Honey, Your Friend Flirts With Me How do you tell your spouse that their best friend hits on you? BY SARA WILSON
We’ve all been told at one time or another that it’s not good to keep secrets. So, what happens when the truth is so hard to divulge that it seems almost easier to say nothing at all? For example, what do you do when your spouse’s best friend starts hitting on you? Do you tell your spouse at the risk of hurting his or her relationship with their friend or, even worse, his or her relationship with you?
Mia and Brett King, 27 and 31, respectively, have been married for just over a year. Unfortunately, the two have already faced this difficult situation when Brett’s good friend made it awkwardly obvious of his attraction towards Mia. "It was the way that he would look at me," remembers Mia. "I felt like he was looking at me and wishing he had x-ray vision." Mia endured the uncomfortable encounters for a month before finally deciding to tell Brett about his friend’s behavior. "I was a little bit apprehensive as to whether or not he would be mad at me or if he would say anything to the friend," she admits. "I didn’t really want to create a conflict."
Brett kept his cool, but was irritated and bothered by his friend’s inappropriate behavior—so much so that their friendship has dissolved to mere acquaintanceship. While the loss of a valuable relationship is an inevitable outcome in some situations, it doesn’t necessarily have to end that way.
So how do you preserve the relationships involved while still divulging the truth? Kristen Harrington, a marriage and family therapist of 25 years in Kingston, New York, reveals how to confront this potentially damaging situation in a healthy and loving way.
First off, you should confront the best friend first before telling your spouse, advises Harrington. "If it takes care of the situation, the benefits of keeping it a secret outweigh the benefits of telling the spouse because telling the spouse could really have a lot of hurtful ramifications," she says. However, the timing and way the subject is approached is critical.
"The very first time it happens, it’s very important for the person being hit on to use good boundary setting language—to say ‘no’," says Harrington. In addition to effective language, appeal to the aggressor to carefully think about how this will hurt his or her friend and your spouse.
If the confrontation doesn’t improve the situation, then it is important to involve the spouse, says Harrington. However, the language used remains just as important. Harrington says to specifically identify what kind of help you’re soliciting from your spouse. She also says your spouse doesn’t need to fire their friend, but that it’s important they protect you because you’re not able to get your message across efficiently. Once you’ve approached your spouse, prepare for one of three situations:
Your spouse understands and supports you and arranges to confront his or her friend personally. "It would be ideal that the three sit down," says Harrington. "Otherwise, the spouse whose friend hit on his wife is in the middle. That person shouldn’t have to be in the middle, they shouldn’t have to be torn between who they are going to believe." Hopefully, all three relationships can stay intact.
Your spouse doesn’t believe you and defends his or her best friend. If that’s the case, you need to realize that it’s not your problem, says Harrington. Further, that you are not causing the reaction of your spouse and that you should listen calmly understanding that this is their problem. Once they’ve stated their case, your response should be a restatement of the facts, pointing out that you told their friend ‘no’ on at least one occasion. Make sure to emphasize your love for your spouse and tell them you want their trust. Harrington adds, "it would still make sense to have that three-way boundary conversation."
Your spouse reacts in a rage against his or her best friend. "She needs to remain calm, let him know it’s not going to help the situation and it’s not going to help her," says Harrington. "She also needs to state that she doesn’t want him to have to lose his best friend, but the problem does have to be resolved."
When all is said and done, and regardless of the final outcome, it is crucial you realize it is not your fault. You have only so much control over the situation, but, as long as you tell the truth, it is certain to set you free.