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Couples retreat

Your best friend, a widower, has a new love in his life. You dated her for a couple of years before meeting your wife five years ago. Every summer, you host a couples’ spiritual retreat at your cottage. But your wife is uncomfortable with your ex being part of this year’s entourage. What do you do?

By Kevin Little and Lee Simpson

Author's photo
Rev. Kevin Little is a minister at St. Luke’s United in Upper Tantallon, N.S.

First, I am surprised that my wife is uncomfortable with the presence of someone I dated more than five years ago. Jealousy is not attractive. Further, I will explore the reason she is feeling uncomfortable. So that I am not called a hypocrite, a very common word in the Bible, I will explain that if the roles were reversed, I would feel nothing but delight in meeting one of her exes at a spiritual retreat or any other gathering. Knowing me, my wife will understand that I am speaking the truth on this matter. If she continues to assert that she will be uncomfortable with the presence of this couple, I will rescind the invitation to them.

But there is no way to withdraw an invitation other than by being truthful about the reason. I will tell my friend, in a gentle way, that I never want to make my wife uncomfortable in her own home or cottage, and that I hope he and his partner understand.

Spiritual retreats also require some level of trust and openness in order to be fruitful for all concerned. This trust and openness cannot be fostered if my wife is feeling jealous and resentful. If my wife feels this way, my best friend’s new partner will no doubt feel unwelcome and resented. That can’t help her in her own spiritual journey.

I should add that although jealousy is not one of my hang-ups, I need to understand that my wife brings some baggage to our relationship, just as I do. For example, if one of her friends were prone to temper tantrums, I’d be quick to ask my wife to withdraw his or her next invitation to our home or cottage. I hope my wife would understand my need to feel comfortable in my own home, just as I respect her need to do likewise.

Relationships are about give and take. Or put another way, about openness and understanding.

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.

When my pal first told me that he was getting serious about Jane, I admit I had a moment: “Why does it have to be her?” This is a small town, and when you experience widowhood and divorce later in life as we have, you are bound to run into these situations. It’s laughably similar to high school romance, only all the players have grey hair. There is nothing funny, however, about the genuine discomfort my wife is experiencing. If the tables were turned, I would be uneasy, particularly as our spiritual retreats create an intimacy of sharing that depends on openness. I will be frank about this with my wife, so that she knows I am not making light of her feelings. My next conversation will be with my friend. I will ask him if, in light of the newness of his relationship with Jane, he wants to take a break from this particular weekend. I will propose a “boys only” fishing trip instead. But this will only postpone the inevitable. The Ten Commandments warn us of the pervasive dangers of jealousy: the acid of covetousness corrodes all who touch it. What I must do is prepare for next year’s retreat. Throughout the months ahead, I will let my wife know through word, thought and deed that she has nothing to fear from a renewal of contact with Jane. I am delighted that my friend has found happiness, but for me, my wife is the perfect partner. Finally, if the relationship between my best friend and Jane continues to blossom, I am going to buy Jane a coffee one day and help her to understand my wife’s reserve; after all, Jane is probably equally nervous. If we can’t talk this one through, then we deserve to go back to Grade 11 to learn those uncomfortable lessons all over again.
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