grieve for what was, move on.
- Strongly consider resigning from administering the guy’s fan website. Find another fan to handle the day-to-day tasks. Right now this is just something that’s keeping you engaged with someone who doesn’t want to be engaged with you.
- Trust that if this friendship is meant to survive, your friend will find some way to get in touch with you and let you know how important you are to him. Until that happens, there is really nothing you can do except respect his stated boundaries.
Disengage. Be really nice to yourself. But for everyone’s sake, disengage.
120 thoughts on “#327: My friend’s wife has forbidden us to communicate.”
Your friend isn’t willing to stand up to his wife for you or for your friendship, so, that friendship is at an end.
I would tell him that he needs to find someone else to administer his fan website. Tell him you’ll do it for another thirty days, and write an email with any information he might need to pass along to a new administrator.
Then? Drop him like a hot rock. Don’t email him, don’t go to events or concerts where he is performing, unfriend him on social media.
Thanks for mentioning the “friend zone” bullshit.
OP, it sounds like you are WAY more invested in this friendship/relationship than the other party is, and that’s not healthy for you. You deserve better friends/friendships.
True he could have a controlling beast for a wife, he could be using his wife as an excuse( my husband uses me and our children all the time to avoid hanging out) OR he could be committing emotional infidelity with the asexual female friend which is highly likely. The wife is not ok with it and doesn’t know what to call it so just forbid all interaction.
About the joint emails. My husband and I have a joint email but we also have privet ones. All our ebills and other “housekeeping” gets sent to our joint and things not involving the other gets sent to our personal accounts. I don’t think it’s strange I think it’s efficient.
I don’t think you’re in quite the same situation. You have a shared email address for “business-y” stuff, but private ones for personal stuff. Meaning, you do have a private email address. But the Captain is talking about a *shared* email address for *personal* stuff, which means there is no email privacy.
Yes, it’s different when a couple’s only e-mail address is shared.
My dad has access to my mom’s personal e-mail account. He has her password, and he openly reads her e-mails throughout the day. He will update her on news from her friends if he read her e-mail before she gets around to it. Sometimes when I e-mail my mother, my dad will respond and say “Hi, CL, I saw your e-mail to mom, and…”
And no, my mom does not have my dad’s password. She’s not on the computer as much, and she has no interest in reading his e-mail. I find it very weird, but I stay out of it.
I agree, that arrangement your parents have is odd but, some people don’t care and women from an older generation sometimes have a hard time even wrapping their minds around the fact that thy might have a right to that information.
Huh. So your dad is the household social secretary, in a way? Interesting way of doing it.
We also do the shared email for mutual stuff like bills, Amazon, and our Google Play music library.
I see a lot of shared email addresses at work (post-disaster financial aid). I find it sort of strange as well personally – we had a shared address for all the children when I was young, but we all went out and got our own when we felt it was time, and now I have more email accounts than there used to be people using the one account – and I have four siblings. OTOH one of my sisters works in the same office and we both share responsibility for setting up payments, and I know her password and we CC each other on everything (office system is that replies are automatically set to reply all) and log into whoever’s account is most convenient for whatever reason, which is about as close as you can get to the same address without actually having the same address.
Though I have to say the one I saw that will always make me smile was a same sex couple whose names were both Michael, who had the email address twomichaels @somedomain.
More on topic, I feel that whether it’s happening or not, the wife is seeing emotional infidelity. And it’s not something that our culture talks about much. A lot of people will have no idea what to call it or how to articulate it, just this niggling feeling that they don’t like something about this situation, which might be insecurity at the narrative that men and women can’t ever be only friends even with the (to her) confusion about LW’s asexuality, or it might be completely justified, or it might be both. And yeah, if you don’t even know what something IS, it’s hard to stop it from happening without taking a zero tolerance policy.
It’s entirely possible he does have a separate, private email account but he has only given LW the joint one.
LW, I’ve had this happen to me before, and it sucks when it does. But don’t blame the wife. My ex-colleague tended to drink too much, then leer at and hit inappropriately on waitresses at after-work happy hours. Though he was far safer spending time with me, who would never sleep with him, than going out by himself or with his male friends, after too many of these incidents I could really see where she was coming from. You don’t have any way of knowing what’s going on in the background. Whatever went on between my ex-colleague and his wife, he didn’t leave her — in fact, he went on to have two more children with her, which I take to mean he’s satisfied with the status quo.
Yeah, he may well be throwing her under the bus (my partner & I have full permission to use each other as excuses!) but also: “I thought I would get round this to some extent at first by e-mailing him, since she couldn’t stop me doing that…” First reaction was to try and sidle past the wife’s stated wishes? That strikes me as uncool and/or disrespectful — this is your friend’s spouse, after all, a real person who is his chosen life-partner, and not some tax code in which to find loopholes.
“I think I will go say hello to that person who kept emailing my husband after we asked her to stop!”
Reading that, I wondered if the LW was thinking that the friend might be in an emotionally abusive marriage with a wife who was trying to cut him off from his friends, and that she needed to keep reaching out to him, and that was what she was at least somewhat expecting to hear in the Captain’s answer. Like, well-meaning towards the friend, but a viewpoint in need of reframing, given all the little clues that point towards “nope, just boundaries.”
Yeah, I completely agree with this comment and the Captain. Sorry your friendship is at an end, LW, but it’s time to back off.
Wonderful advice as usual.
I’m also a woman with a lot of male friends, and I have been in this situation before. I’ve had close, wonderful friendships fade to infrequent, superficial contact because my friend’s wife or girlfriend was jealous. I’m a lesbian, so like the LW, I used to be baffled and think “But… she knows it’s not romantic or sexual. She can be 100% certain that he will never cheat with me. So why does she have a problem with me?”
Then one day, as I was explaining my hurt feelings over one of these situations to my therapist, I had a revelation: “His wife knows it’s not romantic or sexual. She knows he would never cheat on her. But it still bothers her because it’s not about sex. She doesn’t like that he’s close with another woman, that he shares his thoughts and feelings with me.”
Some women just really don’t want their husbands to have that kind of friendship with other women. They want to be the only woman that their husband confides in, and they feel threatened or betrayed when he has a close relationship with another woman — regardless of whether there is any possibility of sexual attraction.
Sometimes people who behave this way are in dysfunctional, controlling marriages. But I’ve also found that some people who live by their partner’s strict rules are ultimately happy with their marriages. They make compromises that I wouldn’t make, but it works for them. One friend in particular had to mostly stop talking to me because his wife was jealous, and years later, they’re doing great and I don’t think he regrets respecting her wishes even though it was hard for him (and devastating for me).
There is nothing you can do. Your friend’s wife is always going to come first (as she should), and while you can mourn and feel sad for the lost friendship, you can’t change their minds.
I strongly endorse the Captain’s advice to extract yourself from the fan website and move on from the entire situation. You have been dumped. Whether the wife is forcing him to dump you, or whether he also wanted to stop corresponding, doesn’t matter ultimately. He essentially ended the friendship, and it’s painful for you.
When someone dumps you, you shouldn’t have to keep running his fan club. (You can take that as a metaphor and also literally). It’s not fair to you. He has every right to set a boundary, and yes, you need to respect it — but if he’s going to treat you this way, then he shouldn’t keep receiving your labor and support for his singing career. You need to take space and move on, and you won’t be able to do that as long as you’re running the website.
This, all of this, exactly.
“Don’t run his web site” is especially true if you’re doing it for free (which is what it looks like). There is absolutely no incentive for you to give him your talents/time/contacts for free–if at all–after this.
In a way, it’s like a D/s relationship (heck, maybe it really is for all we know). The rules may be weird, but that’s how they want it. So c’est la vie.
Hmmm…. what is there that could help us understand his wife’s behaviour…
Hmm. So his work has him travelling quite a lot, often by himself, while his wife is busy raising their recently-born child. At the same time, he is spending a not-inconsiderable amount of time and attention emailing you. (whom she sees as a dedicated fan of his music) The wife explicitly holds you blameless in any wrongdoing, but demands that he cease all direct contact with you.
Yup. Quite the mystery there. I can’t see why a new mom would be upset that her traveling, mostly-away-from-home husband was investing time and attention into a new friendship with a fan of the band, quite possibly at the expense of his own family. That’s a real head-scratcher!
I emphasized the word “fan” (quote possibly incorrectly) because the LW doesn’t say how they met Mr. Singer or what basis their friendship might have had outside his career. LW does say that she visits him at shows, and that the LW runs the fan website, which leads me to believe she’s a fan of his work.
Regardless of whether the LW or isn’t a fan of Mr. Singer, or if LW met and got to know Mr. Singer as a fan first and then a friend, that’s how Mrs. Singer might be seeing things. The relationship between performer and fan isn’t the same as a friendship, and while it’s possible to transition across that boundary, it’s not very likely. The fan-performer relationship can be great, it can be satisfying and fulfilling for both parties, but it’s not a friendship, and this may be another factor to consider. You see yourself as Mr. Singer’s friend. Mrs. Singer sees you as a fan. (and Mr. Singer? Well… we don’t really know, do we?) Those are question worth considering: are you a fan, or a friend? Does Mr. Singer treat you like a fan, or like a friend? Because, as the Captain points out, he could have found other ways to stay in contact, as you would with a friend. But he’s keeping a professional level of distance, going through his manager… like you would with a fan.
You totally hit the nail on the head! I recently had a baby, our third and if I was the wife I would feel intense resentment toward my husband about this. I feel resentment when my husband has to work crappy shifts like tonight. I didn’t see it before because I still have baby brain. You are totally right.
I love this comment and think it is spot on. When, at this site and elsewhere, people say some variant of “It’s not all about you”, this is what they mean. I think most of us (to some extent) perceive the universe of people we know rotating about ourselves, as if we were the sun. But Mr. and Mrs. Singer have their own lives and a child and to them, the LW is a moon.
