Tell Me About It: ‘Mean wife’s’ treatment of spouse is abuse

Published June 12 2018

My best friend from college is one of the most honest and loyal people you could ever meet. Sheís an amazing attorney, a devoted mom, a very good friend and a really mean wife. She and her husband are visiting me right now and itís painful to hear the scathing tone she uses with her husband and the constant stream of criticism and orders she directs at him. It seems to be all about control and putting him down, right in front of me and my partner. Her husband is annoying and has his own faults, but no one deserves to be treated this way.

I love my friend but this has concerned me for a long time; theyíve been married four years. Iím convinced that if I bring it up I will hurt her and risk the relationship. But it also feels wrong to be a silent witness ó and if I canít talk to her about this, who will? What should I do?

Conflict-Averse but Concerned Friend

A: Youíve answered half of your own question:

If you canít say something, then who will?

"Best" friend means you voice your concern ó and you make it about her. Take a walk with her alone and get to it: "Iím worried about you. Youíre one of the best people I know, yet youíre so openly rough on Husband that itís almost like youíre possessed by someone else. Are you OK? Is there anything I can do?"

If sheís under stress and dumping it all on him, which is what your description suggests and is also quite common ó though itís abuse, make no mistake ó then compassion is your best chance of coaxing her out of this angry, defensive place.

You may still hurt her and the friendship, of course. However, turning a blind eye to abuse just to preserve your comfort zone is not a choice that withstands moral scrutiny.

People in the gray area between mensch and monster ó the ones with histories of warmth and decency who have lately veered into anger ó need more loving people in their lives, not fewer. More people to help carry whatís weighing them down. At least give her this chance to recall the person youíve known her to be.