Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One Singular Temptation....

This is another long one, a two-column adaptation of an issue that took over Carolyn's live chat several weeks ago. In it, a young wife is extremely concerned that the way her single friends overshare about their single lifestyles is a blatant, disrespectful attack on her marriage (um...self-centered much?). Carolyn and the peanuts cover most of the necessary bases on this one, but I'll throw in a few comments along the way.

Published Monday:

Dear Carolyn:

My husband and I, both 24, were the first in our social circle to get married. Most of our friends have more active dating lives than I ever had. I don't feel jealous -- I love my husband -- but something they all seem to do really bothers me.

Whenever we meet up in groups, to chat or have drinks or hang out at the park, the conversation always turns to everyone's latest dating woes. The guys and the girls are equally guilty of indiscretion, but it's the girls I always seem to notice. They go on and on about the club scene where they live and their polygamous sex lives. They wear revealing clothes that I gave up after high school and they often get hit on by strangers while we're hanging out. [So much judgment of the friends! They get hit on by strangers!? Who else would you expect to hit on your friends? They shouldn't lead monk-ish lives just because they're hanging out with your husband, who is clearly off-limits. As we'll see in a second.]

I don't feel they should be talking and acting that way around my husband, a married man. ["a married man." This sounds like a phrase from a Doris Day movie, or maybe something Jack Lemmon would say to his skeazy colleagues in The Apartment. "But you're a married man!" I think, though, the poor guy has to do something more than sit in the presence of single women (his wife's friends, no less) for him to be slammed with this "friendly" reminder] I would prefer he not be thinking about our female friends' wild sex lives or noticing how hot everyone thinks they are. [I would bet good money that if she were to ask her husband the details of any of these stories, he wouldn't have a clue. He's probably watching the game on the bar's flatscreen! When I'm out with SK and others, and the conversation turns to gossipy girl-talk my top two concerns are 1) I hope he's not bored to tears and 2) I hope he's not so spaced out that if someone asks him a direct question he misses it completely. "I hope he's not drawn into a complicated fanstasy based on Friend A's date last night" doesn't even register on my list. ] I know this is why married couples naturally gravitate toward other married couples [it is? more on this below], but these are the friends we have and I do not want to trade them in, so to speak.

Can I say something to my girlfriends about how uncomfortable I feel, or since I'm so outnumbered do I have to just suck it up and be miserable around them all the time? [Or can I get over myself and not make a stink or be miserable??]


Oh, my goodness. Were you miserable around them before you married? [I think this is an important question....the fact that this woman married young suggests that she and her husband were dating for several years--at least, that's been the case with most of my friends who are getting engaged and married right now. And if these are their only friends...well, what's changed? Besides their legal status?]

I can't speak for anyone but myself, obviously, but this married person does not gravitate to other married people because the single ones are flaunting their hotness.

I don't even know what to do with this idea -- do I rail first against the idea that people cover themselves up when they get married? Because plenty of people dress the way they do because they like it, and don't change a stitch of what they choose to wear after marriage.

But then that demotes to second rail the whole idea that single people = temptation = a group to avoid once married; railing against that deserves at least to share top billing.

How 'bout -- I'll rail against the idea of controlling what your husband sees.

People have eyes and ears and temptations no matter what they've vowed to whom or why. If your husband misses the single life, he's going to do that whether your friends raise provocative discussions or not.

People who marry young probably do struggle more with the whole issue of regrets and what they may have given up, and their immersion in a world with a lot of raging singles does contribute to that struggle. However, this is the choice you made, and it's going to stand on its merits alone.

In other words, if the only way you can keep your boat from sinking is to put it in dry dock, then that's a choice you and your husband need to make together -- after, I would suggest, as open a discussion as possible. If your boat really is leaking, I also wouldn't suggest blaming it all on the ocean. [Another winner of an analogy. Thanks Carolyn!]

Tomorrow: Maryland and readers reply.

Published Tuesday:

Dear Carolyn:

Maybe I didn't explain myself well [in yesterday's column]. My marriage is not in trouble and I'm not afraid my husband is being reminded of what it was like to be a "raging single." It's my friends themselves who bug me. [A ha! More evidence that she has no right to be upset! If her husband were actually reacting to these stories in a way that bothered her, the issue would be with him (not her friends) but it would be more understandable that she would want to blame them. But in fact, he's not doing anything to suggest that he's unhappy with his choice, or wishes he were out with a harem of singles because their stories are so hot(tt). She's upset on principle alone--and over a principle that apparently has no basis in reality. So what's the deal?]

