Baggage Check

Friends, family and rage advice

Posted Sept. 11, 2011, at 8:15 a.m.
Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior

Q: My best friend got married and had two cute kids, which is what she’s always wanted. But now it’s nearly impossible for me to see her. Her stay-at-home-dad husband doesn’t let her go out often — even if there’s a scheduled girls’ night, he usually comes up with a reason she can’t go. When we do get to hang out, it’s at her house, while her husband sits in his study smoking pot. This behavior worries me.

A: There are jerk husbands who hold their wives hostage, there are passive wives who use their husbands as excuses not to socialize, and there’s everything in between. (And then there are stoner, dominating dads who seem to be doing everything in their power to make some random advice columnist dislike them.)

You have to assess how much resistance is coming from her husband and what’s coming from her. Might she be depressed or in a rut herself? It’s time you initiated the difficult conversation — there’s more at stake here than just your friendship. “I worry about you and how you sometimes don’t seem `allowed’ to have `me’ time.” Or: “I sometimes feel like you’ve changed since you’ve gotten married.” Or: “I wish I could see you more. It seems tougher than it should be.” Yes, parents with young children always feel a crimp on their social lives, but this is different.

Q: I feel angry all the time. My husband doesn’t remember to pick up the dry cleaning and I feel like screaming at him. Some woman at the grocery store got in my way, and I wanted to throttle her. I know this isn’t normal. I try to cover it up and be civil to co-workers and friends. But it’s so hard. I just get irritated at the slightest thing. I think I’ve always been like this to some extent, but now it’s just terrible.

A: You’ve got the insight to see this, and the courage to admit it — both of those are important. Sure, some people are naturally more tightly wound than others, but this sounds like much more than a personality thing.

Irritability can be strongly linked to both anxiety and depression, despite the stereotypes of anxiety equaling worrying and depression equaling sadness. Even though that’s true for many, for others, it instead looks exactly like you’ve described. Fortunately, cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn to identify what’s really going on here, getting to the roots of the physical and emotional aspects of your mood.

Q: I’m about 15 pounds north of my ideal weight, and you would think that I had a contagious illness the way that the average trip to a bar goes. It’s beginning to feel like there are no men out there who aren’t completely superficial. Please help me not be cynical, because I’m sure that’s not helping my case.

A: Do certain looks tend to turn heads at bars? Of course. But assuming that all men have certain superficial standards — or that what might first turn a head at a bar is the same thing that will spark a relationship — does men (and yourself) a major disservice. Plus, research has long showed that women significantly underestimate the weight that men find most attractive.

Plenty of people are fed up with the dating scene at bars, whether they fit a certain physical mold or not. So you’d have plenty of comrades (and prospects!) if you ditched it altogether. There are so many ways to truly connect with people to let them see the real you, from taking a class to doing volunteer work to just focusing on making more friends (and trusting they’ll have male ones). See that? I didn’t even push you to go online.

Andrea Bonior, a Washington-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly mental health advice column in The Washington Post’s Express and is author of the new book, “The Friendship Fix.” For more information, see www.drandreabonior.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @drandreabonior.

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