Dear Amy: My husband and I are planning our annual New Year’s party. We are inviting my best friend, “Amanda,” who used to date “Charles,” who is one of my husband’s best friends.
Amanda has since moved on and gotten married and is ambivalent about Charles possibly being there.
Charles is recently engaged to be married, but I suspect he may still have some feelings for Amanda.
I should mention he has also recently gone into recovery for alcohol and drug abuse, and this might be a triggering event for him.
Should I warn Charles that she will be in attendance along with her husband (the men don’t get along), or should I say nothing and hope everything goes well?
– Frazzled Hostess
Dear Frazzled: Given the volatility of this romantic drama, you should tell both Amanda and Charles that you have invited both of them along with their partners. Including both is the path toward eventually neutralizing these friendships, but they might not be ready to move forward cordially.
Charles should be especially careful. I agree with you that this could be a triggering event for him. Anxiety, anger and alcohol are a toxic combination. His sobriety could be at risk; it might be wisest for him to sit this one out.
Dear Amy: My husband and I recently celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. We were both widowed and in our early 50s when we met and married.
We were thrilled to find each other and to have the opportunity to live again and to be happy.
I have two children who are very supportive. They want me to be happy.
His daughter is a problem, however. She did not want him to remarry.
We went to counseling early on, and the counselor advised my husband to talk to his daughter and explain that he needs a companion.
To this day, she will not allow him to tell his grandchildren that he is married to me. He goes to see the children (without me), although not as often as he would like. He tells me I’m not welcome.
I’ve caught him in several lies. He says he’s lying to protect me.
I’m excluded from everything. I’ve never seen any of his extended family members. Even on Christmas cards, all of his extended family leave me out and only put his name on the cards.
I believe the stress is starting to take a toll on my health. It’s difficult to fathom that anyone could be so disrespected – and for such a long time.
I hope your advice will help me to figure out what to do.
– Left Out
Dear Left Out: In many ways, marriage – especially later in life – offers an enchanting opportunity to renew, redo and refresh your emotional life.
Maturity and authenticity should inoculate you from some of the traps and pitfalls of youth. Unfortunately, this is not the case in your marriage.
It is challenging to wrap my head around your husband’s choice to basically lead a double life for these last eight years.
You state that your husband’s daughter is “the problem.”
I disagree. He is the problem, and you are the problem.
This family has created a cycle of deceit. Their family system runs on it. They are completely comfortable pretending that you don’t exist.
Unfortunately, you are also pretending that you don’t exist, and that’s why this double life is taking a toll on you.
I assume that when you first got married, you believed that your husband would eventually treat you like a partner, and that these family relationships would gradually work themselves out.
Your husband has never treated you like a partner. He is spineless, deceptive, and is letting his daughter run your marriage. Given that she doesn’t even know you, she’s not the right person for the job.
I assume that your own children are sad and embarrassed for you.
This situation is intolerable, so perhaps you should stop tolerating it.
A counselor would help you to think through your next steps.
Dear Amy: “Hesitant” wondered whether to offer “feedback” to a guy she dated briefly and who continued to message her on Facebook.
I was disappointed that you didn’t mention that it seemed like he was possibly stalking her.
Dear Disappointed: The guy in question had sent her several messages on Facebook but had not called her (she thought he had her number). I strongly recommended that she fight her own instincts to respond and that she should consider blocking him.
I agree that there were red flags here.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)