“This is going to sound severe, but my husband has one friend—let’s call him ‘Alex’—whom I absolutely hate. He’s always knocking girls’ looks and said he ‘never wants to date a woman over the age of 25.’ (He’s 37.) To boot, he never asks me any questions about my life, even though I’ve known him for years. My husband shares my values, but he’s known his friend since high school. How do I get him to see the low-key misogyny? And is it fair to ask him to stop being friends with this jerk?”
Oy vey. Friendships are complicated.
The friends we meet in high school can become entirely different people by the time adulthood rolls in. So, if you remain in contact, there’s often a sense that somebody has changed. Still, there’s a difference between disagreeing over sports teams and revealing yourself to be an outright misogynist.
And what you’re pointing out is clear: Your husband’s friend doesn’t see you as individual and has made no attempts to get to know you. This is not only sexist. This is flat-out rude.
But what can you do about it?
Maybe you simply want your husband to understand your distaste. That’s fair. If that’s your goal here, have a conversation recalling exactly when and where you noticed the unacceptable behaviors. Remind your husband of the dinner when ‘Alex’ commented on a prospective date’s weight. Recall the time you asked him all about his vacation to Barbados, but he asked you nothing about your recent road trip up the East Coast. Be clear that you fundamentally disagree with Alex’s opinions and behaviors, and you need your husband to understand and validate this.
You can also ask your husband to take certain actions, knowing that he may refuse. Want him to speak up or call out Alex’s misogyny the next time he sees it? You should say so. Want to bow out of their monthly dinners? Tell him. (That one may result in compromise, if it’s important to your husband that you occasionally put in an appearance.)
But perhaps you want even more. Perhaps you want your husband to cut off ties entirely.
Look, I get it. In fact, I’ve been in a similar situation before with my partner. But I’m going to give you the advice that my therapist once gave to me: Don’t try to make this decision for him. No one likes feeling controlled or pressured when decades-old friendships are on the line. State your feelings and needs clearly—that you’re bothered by this friend, and you don’t want to spend more time with him—and then let your husband figure out the rest.
And note that even if your husband understands what you’re asking and wants to uphold your wishes, it may take him some time. Like my therapist once told me: Whether he distances himself from this friend tomorrow, in a month or in a year, it’ll happen. If he shares your values, he won’t be able to un-see what you just pointed out to him.
Jenna Birch is a relationship coach, journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life & Love. Have a question for an upcoming column? Send her a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.