When Friend A is recounting the story of how her last date ended with making out in a cab, or men walking by are commenting on Friend B's amazing chest, it seems only natural that my husband would take a closer look at Friends A and B. [Doubtful. Again, this is where to me it seems only natural that husband would tune out entirely, because this conversation has nothing to do with him or his interests. I mean, not that he couldn't be a part of it. But I bet he's not. Maybe it's this tuning out that Married in Maryland is mistaking for his drifting into gawking and fantasizing. Also, how is it conceivably Friend B's fault if sleazy dudes walking by are stoked because she's stacked? She would probably prefer that they don't make such juvenile comments about her bod.]

In my view, more mature people respect each other's marriages by not presenting those kinds of temptations. I wouldn't talk about my sex life with my friends' dates because only my husband should look at me in a sexual way. [My guess is that these conversations happen specifically because the friends don't see the husband in a sexual way, or consider that he'd see them that way--like a brother or a gay friend, the husband probably seems completely sexually apathetic--which is why they have no qualms about oversharing] So I don't get why you reacted as though I'm being outrageous.

[Maybe another issue to consider here is that she brings her husband along in situations when she really shouldn't. Sounds like there's a lot of girl-talk going on, and maybe her friends are carrying on as usual, and this one keeps bringing her husband to martinis-and-manis night. We might be (ok, probably are) getting a skewed perspective because Married says there are men present who do the same thing as her single girlfriends, but the picture she paints for us just makes me feel bad for the husband, like his wife brought him a long to a slumber party and then got mad at her friends for playing Truth or Dare, sharing private tales and putting their bras in the freezer.]

Married Maryland Girl Again

Because you're being outrageous. Your husband could just as well be looking at your friends during tales of their exploits and saying, wow, A and B are gross. I can assure you he already noticed B's chest and decided whether it was amazing long before your friends prattled on about it.

You have constructed a wall in your mind between marriage and singlehood that doesn't exist. Okay, you don't hit on those you know to be in life commitments -- otherwise, you treat people as people.

Now, if you've outgrown your friends, that's something else. But if you'd enjoy the raunch in unmixed company and it's just having your husband there that freaks you out, then I think you're getting worked up over something that "more mature people" shrug off. Real partners are secure enough to handle real experiences and real people together. [And also secure enough to socialize apart, on occasion]

Re: Maryland:

It strikes me that Maryland is enforcing a lot of our bad social prejudices, too. She acknowledges that the men in her group are just as "guilty of indiscretion" (guilty?!) as the women, but it's the women who bother her more. We're not a culture that holds men and women to equal standards when it comes to expressing sexuality, and she's probably been a victim of that herself.

Also, why should their talking about their lives now be any different from before the wedding? I get the sense there's a lot going on under the surface of this woman's question, and she might want to evaluate her own assumptions about men and women.


Agreed. I saw it as a he's-my-man-and-vixens-be-gone reflex, but you're right that even if it were a legitimate reflex to act upon (which it isn't, said the broken record), it doesn't justify the double standard. Maybe she's just lost, and grabbing on to her old ideas of what marriage is "supposed to be."

Re: Maryland:

I always assumed the married people gravitated to each other for the sole purpose of boring any unfortunate nearby singles into a coma with their talk of mortgage refis, kids and vinyl siding. I'd have killed to hang out with some fun, trampy singles.

I think the older you get, the less you think of marriage as this wormhole gate that forces you to dress, think, talk and behave like a pod person.

Anonymous 2

A little hope-driftwood to cling to, thanks.

In short, I think Married in Maryland is just really, really insecure--could even be the case (though I'm making a real assumption here) that she married so young precisely because she didn't think she'd ever find someone else, or be able to compete with her friends--or because she wanted to "beat" them in something--anything--that would prove she was just as desirable as they were. And now she's judging them for living the lives they want to live, rather than conforming to the choices she made for herself. Mostly, I feel pity for Married--but not enough that I'm willing to condone her making herself comfortable by reigning in everyone around her. She needs to get comfortable with herself first, then her husband and her marriage, and then think about whether she's still a good fit for these friends.

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