My husband and I recently had an uncomfortable dinner with a good friend and her husband. During the evening her husband was dismissive of her: interrupting, competing for attention, and putting down some of her ideas when she talked. At one point they were both explaining their sides to an argument they were having - as if we were supposed to decide who was right. My husband says that my friend is kind of flaky and needs a guy like that to keep her from being impulsive. I say their marriage is in trouble.
After the evening, their bickering rubbed off on us. I want to talk to my friend and ask her what's going on. My husband says that it's just me butting in. So should I get involved? And if so HOW do I bring it up? Signed - Butt in or not?
Wanting to help a friend is always a good thing. It's what makes a good friend. The question is: HOW do you best support your friend? Before we get to that - I wonder if it would help to look at what may have been going from a relationship standpoint.
So is she flaky? Is he dismissive? Are you a meddler? Is your husband a 'hands-off' kind of guy? My guess is that there is some truth to all of these - that's why you hooked up in the first place - It's the law of attraction and reaction. You are drawn to traits that are opposite of your strengths (Only then it was - She's spontaneous, He's smart, You're involved, Your husband's laid-back) and then you react negatively to those traits because they are different from your style. (The trick is to make this facet of relationships work for you! And there are ways to do that. See Couples Resources for ideas.)
So what might have been going on at dinner? Whether it is griping to a friend, airing your dirty laundry, or respectfully asking someone to determine who is right - the purpose is the same: to find an ally. But when you want an ally against your partner - it's because he or she doesn't feel like one. Meaning you either don't have or are not using good skills to deal with the issue between you. (Of course - one night of being adversarial does not a divorce make - though how many you need for such a thing is better not to find out).
The good news is that putting an issue out there means they were trying to figure it out. (Maybe not effectively, but they were trying!) And better they are airing their grievance together than separately.
And the truth is that sometimes we can all use a quality dose of perspective. Just getting good outside observations can break through the walls that we have put up against our partner. You know the ones we can't hear through!
Now should that dose come over dinner with friends? It depends very heavily on the friendship. But it can come that way, or from a book or an advice column, from a movie or a class, from a wise, trusted elder (or younger) or maybe even a counselor. It can come from a buddy who knocks you upside the head and says, "Dude, what are you doing?" Or it could come from a caring friend with good listening skills, excellent boundaries, an optimistic air, and the willingness to be both empathetic and possibly challenging (See Butt In Or Not Part 2).
It might even come from watching some friends fight badly. And realizing that you want to do better than that.
Hope that was helpful - Take care, Annie