My husband and I work together. In fact, we met at work, so we're pretty comfortable balancing the two worlds. I'm writing now because we've hit a glitch.
A female co-worker of ours, whom I'll call Brenda, became our casual friend last year. We hung out with her and her then-boyfriend (another co-worker) once or twice. Then, for some reason, I began to feel violently uncomfortable in her presence. Like, physically in pain. I actually got sick a few times before we were supposed to hang out, and my husband ended up hanging out with them by himself. This only increased the violent rage and pain I felt both in her presence and at the thought of his being in her presence. She was often flirtatious verging on lewd around him, so I asked her privately to tone it down. I thought this would do the trick. But even though she became more careful with her words, the bad vibes got worse.
I say "bad vibes" because I'm a Buddhist, and I believe that everybody's fundamentally good. I can breathe through your average tough stuff. But I figure, at the very least this is an extreme case of oil and water, and since it's possible, I will happily cut my losses. Plenty of other lovely people will be our friends. I have never before been so overwhelmed with violent, rageful pain as I am in her presence with him and whenever I think of his spending time with her. I literally feel murderous. Like I would joyfully crush this person to oblivion with my bare hands.
So I asked my husband, Please let's not be around this person. It is pure poison to me. Let's find other friends. Let's be civil at work, but that's it. He said OK.
I thought the book was closed, but the issue keeps coming up. He says he feels like he's walking on eggshells. I said, of course I don't mind his interacting with her when he has to at work. It's fine. But no matter what I say (that I trust him; I don't mind his hanging out with anyone else in the world; he can still visit with his exes; I have never requested such a thing in the past), he's still kind of pissed, because, to his mind, he has conceded too much to me by not hanging out with her or being actively friendly.
He considers our dropping this friendship to be abrupt and mean. I say it's OK to let something casual go cold, especially for the sake of my sanity. I trust my own intuition; I wish he would too! And frankly, this girl has other friends and boyfriends she's hanging with. She is hardly bereft.
Cary, is there any way for us to banish his resentment that doesn't involve our being cavalier or masochistic? I love this man, and I love me, too. I'm looking forward to a fun future together with lots of great friends and collaborators.
Full of Rage
Dear Full of Rage,
Well, I love the stuff the Pema Chodron says about groundlessness, and how this stuff crops up, and what Buddhists do about it. But I'm not feeling extremely Buddhist right now so I'll just say that there's obviously something going on with you and perhaps there's something going on with your husband too, and it's going to take some time to figure out what it is,
You may say it's OK but in order to find a posture of peace toward it you may have to let it be whatever it is; maybe it is OK and maybe it is not OK and maybe it is death or the devil or your ghost or the dark side of some unnameable curse. It is what it is.
Rather than try to breathe it out and fix it, maybe you need to breathe into it, deeply into it, burn into it, go deeply into this rage and burn in it during your meditation and see if it doesn't burn off some of the sludge. Be in the heat of it. Do not make sense of it. Who knows what it is, what visitation it is, what source it has. Who knows. There is much beyond what we can name and know. So go into it. Go into it and experience it and sit with it as it is. Do not fix it or solve it or name it. Just go into it and be with it.
This may be about the woman at work and it may not be. This may be about your husband and it may not be. It may be about your need and it may not be. It may not be about anything. It may be purely some rage. It may be some rage that is triggered but if she weren't triggering it then someone else or something else would trigger it. The rage is yours. The rage is yours so you might as well breathe into it, and breathe into it some more, and let it burn through you, and let it breathe through you, and let it escape out the top of your head, or let it sit in a cloud around you, but keep breathing through it.
It is something. But it is not something to solve. It is something to burn through.
- See what others are saying in the Table Talk forum.
- Ask for advice. Letter writers: Please think carefully! By sending a letter to email@example.com, you are giving Salon permission to publish it. Once you submit it, it may not be possible to rescind it. So be sure. If you are not sure, sleep on it. You can always send tomorrow. Ready? OK, Submit your letter for publication.
- Or, just make a comment to Cary Tennis not for publication.
- Or, send a letter to Salon's editors not for publication.