Help! My husband does nothing when his friend makes prejudiced comments about who I am!

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Hello everyone … I got this question on the web site "All Experts" from a woman named Martha … let me know if you think I gave her the right advice … here goes:

Name: Martha

Subject: Problems in marriage

Question: Hi Becky,

I have a question about relationships and especially marriage.  When one spouse has a friend that does not like the other spouse and behaves in a very disrespectful manner towards that spouse and they will not behave, is it appropriate to expect that the other spouse discontinue his/her relationship with that friend?

I grew up with a mother who had many, many friends. She also was friends with the parents of kids who were very prejudiced and were mean and hateful towards kids they did not like because of their national origin. It is common knowledge that this family feels this way. I went through a lot of suffering in school due to these types of people. I found that my mother would never expect her friends to treat her kids with respect.  She would rather keep her friends than sacrifice any friendship. I wonder what you see when people are married and this sort of situation occurs. Is it appropriate that the other spouse  terminate a friendship with someone who who is mean and disrespectful towards the other spouse due to race, nationality or religion?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Martha

Answer: Hi Martha,

I was really sad to read about what you have been going through. Although you don’t say, it sounds like you are of mixed race, or part of some cultural or religious group that is often subject to discrimination. I can see that from your childhood that this issue is a real hot-button for you.

I must tell you, Martha, my friends would never do what you write about because I select my friends very carefully, and those who discriminate are not welcome in my world. Those from the past who did that are no longer around, and my belief is that to associate with people like that lowers me and the positive energy I fight to have. I recommend you watch the movie, "Gentleman’s Agreement," with Gregory Peck … made in 1949, it won the Academy Award because of its theme of social justice … it underlines that if you stand around, grin and bear it, back slap, and wonk when people denigrate others of different colors, race, etc., you are equally as guilty of prejudice as those who are open about it.

If your husband loved himself (and you) in a healthy manner, he would not allow people to be unkind and disrespectful to you or in front of you. He would correct these people, and if the crimes continued, he would end the friendship. You asked should you expect this? That is a tricky and complicated question, as I don’t think you can "expect" things of others without their agreement. In other words, if your husband promised not to do it again, I think you can have an expectation, but not until then. I think you can look at it as what is the right or proper or loving thing to do, and tell your husband about how this situation causes you to feel. Any husband/spouse who would not take your feelings into consideration and empathize with you might be one you need to reconsider being married to, as it is most unloving when a spouse tells her husband she is uncomfortable in a situation, and then for him to ignore, minimize, or diminish her feelings.

You guys would benefit from some counseling — a counselor will help him understand the ramifications of what he is doing, and how much damage he does when he doesn’t validate you, and then minimizes how you feel. These kinds of situations do untold damage to relationships and he needs to understand that. A therapist would be a better bearer of this news than you, I suspect.

I hope this information helps — good luck!

Doctor Becky

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