Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My husband had a hard childhood. A dysfunctional family, suicidal
father, and mother who broke down after, leaving him to spend
adolescence in the homes of other relatives. He’s accomplished an
amazing amount in his life and is completely devoted to his family (me
and our two teenagers) though sometimes his needs are a little
claustrophobic. He is very strict about making the kids accountable for
where they go and with whom. Now suddenly I am on the receiving
I was trying to plan a surprise 40 th birthday party for him, and
have been slowly meeting with his oldest friends to learn more about
his life before we got married. But he saw me having lunch with a best
buddy and has decided that perhaps I am being unfaithful with him.
I’m in tears because I would never ever have an affair and cannot
believe that he is so mistrustful and insecure that he could even
consider that I would. I made it through our first fight without spilling
the party beans, but honestly it is the only thing I think I could say
that would make him back off his suspicions.
Surprise or Truth?
Dear Surprise or Truth:
Regardless of how this specific story plays out I am strongly recommending
marriage counseling. Often when people tell their spouse they want to go into
counseling it is to open the door to divorce. But in your case I think your marriage
needs a reboot in the communications department. You may want one-on- one
counseling but your husband definitely needs it. A good family therapist should
be able to defuse the immediate tension and guide him to a different, individually
focused therapist. Then you two can renegotiate how you relate, and perhaps cut
your teens a little (but not too much) slack in the process.
In the interim, have a sit-down and look him in the eye. Ask him if you’ve ever
given him any reason to mistrust you other than seeing you at the mystery (to
him) lunch. Let him answer. Then tell him there’s a completely wonderful reason
for the lunch, but it is a surprise. Then ask him if he trusts you enough to wait to
find out. Either way, tell him you want to find help communicating better. He may
not agree right away, but after the party you will have more leverage. Ask until
you get a yes.