The child gets only passing notice from the LW but is probably their sun–the factor around which everything now rotates. LW, you seem to imply that the now-past qualities of the child being very young and “rather overactive” (newsflash: children are ALL overactive!) are likely the only reason s/he might cause Mr. and Mrs. Singer to act differently or rethink their priorities. In reality, no matter the child’s age, she/he will continue to have an enormous effect on how they live their lives and manage their relationship with each other and with others.
LW, you do sound as if you’re putting a disproportionate amount of emotional effort into your relationship with Mr. Singer–e.g., poring over past emails to find some kind of key about what went wrong. I do wonder if you ended up having a sort of emotional affair with Mr. Singer without intending to (for starters, you run a large fan site for him; and you don’t see him much in person, which can lend itself to a sort of idealized perception of the other person). I am sorry this isn’t going better for you, but I truly think you might be healthier and happier when you disentangle yourself from this situation. But treat yourself well as you try to do so, because it is indeed a sort of breakup, and that’s hard.
Well when you put it like that, it is obvious. Very insightful, and probably not something that too many childless people (like me!) would really have initially picked up on.
I found the description of the child as “overactive” really hair-on-the-neck raising, personally. It sounds like a not-so-subtle-at-all dig at the wife’s skills as a parent.
I think this would explain the fact that the only email address LW has for him is a joint one with his wife, which is probably one she checks for him while he’s on the road and is the one that fan and other non-vital contacts go to. He probably has other email accounts for other levels of business, professional, and personal contacts.
“Accept that you might never get a satisfying explanation or any kind of closure.”
This is what the sender most needs to hear. Unfortunately in real life some stuff just goes unanswered. The absolutely best, and hardest, thing you need to do is to just let go. Any number of things could actually be going on here. The wife could be just crazy and controlling, or he may be the one using his wife as an excuse to cut you out of his life for whatever reason.
As far as I can tell, you’ve done nothing wrong and nothing to feel bad about. Still, we just can’t control other peoples actions or assumptions. Your best option is to cut ties and move on. If he still wants to remain friends, he’ll find a way to contact you, but I really think it’s best to just let go. In my experience, nothing good comes from getting drug into a couple’s own personal drama.
Female here, but I have been on both the giving end of this and the receiving end. My SO at the time hated my best friend because of our close friendship. The receiving end is the worst bit, but I think that’s obvious so I’ll move on.
As the person in the middle of a bitter war between my SO and my best friend, thank you for not engaging in this sort of behaviour. I’m sure your friend appreciates it as well.
On to the receiving-end information:
When this happened to me I was gob-smacked by it. I did everything you did: asked why, didn’t receive answers; asked what I could do to change it, didn’t receive answers. Eventually I made the couple BOTH angry by asking so many questions. She was angry because I kept “interfering” and he was angry because I was causing her to be angry and therefore “ruining their relationship.”
Unwittingly I had become their scapegoat and brought them closer together than they had ever been.
Of course for me this was a very confusing concept and I didn’t realise that’s what I had done at the time, thus I suffered a lot as though it were a break up. It was.
Over time I began to realise the amount of time/effort/emotion I was spending with this woman’s boyfriend was alarming both in her eyes, and should have been in mine. It was emotional cheating. Though I had no sexual interest in her boyfriend, we did have an extremely deep emotional bond. For her it was worse than sexual cheating. I was eating up her boyfriend’s emotional resources and taking from her what she was trying to build with him.
What I find interesting about this whole thing is that I often lean toward “asexual” or as I call it “nonsexual” feelings (with homosexual leanings when I do have sexual feelings at all).
My friendships are deep friendships and in the past all of my relationships have failed because of this.
What we, as non-sexual people, have to realise is that our emotional connections with our friends mean more to us than sexual relationships ever will. That distinction is what makes others think that our relationships are too much. To them it looks a lot like we’re in love, and we are, just not the same kind they’re assuming.
Best of luck to you getting through this. I hope my story helps you in the future, or at least lets you know you aren’t alone in this.
I’ve read that before from nonsexual people. That basically for others it’s like the sexual relationship has to be the most important and deep relationship, the person you’re in that relationship with has to be the most important (or a child, if there is one). So if a nonsexual person is a friend with a nonsexual person, the nonsexual person can’t be the most important or even in some cases just very important, so they’re the person that gets cut out.
I’ve never been in that situation before, so I only have sympathy to offer. It’s just that sexual people are following a script and aren’t willing to deviate from it, and I suppose that can be hard to understand (I have problems understanding other scripts, and even this one strikes me as unnecessary and unfair), which makes it that much worse.
Maybe I’m misreading the situation here, but you sound a little bit stalkerish.
It doesn’t sound like you are respecting this guy’s wishes at all (“I thought I would get round this to some extent at first by e-mailing him, since she couldn’t stop me doing that”, “I am allowed to write to him regarding the website, which I do about once a month, and of course I put all the other news in as well” – why “of course”? he asked you to only talk to him about the website!)
The part that goes “It seems pretty clear from where I’m sitting that his marriage is not a happy one, and what particularly worries me is that he’s terrified of his wife and will do anything to keep her appeased.” is a little bit creepy too. You sound like one of those people who can’t stop getting in the way and believing whatever they want to believe, one of those cases of “I know you’re seeing her, but I can tell she’s not right for you! None of what you have is real! THIS is real! Why can’t you just see that?”
And then: “At about the same time, I discovered that he didn’t have his own e-mail address; the one to which I had been sending e-mails was an account shared with his wife, although you might think a professional singer would have a separate account.” and “He was allowed to speak to me only at concerts (these being public places), and if he had anything really important he needed to communicate, he was to e-mail it via a mutual friend.” Both things sound to me like a very clear way of saying “Personal is inappropriate. Let’s not do personal anymore. Let’s not even do direct communication anymore”
And you see the part where they call you “unnecessary contact”? See how she didn’t say “unnecessary friend”? This people are calling you a contact, and that’s pretty telling. And if her explanation figures or not is not really important here, because this is not about logic. This is about wishes. And they wish you weren’t around anymore.
” I had told him many times that I would like to meet his wife.” “I would like to meet her, but now it would be with the intention of trying to work out exactly what is going on here and hopefully make peace.” “I strongly suspect my friend’s wife knew exactly who I was on at least one of those occasions, but she made no effort to talk to me, despite knowing that I would be happy to do so. I’d have walked up and spoken to her, but my friend looked terrified and implored me not to do that”
You said you wanted to meet. Many times. It never happened, you were instead instructed to leave them alone. And then you tried to walk up to her anyway? Making your friend look “terrified”?
“if there is anything I could possibly do to make things easier for him – given the fact that neither of us is willing to sacrifice a strong and perfectly innocent friendship for the sake of this woman – I’d love to hear it.”
You could try leaving them alone. Both of them said they wanted to, many times. Don’t walk up to them uninvited. Don’t mix your personal news in with the website news. Don’t take the website hostage and just hand the passwords over so someone else can administer it. Don’t focus on logic here, focus on their wishes, and respect them.
I’m sorry if this is out of line, It’s my first comment on this site and I’m not sure how direct we can be about this sort of suspicion, but none of this looks healthy from here.
Both you and Rodeo Bob have good points about this, though I want to take the Letter Writer’s (LW) word that the husband has enthusiastically corresponded with her in the past and that the friendship…correspondence….warm regard….was real and that this change is being driven by the wife. As people not involved in the situation, what do we lose by that?
Even if the husband and wife are both saying “You’ve done nothing wrong” and the husband is saying “I value our friendship and I’m sorry and I don’t want it to change” (while simultaneously pulling back) these are extremely mixed messages. I think it’s healthier for the LW to interpret everything extremely conservatively. There are so many reasons this could be happening. One possibility the LW hasn’t brought up – the friend might be having additional emotional affairs or friendships or outright dalliances with fans and this whole thing might have nothing to do with the LW at all but be about two people trying to rebuild trust in their marriage. Their marriage counselor might have said “Okay, Husband, can you agree to stop writing emails with women all over the place, if you, Wife, can agree to x action?” We can’t see inside other people’s marriages and we don’t know. A lot of lonely dudes bitch about their wives to sympathetic strangers, but when the chips are down, they are married.
There is a strong thread of denial here – of searching every communication for positive reinforcement – that I think is not good for the LW. The best thing you can do for yourself when someone breaks up with you is believe them. Stop parsing every communication for signs that it’s not really over and they don’t really feel that way. Look at facts, not feelings. Fact: Married Couple don’t want personal communications from LW at their shared email address anymore. Whatever the relationship was like in the past, once someone tells you this, you have to let go or you WILL cross the line into stalking territory.
I spent 10 minutes writing up a careful analysis of the LW, before I realized it was not helping.
Whatever is going on between Mr. & Mrs. Singer does not matter. All that matters is that they have asked the LW to limit contact to a few specific, acceptable channels. If you respect him at all, you should respect his wishes.
Whatever friendship there may have been between the LW & Mr. Singer does not matter. All that matters is that Mr. Singer has asked the LW to limit contact to a few specific, acceptable channels. If you respect him at all, you should respect his wishes.
The LW needs to hand over the website to someone else as soon as possible, start seeking out new friendships, and let this one go.
Having just finished “The Gift of Fear” (after seeing it recommended often on this site) I must say: LW, you need to respect and trust Mr. Singer; he has asked you to limit your contacts. He wants you to do this; it is not his wife or his agent or anyone else. They may want this as well, but he supports and approves of it, so treat this as his request.
Spot on, Bob.
That’s how I see it too. The LW has been asked, told, repeatedly, to back off, therefore needs to BACK OFF. Yes it’s painful but that’s what they have to deal with. The whole letter gave me a proprietorial vibe, and Mrs Singer seemed to be cast as the villain who wouldn’t meet LW even though LW is being so nice and wanting to. Sorry, no, doesn’t work that way. Friendships can be wonderful and intense (Captain, I too hate the term “friendzone”) but the Singers’ marriage is the primary relationship and if LW’s presence is making Mrs Singer unhappy or uncomfortable, then LW needs to clear out. Immediately. Doesn’t matter if Mrs Singer seems paranoid or jealous or whatever, it is not for LW to make that call and insist on a relationship with either of them. That is interfering and making trouble and yes, I do see it as stalkerish.
