Q. Recently, my fiance and I went out with his friend (of 30 years) “George,” and George’s new girlfriend, “Janet.”
George went to the restroom. Janet took his seat so we could talk (the venue was loud). After some chit chat, Janet reached over and stroked my fiance’s face (from his jaw to his temple) without uttering a word. I was completely shocked.
My fiance left the table almost immediately to use the restroom himself. Upon his return, he switched his seat to be on the other side of me (not near Janet).
He later told me that he left the table to avoid her, and that she had also been rubbing up against his leg. I was beyond furious.
My fiance begged me not to confront her, so we abruptly left.
Initially, I was furious with my fiance for not saying something to her immediately. He said he was so stunned that he just wanted to leave.
The next morning, he told George what Janet did, and said how uncomfortable it made both of us. George was unfazed, and blamed it on Janet’s drinking that evening. He has since invited us to other events (with Janet). We have declined and reiterated the reason.
A friend is hosting a Fourth of July party and my fiance wants to go. George and Janet will definitely be there.
Do we go? If so, I am most certain I will address this — in person!
What is your take on this? Do you agree that we should keep our distance from Janet?
A. Your fiance’s response to this unwanted and uninvited touching is extremely common. People who have never experienced this sometimes criticize the victim for not speaking up in the moment. But the nearly universal response to this sort of violation is to first freeze — and then to create distance (a smart protective move).
My take on Janet’s behavior is that she is a boundary-crosser who believes she can get away with it, in part because she is a woman. Whether consciously or not, she is counting on a double-standard regarding how people tend to respond when men’s physical boundaries are violated.
If your fiance wants to attend this Fourth of July party, then he should! His choice not to let what happened control him is a good one.
Does he want you to confront Janet? If so, then go for it, and enjoy the fireworks.
Your fiance might declare his own independence on Independence Day by addressing this violation himself. If so, he should be prepared for the typical response from perpetrators: denial, deflection, diminishing the behavior, and possibly even blaming him for somehow inviting it — which, as everyone knows, he did not do.
Q. I am one of three daughters-in-law. Ever since the other daughters-in-law came into the family there have been many problems.
They all live in our in-laws’ house. (I don’t.)
One particular daughter-in-law constantly fights with her husband and disrespects his parents. She is now living with her own parents since her last fight, six months ago.
I tried to help, but by pointing out all that she was doing wrong, I think that I actually made matters worse.
Her behavior toward family members seems to have improved, although she has not apologized to them. Now she’s being negative toward me. I am disappointed that she did not receive my advice in a positive way. Should I continue to try to reach out?
A. Nobody likes to have their faults and failings pointed out to them, especially when it is framed as you “pointing out all that she was doing wrong.”
It seems that the distance has helped to stabilize the situation, which is a good thing.
Intervention is laudable and necessary if you are trying to protect someone. Otherwise, unless you are asked to weigh in or help, you should probably stand down.
Yes, I do think you should stay in contact with this in-law. Don’t rehash everything, but do stay in touch — unless she asks you not to.
Q. I could not believe your terrible response to “Upset Husband,” who was lucky enough to have in-laws who wanted to give their daughter money for a house!
He should be grateful, rather than insulted!
A. Many readers advised that this man should essentially take the money and run, but these parents seemed eager to control the couple through their largesse, and I shared the husband’s concern.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.