Advice columnist Carolyn Hax answers reader letters about a paranoid girlfriend, and from a self-doubting wife.
DEAR CAROLYN: My girlfriend seems to be paranoid (not in the clinical sense). Every action that a friend or family member takes, she looks for how it could be taken as an attack or negative thing toward her. It’s getting exhausting trying to defend other people’s actions when I don’t really think they are meant in such a negative way.
DEAR PARANOIA: Radical idea: Break up with her.
Just from the snippet you provide here, it appears she is attacking the character of innocent friends and family, making everything about her, making everything negative and wearing you out. So?
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Even if breaking up is extreme, please ask yourself why you’re still defending people on a tree-by-tree basis instead of talking to her about the forest. From your perspective, she is looking for the worst in people — and that’s the kind of insight healthy people want most from their loved ones, even when it’s painful to hear.
If she disagrees that these friends and family members are innocent, then feel free to wonder why she hasn’t left you, given that you continually (from her perspective) side with people who (from her perspective) wish her ill.
And if she sees no value in a hard truth, no matter how accurate or constructive, then please see “Radical idea” above.
In other words: She’s a girlfriend, not a wife or partner. Why so timid about acting on a problem that isn’t going away?
DEAR CAROLYN: I think I might be making the classic mistake of doubting my marriage because of how it compares with others’. My friend sometimes refers to her husband as her “best friend” and talks about how they tell each other everything.
I think this is a nice ideal, but that’s not how my marriage works. I love my husband, he’s a great partner, and I love sharing my life with him, but I rely on mom/sister/friends for a lot of stuff as well. Is it bad that he’s not my best friend?
— ‘You’re great, but … ‘
DEAR ‘BUT … ‘: Her marriage is an apple, yours is an orange, both have their merits.
Comparing lives in general leaves us open to poorly sourced doubts and frustrations. Even if you could know everything about their marriage — you can’t — you still couldn’t say how you’d feel if you were in that marriage yourself. Which wouldn’t resemble her marriage anyway because she wouldn’t be in it, you would.
Peering over your shoulder at others is helpful for seeing whether you’re blind or numb to something unhealthy. Otherwise, why do this to your husband, marriage and self?