>> Their marriage counselor might have said “Okay, Husband, can you agree to stop writing emails with women all over the place, if you, Wife, can agree to x action?” We can’t see inside other people’s marriages and we don’t know. <<
This! Once again, Capt. Awkward, you perfectly coalesce the vague cloud I was trying to clutch at. There can be multiple non-abusive reasons for married couples to send out such missives, and one must honor them, as with an individual's request for boundaries.
“But if there is anything I could possibly do to make things easier for him – given the fact that neither of us is willing to sacrifice a strong and perfectly innocent friendship for the sake of this woman – I’d love to hear it.”
But he hasn’t said anything of the sort. He’s embarrassed and a little upset. He doesn’t want to upset you, he doesn’t want to upset his wife. He doesn’t want to have a relationship that his wife feels overstepped the line, whatever the line is. That doesn’t mean that he disagrees with his wife – that he is not willing to stop your friendship.
The wife has said herself she doesn’t blame you. That’s something you can take to heart. You’ve done nothing wrong, and neither has he – it’s just that your friendship with him isn’t right for their marriage. All you can do is respect that. He’s made his mind up, no matter how it pains him – or you. It’s not logical, maybe, but it’s not malicious, either. It’s just how it is.
I agree with the others who’ve said you should halt your fanclub activities as soon as is convenient for you – it will be easier for you to have more of a clean break. I’m sorry that your friendship has ended so abruptly.
Cosigning all of this.
I think I’m paraphrasing the Captain here: marriages are mysterious and powerful entities, understood best but only imperfectly by the spouses at hand. There are a million reasons why this could have happened, some nefarious, some embarrassing, some confusing, some simply circumstantial, but they are not disclosing that to you. You can’t know why, or how to make it better. The best thing you can do is respect their stated wishes, trust the singer and wife when they tell you that you haven’t done anything wrong, and take care of yourself (by quitting that website and moving on from this friendship).
This (and all the other responses that say the same thing.)
It’s awful for you and maybe for him, but it was his choice even if it wasn’t his idea. And if he was going to do that then it might be less painful if you stop supporting his career in anyway. No matter what the reason, I do think it’s unfair if you’re expected (not that I know if you’re expected) to do that if he’s just ending your friendship without explaining the situation more clearly.
Captain Awkward has provided you with some excellent feedback. I hope it resonates with you.
I am an unmarried heterosexual female who is friends with many married heterosexual men. I’m not sure why that is–maybe because of my career or hobbies. I also travel with some of these men on occasion.
I’ve developed some guidelines for myself that have protected me from creating conflict for my male friends and unnecessary grief for myself.
1) The wife knows about me. If we are driving across the state for a conference, she knows that I am catching a ride and staying in the same hotel (but not the same room!). My presence is never a surprise.
2) I never behave differently toward the man in private than I do in public. If we are hugging-type friends, then I feel comfortable hugging him in front of his wife.
3) I don’t talk about sex with my married male friends.
4) I don’t let the man complain about his wife to me. If I do, then I am complicit in estranging him from her. Maybe she is crazy and slovenly and a bad mother. I don’t need to be his sounding board for this. He has a therapist (or should get one) and his male buddies and relatives he can talk to.
5) His family comes first. Maybe he said he could take me to the airport, but then his wife tells him they have a family birthday party for his mother-in-law. I need to get another ride.
This is the most important:
6) If I am friends with a married man, I am a friend to his marriage.
I’m not suggesting that you did anything wrong. It sounds like you were low-key with your expectations from this friendship and behaved without reproach. His life has changed and doesn’t include such a prominent role for you. It’s crappy for you emotionally and I’m sorry for that.
My dad went back to school when I was a teenager and formed a close friendship with a young woman who was 15 years younger than he was. My mom referred to her as “your father’s girlfriend.” She like to play basketball and fish and shared his love of science. She has long since faded from his life, not because of any drama, but because they both finished their degrees and their circumstances changed. Her name came up recently and my mom was scathing in her assessment. “I DID NOT like her!” “Mom,” I said, “Did it ever occur to you that she was a lesbian?” It didn’t matter. My father’s “girlfriend” was taking away from his time with us. I was a teenager–the last thing I wanted to do was go fishing with gross worms or play basketball and jam my fingers with my DAD, OMG! I loved my father’s friend because she was cool and fun and kept him busy, probably the same reasons my mom did not like her.
“6) If I am friends with a married man, I am a friend to his marriage.”
Yes, this! My husband is friends with several smart, attractive, flirty women. He’s a born flirt too. (In a good way!) I’m completely okay with the friendships and subsequent flirting because each of the women has made a point of being my friend as well as his, and making it clear that they think we’re an awesome couple. They’re still his friends primarily, and he’s in touch with them way more than I am, but I know they’re on Team Us, not just Team Him. They’re great ladies, and I’m happy they’re in his (and my) life.
On a note that’s more relevant to the LW, perhaps it’d be helpful to think of the situation in poly terms: the wife is his primary relationship, you’re a secondary. The primary has said “woah, not cool, I need more of your time and attention”, so he’s scaling back contact with you accordingly. It’s painful and sucky for you, but it is also the nature of the beast and the right thing for him. Fortunately poly is the default model of friendship, so developing new friendships doesn’t have to be an agonizing search for ‘the right one’!
Yes, this advice can be applied (if it wasn’t applied before) to a new friendship. As the only way she can be a friend to his marriage now is to not be his friend at all.
“What we, as non-sexual people, have to realise is that our emotional connections with our friends mean more to us than sexual relationships ever will. That distinction is what makes others think that our relationships are too much. To them it looks a lot like we’re in love, and we are, just not the same kind they’re assuming.”
I am unconvinced that the assuming is ONLY going on with the non-non sexual people in your scenario. Without being privy to the particulars in this story, your description here reads as if non-non-sexual people are a monolith who only behave one way when in heteronormative pairings.
What it has in common with the OP is that there is a subtext of “jealous harpy” stereotype going on.
It is perfectly understandable that having someone to “blame” (the jealous harpy wife, for instance) can be a useful emotional tool when providing ourselves with closure that we are not going to get otherwise. Unfortunately, this framing has a larger context that is less useful, indeed harmful. As a stepping stone on the path to eventual Getting Over It, having a “blame the jealous harpy” stone makes sense. If it’s our resting point, I humbly suggest looking around to see whether the path goes even a bit farther.
The fact of the matter is this: among other things, for many people, and certainly in our Western cultural understanding, marriage is a declaration of “This is my primary adult relationship”. Spouses are entitled to *expect* a given number of Social Attention Units from/to each other. To paraphrase Raymond Johnson getting married means daily acts of being there for each other. And to the extent that a partner feels that $Activities Elsewhere are interfering with that primary relationship, they are entitled to negotiate or renegotiate with each other how SAUs get spent. This is not de facto jealousy or controlling (although it certainly *can* be!).
What friends should understand about Formally Partnered people, is that some of the SAUs that you USED to get, are going to be redistributed. And generally, that is a necessary thing – a marriage, especially a marriage with children requires an large amount of time, care, and attention to work well, IME. A really good friend does NOT put their friends in the position of Partner Vs ME! – a) it’s a losing move, and deservedly so, and b) it’s a very UNLOVING thing to do to my friend.
Crap, I meant that first part to be in reply to Jude A, above. PostFail!
haha it’s okay. I’ve read it here!
I can see how that last bit came across that way to you. I had meant for it to be something to be mindful of in future friendships.
“The fact of the matter is this: among other things, for many people, and certainly in our Western cultural understanding, marriage is a declaration of “This is my primary adult relationship”. Spouses are entitled to *expect* a given number of Social Attention Units from/to each other. To paraphrase Raymond Johnson getting married means daily acts of being there for each other. And to the extent that a partner feels that $Activities Elsewhere are interfering with that primary relationship, they are entitled to negotiate or renegotiate with each other how SAUs get spent. This is not de facto jealousy or controlling (although it certainly *can* be!).”
and this is 100% what I had intended with this:
“Over time I began to realise the amount of time/effort/emotion I was spending with this woman’s boyfriend was alarming both in her eyes, and should have been in mine. It was emotional cheating. Though I had no sexual interest in her boyfriend, we did have an extremely deep emotional bond. For her it was worse than sexual cheating. I was eating up her boyfriend’s emotional resources and taking from her what she was trying to build with him.”
So for the official record: I do *not* support stereotyping anyone into “jealous harpy” and had not intended that! Thanks for calling me out!
I’m sorry that it did not come across that way!
I like this metaphor of SAUs, particularly because it makes it easy to explain why I don’t at this point see me ever getting into a relationship like that – too many of my SAUs go right back to myself and changing that to give enough of them to someone else wouldn’t be good for me unless my situation were to radically change. I need that self-love! It also sort of reminds me of the spoon theory of disability. There are only so many spoons and only so many SAUs. You have to ration them well to keep everything functioning right. And if that means someone is no longer getting the number of SAUs they want, it’s sort of too bad, because if you give into that demand for more you have to pull them from somewhere else. It’s easy to say “well why can’t you just email me more often” just like “why is it so hard to cook a meal/put the laundry out/go shopping” but that’s because you’re only looking at this one part of a whole, not all the work this person is putting in to make sure the SAUs and spoons don’t run out before all the important parts have gotten some attention.
The Captain is, as always, spot on. This letter rang a bell for me, which I hope is utterly irrelevant but may be worth putting out there, simply because as the Captain and commenters have discussed, the LW really has no idea what could be going on in her friend’s marriage. And whatever’s going on, she deserves better.
