Dear Alison and Tony: Dick and I are newlyweds. I have male friends and Dick has female friends and we are both fine with that. But we are having issues about “Sharon.” Dick told me that he broke up with Sharon because her deep feelings for him were not mutual. But they stayed friends. This didn’t bother me at all in the beginning, but for the past couple of months, Sharon has been calling our house every single night. She and Dick talk for an hour, at least, mostly about her problems. If I’m the one who answers the phone, Sharon doesn’t even bother to say “hello.” She just rudely says: “Put Dick on the phone.” I finally told Dick that I was uncomfortable with his interaction with Sharon, but he just said Sharon is just going through a “bad time” and needs a good friend to talk to. I know this woman is pathetic, and I’m fairly certain Dick is no longer interested in her romantically, but her rudeness gets to me, and her constant need to intrude into our lives each evening, has pushed me to the edge of tolerance! She has other friends, so why should she keep calling Dick? How can I get her to stop calling?
Alison’s Take: Sharon has found a sympathetic ear in Dick. He listens (it’s cheaper than therapy) and she hangs up, feeling better. He feels wanted and likes talking to her. Normally, I wouldn’t think there is anything wrong with this. But on some level she may also want to re-establish the relationship she had with Dick, and the fact that he spends to much time being attentive to her, bothers you. Dick should realize that even an open-minded wife isn’t going to want her husband to talk for hours to anyone, let alone another woman.
Friends should help other friends in times of emotional crisis, but Dick needs to learn the balance between being a good friend, and letting Sharon take advantage of him. It’s sabotaging your relationship with Dick. It’s time to tell your husband in no uncertain terms that while you don’t mind him helping Sharon, the phone calls are getting very intrusive. It is his responsibility to limit the amount and time of these long-winded ” therapy” sessions. You shouldn’t demand that your husband terminate his friendship with Sharon, but changes need to be made to keep the peace and tranquility of your home. Suggest leaving the answering machine on, so Dick doesn’t always pick up the phone. If Sharon has to leave a message now and then, she will start to realize that she can’t have your husband’s undivided attention whenever she wants. You can also help. You could pick up the phone next time Sharon calls and say: “I’m sorry but Dick can’t speak to you right now and he asked me to tell you that he really doesn’t have much free time to chat. I am sure you can find someone else to talk to. ” Keep a calm and friendly tone — you don’t want Sharon to think she’s gotten under your skin.
If Sharon has been smart, she would have finally accepted the fact that Dick has moved on — to you. Both Tony and I believe that both you and Sharon should try to get along. And I agree with Tony that Sharon should not be allowed to be rude and hostile to you. But we know that she views you as the competition and to a certain extent, she’s yours. Few men are that motivated to chat on the phone for more than an hour each night with a woman they’re not romantically interested in, when there’s a real-in-person love interest around. Bring out the big guns and show Sharon Dick has made his choice. The next time he is on the phone with this woman, put your arms around him and start passionately kissing his neck. The conversation will stop and Sharon will know you’ve re-claimed your man’s attention!
Tony’s Take: Sadly the major issue here is not the other woman “Sharon,” but your husband. You really need to understand his motivation for talking with Sharon, because without his active support you would not have a problem. Sharon is still bonded to him and seemingly emotionally dependent on him, and she has found an effective way of capturing your husband’s attention using a number of techniques. It’s “the 1000 and 1 nights” approach of supplying him with interesting stories, the appeal to his vanity and ego that he is helping her, the guilt laid on that she has these problems since they broke up, and the attention of an obviously desirable woman who he used to have, and who needs him now. There is NOTHING you can say to your husband that will not sound shrewish and make you seem small. You have to deal with her, knowing that she is trying to steal your husband — and be bright, perky, courteous and in control, while thwarting her plans.
The reason she is rude to you is that she needs to see herself as a victim and you as the architect of her misery. Aftet all, you “stole” her guy. You need to teach her some manners and become a person to her, so that she feels some guilt about what she is doing. The next time she calls and is rude you should say: “You did not say please” and hang up. Always be bright and charming and address her by name and ask how she is (*it’s hard to objectify someone who is nice to you). When she gets the “please” down after a week or so, move it up a notch, saying “I asked you how you are and you said nothing and did not address me by name or ask how I was, that is not polite, do you wish to try again or should I hang up?”. Always try to get to the phone first before your husband picks up, and be prepared if she immediately calls back. You need to get her to the point where you have a little chit chat every time she calls.
Now if her game plan is to get him back, she will try to meet with your husband for “coffee” and the go into full seductive/erotic/sexy mode. Your only defense is to be those things to your husband in advance. You need to know every fantasy your husband has (as she does) and you need to be that sexy erotic person who has control of those fantasies to bond him to you. He is yours right now because he knows how nuts Sharon can be, but he still remembers the good parts of the relationship. You need to make better memories with him (real passion on your part is terribly erotic to him).
One word of warning: if she decides to fight for your husband, she will either start calling him at the office, or call his cell phone. If calls stop to your home and your husband keeps getting home late, you have a problem. Tell him you worry about him and that if he is going to be late please call first, which he can’t, so he will insist Sharon calls him at home. If she starts calling on the cell phone, you can interrupt the conversation every 10 minutes with such things as “what do you want for dinner, oh sorry you are on your cell” later “what do you want for desert, oh sorry you are on your cell“, etc. Interrupting her stories make them old quickly.
I realize I have not given you a “fool proof” plan, for getting rid of her but, as I said, the key is your husband. If you arrange to have great times with him and not stress him out so that he seeks Sharon’s company, you can work through this.