Dear Amy: I had a brief romance with “Frederica” while on a business trip in 2019. Sadly, we weren’t able to meet again because of covid restrictions, but we were effectively in a long-distance relationship for about a year. Ultimately, we concluded that we are not long-term material. We have both been in relationships since our romance fizzled and have settled into a great platonic friendship. Frederica and I text and call regularly, discuss our current partners, exchange birthday gifts, etc.
We both work at the same (large) company and always have lots to talk about. Fast-forward to now. My current partner, “Molly,” does not approve of this situation (to put it lightly), forcing me to keep my contact with Frederica mostly secret.
The choice in front of me is to either cut Frederica out of my life completely or keep my friend hidden in perpetuity. Neither option sounds appealing. I don’t want to lose one of my best friends, but I hate the deceit, which is mentally exhausting.
I also do understand why my current (and potentially any future) partner would be suspicious of a close friend of the opposite sex. What should I do?
— I’ve Got a Secret
Secret: Your romantic relationship with “Frederica” isn’t exactly ancient history. “Molly” would justifiably be curious about the past relationship and your ongoing close friendship; your choice to give in to her (and your) anxiety about the friendship by keeping it a secret is hurting all of you.
That’s the root of the problem, and that’s on you.
You should be transparent about this friendship, with the goal that your current partner will get to know Frederica well enough to accept the friendship and trust both of you. The two women do not need to become besties (or even meet). But the more natural you are about this friendship, the less threatening it should be.
Do not leave the room if Frederica calls. Saying something as simple as, “Can I call you back? Molly and I are just sitting down to dinner,” will help to open this up. When Frederica texts you and Molly is around, say, “Frederica is texting me about a work thing,” or, “Frederica just sent me a link to an article. You’d like it. Let me forward it to you.”
You and Frederica have a preexisting friendship. That’s your right. But if you are going to be in a close and intimate relationship with Molly, then you will have to make it clear to her that she is at the center of your universe; Frederica is one of many friends who will be in your orbit. Your secrecy is flipping that script.
Dear Amy: What does it mean (if anything) when a husband cuts off his facial hair, such as a goatee or beard, and his wife doesn’t notice for a day or two, even when you are together?
Baffled: My mother had a friend who decided to test her family’s attention by appearing at the breakfast table wearing a full-on ski mask. No one said a word.
The point is that families sometimes stop seeing one another. Proximity can inspire invisibility. So, yes, this lack of attention means something, but it doesn’t mean everything. This may have hurt your feelings, however, so discuss it with your wife, and be emotionally honest.
You should both ask yourselves how “present” you are in your daily lives. Do you notice positive changes your spouse has made and acknowledge them? When you do notice and remark on changes — little or large — you are quite literally saying, “I see you.”
Dear Amy: I am a former university president, and my schooling was in clinical psychology.
My wife and I read your column for entertainment purposes. The letters are interesting, and anyone can guess what your solution will be: See a counselor. That way, people won’t have to face their somewhat stupid problems on their own and instead rely on some idiot who doesn’t have a clue to give them advice.
I’ve dealt with so-called marriage counselors, better-called marriage referees, and they solved nothing that a few shouts and yells wouldn’t have resolved. Anyway, you’re making a nice living giving out useless but harmless advice, and ensuring that all of those “counselors” out there also make a good living.
Don’t stop. Your columns are fun with our coffee.
— Ed D
Ed D: Your extreme bitterness makes me wonder whether you would benefit from … oh, never mind.
© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.