When I met my ex-husband, he was married to someone else. We were on-line friends and that was cool (with hindsight, it wasn’t cool; I was 18 and very depressed, he was 34 and married and there was a fair amount of inappropriate going down – although at 18, I was quite naïve – as far as I knew, it was all innocent and above board). Anyway, his wife gets jealous, and her terrible irrational jealousy – which I would always hear about second hand – would be an ongoing source of stress, guilt and anxiety for me. Had I overstepped the mark? Had I misread the situation? Would I lose this friendship I had become inexplicably dependent on?
Eventually, the marriage ended because of our friendship; convinced we were having an affair, she made an ultimatum and he refused to cut me off. That’s what I was told. I was in something of a housing crisis, he was being kicked out of his home, so why didn’t we get together? So we did. Big mistake. Abusive marriaged ensued.
With hindsight, given that he was a violent abuser and a liar, I have no clue what happened in that marriage or how it ended. But given the way he subsequently behaved, and the tricks he played when he was with me, I’m now pretty sure that he used his first wife and I to control us both, with me playing a threat which might jeopardise his marriage (later, a few times he told me he had “fallen in love” with other women – not as an excuse to stray, which he never did, but as a declaration to hurt me – so he may well have told his ex this about me while I remained oblivious) and with the wife playing a threat which might jeopardise our friendship. So he could keep his options open; either he would gain greater control over the wife who was probably already having itchy feet, or he would gain enough control over me to replace her.
My ex was a complete and utter Darth and there’s nothing in the letter which suggests that LW’s friend is like this. But it could be considered exhibit H in the case for “Disengage.” Someone is playing games with you; you are being asked to continue in a role which is made many times more difficult because you’re not allowed to send a regular social e-mail to the guy you’re working for. You’ve been cast in this role as a threat to someone’s marriage, which is a horrible feeling. Whatever’s going on, whether she is a horrible person, or he is, or he’s trying to cut down on on-line time, or he’s using her as an excuse, you deserve better than the treatment you have received from someone who you call a friend.
I know some people are reading this as stalking or as an emotional affair, but I don’t think either would be necessary for the singer and his wife to agree the friendship was interfering with their family.
I’m wondering if the singer has been emotionally neglecting his family, and if cutting back on other relationships so that he can reestablish those bonds is the solution. I think a lot of us have met someone who’s incredibly giving at work or to various causes but who has nothing left at the end of the day for family, or who’s so involved in a relationship with a parent that romantic partners always feel that they come second. I could see that happening here. It would explain why no one seems to be blaming the LW, and why the LW is so confused. If she’s getting the open, emotionally engaged parts of the singer, she might not realize that his wife is getting tired silences when he’s done emailing her.
“I’m wondering if the singer has been emotionally neglecting his family, and if cutting back on other relationships so that he can reestablish those bonds is the solution.”
I think this is a big possibility, and it is kind of what I suspect is going on.
I had to set similar boundaries in my own relationship: the shortest way to say it is that my partner had severe mental health issues that were really fucking up our relationship, and instead of putting his energy into fixing those things, he was doing a lot of other inappropriate things. A condition for me agreeing to try to work things out was that those other things (and some of them were inappropriate friendships) had to go. Getting his shit together had to be the number one priority. That meant no more inappropriate friendships, and it meant going to therapy, changing his medication, and proving his dedication to me instead.
Frankly, the fact that his wife has access to his email address, and that the LW did not know, indicates to me that it is very, very possible he has a history of infidelity. The wife could have decided that his relationship with the LW had moved into inappropriate territory. Or he might have cheated recently and she required that he focus more on their relationship and less on others, in order to save their marriage.
What is important is that the wife’s reasons do not matter. The Singer’s marriage is important enough to him that he asked the LW to back off. The LW has already not respected that, in that she continued to send him personal emails. It is possible that the wife had nothing against the LW in the beginning, but if I was the wife, and the LW kept trying to maintain the friendship, I would at that point have a major problem with the LW. In continuing to email him and send him personal info, the LW is not being a friend to their marriage. She is in fact saying that she doesn’t respect it!
LW, I know this sucks for you, but it is outside of your control. It is not your marriage. And the Singer is very clearly willing to end your friendship; you seem to be in denial about that, but in fact he has already ended your friendship.
I do agree that this sucks, but you have to let it go and try to move on. I think giving up the website is important.
I can see that some of the advice here might be difficult for the LW, because it puts up barriers to friendships with other married men.
I used to think of myself as having wonderful friendships with several men, but looking back I realised that one of us had been in love with the other, every time. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on those friendships because they were very special, but I had them in the wrong category.
If you’re an asexual woman and you want a deep friendship with a man, would you be advised to prioritise single gay guys if asexual men aren’t available? Or perhaps straight men in committed long distance relationships?
I dunno, it seems to me that asking the LW to back off and get over this friendship is also asking her to take a different view of future friendships. I don’t disagree with the advice, but it is potentially big news.
Eh, friendship isn’t based on a category of people or their marital status. But getting really emotionally involved with a married person – to the point where it might be serving as a surrogate for a primary attachment (romantic or aromantic) in your life – is often going to end here, with the married person choosing to spend their attention on the person they are married to.
For an alternate view of how a lifelong close friendship can really work (with the full support of spouses) read Just Kids by Patti Smith.
Just Kids is an amazing book about an amazing relationship! One of my favorite books ever!
I don’t really see that here. I think the LW is actually misunderstanding how her asexuality affects other people (my guess: not that much?) by assuming that it means she is 100% removed from any of the emotional circuitry of this marriage. I have friendships that are as deep as romantic relationships, and in parts of my life they have taken as much of my time as my partnership with Mr Machine does. (And not for nothing, but for me the categories “friend” and “sexytimes partner” have not always been clearcut, even with seemingly incompatible sexual orientations — deep emotions can change the calculus of desire.) What I’m getting at is that LW doesn’t necessarily need to say “I can’t be friends with Married Men” but rather “I can’t be friends with This Married Man.” Saying “Oh cool, I’ll switch to Gay Dudes” is missing the point and kinda condescending as well.
I’m a bisexual woman who is entirely capable of being attracted to, even falling in love with, straight women. That doesn’t mean I don’t know they don’t and won’t reciprocate my feelings. It does mean that what I do and say is different; I had one friend who, while not at all interested, liked knowing how I felt because she liked the reminder that she’s attractive. Even knowing that, I never made a pass at her, because it would have been inappropriate. And at least one who I’m fairly sure never realized I felt that way (I knew her well enough to know that she would rather not be told).
The point is that, regardless of gender and whether any of the people are single at the time, that sort of emotional and/or physical attraction takes up mental and emotional space and attention. Not necessarily from the object of the interest, but from the person who feels it.
“deep emotions can change the calculus of desire.”
Don’t even need to be that deep. Spend enough time hanging around with someone smiling and sharing lives and eventually they start to look pretty sexy.
Single gay guys could still have the same problem if they stop being single, as people are often wont to do, and them being gay is pretty irrelevant – she’s already not going to have a sexual relationship with a guy, so another reason for that isn’t going to change things. If she was going to apply this situation to all situations she’d basically have to stop having friends at all. She can really only apply this situation to this situation
I don’t think those alternatives are any better, but I agree about the rest. Because if she wants the most important relationship in her life – or even a very important one – to be a friendship, and the people she’s friends with are sexual, then saying that she needs to understand that the married person is going to choose their partner over her is tellling her she can’t have that. I think it’s true that that’s what married people will usually do, but that seems to make it hard to have someone who cares about you just as much as you do about them, with so many people choosing the life of primary-relationship-will-be-a-sexual-one.
It is hard, and it is unfair, but relationships are unfair – they are about affinity, feelings, love, choices (sometimes desire, sometimes not). You can’t make people prioritize you or care for you in the the same way you do them. You can ask them to, you can hope they will, but in the end it won’t come down to fairness. It comes down to whatever choices you make and whatever you work out with the people involved.
I agree with that in terms of practical advice, and I’m not saying that the rightness or wrongness of what was done has any effect on what LW should do.
I put that in because I do think it is unfair (and I know I want it to be acknowledged if I think something is unfair to me, that’s basic to everybody as far as I know), and because LW’s script/worldview might be different from that of someone who’s more comfortable with the idea that marriage is primary even if one partner is asking something that hurts other people. Assuming that the latter is even what’s happening. That’s what I see as part of the problem – a clash with worldviews.
And I’m not asexual myself, but it seems that the person with the minority worldview is going to get this kind of hurtful treatment again and again if people in general keep endorsing that it is right for marriage to come first and for relationships to have the hierarchy they do here today. (Of course since in marriage people do vow to put each other first, I guess for me that has to do with the value of marriage in the first place, but I’d be derailing to go into that and it’s murky for me anyway.) People who have those values have the privilege of assuming their beliefs are right and their actions are right and other people are wrong, even when those people just have different beliefs and don’t get the harm being done. Which of course is part of why (if everything said was true) I think the situation wasn’t more clearly explained to LW. Clashing beliefs and everybody thought their values were clear, but they weren’t.
It also reminded me of something I read by an asexual before, about being hurt repeatedly because hir friendship kept getting devalued every time a friend entered a serious romantic/sexual relationship, and how people responded as if the zie was acting entitled to write about this on the Internet and defending the friends who devalued hir as if zie had attacked them, instead of recognizing that zie had a tough time as a minority and it was not the same thing as some guy complaining about how he can’t get laid because girls only like alpha males or something.
I’m sorry, I think I might have ended up derailing in my first reply to this comment and it’s long. I agree with you about that in general; I just think that sometimes the decisions people make are based in values and beliefs that are unfairly dominant, that make people who are minorities suffer, and that that should be recognized and spoken about. It’s not right for LW to keep trying, but that doesn’t make what was done to her right, and that doesn’t make the values and beliefs the married couple acted on right, and I thought that should be represented just like the belief that marriage should be primary is being represented in the comment thread.
I’m sorry, LW. You’ve been African Violeted, and it sucks. It’s painful and confusing and you don’t know why or how to make it better. The truth is that you can’t. You can hand off control of the website and include a “if there are any questions about [particular aspect of the site], email me” line to let him know the lines of communication haven’t slammed shut, but you can’t fix it, and you can’t make it not hurt, and you can’t make either of them change their minds. All you can do is feel sad about losing the friendship. You have my sympathy.
