I find myself in something of an awkward situation.
A neighbor of ours, who also does business with my husband from time to time, repeatedly feels the need to tell me what a “saint” I am for “putting up with” my husband of twenty years.
At first it was comical. In conversation when my husband would come up she would say “I just don’t know how you put up with him,” or “You really are a saint to stay married to him,” and I would just laugh it off. What else was I supposed to do?
I figured it was better to just laugh off the comments as aren’t-men-just-incomprehensible quips and let it go. (Honestly, I don’t even feel that way, I just wanted to move past the comment and change the subject.)
But it’s been months now and she keeps making comments like these, which, I have to admit, I am beginning to find not only intrusive, but also very hurtful.
Last week, while working with my husband, she actually said it to him in the form of “I really don’t know how your wife manages to put up with you.” Now I feel like she’s giving my husband the impression that I complain about him (which I don’t) to her (which I would never, even if I were so inclined as to discuss my marriage with anyone). I certainly don’t want her implying to him that I have.
I’ve never so much as uttered a bad word about my husband to this person, and while I was willing to laugh off her comments at first, I’m not any longer. Frankly, I’m tired of someone who is really not a close personal friend of either mine or my husband’s taking the liberty to comment and judge our marriage.
On more than one occasion I’ve been tempted to just tell her to mind her won business, but we do have to see her and I don’t want to damage her working relationship with my husband. How would you suggest I address this situation?
Thank you any advice you can share,
No Longer Laughing
Dear No Longer Laughing,
It’s understandable why you feel awkward about this. Your neighbor/husband’s business associate has taken to joking to you about your husband, and consequently about your marriage. I, too, would have reacted as you did at first, trying to laugh it off and change the subject. Now she has crossed a line, making the joke not only to you, but also to your husband.
This is no small matter. While it may seem to her that she’s just being funny, she’s really sowing small seeds of potential discord in your relationship.
Even if everything is fine in your marriage, even if you both feel like your marriage is strong, we are all human and at any time can be susceptible to suggestion. And the repeated “joke” of what a saint you are for “putting up with your husband” can eventually make you start to become overly critical of your spouse. Similarly, if she keeps telling him how she doesn’t know how you put up with him, he might eventually begin to believe that you have been airing your marital laundry to her.
I’m not sure why people think it’s OK to offer an unsolicited opinion on someone else’s relationship–especially when it’s negative and when they are not a close friend or family member–but it’s not an uncommon practice, unfortunately.Whatever her motivation, it’s entirely inappropriate and should be addressed.
First and foremost, I think you should discuss it with your husband. Since your husband does business with this person, you should be on the same page about confronting her.
Personally, I would wait until she mentions it again and then ask her simply why she makes those jokes. I would tell her that you don’t find them funny and in fact they are insulting to your husband and hurtful to you.
Let her know that you don’t want to endanger your relationship as neighbors nor her working relationship with your husband, but that you’d like her to stop making her jokes. Explain to her that it’s just not funny.
There is a risk that she will get offended by your request, but you’ll minimize it by being tactful and not accusatory. But if she does get offended remember that her reaction is beyond your control. If her comments are negatively affecting you and/or your marriage, I think it’s a risk worth taking.