DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been together for four years. He was previously married for 10 years (no children). My husband continues a friendship with his former mother-in-law. He doesn't hide it, but the minute he mentions talking to her, I just want to explode. He assures me he doesn't have any communication with his ex-wife, but he cherishes the relationship he has with her mother because she was very good to him when he was married to her daughter. My husband doesn't have any family here — only mine — but he doesn't try to have a close relationship with MY mother. He is good to my mom and we go to see her every weekend, but he doesn't call her to check up on her. Why does he try to keep the relationship with his mother-in-law alive when he doesn't try with my mother? I believe that once a relationship ends, we should distance ourselves from our past. I mean, if we run into her somewhere it's OK to say hi, but I can't handle him calling her to check in. I can't make my husband do what I say, but this bothers me! I check his phone like a spy, to see if he has called her. I wouldn't like him to do that to me. I am 41 years old. I want to be very mature about this.
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Your husband sees your mother every weekend. He cares about her and is good to her. Why should he call her to check in? He sees her every few days!
Without any family here, his former mother-in-law seems to be a mother figure to him.
You two have been together for four years. Presumably, this friendship was active and ongoing the whole time. No, marriage does not mean that spouses bury their pasts, drop their friendships, and cling only to their partners. Did you cut ties with people you care about when you got married?
You want to be very mature about this, so grow up. Accept this relationship, share in it if you are able, and stop policing your husband and spying on his phone. The spying itself triggers your jealousy. When you stop spying, you will be less stressed.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I (married 26 years) really treasure our neighbors. We are close friends. They are about 10 years older than us, in their mid-60s. Our teen daughter is close to them, too, and has spent time learning to weld with the husband. They are among the only people we socialize with right now (outdoor BYOB cocktails with distance). A few weeks ago, the husband dropped by to bring cucumbers, and he hit on me: "Miss you. I'd like to kiss your whole face for about an hour." I shut it down, "Yeah, that's not going to happen." Obviously, he's never done anything like this before. I told my husband that night, and we are both just so disappointed in this man. Since then I've ignored two calls from the husband and only commented briefly on our group texts. What happens next is up to me. I'm trying to sit with it until I can make a reasoned decision. I am completely conflicted. The only thing I've decided is that I won't tell the wife, and, truthfully, I've been trying to figure out why that decision was so automatic. I'm angry and sad, and a bit concerned now about my daughter spending time alone there, although that won't be happening until the COVID crisis is over. So, what now, Amy?!
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: I think you should take the next call. Tell him how disturbing you found this, listen to whatever explanation he has, have your say, and make choices as you go about the impact on your friendship as you move forward. Obviously, your teen daughter has now graduated from your neighbor's welding school, which is a logical consequence of this breach.
DEAR AMY: I really appreciated the question from "Happily Orphaned in Austin" and your reply. I had a similar experience of abuse growing up and have always had trouble navigating seemingly harmless social questions about my upbringing or family, particularly around the holidays. It is nice to know I may be an orphan, but that I'm not alone.
DEAR ALSO: There are many "orphans" created by family estrangement. There is no shame in being a solitary survivor. Face the occasional awkwardness with the knowledge that you are not alone.