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Ask DrJackiePhD Your Own Question
I have been doing research in relational/interpersonal communication since 1998. My Ph.D. is in interpersonal communication.
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My wife has a friend who comes to town conventions.
My wife has a friend who comes to town for yearly conventions. She stays in our home, along with her husband. She is abusive to him, to the extreme. He is handicapped and she is obese. She demands that he cater to her every need. On top of that, my wife gets up in the morning, before going to work, and drives this woman 25 miles to the convention site. After my wife gets off work, she comes home and waits for a phone call to go pick this woman up. This has been going on for several years and I can't stand watching this woman take advantage of her in this way. My wife sees her as a friend. I see her as an overbearing user. We get into yearly arguments, with this year being the worse yet. I know this woman feels my rage. I would say her husband is an innocent bystander, but he is, in truth, an enabler. I have witnessed this woman berate him at their place of business. My wife has, as well. I've never once seen this man defend himself. My wife says none of this is her concern. That this woman treats her well and she has no reason to complain. If I raise the issue of this woman not really being a friend, my wife gets hurt feelings. I think this is a defense mechanism. My wife has a good heart, but would not take this from any other human being. Why she lets this happen with this woman is a complete mystery to me. Please advice me on how to handle this situation. These people just left, this morning, and I want to resolve this issue with my wife, once and for all. Thank you....
1 year ago.
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replied 1 year ago.
I'm Dr. Jackie, an interpersonal communication researcher/professor and relationship expert/counselor. And I'm here to help.
First, I am so sorry to hear that this is going on and has gone on for several years. Now, I'm guessing this couple must live a distance away that she has to stay with you (or somewhere) somewhat close to the convention and that she could not drive from her home. So I am just a bit confused that you said you "have seen the woman berate her husband in their place of business." Were you out wherever they live visiting them? I know it may not seem relevant, but it is to me because the better/bigger picture I can better, the better and more accurate my recommendations will be.
Second, and again, I'm just trying to understand, are you really sure the husband is "an enabler"? Depending on his handicap, he may honestly feel trapped and/or that he has no choice to "cater to her every need" like you wrote. I mean, again, I'm a bit confused. Depending on the extent and nature of the "handicap," it would likely seem to be the other way around if he is in a wheelchair, say? One would certainly HOPE that such an individual would be helped by a spouse to reach things and prepare meals, bathe, etc. But if he is waiting on her, I guess I am a bit confused.
Here is the bot***** *****ne: You cannot stand to see this woman behave the way she is. But I think it goes a little deeper. You mention his handicap, which I don't think is relevant because you have said he caters to her. Even more puzzling, you mention her obesity; yet nowhere can I find the significance of that in your post. The reason I'm commenting on this is not to cause any kind of irritation or to be mean or judgmental in any way. But I can't help but wonder if personally these factors (she is obese and in some people's minds, obesity is equated with laziness and other negatives like a lack of self-control, etc.). So I am wondering if you are not internalizing some of your irritation at her physicality and then projecting that into your feelings that she is abusive. Does that make sense?
Please understand that I'm not suggesting you are blaming her for being obese. But it could be that even subconsciously if you do have these feelings that a lot of others share about obesity, then it's very possible that intensifies your anger that is already there regarding her attitude and treatment of her husband, her inconsideration (or perceived inconsideration of your wife even if your wife doesn't see it that way), etc. I'm just trying to see if maybe your irritation isn't magnified by other things and that maybe if the other things were present, you wouldn't be at the boiling point? Do you think if this woman were thin and super-model-like that you would feel the same way even if attitude were exactly the same?
That said, she does definitely seem to be taking advantage of your wife in your mind. But your wife doesn't see it that way. So why not compromise? If you don't want to "watch" this couple, suggest that they stay in a hotel next year--you could always say when the time gets close next year that your parents or your wife's parents or your brother and family or WHOEVER is coming to stay and you already had this planned--or that you are renovating part of the house...If they fly in, your wife can still pick them up at the airport and even take them to dinner, take the woman to the conference and pick her up, etc. But then she could take them back to the hotel. That way you don't have to interact at all, and your wife can still play the chauffeur that she enjoys. Talk to your wife and see if this would be a good compromise.
You know, there is probably a reason your wife is doing this--I know you have talked to her, but have you really TALKED? Was this woman a mentor maybe who gave her wife a first job out of college? Maybe this woman was unspeakably kind to your wife awhile back and your wife is just re-paying what SHE feels is a debt. Just ask her how they met...etc.
I hope this solution of hotel/chauffeur works. Please let me know if you want to chat or write any more. I definitely want to help.
Take good care,
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