My best friend's wife -- what is the deal?

I’m looking for different angles on this situation.

The background:

Jim, 38, married Kelly, 30, last year. He says she’s a really great person, and I trust his opinion. But there is some strange behavior: She puts stuffed animals on their bed and does a really weird child voice when she’s either trying to be cute (this is never the case, IMO) or doesn’t get her way. He lets this happen all the time and usually compromises whatever position he had just to make her stop. He’s an active guy, responsible, has a good job, etc – his downfall is that he drinks a lot. He’s not a mean drunk or anything and doesn’t do anything stupid when drunk, he just drinks a lot – he’s been since way since I’ve known him. She works in a high-stress, high-paying customer service job (really, really shitty job, but they pay a decent salary).

So a month or so ago we were over their house for dinner…

They did nothing but complain about this and that. She called him “cheap” a few times. Mind you, they’re (he’s) nearly overextended in their new home (a big colonial outside of Boston) and she has a new Jeep. This was all her doing and he went along with it. I was thinking, “He’s not cheap, he’s trying to curb your ridiculous spending because at least he realizes people don’t print their own money.” I didn’t say anything.

THEN, she starts complaing about her 45 minute commute, how it makes her crazy. She bitches about her job and how they don’t let people have any sort of time off, how she’s required to sit in her cube and work all day with minimal breaks, how her boss is “mean,” how she only gets 2 weeks of vacation a year, how she has to deal with rude people calling her all day, etc. They both admit that she’s unapproachable for at least 2 hours after she gets home because she’s strung out from the commute.

So I asked, “Would you guys be able to get by with just Jim’s salary for a while?”

They looked at me like they never thought of this before.* “Yes”, they each agreed.

I then said, “If you don’t mind, I’d just like to ask a question… why not quit and find something locally?”

Kelly: “Well, I won’t find a job that pays this much and it means I won’t have my extra money. Because of the bills we have, I already had to start doing my own nails! Plus, we had a cookout last week and we had to buy toys for the kids we invited.”

Thoughts at this point: WHAT?!

I said, “Oh… I guess you probably just have to weigh the extra money with your peace of mind.”

This time it was a look of, “How dare you.”

Me: “Well, I didn’t mean anything by it, I’m just speaking my thought process if I were in a similar situation…”

Kelly: “Well, I’m not quitting.”

OK, subject change time.

Jim confided in me later that the plan was for her to get pregnant and stop working, and this hasn’t happened. So she’s pissy all the time. He also said that whatever money she makes, she decides where to spend it. She does not contribute to any bills – *this cleared up for me why I got the look. I just listened and didn’t ask any questions. But as he was talking I wondered what his financial situation would be like if she did quit – she’d be doing without a lot of comforts.

I just feel sad for my friend. He doesn’t seem particularly happy. What do you think?

I understand you feeling sad for your friend who, in your eyes, appears to be getting a rough deal at the moment from his bitchy new wife. However, their relationship dynamics are about how BOTH of them behave.

If they’d invited me to dinner then started bitching about their personal problems, I would have excused myself and left.

I know. But what do you say in that situation? I can’t think of anything. He was talking a lot about thing when the wives went to bed. He was looking for answers. I didn’t give him any because I didn’t really understand the situation outside of my own perception. I didn’t have time to think and what I would have said at that moment would have been reactionary.

He’s too good of a friend, we were staying there for the night, and I hadn’t seen him in a few months. Leaving wasn’t really an option for me – at least it’s one I didn’t consider at the time.

Oh, the humanity!

Your friend’s wife doesn’t sound like a peach. On the other hand, I’d have a hard time being married to a heavy drinker.

Personally, I’m a big, big believer in the “praise in public, criticize in private” school. If I’m having a problem with my husband, he and I are the only ones who know about it. I don’t complain about it even to my best friend or my mom and certainly not to his friends.

I don’t know what you can do for you for friend, beyond being someone to lean on. Maybe you could try suggesting, “This works well for my wife and I…”

How to handle financial responsibilities among couples has so many opinions, options, etc. that there really is no right answer.
Both parties need to lay out their expectations, wants, needs, everything and come to an agreement/compromise about who handles what, who’s money goes where, kids, cars, houses, debt, savings, living standards.
Nobody can make the right decision for them or tell them who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s up to them to work it out.
And if they can’t work it out it’s also up to them to decide if they want to continue living together fighting and being miserable or if it’s time to call it quits.

You have no dog in this fight.

Understood, but I guess the point I was making is that she knew this about him going into it. That I am sure about. What I’m not certain about is whether he knew she would be like this. I’m not sure.

