February 19, 2010 in Features

Listen to buddy, advise him to wait

Carolyn Hax
 

Dear Carolyn: My friend and his wife are expecting … and separating. The cause of the separation seems to be (significant) “stress of pregnancy” issues that I believe are temporary. But, I think their behavior now, and their hurt, may prevent their reconciling after the kid is born.

While I recognize their choices are none of my business, it’s hard to watch my friend nurse his hurt and think about dating other women, rather than look toward a very near future in which there will be no reason to separate and at least one big reason to stay together. As a bystander, what kinds of things are OK to say/do in support of the marriage? What kinds of things are over the line? – Va.

Assuming you’re that kind of friend, how about: “Maybe you should wait till your wife gives birth before you openly contemplate dating other women, you moron.” You can also flick his forehead.

Absolutely, there are things you don’t know, as you acknowledge. For one, she could be as big a moron as he is, if not bigger. It could just be his hurt feelings talking. And it could be over between them for reasons that have nothing to do with pregnancy stress, where the prospect of a child merely precipitated a meltdown that was coming all along (and that the child was possibly conceived to pre-empt, ugh).

Whatever the case may be, you do know your friend is a mess, and you know the baby’s coming, mess be damned. And, your friend is confiding in you. And, while the baby obviously has a timetable, absolutely nothing else does.

So the most productive – and compassionate – tack might just be to listen as he talks his way through this, and remind him at judicious intervals that his best move might be no move at all. He loses nothing by waiting to see what effect the baby has on his life before turning that life on end.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.


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