Dear Dr. Archer,
Apart from what I want to talk to you about, I'm in a very happy relationship, with many common interests and projects, mutual respect and admiration, fun, love and great sex.
We share a nice little house and we're both musicians. Some of our musical projects are together, while others are with other people, and this has always been clear and fine.
About two years ago, I started playing with a pianist, a very nice woman and great musician. We've become close friends and we really enjoy rehearsing and giving concerts together.
From almost the beginning, my boyfriend took a huge dislike to her. He calls her many things she doesn't deserve, and gives me a very hard time about my duo with her. He says this takes my energy and my focus away from our common project -- but I've always done many other things and it has never been a problem.
I think it's some strange kind of jealousy, but it's gone so far that if he hears me talk to her on the phone, he gets so annoyed he will more or less ignore me for the rest of the day. Of course he never comes to any of our concerts and hasn't heard our CD. He even had me take him off my website because she's on it.
He's obviously trying to make me quit the project, which I won't do. I'm not letting this thing get me down; I usually just wait until it's over, but sometimes I wonder what it can mean.
From this letter he sounds like a Neanderthal, but he's otherwise a very intelligent and sensitive person, and that's what makes it impossible for me to understand such behavior.
He is not some insecure teenager; he's 50 and I'm 40. When he gets so annoyed and I tell him I can't believe it, he just answers that it has no importance at all. But if it had no importance, then he shouldn't get upset about it.
I forgot to mention that my man is a guitarist, so the two duos sound completely different, with completely different music and in completely different venues, so there's no competition.
I'd really love to know what you can see in this story. Thank you so much for your wonderful work! All the very best.
This is a very perplexing problem. The fact that he will not give you a definite reason for his total dislike of this woman, while otherwise being respectful and loving, just compounds the puzzle.
This doesn't sound like jealousy; it doesn't fit in with your description of him in your letter, and you have worked on projects with others before without much fanfare. The only thing I can think of would be an unexplained personality clash between these two, but the only way to be sure is if he opens up and tells you exactly why he dislikes her so much. Other than that, it will remain a mystery.
I predict there is more than meets the eye here. Perhaps he knows her from before or has a friend who had a bad experience with her or has heard a negative bit of gossip. But unless he starts talking there is no way to know for sure.
For your part, Mary, you seem to be doing everything exactly right. You're not backing down from your gig with this pianist, and you shouldn't. As they say, it's nothing personal..... it's business, and perhaps fun, too.
My advice? Totally drop her out of any conversation that you two have going forward. Let her be a separate part of your life. There is a good chance that at some point he will open up, but until then, try to limit the damage.
However, the big red flag for me is that once irrational behavior shows in one area, it often will start to creep into other areas of a relationship as well. I would watch carefully for any other things that seem out of context with him.
If this starts spreading then the relationship is in danger. I’ve seen folks actually start with a simple dislike like this (subconsciously) in order to subvert their relationship. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening, but I am saying to keep your eyes open.
There is something more going on here and until it becomes apparent, caution is in order. Keep working on your projects, and hopefully he will come around. Write back later and let us know how you're doing. Good luck.