I can’t believe you’re the first person to point out that she’s gotten the African Violet! Cap’n, is this your first Violet-ee letter?
Cripes, I wish I could find the meaning of African Violet in this context somewhere on the Web! Mr Google has so let me down …
Good thing there’s a big old search window on the right hand of the site! Which will get you these posts.
Sorry to be a dick, but that should explain it pretty completely.
I read the letter earlier in the day, and have just had a chance to read the responses. Emotional affair occurred to me also. I’ve been an unwilling witness to one of these, and I’ve seen what happens when the husband just thinks “Wow, my wife’s got these crazy ideas!” and it was seriously ugly.
I worked in a 3-person department, with a boss I really liked a lot, when one colleague left and another was hired. After a while, they were spending one or two 90 minute sessions a day gabbing in his office or hers, often with the door shut and a lot of laughter. I didn’t believe they were having a physical affair, mostly because of the boss — he always seemed to have a great marriage. But they spent tons of times together, and considering the conversations they felt perfectly free to have in front of me (she asked him about the first time he had sex, for instance, and he launched into the story), I know he was putting a lot of energy into their friendship that belonged elsewhere. Hell, *I* felt shoved aside, just as a friend and colleague, so I knew his wife must have felt it. In fact, his wife thought he was having a sexual affair, and it got to the point where she emailed and called ME to try to worm info out of me. That’s when I started looking for a new job. After I was gone, I heard that he was going through a divorce and a nasty custody battle, and sometime after I left the colleague he’d been having this friendship with quit, and as far as I know there was nothing more between them.
I have no idea what his marriage was like before this all happened, not really, but it’s hard to imagine it imploding any worse. So it may well be best for the LW’s friend that he’s listening and agreeing to change his behavior, even though there was nothing wrong in this friendship. It’s his wife and child who deserve his time and his emotional energy, at least if it’s a relationship he wants to be strong and happy. But it sucks for the LW — it’s hard to lose a great friendship through no fault of your own. But her job now is to support her friend by letting him give the marriage what it needs. Believe me, if she’s a friend she doesn’t want to see the trainwreck that comes from him discounting his wife’s feelings.
LW, I was once in a position that your singer friend was in, in which I had a friend who made my partner uncomfortable, and so I had to really turn down the volume on our friendship. It was somewhat different from your situation – my friend had had feelings for me in the past (was a bit of a Nice Guy TM), and had a tendency to push boundaries. My partner felt really uncomfortable that I still allowed this person, who had I a long history with, in my life, and asked me not to see or communicate with him anymore. He wasn’t trying to be controlling in any way, but when my friend pushed some boundaries of mine, my partner felt that his boundaries were pushed as well.
My friend and I didn’t have any professional/official reasons to communicate, and I still talk to him from time to time, but rarely. But I know when I became distant he was confused and felt hurt.I didn’t use my husband as an excuse (that would have set off more boundary pushing and would have probably ended the friendship entirely), but I could never give him a satisfactory explanation. It boiled down to me setting up some new boundaries and saying he had to respect them or we could no longer be friend of any sort. But I think to him it seemed like it came out of the blue, while to me it had been forming for a while.
I know my and your situations are different, and it sounds like you are much better at respecting boundaries than my friend. But when it came down to it, in my situation, I had to respect my partner more than my friend. My partner was more important in my life, and we wanted a future together. And we had to construct that future together in a way that made us both comfortable.
I don’t know if I’ve provided any insight here, but I’ll nth the suggestion to just disengage. Here’s sending you jedi hugs.
Whilst this may just be a case of a friend with no spine trying to cut the friendship through their partner, a lot of this sounds to me like indicators of an abusive relationship – the controlling aspects, particularly controlling communications, and feeling afraid that their partner ‘might make things worse for them’ on the basis of something a third person does are potential classic signs of such.
So, if it were an abusive relationship, what could the LW actually do about it when she’s been expressly asked by the husband to communicate only through the agent only about website-related things once/month?
Do you disrespect someone’s wishes and jump into save them? At a distance? When you’re not in the inner circle and don’t actually know what’s going on? Or do you say “I’m really sorry to hear that, of course I respect your decision. I will really miss our correspondence. Please do get in touch if there’s anything I can do”
Most telling for me: There is a 99% chance that the husband could get in touch with the LW if he wanted to via a private channel and only a 1% chance that he spends his free time imprisoned in a cellar with no internet access. I will feel really shitty if we start seeing headlines about a famous musician who has been imprisoned in a cellar, but it seems like there is so much wishful thinking on the part of the LW to make the story be about that 1% and certain that she is the only one who knows about it or is in a position to do something about it.
Anything she’d do would be expressly against the husband’s stated wishes to respect his wife’s wishes and back off from communicating. Until she has more information (like the husband saying something more directly to the LW, or using an alternate channel of communication), backing off seems like the answer.
Everyone make sure to email the Captain if you hear singing/guitar drifting up from a locked basement! Awkward Army to the rescue!
I kind of felt the same way as sexulating, but I definitely agree with Captain Awkward that unless the husband ASKS FOR HELP regarding the situation (even assuming it exists, which as you point out, is far from certain) it would be seriously inappropriate for LW to involve herself further at this stage. Backing off and saying ‘I really enjoy being friends with you, I’m sorry it’s not working out, feel free to get in touch in the future if you want because I’d love to hear from you’ is the wisest course. If this is an abusive situation, LW has sent a signal that they would like to help if they can. But if not, they’ve been gracious and acted appropriately.
I also feel the same as sexulating (except I agree that LW should back off anyway, there’s not much she can do to help and a lot she might hurt), but I do want to point out that if he is being abused then physical access to the internet is almost certainly not going to be his main problem.
I’m going to raise a counterpoint: What if it is that bad? What if the wife really is controlling, jealous, doesn’t want her husband to have female friends, and is making him miserable by watching over his every move?
Then your action is exactly the same. In fact, it’s more important–because it could cause him serious trouble if you don’t–that you don’t try to contact him in ways he and his wife haven’t specifically allowed. If he does need a way out of that relationship, he won’t get it by you forcing contact.
It’s not appropriate for you to play the hero to someone in a controlling situation and it’s not appropriate for you to be pushy with someone who really doesn’t want to talk to you, so… six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Right. Abuse victims suffer from everyone trampling all over their stated wishes. “I know you said you wanted x, but I know you REALLY want y so I’m giving you y.”
One way you can support someone who is in a relationship with Darth Vader is to say “I don’t like this, but I support whatever you want to do” and respect their boundaries.
Ugh, that is so true. I just saw an awful thread online that was essentially “my friend was raped and doesn’t want to press charges, how do I force her to confront her rapist?”. Luckily, most of the comments seemed to be STFU.
When someone’s raped/abused/put in danger, the absolute best thing you can do is empower them to use their own instincts and abilities to get them out of it. Especially since they have to live with the consequences of action or inaction–not you.
(Also! If someone’s just been raped, they’ve had ENOUGH of being forced to do things against their will for one lifetime. Jeez.)
Another way you can support someone who is in a controling relationship is to show them what a good relationship looks like by respecting their wishes and boundaries.
For me all those times when interactions with friends were easy and straightforward and allowed me to do things I wanted without abasing myself or requiring huge amounts of explanation or stress eventually added up and helped me to realise that my ex was a darth vader.
Until the person involved asks for your help this is really the only thing you can do.
Yes, exactly. If the “terror” on Mr. Singer’s face is real that is in fact all the more reason to respect it and do as he asks.
Also, LW, your desire to “work everything out and hopefully make peace” sounds a lot like “have a conversation where I explain to her why I am in fact right and convince her to agree with me.” I know you’re hurting, but this isn’t really an option for you.
One of the things we stress when we do awareness raising campaigns in my job is that it’s ok to directly ask if everything is ok at home IF YOU CAN DO IT WITHOUT PUTTING A VICTIM/SURVIVOR AT RISK. Which LW can’t, when Mrs Singer might be reaidng the letter/email. The only thing she can do is say ‘I’m here for you if you ever need me’ and do what he asks to keep him safe, if he is being abused. Which, as you say, is pretty much what she does if he’s not being abused, so sorted.
Exactly. The victims/survivors are the best judge of what’s safe for them – not you, not anyone else. If they say it’s not okay or not safe to do something, YOU DO NOT DO IT.
And, continuing the assumption (and it’s a big assumption) that this is an abusive relationship, ignoring the stated boundaries of an abused person signals to them that you yourself are not safe, because you’ve just re-enacted an abusive pattern.
LW, I totally get being concerned for your friend and wanting to continue the friendship. But the safest thing you can do – both for yourself and your friend – is to disengage.
Oh god I remember last year we moved our call centre down from another city to our branch. Now, I mentioned in another comment that my job is post-disaster financial aid and I live in the area affected. But because of the complete mess the whole area’s in, somehow the place I work has developed this reputation as the only big organisation that will pay you any attention at all (including things like city council). We… were not quite prepared for what this meant. We had no training whatsoever in dealing with the various sticky situations that happen between people and I ended up having to buy an address book to list the numbers for places I referred people to – including, frequently, phone counseling services, helplines for addiction recovery (problem gambling as well as substance abuse), legal advice, specialist youth services, abuse crisis and women’s refuge, various health agencies and local community assistance that had more leeway in what they could do, on and on and on. We had to come up with procedure on the fly for things like “what to do if someone threatens to kill themselves” and talking to people who’d been through serious trauma but who were convinced that other people had it worse, it wasn’t bad enough to warrant therapy, they couldn’t lay it on their family because they’d be a burden, etc. And I have to repeat that none of us had even the slightest bit of training for this. It was a complete nightmare for a while and I’m sure that we did the wrong thing on several occasions but eventually I, at least (can’t speak for colleagues), learned to *mostly* figure out when I just needed to listen to someone talk and when to start frantically googling information to offer them, because there is definitely a difference and not everything is fixable or even really much of a problem in the long run. Trying to fix a problem that might not be a problem isn’t going to help either of us. If they actually need help, they know our number. I still actually struggle with not emotionally bringing my work home with me but at a certain point I have to accept that even when I *could* do more to help, it’s probably crossing a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed, and it’s just going to destroy me if I let it get too far.
