My husband’s best friend “Bill” is engaged to marry his fiancee “Erin” this June. Last night, he told me about a fight Bill and Erin recently had that really concerns me. Erin feels very threatened by pornography and forbids Bill from looking at it because she considers it cheating. When she moved in, she destroyed his porn collection. A couple of weeks ago, Erin found a porn site in the web history on their shared computer and proceeded to compile evidence of Bill visiting porn sites. The same week, Erin found a cabinet with a locked door while Bill was at work; she pried it open to discover a set of porn DVDs. She called Bill and calmly stated that they “needed to talk.” When Bill got home that night, Erin immediately brought out the DVDs, began screaming and snapped the DVDs in his face. She then threatened to seriously damage his vehicle, began throwing things and ultimately punched him in the face. Erin truly expects Bill to never be sexually excited by the image of another woman and feels that he needs counseling for his “porn addiction.” The violence is obviously upsetting, and their inability to have an open dialogue sets the stage for future conflicts. My husband is generally the type to mind his own business, but I feel that he needs to urge Bill to seek counseling with Erin and seriously rethink the wedding if she refuses to go. What would you do if you were a friend of theirs? — Smells Trouble
If I were your husband, I would probably voice my concern once — maybe twice at the most — and then drop the subject. It’s not like Bill is unaware that Erin is acting truly nuts. But, by being guilty of staying with her and enabling her behavior, he’s kind of crazy himself. Some couples thrive on dysfunction — passionate fighting fuels their relationship — and maybe Bill and Erin are an example of just that. Maybe they’re addicted to each other — and addicted to the dysfunction. And in that case, nothing that your husband says to Bill is going to turn on some switch in his head and suddenly shine some light on the dark recesses of his love life.
No, much like an obese person has to want to lose weight or an alcoholic has to want to get sober, Bill’s going to have to want to be in a healthy relationship before he gives up Erin or considers counseling. No amount of helpful encouragement from well-meaning friends or loved ones will push an addict to give up his drug of choice — including food, booze, and a dysfunctional relationship — before he’s ready. So, your husband can definitely say something to put the thought in Bill’s head, but beyond that, it’s best if he stays out of it and let’s Bill figure this out for himself. Unfortunately, it may takes years and years of dysfunction before he decides he’s over it — and as his friends, it will suck for you to stand by and watch — but until Bill is ready for a change, it’s not going to happen. And that’s just the sad truth. The best you and your husband can do is let him know you’re there for him and that if there’s anything you can do to help him live his happiest life all he has to do is say the word.
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