Dear Carolyn: My live-in partner of five years has become good friends with a group of work colleagues who get together after work at least once a week. There is a woman in the group who is not particularly nice to me. Not rude exactly, just not very friendly.
What’s more annoying is the endless inside comments, the slight touching of my S.O., and the subtle flirtatious comments. When I approached my SO about my feelings, he agreed to establish boundaries. He spoke to her about these concerns and requested that she not touch him because it made me feel uncomfortable.
I have found the “unfriendliness” has spread to other women in the group, and others have made comments to my S.O. judging my behavior.
The problem is when he wants to include them in “our” social life. I don’t want to include her. My S.O. thinks I’m being ridiculous and immature, and he will not exclude her.
Am I being ridiculous? Unreasonable? Controlling? – Unyielding and Feeling Guilty
Well, yes. All of the above.
If it helps, your (mis)handled jealousy may have started this, but your partner helped guarantee your estrangement from his colleagues.
Your account of the flirty colleague is, in fact, completely credible. Establishing boundaries was the right remedy.
But the way to establish boundaries is to control one’s own behavior, not others’. When she gets possessive, he shrugs her off, or ignores her, or whatever.
His telling her that you wanted her to stop touching him? He set you up as the possessive harpy, ideal prey for every cat in the room.
Don’t blame the cats, though. If I were his friend, I’d be remarking to him about your behavior, too, specifically the lines you crossed with your attempts at control.
Had you merely called his attention to the territorial colleague, said she bothered you, and asked him to be sensitive to that, you would have demonstrated that you trusted him.
Had you taken the group’s chilliness as a sign that being accepted would require a low profile, patience and an open mind, you’d have shown support for his relationship with people he obviously enjoys. Instead, you ordered him to attack the interloper, which is essentially futile.
That’s why the only reliable (yet still imperfect) defense against mate-snatching is a strong bond with your mate. You passed up two chances to strengthen yours and opted instead for the wedge. Here’s your third chance: Apologize, and vow to start fresh with his friends. If he’s ready to grow up, too, then he’ll apologize and vow to help.
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