cold shoulder from a friend’s husband

Reader J. P. writes:

I have a really good friend who is married to a great guy. They’re very happy and I really respect their relationship. Recently her husband seems to have taken a sudden dislike to me. I don’t want to lose my friend but I also don’t want to cause any tension in their marriage. Should I just back off the relationship or say something to my friend?

Dear J.P.:

It’s interesting to me that you think bringing up his treatment of you could cause tension in their marriage. I would honestly need to know more information to make a true judgment call on this, but my first instinct is that you should talk to your friend and see if your feelings of cold shoulder from her husband are founded. It’s possible he’s just going through a hard time at work or something and you’re taking his general crankiness too personally.

But if I read further into your post, it sounds to me like you have genuinely enjoyed his company in the past and are perplexed regarding his behavior. I take this to mean that you have no idea where the cold shoulder came from. Yet you also feel it necessary to mention that you respect their relationship and how happy they are together, which could mean various things.

For instance, are you afraid he’s jealous of your relationship with your friend? Does she spend more time with you than him?

Or does he disapprove of your relationship with his wife for other reasons? Do you girls shop a lot, or get drunk a lot, or could he feel that your’re a bad influence on her for other reasons? Has it become apparent during discussion that the two of you have very different ideologies concerning politics, religion, or morality, and you’ve pushed a button with him that he feels warrants being cold to you? Could he feel that you are trying to persuade his life to participate in some function or belief system that he doesn’t agree with?

Is it possible that your friendliness towards him was misconstrued as a romantic endeavor, and he’s just preemptively protecting his wife from unnecessary jealousy by being mean to you before she can get any suspicions? Is it possible that she has expressed some jealousy towards you and he is simply assuring her somehow?

Those are pretty paranoid assumptions, of course. But if they are possible, then I could understand how your asking the wife about the husband’s recent coldness could affect their marriage. If you think any of these situations is at all the case, you should confront him about the issue, and not her. If he thinks you’re a bad influence, or is afraid you could stir up jealousy in his wife, your talking to his wife won’t clear the situation up at all, and could, yes, affect their marriage.

However, if you’ve just noticed that your friend’s husband has been acting squirrely and you have absolutely no idea why, talking to her about it may be the best way to get to the bottom of it. Especially if you two are close, she can assuage your fears by either telling you that you’re being paranoid (“He loves you! What are you talking about?”), assuage your fears by telling you it’s just something else going on in his life (“His coworker just quit so he’s been working overtime”), or assuage your fears by asking her husband what’s up, if she doesn’t already know. My guess is she probably hasn’t noticed his change in demeanor towards you and it will come as a surprise to her.

If you are really concerned that your question will cause unwarranted tension in their marriage for other reasons, then you are going to have to learn to live with his cold shouldering or wait until it subsides somehow. Again, he could be cranky for other reasons. But unless you’re confront someone about the change in temperature, it will probably continue to be cold, and perhaps get colder.

I say talk. You’re friends. You know how to talk to your friend. I’m sure you talk about her husband all the time anyway. Just get it out in the air and make yourself feel better.


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