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Wife uses brother’s graduation as marital test

Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared on Oct. 29, 2004.

Dear Carolyn:

My wife and I (married one year) recently had a disagreement about whether I should have traveled to her brother’s graduation. Admittedly, I was probably wrong in not going. However, my wife did not make her feelings known until after the fact. She said it was a test to determine what I would do.

My feeling is that dating was the time for tests; marriage is the time to be supportive of your spouse and work together to make the best decisions.

Am I wrong to think my wife should have let me know her feelings beforehand, instead of testing me?

— Va.

No, you’re right — except that dating isn’t the time for tests, either.

Relationships at all stages are the time to say, “This is important to me,” whenever one of you wants a special effort from the other. Then you follow that with loving, open, grown-up discussion. Then you see what happens.

So I’d be sad and hurt at her tactics, too, and not a little bit peeved. However, as a wise person once said, marriage is the time to be supportive of your spouse and work together to make the best decisions. That means finding a way to get over your disappointment in each other.

That means, since you already admit your own error, you need to try to explain how bad hers was, especially if it’s a pattern — that her “test” seriously undermined the trust between you, since you need to be able to take her at her word and not always wonder whether she means it or is just testing you.

Obviously (and unfortunately) you can’t make her see this. She’s more likely to, though, if you show some sympathy; you may deplore what she did, but that doesn’t mean you can’t understand it. Especially since each of you made a different version of the same mistake: expecting love to mean you could read each other’s minds. She expected you to get that this was important to her without her having to say it; you expected her to get that you’d go if she wanted you to.

If you can agree on this much, then you can each get a step closer to I’m-over-it bliss by agreeing next that, while it would be nice if you “got” each other effortlessly, it’s far better to just make an effort to say what you want and need than to feel constantly, quietly and, in time, irreparably let down by your spouse.


Dear Carolyn:

My girlfriend of a year broke up with me, saying she loves me but isn’t in love with me. She hasn’t been in a long-term relationship (more than two months) with anyone but me and one other guy.

The butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling is gone. But doesn’t that always happen? I always thought the true test of a relationship was what you had after that feeling is gone.

— Seattle

Then you always thought correctly! Which makes you an incisive studio analyst — interesting, but of no consequence to the outcome of game.

The outcome being: After the butterflies flew away, what your girlfriend had left was a desire to break up with you. Isn’t right, isn’t wrong, just is. I am sorry.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook or chat with her online at noon each Friday at

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