Exactly, that’s way I am with my wife and it’s the way she is with me. That’s the first thing my wife said to me when I got to bed, “I can’t believe she talks like that about him in front of company!”

Honestly, I think that first question is way too personal to ask in a group setting. You may know Jim well enough to ask him that in a one-on-one setting, but it strikes me as really personal. The rest crosses over into giving advice that wasn’t asked for, and those conversations never end well.

Also, it can make a lot of financial sense for a woman to stay employed through pregnancy and maternity leave, then quit. (Note: employers hate this, but money talks) There may be more financially at stake in this decision than you (or even they) realize. And if they’re having fertility issues, you really don’t want to step on that landmine in conversation. He’s a heavy drinker, she’s probably not drinking if they’re trying to conceive, is his drinking hurting their chances, all kinds of ugliness potential.

It doesn’t sound like a marriage I’d want to be in, but I don’t think there’s anything you can or should be doing unless Jim asks you for advice (or you can get him to post here :slight_smile: ).

High maintence girls don’t exactly hide that part of themselves when they are dating. What more likely happened was that he knew what her financial priorities were like before they got married, but didn’t realize how negatively it would affect him until after the big day. They both sound like very glass half full type people.

I’d keep mum when in their mutual company–if they’re carping publicly at each other the situation is clearly pretty tense, and putting your own advice in can possibly harm things rather than help. But I’d offer to keep the lines open–“If you ever need to talk about anything, give me a shout, I’m always here to listen”–so they can approach you privately.

Well, thankfully, the likelihood of us getting together in the near future is small.

My advice was more of a “If you don’t want to change, then don’t bitch about it. Everyone has problems and I’m not dumping mine on you.”

See above. I was hoping a sharp question would back her off. My wife doesn’t really know them at all and was a little shocked by everything. She didn’t say a word and I sensed her discomfort. Kelly’s bitching (personal bitching, not meant for company, imo) was making everyone squirm a bit, and I didn’t like that she called the guy, who’s pretty much supporting her princess lifestyle, cheap.

According to her doctor, she’s not getting pregnant because of her own stress. This was also unsolicited information.

This is a very good point. If they both want a baby, she’s basically taking one for the team by giving up booze and the other fun stuff that pregnant/trying to conceive women can’t have. If he’s not willing to abstain with her, that could cause serious friction. If I couldn’t drink and my partner kept downing a six-pack a night, I wouldn’t be very happy about it.

Not that it excuses her behavior at dinner, but it could explain part of the tension.

Whoa, talk about oversharing. In nearly all cases where someone starts bitching about marital/money problems to me, I offer the same advice: Seek a marriage counselor. Good luck. Honestly, it’s something they need to work out and it was crappy for them to dump it all out like that. What a lousy situation.

While I agree her behavior was rude, maybe she’s undergoing fertility treatments and is under extra stress because of the procedures and/or medications involved? Maybe her behavior has gotten worse because of this? (Just a possibility – and don’t ask them about it!!!)

You remind me of Billy Crystal in the beginning of City Slickers when he’s at Daniel Stern’s house listening to him and his wife fight in front of everyone.

I find myself much in agreement with Miss Woodhouse. If he’s footing the cost of living bills and she’s going from paycheck to paycheck on shiny stuff, he’s just going to have to put his foot down about investing for the future and sleep on the couch for a while.

You being right with that advice will not make him happy and will certainly make you her sworn enemy if she finds out you said it. He’s looking for an easy solution. There isn’t one.

This is an instance where I would recommend that you tiptoe lightly and advise him that some marriage/financial counceling would be in order.

I’ve dated women like this. There is “our” money, and then there is “her” money. In other words, “What’s his is mine, and what’s mine is mine.” One of them actually held Peg Bundy up as a role model.

After the second one, watching for signs of such became a priority.

This sounds a lot like a couple I know. My advice is to stay out of their problems. They are adults and need to manage their own lives and getting in the middle is just going to end up badly for everyone. In my own case I’ve told my friend that marriage and financial counseling makes sense and I’d help arrange that if it was a financial problem. I’ve also made it clear that I can be used to vent to me any time and I’ll listen for as long as it takes. I’ve said privately things I agree with and things where I think there may be overreaction because of past incidents but I’d never speak out to both of them. Unless you are a qualified therapist it’ll just make it worse. It’s hard to see friends in a bad situation but sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do except stand by.

Stay out of it. She sounds annoying, but you can’t know what they’re like alone. Some couples (and people) live to bicker and complain. And not being able to conceive can’t help. If your friend is having serious trouble, he’ll talk to you in private. Until then, prep yourself for more annoying dinner parties!

Boy, if there’s one thing that family dynamic needs, it’s a kid!