DEAR AMY: My husband "Thomas" and I, both 67-year-old retirees, have been together for 39 years and married for four (we're in a same-sex marriage). About three years ago, Thomas met "Ray," who is 13 years younger and in a fulfilling and demanding career with irregular hours. After a couple of years of one-on-one dates, through mutual agreement a year ago, the three of us now spend a couple evenings together each week. We have all come to have a deep love for each other. Ray doesn't open up often about his friends, family and early life. Most chatting outside of our times together are conducted by text. Sometimes texts can get misunderstood, and that is a recurring issue for us. When a day or more passes without a text from Ray, Thomas becomes more apprehensive that Ray is pulling out of the relationship. By the third day, Thomas is beside himself, and his fears begin to undermine my equilibrium. This has happened several times, and each ends undramatically when Ray texts that he's been overwhelmed with work and that he does indeed love us. Could you advise me on ways to help Thomas cope with Ray's occasional silences with more equanimity?
Sometimes A Teenager
DEAR TEENAGER: I infer that you two are in an "open marriage," and now a polyamorous relationship with "Ray." One hazard of allowing a third person into your marriage is that you have created a triangle, and relationship triangles are notoriously unstable.
People are seldom exactly the same when it comes to managing anxiety. (For instance, parents frequently face an anxiety imbalance regarding their children, where one parent will freak out over a child's actions, and the other will remain relatively calm.)
Your job is not to manage your partner's feelings or reactions, but to manage your own. How do you feel when your husband expresses such an extreme reaction? You should be honest with him about the impact of his behavior on you.
Otherwise, you could point to patterns to help your husband recognize and perhaps better manage his own fears: "Every time Ray behaves this way, you are sent into a tailspin. Can you look at this pattern and trust the process so that you might not always be put through the wringer?"
Riding the emotional roller coaster is potentially damaging to his health, as well as being destructive to your relationship with each other.
DEAR AMY: My friend is married with two children. We are close and we share almost everything. She is a talented person, but her marriage is an unhappy one. She has a lot of activities to compensate. She recently had a married male "close friend" she often talked to about her marriage problems. They texted back and forth a lot. She told me he was always kind and understanding. They became very close. This man seemed like a gentleman, since he mostly listened and did not share anything improper with my friend. Most of the time, my friend dominated their texting chats. The man's wife eventually found out about their communication and he stopped immediately. Lately, my friend asked me to contact him to ask why he stopped communicating with her (her number was blocked). When I refused, she became extremely upset and hostile. What can I do? Should I contact him so she won't be upset? She is very unhappy right now. Aren't we all entitled to our own happiness? If my friend is unhappy with her marriage, is it wrong for her to seek her own happiness somewhere else? It's not like she is cheating because all they did was talk online. They met once, but they had other people with them. What should I do?
DEAR CONFUSED: The only thing you should do is to urge your friend to work on her own problem-solving skills, and deal with her marriage problems directly. Under no circumstances should you be a go-between.
Yes, we are all entitled to our own happiness. But we are obligated to pursue our happiness in ethical ways. Engaging in an emotional affair with a married man is not ethical.
DEAR AMY: I did a genuine "spit take" with the first line of your answer to "Noodling on It," who was complaining about customers vaping weed in a ramen shop. You wrote, "I must point out the obvious: Weed and ramen do seem a somewhat magical fit." Thank you for the laugh.
DEAR FAN: As I frequently point out: I'll be here all week!