Lunching With A Controlled Wife Upsetting

Dear Annie: I am concerned about one of my friends, “Amanda.” She and I are both middle-aged housewives with only part-time jobs. For the past six months or so, we’ve been having lunch together once a week.

Amanda comes from a much more repressed background than I do. She was raised to believe that wives should be submissive to their husbands, etc.

Our weekly lunch is in a restaurant that’s located inside a supermarket. I like the food there. Amanda used to say she liked the location because when her husband asked about her day, she could truthfully tell him she had only gone to the grocery. She said it would take time for her to let him know about having a new friend.

Amanda has complained about her controlling husband. She told me he checks her phone and email all the time. However, she has such an upbeat, happy disposition, I thought she was exaggerating. About a month ago, she told me that since she’s gotten to know me, she’s had the courage to speak up to her husband about some things for the very first time, and it has led to some positive changes in their marriage.

The next week, Amanda’s husband just showed up with her at our lunch. I welcomed meeting him because I knew he could see that I’m a straight woman who poses no threat.

Since then, however, he has come with her every week. He owns his own business, so he must have rearranged his whole schedule to lunch with us! He sits with us but doesn’t say much. He mostly plays with his phone. Of course, my conversation with Amanda is quite different with him sitting there. This whole thing seems weird to me. I’m afraid that if I were to say much, our lunches would end altogether. Do you have any suggestions? — Silenced in the Supermarket

Dear Silenced: Though you might be limited in what you can say to Amanda, your mere presence speaks volumes. It tells her she’s not alone — that someone cares. To someone in an abusive relationship, that’s an invaluable message.

And that’s why the best thing you can do for Amanda right now is to continue attending these lunches and pretending her husband’s presence is welcome. Any perceived rejection of him would be used to separate you from her. Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) for more guidance.

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