Dear Dr. Saltz: I got married six months ago. My husband’s best friend has always been a problem between us. I can’t stand him. He is cold and mean to me, and he also gave a horrible speech at our wedding. My husband is an only child and sees this friend as his own brother, whereas I can’t stand to be in the same room with him. Any ideas on how to cope? — Bothered and belittled
Dear Bothered: To large extent, when you marry someone, you assume his history, his quirks, his family, and his friends. It’s unfortunate when you especially dislike some of these people. As a new bride, however, it will serve you well if you make an effort to improve your relationship with this friend of your husband’s.
I recommend that you not dwell on the horrible wedding speech. Weddings are highly emotional times when speakers feel pressure to say something momentous. It is hard to live up to such huge expectations. You, as the bride, want the speech to be perfect, so you are bound to be disappointed — especially by somebody you already dislike. So put that behind you.
Try to see things from the viewpoint of your husband’s friend. He is probably jealous. After all, he is losing his best buddy to you. He may be happy for this friend and may wish to be comfortable with you, but some men don’t have the social skills to gracefully deal with a woman in your role. So they appear cold and mean, when they actually feel threatened or awkward.
If you have empathy and understanding about where he is coming from, it is easier to see him less as a jerk and more as a human being. You don’t have to love this man, but you also don’t want to antagonize him, which will force your husband into an unpleasant position.
It’s worth considering extending an olive branch. Being direct and straightforward might clear the air and let him save face while acknowledging that you two are not on the best of terms. You can say to him: I know that our personalities don’t mesh well, but I appreciate the great friendship you have shown my husband and I don’t want to come between you.
You could also enlist your husband’s help, by having him mention to his buddy any particular behaviors you don’t like — his teasing, his bad manners, his practical joking, or whatever it is.
If you do have to include this man in some of your activities, try to choose things that minimize your contact. A movie is better than a picnic. A group outing is better than just you three. Let your husband do things with him alone.
Many people have friends who don’t get along with their spouse. Over time, this often works itself out — the friends grow apart, people get busy with children, someone moves away.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: If you dislike a close friend of your spouse, it’s to your advantage to improve the relationship rather than worsening it. The goal is the happiness of your spouse as well as yourself.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .