Originally Published: June 29, 2017 6 a.m.
Dear Annie: My boyfriend, “Hector,” and I have been dating for four years. Like any couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. We used to argue a lot about things that were, in retrospect, petty and inconsequential. The beginning of last year was especially bad. We had each hit a wall professionally. We were always frustrated and stressed out, and though it was for reasons that had nothing to do with each other, it inevitably affected the way we treated each other.
During this rocky time, I talked to my good friend “Michelle” a lot about the problems Hector and I were having. I’m not one to brag about my relationship when things are going well, so this was the first Michelle was really hearing details about my relationship, and they were all bad. As good friends do, Michelle immediately took my side in the fight (even when I was wrong) and built me up and told me I deserved to be treated better.
Fast-forward a year. Hector and I have hugely improved our communication skills and are happier than ever. We talk about marriage regularly. I really think he’s the one.
The problem now is that Michelle still hates him. OK, maybe “hate” is too strong a word, but she’s definitely not a fan. I tried talking to her about it. I told her that I know she got a bad impression of Hector from things I said but that we have worked on our communication and are doing much better. She said something like “that’s great,” but I knew she didn’t mean it.
I feel that I should never have opened up to Michelle about the problems we were having. How can you talk to friends about your relationship problems without their judging your relationship? — Foot in Mouth
Dear Foot in Mouth: You can’t. That’s why the only person with whom you should be discussing your relationship problems is the person with whom you’re in that relationship. It’s not just the most respectful option; it’s the most constructive, because he or she is the only person who can actually help solve the problem.
Michelle will come around in time, if Hector continues to be a good boyfriend. But take this experience as a lesson for the future and refrain from talking badly about your boyfriend to your friends.
I must note that abuse is an important exception to this advice. Readers, if you feel unsafe, please reach out to friends or call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
Dear Annie: The most wonderful in-laws decide that when their children come to them with marriage problems, always — no matter what they truly think — side with the children’s spouses. Parents would be wise to suggest that their children go home and discuss their problems directly with their spouses. After many years, my mother-in-law clued me in that she had been doing this. Whenever my husband talked to her about a problem in our marriage, she told him she thought I was right, even if she really thought I was wrong. This was to encourage my husband to talk to me directly about the issue and try to reach a compromise. In hindsight, I believe it really helped. I wish everyone could have such great in-laws. — B.F.
Dear B.F.: Humility is a virtue that the best parents instill in their children from a young age. Even when kids are grown, parents can continue to model humility, forgiveness and empathy, especially when it comes to marriage. No one is perfect; it would be wise to encourage your children to see things from their spouses’ point of view. Thank you for the interesting perspective.
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