Wow that was really long and rambly, sorry. Distill it down to: you can’t always fix other people’s problems, and sometimes there isn’t one in the first place.
I’m with Rodeo Bob on this one. She just had a kid and here’s her husband, touring and spending a lot of time emailing a fan (who runs his website to boot) and getting close with them while she’s changing diapers and kissing scraped knees and doing the shopping and cleaning the house. It’s not jealousy as much as it is likely anger over neglect. I’m willing to bet if you were a dude and he was constantly spending time with you she’d still feel resentful.
She’s holding you blameless, LW–she’s not angry with you or saying you’re acting inappropriately. It’s between them. There may have been things your friend had said or done to make her feel insecure. Or maybe he’s using the wife as a heavy and he wants to end it for whatever reason. Maybe she’s feeling neglected. There could be issues at play that you don’t know about that, for whatever reason, your friendship with him brings front and center. You just don’t know.
It’s not always about how good you are and how properly you act. You have to respect the boundary.
Reading again, I’m getting a feeling LW is trying to live out a script that doesn’t actually exist, one where she is the heroine and Mr Singer the hero. The conspiratorial aura of the idea about writing to Mr Singer behind Mrs Singer’s back, the insistence he really *does* want to continue the friendship and is only bowing to Mrs Singer’s irrational demands … hmm. Asexuality isn’t all that important, the feeling I get is of possessive tentacles. Okay, my bias is with Mrs Singer, I have to say that: I don’t go for friendships with married men for this very reason, I wouldn’t feel right about it. I’m wondering if Mrs Singer’s alarm bells have been set off. I rather think mine would be.
I think as the next follow-up, if the LW does accept the African Violet and disengage, is to find new things to keep busy. Administrating a large forum takes up time and mental energy, and friendships are always an emotional draw. Giving up on both at once would mean a lot of free time and energy–and I know when I’ve given up an admin job, I spend the time I would have been moderating discussions or writing messages clicking vaguely around the bits of the internet left to me, wondering what to do, feeling tempted to pop in and “see how things are going”.
Time to seek out a penpal/take up a new hobby/join a club, so the loss of tasks (as well as attachment) is a little less obvious.
Play a new computer game, get hopelessly lost in it. 🙂 I bought Sims 3 not long ago and as a result my sister yesterday had to Use Her Words to remind me that I could, occasionally, spend some time with her too, if I wanted. I’ve done the same thing with other games too, so it could be a decent option – with the bonus that eventually it will start to get boring and you naturally move away from it towards things that are just more interesting, but hopefully by then it will be something other than the habit of friendship with Mr Singer.
Seconding! I discovered an MMO that I like a lot after I went through a rough time a year ago, and I’ve had a lot of fun getting into it and learning new things. It’s definitely sucked up a lot of time that I would’ve been spending feeling sad and aimless.
I’m with you! After a blog that I cared for died a slow death, I took up knitting. Keeps the hands busy, you can do it anywhere, if you knit socks or gloves it’s COMPLETELY portable, and in the end, you have socks!! Or you’ve made a dear friend mittens that look like a Dalek. Or a TARDIS. Or a hat that looks like a Chain Chomp from Super Mario Brothers.
Have I mentioned that I’ve been knitting a lot?
From the perspective of “if this were my marriage, how would I react,” I can honestly say that I think the LW is coming off as possessive, and angry about the demands her friend’s WIFE is making on him. There seems to be a thinly veiled air of “who does SHE think she is, making demands that MY FRIEND cut me off!”
Uh, hon, she’s his WIFE. He made vows to her to put her first, not you. He has a child with her, not you. It’s not about your hurt feelings, it’s about him putting his marriage first, and putting his family first. Sneaking around to contact him by putting all the news about your life in with the letter you send to his agent about the fan website is still sneaking around her request that his contact with you needs to be limited to the fan website.
The LW needs to step down from the website, and she needs to understand that it’s not all about her…..Mr. Singer needs to put his wife and child and THEIR needs before the LW’s. And if I were Mrs. Singer, I’d be PISSED that this woman has so much of a claim on my husband’s time and energy….and be telling him that the level of contact is totally inappropriate and that I wasn’t putting up with it any longer.
” And if I were Mrs. Singer, I’d be PISSED that this woman has so much of a claim on my husband’s time and energy….and be telling him that the level of contact is totally inappropriate and that I wasn’t putting up with it any longer.”
Well, to be fair the LW was just sending emails and later letters, we don’t actually know how much “this woman” has a “claim” on the husband’s time.
While I do not think I would ever seriously tell my bf or husband (any long term partner) what level of contact was or was not “appropriate” for him and would be very concerned if my partner did that to me, I think the advice here that the LW needs to respect **Mr. Singer’s*** wishes is spot on because as others have pointed out we do not actually know to what extent the wife is being controlling or not, we do not know the dynamics of their relationship. We can never know that. We only know that Mr. Singer has set a boundary, and the LW should respect that, and also she should move on and accept that her friendship is over.
The bit of the advice that stood out for me, was that Mr. Singer could easily contact his friend through a private email address if he felt that was what he wanted to do.
If he has not done that then it is not good for the LW to send him letters via his agent…
Yes, exactly. From the LW’s description, it does not sound like she was monopolizing his time in any way that I would find unreasonable. The wife’s demands would be a big problem for me if I were her husband, and I would never ask a partner to end this type of friendship. But all that matters is that Mr. Singer has asked her to back off, and she needs to respect that regardless of whether we think the wife is being reasonable or not.
Though for all we know, Mrs Singer expressed sadness or resentment or something similar but didn’t issue an ultimatum at all – Mr Singer not wanting LW to talk to his wife could just be not wanting her to find out that he exaggerated it to make a clean break. Sometimes if you want to cut down on something that’s hurting someone you love it’s easier to get rid of it entirely so you aren’t tempted.
I actually have a bias toward the LW, because as a married woman I would never allow my husband to dictate who I could or couldn’t be friends with. I think in a relationship there is a way to express your needs (e.g. “I need more of your free time”) without making that about controlling your partner’s behavior (“Stop talking to X.”) The instant my husband decided he didn’t want me talking to a particular friend anymore would be the instant I’d show him the door.
However, as others have pointed out, the LW here can’t make relationship agreements for the married couple in question. If the husband decides to give his wife control over who he can and can’t be friends with, that’s his choice. Sadly, the LW just has to say, “I think this is wrong, but I will respect your wishes. You know where to find me if you wish to resume contact.”
And yes, absolutely stop running the website. He’s not obligated to be your friend, but you aren’t obligated to provide him with free services, either.
Yeah, but we only have LW’s perspective on it, and who knows how much the husband is letting the wife be the heavy? (Or q.v. John Mulaney on how having a girlfriend was like getting a lawyer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=5rIzNebgMu8)
Wow, that link is funny until the end – his impression of the Motown kid is a) not funny and b) really kind of racist.
I am so sorry about that! I agree & had misgivings after I had posted it, but I don’t know a way to include only an excerpt (or to go back and delete).
What you may see as controlling might not *be* controlling in another relationship. People’s needs are different, and some people tend to be more jealous than others. I’m certainly guilty of that. My significant other sometimes has a hard time seeing that some things are inappropriate, like talking to an ex late every night while I was asleep, or going wayyy out of his way to ensure a female coworker could spend time with him (picking her up and dropping her off 45 min away, even though rescheduling was an option for when she could provide her own transport).
For your relationship, you might be totally cool and trusting with this stuff and I respect that. For me and mine however, this was not okay, and we had to decide as partners what we could both live with. I completely trust my partner not to physically cheat on me, but I am afraid of emotional infidelity. SO had never heard of this concept before, so he had to take some time to adjust his views, and I had to take some time to adjust my views. He decided not to continue talking with his ex and only do reasonable, coworker/friend-level actions with his coworker. I decided that while it’s okay to have jealous feelings, I have to check myself and make sure I’m not controlling his behavior and letting the jealousy completely take over.
So I guess what I’m trying to provide is a view from Mrs. Singer. Obviously our situations are different and we don’t have all the information, but even if Mrs. Singer’s feelings were unjustified in the way that Mr. Singer wasn’t cheating physically or emotionally, she is still allowed to have those feelings and act on those feelings. Her feelings may be based on her own insecurity (as mine are) and Mr. Singer may not totally agree with her or understand, but like so many other commenters said, that is his primary relationship and he decided that’s what takes precedence.
“Mr. Singer may not totally agree with her or understand, but like so many other commenters said, that is his primary relationship and he decided that’s what takes precedence.”
Yup, which is exactly what I said. I noted that I have a bias toward the LW based on my own feelings and values and that I personally would never agree to a situation like Mr. Singer’s. And then I noted that ultimately this isn’t the LW’s choice and if Mr. Singer is fine with his wife dictating his friendships (or if he’s using his wife as a scapegoat, which could certainly be the case) then that’s his choice and, sadly, the LW doesn’t get a say in it.
The shared email confuses me, too. My parents do it, but it’s even more strange to me since they have firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org – and, as far as I can tell, both of them read all three addresses. (They may all go to the same inbox, too; I really don’t know.) As long as I remember to do subjects like you do, it works.
“possibly because I’m asexual and therefore there is no possible sexual element to complicate matters”
LW, you don’t experience sexual attraction, that’s totally understood! But sexual interest is a two-way street; just because you’re disinterested, there’s no guarantee that the other party is equally disinterested, and it is plausible that your friend might have developed inconvenient feelings that unsettle his wife. It’s all too easy to do that in an emotionally charged friendship. (And honestly, even minus sexual feelings, a deep emotional connection can definitely be enough to put a strain on someone’s relationship!)
