Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Friend’s Comments About Husband Cross the Line

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was talking to one of my best friends, and she said something about my husband that was completely unacceptable. She was judgmental and rude, in my view. While we tend to talk about the things going on in our lives -- including what our spouses do right and wrong -- I always thought that it was off-limits for us to make comments about the other person’s spouse. I try to be a sounding board for her more than anything. I listen, but I do not make comments. Because she said some pretty bad things about my husband, I feel uncomfortable talking to her freely now. I want to tell her how I felt about her comments, but I’m not sure what to say. -- Saying Too Much

DEAR SAYING TOO MUCH: While we all need confidantes, it is important to understand that sometimes those people in whom we confide cannot keep their thoughts to themselves. In some cases, it’s actually best that they speak up, even if it does hurt our feelings at first.

That said, it isn’t a given that it’s OK for friends to talk about each other’s spouses or significant others. You are right that there should be a safe space among your closest friends to air your grievances without fear of any repercussion -- including a friend’s condemnation.

Speak to your friend and tell her how her comments affected you. Let her know how you would prefer that she communicate with you about your marriage -- mainly by listening only. Come to an agreement on what you can both live with. It is likely wise, though, for you to complain less to your friends if you are unwilling to get feedback from time to time.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got married recently, and I now know that my wife is a horrible cook. We had never talked about cooking. I don’t cook, but I assumed that she could and would. I realize that this is old-fashioned thinking, but I believed it nonetheless. She is trying, but she really can’t cook, and it’s hard to eat what she prepares. I feel like a hypocrite in a way. I expect my wife to cook well, and I am mad that she can’t. What should I do? -- Bad Cook

DEAR BAD COOK: You have a couple of things to deal with. For starters, trying to run your life based upon an archaic conception of gender roles is not serving you, nor does it need to. Let that go. Instead, talk to your wife openly. Tell her you didn’t realize that she hadn’t learned to cook, as you have not either. Suggest that you learn together, and take turns preparing the family meal -- or even cook together, which creates another level of bonding for you.

Consider taking a cooking class or purchasing interesting cookbooks and perusing the recipes. Make it fun to learn to cook so that you do not insult her or judge your old ways too harshly. Instead, carve a new path together that is equally supportive.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)