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20-40-60 Etiquette---How can we get along?




By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I am a happily married woman and enjoy having lunch or coffee with a male friend. He, too, is married and in a good marriage. We chat about nothing exciting, but enjoy each other's company.

Occasionally events lend themselves where our spouses join us for a dinner. My husband is very gregarious, but my friend's wife is not. In fact, she is quite sour and acts as if it's an imposition to be with us.

I don't know if I should just avoid situations where we have to see her or ask my friend if we offend her?

Any suggestions?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Let it be. Enjoy the company of your husband and friend. Her loss.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Even though it might be easier, excluding your friend's wife from all parts of your friendship could make things worse among everyone. If she's insecure about her relationship with her husband, that could make her suspicious of you, for starters.

Could you pull her aside and talk to her by herself to clear the air? Perhaps you could say something about how much you are glad you are getting to know her better, since you first met her husband and think so highly of him.

Or just ask her if she is OK. Be sincere and open with everyone and keep the boundaries strong between you and her husband as you maintain your friendship. It is good that you are sensitive to the whole situation and are involving each of your spouses. I am thankful for my good male friends and our conversations, too, but I also want to include their wives (if I don't know them as well) and get to know them when it makes sense to do so, which sounds like exactly what you are doing.

HELEN'S ANSWER: Since you don't know what your friend has told his wife about you, you don't know what she is thinking. You also don't know what your friend is thinking. Maybe the wife perceives you as a threat to her.

Business lunches with members of the opposite sex are the norm. Boundaries are in place, and almost everyone knows the rules.

A casual friendship and lunch and coffee dates can sometimes be misconstrued. Only you all know if there is an attraction there and if there are issues that need to be resolved with each other or your spouses. You evidently feel safe enough in your marriage that you would grant your husband the same privilege of having a casual lunch or coffee with his female friends.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Patti Leeman, local volunteer: Neither/nor of these suggestions would be my solution to this sticky social situation because each would possibly bring a close to a healthy friendship between you and your friend.

Certainly your choice of avoiding group situations which include his wife would end your discomfort from being around her.

Also, asking him if you and your spouse have offended her may alert him to something he had never suspected and put him in an uncomfortable position of having to defend you or defend her. It would be unlikely he would encourage more evenings with people he thinks have offended his wife, so once again this could be the end of an enjoyable friendship.

Dining out with this couple combines three extroverts and one introvert. None of you can change your personality, nor could you possibly change her personality.

This woman could just be snobby and condescending by nature, but it is to your credit that you are sensitive to her lack of getting along with the group. Maybe she feels left out or possibly she is timid about jumping in or interrupting.

If this is the case, some careful questions or lead-in for her may be necessary to make her feel comfortable with the three of you. She might surprise the rest of you with some insights.

However, if time and effort do nothing to change the dynamics of the evening, my suggestion would be for you and your husband to seek some new couple friends, and if your husband has no objection, just seeing your friend one-on-one without the foursome.

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›