Of course, if this is true, it’s in absolutely no way your fault; you have no control over that gentleman’s pants. But just because you’re asexual doesn’t mean that you’ll never be caught in a sexual-feelings-related drama situation, unfortunately; it just means you’re not going to be the one with the dramafeelings, but you’re still going to have to have the mental equipment to handle this sort of thing with grace.
[I do think that claiming [straight] men can’t be friends with [straight/heteroromantic] women is entirely absurd. People of any combinations of genders can be friends with each other! And this is also why I slightly roll my eyes at the Only Be Friends With Gay Dudes sort of advice — that’s absolutely no solution, and it’s a bit demeaning to straight dudes to assume that none of them are capable of uncomplicated friendship with women. But sometimes specific friendships don’t work out, and sometimes that is for romantic or sexual reasons, and that really, really sucks, but it is an unfortunate fact of socialisation.]
Regardless of whether the underlying reasons are sexual or not, though, it’s not your place to pick them apart! The Captain’s advice is excellent, as usual; whatever the wife’s reasons for being disturbed by your friendship, and whatever the husband’s actual feelings, it is almost certainly better for everyone in this situation for you to let this one go.
There is only one glaring thing to me: it is so super easy to get a private e-mail account. He didn’t.
You may never find out why, but it tells you everything you need to know about where this friendship is going (hint: unfortunately nowhere).
You know, regarding the ability to get a private email account: if he got a private email account and emailed the LW after it was clear his wife had a huge problem with this, I’d still advise the LW to back off as he’s pulling the LW into some sort of weird triad situation. Yes, just friends, etc. except apparently his wife feels its crossed a line.
Mr. Singer hasn’t written in; his fan has. And while abuse is very, very scary I have to say that this isn’t necessarily it. What hit *my* alarm bells was Mr. Singer saying he couldn’t blame LW if she held a grudge against Mrs. Singer. What??
LW needs to run from this. At very best, there are issues between Mr. and Mrs. Singer that his friendship with her is exacerbating. At worst, Mr. Singer is using LW as a weapon against Mrs. Singer (the grudge comment).
That’s what worried me, although you put it far more clearly and concisely. 🙂
At first I was baffled by the joint email account, because who does that? Except… for professional-type correspondence in the name of say, a band. It strikes me as way less personal relationship.
(Sidenote: I found out that a friend of mine shares his FB password with his girlfriend. I felt betrayed, violated, angry. I thought I knew all the people who had access to certain things! And now there was someone else too! People seem to think this sharing thing is abouot the trust betweens spouses, but it’s really not. It’s about trust their friends put in them – wrongly – by writing those emails and statuses and whatnot. ARgh.)
What are you writing that you wouldn’t want the spouses/girlfriends to see?
My husband and I have separate e-mail accounts. I don’t have access to his, or he to mine. And it would creep me out hugely if he insisted on it — I definitely need my bubble of personal space (including, for example, a credit card he doesn’t get to see the bills on, because I couldn’t stand feeling like a child subject to oversight; though I hardly ever use it ’cause we get airline miles on our joint one, as long as it does not add up to a significant amount I don’t think he even gets to have an opinion on every little thing I do).
But he *could* access my e-mail — there is nothing in there he would be upset to see, or that I would be upset to have him see, or that any of my correspondents would be upset to have him see. Maybe a little spousal kvetching, but nothing inappropriate. I would never write anything to a male friend that I would not want his girlfriend/wife to see. Not just because nothing in the internet (especially facebook, hon!) is as private as you think it is, but because you shouldn’t be having that kind of interaction with the guy anyway. Assuming you have a right to have secrets with someone in a committed, exclusive relationship, that they must keep from their SO? I’m not sure where you get that sense of entitlement. It’s their choice.
I don’t share everything my friends say to me with my boyfriend, not because there is anything shady about it, but if they are writing to me about their own personal issues, stories, pregnancies, venting about partners or other friends, work situations, etc. they are writing to ME and not US. And that is a privacy issue, I think – not a matter of hiding secrets, but about respecting my friends’ trust. I had a (former) partner who hacked my email and was reading my private correspondence, and it was a big fucking deal not just because hey, invasion of privacy, but also, he was reading things friends sent to me about their own lives in confidence. Not cool.
As you say, it’s ultimately a couple’s choice on how they want to handle this. But I understand why this would raise hackles. It’s got a little flavor of “surveillance doesn’t matter as long as you’re not doing anything wrong!” about it.
Fair enough — I don’t share a whole lot, either, and it’s true I can’t imagine saying “anything you say to me you say to both of us!” That’s weird. And I can see it being disconcerting if you thought you were communicating to one person, with whom you had one relationship, only to discover that you were sharing your thoughts with someone else, too, with whom you had a different and perhaps less intimate relationship.
Also, I definitely have had filters in place for, like, ladybits talk, or my group o’ college friends nostalgia, or whatnot, that I wouldn’t be *outraged* if I knew SOs were reading… but I would stop talking about certain things to those friends.
I have to echo what Jennifer said. I have girlfriends that talk to me about rapes, sexual abuse, women’s health issues, abortions, etc. I would NEVER share those conversations with my husband! For myself, I need to know that I have friends I can talk to about anything and trust that they will not share it without my consent. Not having that would be horrible.
That having been said, to keep myself (and others) safe I follow two rules:
1. I assume that anything I tell a married/partnered friend WILL be shared with their partner. If I want to discuss something confidential I ask first. “Hey, I have something I really need to talk about but I have to know that you won’t share it with anyone, not even your husband. Can you do that for me?”
2. I assume that anything really personal that gets shared with me is NOT okay to tell my husband, unless the person specifically gives me permission.
Living by those spares me a lot of heartache!
Maybe not something they don’t want His Romantic Partner to know, but something they don’t want A Person They Didn’t Vet to know. I talk about difficult things with my friends. Painful things, very often. If I found out that the messages I was writing about deeply personal things were going to someone I didn’t even know, then yes, I would be upset and a little betrayed.
I am sorry about the unpleasant surprise, and you are entitled to your feelings. However, it simply isn’t safe to make assumptions about communication within other people’s relationships, whether it’s that they don’t share things, or that they do.
I have learned with some couples that they don’t necessarily share important information like a social date planned with us, so I know that I need to communicate with both of them, instead of assuming that the necessary information would be passed along. Similarly, I don’t automatically assume that something I share with one won’t be passed along to the other. If I don’t want it passed along, I make that request explicit.
Regarding passwords, I am not comfortable sharing mine, but my partner keeps giving hirs to me. That includes FB in one instance, when zie wanted something posted immediately but a computer wasn’t handy. And when FB is open, I am comfortable scanning through hir wall because I still find the whole thing a little puzzling but interesting (I have resisted pressure to join FB). And partner is not necessarily timely about checking email, so sometimes I access hir account to check whether there’s anything urgent zie needs to deal with. While I don’t intentionally share my password with partner, neither do I add security to my email client or OS, so when my computer is on, my partner can readily access my messages, browser history, etc. So the effect is much the same in terms of mutual access.
I probably share a little too much with my partner. I process things verbally, I talk about what’s important to me, and zie is my usual confidante. So I tend to give hir the highlights of most of my conversations, unless I’ve been requested not to by my partner or whoever I was talking to. Because I know I can overshare, I sometimes explicitly check in with the person I’m talking to about the boundaries around this conversation to make sure that I don’t inadvertently violate hir trust.
YMMV, you can’t assume your values apply to others’ relationships, particularly if you’ve never had that discussion.
“And partner is not necessarily timely about checking email, so sometimes I access hir account to check whether there’s anything urgent zie needs to deal with.”
Your mileage and mine clearly vary on this … I would find this condescending, patronizing, and controlling. If a grown-up person chooses not to check their email in a timely manner, surely anything urgent that they miss is their problem?
This is how solecism and hir partner do their relationship, though. Hir partner shares hir email with solecism because it’s not a job zie always wants to deal with, and solecism is willing to do it for them. So it doesn’t really sound patronizing or controlling, it just sounds like the way they deal with email.
I might ask if zie would like me to check since it’s been awhile. Or maybe if someone had indicated something would be sent to partner, and zie made no mention of receiving it. The only email account I check is the one I set up for hir, because zie told me what password to use. Zie told me the password to at least one other, but I have a poor memory and a certain discomfort with knowing such confidential information, that I haven’t retained those. My partner happens to have some mental health issues, and this is one of the ways that we’ve agreed that I can support hir. I agree that these sorts of things are usually not my business and not my problem, but if it’s something that affects me or is important to me, or that my partner indicated was important to hir, then I do make the effort to follow up. Because of the particulars of our situation and temperaments, all of the business email generally gets sent to me. And because I am a dedicated bean counter, I handle all of the receipts, which my partner has been kind enough to accommodate by making sure to get whenever possible, and I pay all of the bills, both joint and individual using either our joint account or my personal account (zie doesn’t have a personal checking account). Does this mean I see many of hir financial transactions, which could also be interpreted as patronizing and controlling, while zie doesn’t see many of mine? Yes. Since I talk about everything anyway, zie is probably relieved to be spared the corroborating documentation of my transactions. This is what works for us. It is not meant to be a model for others, just another example/viewpoint for the sake of recognizing the diversity of human experience.
Jumping in to say that my boyfriend has my e-mail password, because sometimes e-mail gives me panic attacks, so if I’m having a bad e-mail anxiety week, he’ll scan through, delete my spam, read me some subject headlines, take dictation on a short response if there’s anything mad urgent that can’t wait until I’m feeling better or be addressed through another channel. He also sometimes checks my e-mail for me if I’m away from my computer, since I don’t have an internet-enabled phone (ex: “this class was supposed to have started ten minutes ago and nobody’s here, did I get an e-mail about it being canceled? oh, yup? thanks!)
We’ve had a couple of boundary issues in the past, and I’ve changed my password for a little while, and changed it back when I felt like we were in a good place. It generally works pretty well.
