DEAR AMY: I haven’t been able to sleep for a couple of nights because I’ve been thinking about something I witnessed. Three days ago, when I asked my husband if I could see a video he shot on his phone, his face went white, he left the room and I could tell he was deleting something before he showed me the video. I could see over his shoulder that what he was deleting was a photo of him with a female co-worker from an “event” the night before. I have never had trust issues with him during our 23 years of marriage. I seriously doubt sex was involved, but my trust is shattered because he wanted to hide this photo from me, instead of saying, “Here’s a picture of Suzy in accounting.” How would you recommend I begin the conversation? Any thoughts?
DEAR SLEEPLESS: Sometimes, events seem to unfold in a flash, where you are simply too shocked, surprised or confounded to respond in the moment. There are times, too, when you “catch” your partner in an act of deception, and — weirdly — your first instinct is to protect them from their own embarrassment.
However, given that you two have been married for almost a quarter-century, the optimal thing to do would have been to respond as quickly as you could have, before the moment had entirely passed, saying something along the lines of, “Whoa, honey, what are you deleting? Who’s that girl I glimpsed? Why do you feel the need to delete that photo?” (Basically, responding naturally, and observing his response.)
As it is, you’re going to have to simply be brave enough to say to him, “When you did that, all of a sudden I had extreme worries about our relationship. What’s going on?”
Try to listen calmly, and don’t respond at all until he has spun out whatever explanation he offers. Stay as quiet as you can, even after he is done. You will then have to rely on your instincts to gauge whether or not you believe him.
If he quickly becomes very defensive or hostile regarding this, my own instincts are that you are not getting the whole story.
DEAR AMY: I have a concern regarding work. I have a colleague whom I don’t like speaking to. She has this, “Don’t-talk-to-me” face, which everyone notices. She also has a big ego, and doesn’t like to own up to her mistakes. She is the head of a department, but does her status mean that I have to be friendly? When we have meetings, she likes to be the last one to arrive, and wants to be called on for attention. Her behavior is really getting on my nerves. Lately, I don’t like talking to her. I don’t like being chummy. Is it really my responsibility to be chummy or friendly with her? She was a bit friendly toward me initially, but lately I think I have had enough. I only want to talk to her about work stuff. I don’t really want to communicate with her otherwise. Am I being weird or immature?
Young Professional Man
DEAR PROFESSIONAL: It is not necessary to be chummy, or to develop friendships, with colleagues.
It is, however, absolutely necessary to behave professionally toward people at work. In your case, this translates into behaving in a neutral way, even if this woman’s demeanor bugs you, or if you don’t like the look on her face. (Also, ask yourself, if she were a man, would it matter to you what expression she wore?)
What’s required is for you to communicate effectively enough to get the work done. That’s all.
DEAR AMY: You ran a letter from a woman calling herself “Resentful,” due to the tough upbringing she received from her cold, distant and somewhat neglectful mother. Amy, thank you for your compassion toward both the daughter and her deceased mother. Like Resentful, I was raised by immigrant parents who had fled poverty and war in their home country. My siblings and I didn’t always go to school in clean clothes, or with enough food to eat. Our home life was hard on all of us. We were all damaged to varying degrees, and yet we all managed to improve our situation for the next generation, through being successful, attentive parents. I think our parents would (finally) be happy.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Your ability to understand and place your parents’ behavior in perspective is a sign that you are resilient.