Oh sweet I’m glad I’m not the only one who sometimes has to ask a partner for help with things like email that are sometimes No Thing and sometimes Hide Under My Desk Until The Scary Emails Go Away.
You are not alone! I actually have a filter on my email for a family member who has a tendency to not respect my boundaries (talks about this, when I have mustered the courage to do so in the past, have almost always resulted in defensiveness, denial, flouncing and/or empty promises, so I know that this person, who I have made a conscious decision to keep in my life for the forseeable future, is unlikely to suddenly start treating me like a fellow human). This person also happens to email multiple times per day when zie has a bee in hir bonnet, which causes me to start having anxiety attacks upon opening email or avoiding email altogether. Solution (suggested by my terrific Spousal Unit) was to set a filter. All emails from Undesirable Contact go straight to my partner, who gives me any important info in digest form (some of it is hilarious, like, “Undesirable Contact sent you an email forward with sparkly gifs and also wants to know if you have read Awful Book Zie Bought You yet.”)
While my partner doesn’t have my facebook password, he’s pretty likely to read over my shoulder occasionally, and in general unless somebody specifically tells me not to tell my partner, I talk to him about the things people say to me, and what I say to other people. I was under the impression thats pretty normal?
LW, there is another element that you might want to consider. There are some people in the world who think that men and women can’t be close friends outside of romantic relationships. Now, I don’t agree with this (most people I know don’t) but sometimes people are convinced of it, and you can’t change their minds about it. This is just an example of one of a million reasons why this relationship is ending. I don’t know if this is what your friend’s wife thinks, but she is thinking something that is not making her happy about your contact with him. You will never be able to talk her out of what she feels on this matter, so your best bet is to do what everyone else is suggesting and to disengage. Good friends are there when they’re needed, but they can also be gone when they’re asked to be. In the future they might rethink all of this and they might get in contact with you, and the fact that you backed off when asked will be a huge factor in re-establishing that contact. The sad – and possibly more likely – part is that you may never have that kind of contact back with him again, but in that case, you will have the comfort of knowing that you were a good friend and gave him what he asked for.
Here is another viewpoint to consider. Some people are unfamiliar with asexuality and may doubt that it’s a real thing in the real world. You say “I am asexual, therefore no reason to worry, this will never be a sexual relationship!” Someone who doesn’t understand or believe in asexuality may hear “Clever new ploy to get in his pants by pretending that is not at all the goal and never will be!”
And people can be taken by surprise by changes in their feelings and goals as a relationship develops. For example, I know people who are very taken with the idea of courtly love. It’s all about have an asexual relationship between (usually) heterosexual man and woman, where the woman is the man’s object of devotion and source of inspiration for good works, creative expression, whatever. Sounds great in theory, but can be a spectacular failure in practice, when that intense connection transforms into pantsfeelings and mayhem ensues. I had a pen pal who burbled on about a young man who’d joined her friends group who found purpose and community and was doing good things as a result of this courtly love relationship with her. I wrote back there be dragons here: emotional intimacy can lead from one thing to another. Her next letter told how her marriage had blown up after she and the lad had fallen into an affair. I impolitely wrote “You proved my point,” and that was the last I heard from her. Do I think this was a risk in your situation? Not at all, but it may have been perceived as such from one or both parties from inside the marriage.
I sympathize, I really do. I had a good friend that I basically lost because I was not a friend to his marriage. We had had a romantic near miss because I’d backed off in panic. There were unresolved feelings (at least on my part) because we had never discussed it (I wasn’t capable of it back then), and I had never apologized. I had a hard time adjusting to his new relationship, so it took me a while to include both of them in my letters, phone calls, conversation, etc. Plus, the last time I visited them, I was still with my abusive ex, which certainly didn’t inspire them to maintain the connection, and so it has faded. While I am sad, I do understand, and they have every right to not have the uncomfortable past poking into their present at unpredictable intervals.
LW, you have to face the fact, he doesn’t want to continue the “friendship”. And what’s going on in his marriage is non of your business.
My fiance are a world traveling guitarist, and your story isn’t in any way unique. There are tons of fans out there who are trying very hard to get personal with everyone in the band. The ones that succeed are the ones that are able not to get starstrucked. They all have contact with a lot of fans, that doesn’t mean they want to get personal with everyone, and a lot of times they do have to back of, when fans trying to cross that line.
The fact that you pointed out that he was a famous singer screams out to me that this is what’s going on here.
You are a fan that are extremely proud of this friendship, and there’s a good chance that this friendship was way more important to you than it was for him.
And hello, he share the mail account with his wife, and he continue to do so, don’t you get it, you don’t have his private email address, sorry! I guess you are upset over the fact that you didn’t know, well he didn’t bother to tell you, and thats that.
I don’t want to be rude, but you really need to wake up and realize that this wasn’t what you thought it was. Most likely you are the nice and dedicated girl who runs his fan website, and that’s nothing wrong with that. And most likely he really like both you and what you are doing, so why don’t you continue to do that, and just accept that your relationship is about his work and not personal.
Learn from it, and move on, it’s not the end of the world.
( I don’t think that any of this has anything to do with his wife, I guess she is used to “share” her husband with fans all over the world. Why on earth would she suddenly do a thing like this, and only to you, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I mean, it’s not like she didn’t knew about you, eh. )
WARNING: This is very long, but I feel very strongly about this, and so it got long.
“But if there is anything I could possibly do to make things easier for him – given the fact that neither of us is willing to sacrifice a strong and perfectly innocent friendship for the sake of this woman – I’d love to hear it.”
This is not an accurate summation of the situation, and the sooner you can accept that, the better of you will be, LW. He is clearly willing to sacrifice the friendship, and just because you are telling yourself a different story doesn’t make your story true.
Here’s what you know:
— Your friend asked you to dial your interactions back to business-only, and also asked you to funnel those interactions through his business manager. He gave you an excuse that let him off the hook for the responsibility for that decision (“at my wife’s request”) and also let you save face (“my wife says you have done nothing wrong”).
— Your first action was to try to circumvent his request by sending him a long email.
— At which point, he told you that the email is a shared one, and reiterated his request that you limit communication to website issues, via his manager. (If someone said to me, “Hey, can you send business communications to my manager”, I would assume that the manager would be handling said communications, not that the manager would be passing them on, FWIW.)
— You then started putting the personal information in the message sent via the manager, which you sealed in an envelope inside another envelope.
You, LW, are a boundary violator. It doesn’t matter whether what he told you is true, or fair, or kind, or what you want to hear. He’s given you a clear boundary, and you are doing everything rules mechanic thing you can think of to violate it. You are in creeper territory, and you need to back off now. Hand the website over to someone else. Get out of his life. Even if you did nothing wrong to set this off, once he asked you to step back, pretty much everything you have done is in direct opposition to his clearly stated request.
Look, I get that it hurts to have someone back off from a friendship that is important to you. You are entitled to your feelings. You are entitled to say, one time (and for the record, you ALREADY HAVE DONE THIS), “Is there anything I can do to make this different?” You are entitled to be angry, sad, devastated, unhappy, resentful, and upset.
What you are not entitled to do is to cross his boundaries in an attempt to make it all go away.
Now, people have suggested various scenarios that might explain why this all happened. Maybe it’s part of his refocusing on his marriage. Maybe it’s part of a deal brokered by a marriage counselor. These are all possible, and we cannot know what really started this. But, for your edification, here is one more possibility.
Maybe he’s using his wife as an excuse. My spouse and I have a license to use one another as a social excuse all the time. Neither of us does it very often, but certainly I have gotten unwanted attention to go away by waving my wedding ring under its nose. So here is a scenario for you to consider….
Your friend got into an email conversation with you and it was pleasant and enjoyable. Then you started sending emails more often than he really wanted to get them, and they were really long. So he tried resetting the volume by waiting a few days to reply, but the instant he did, you immediately sent back another long email. The longer he waited, the longer and more intense your response. Or maybe you just ignored that he hadn’t answered the previous one and sent another.
So he mentioned it to his wife. “She’s a very nice person, but I don’t want this intense of a friendship, and really by now, it’s starting to creep me out. At the same time, she hasn’t really done anything wrong, other than ramp this up beyond where I want it to be.”
His wife said, “Okay, well, tell her she needs to dial it back because of me. I don’t mind being the fall guy here.”
So they figured out a way to tell you to back off while still saving your face. And you didn’t listen, and immediately tried to circumvent that.
Every time you rules mechanic your way around the clear boundaries he’s given you, you make it clear that they (whichever of them started it in the first place) were right to ease you out of his life. Look again at your own description of the situation:
“I thought I would get round this to some extent at first by e-mailing him, since she couldn’t stop me doing that”
Your first thought was “How do I avoid doing what he clearly asked me to do?”
“I am allowed to write to him regarding the website, which I do about once a month, and of course I put all the other news in as well; this letter has to be sent via his agent, although the agent presumably doesn’t get to read it as I put it in a sealed envelope inside another one.”
You have been asked to communicate with him about the website via his agent, and you are “of course” putting in the personal information. There is no “of course” about it. You are (again!) trying to circumvent his direct requests.
Dial it back, and do it now. Limit your communications to issues about the website, and find a replacement for you in that role ASAP.
Boundaries are not just something you get to set for other people. They are something you have to respect when someone sets them on you, even if you don’t like and are hurt by that boundary. If you don’t do that, then you are the problem here, not him, not his wife.
You are entitled to your pain about the boundary, You are not entitled to ignore it, and rules-mechanic efforts to get around it are just as violating as direct assaults on the boundaries. Stop trying to fix this, grieve the loss, and get on with your life.
That’s an excellent letter.
I agree with all of this.
May I be honest? I’m wondering if you’re not over-invested in the friendship, you yourself have crossed some invisible line of his, and he’s just pulling the “my wife doesn’t want us talking” as a way to back out of the friendship. Doesn’t change the correctness of the advice above: you’re being dumped. Cut the strings, and get over it as soon as you can.
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