I've been married for over five years (we are a lesbian couple). Almost two years ago, my spouse met a new best friend (a straight married woman). I was working like crazy to support us both while she went back to school, so I'm sure I wasn't the most fun person. I was glad she could hang out with this friend.
Quickly, though, they were attached at the hip to the exclusion of almost anyone else including me. They met through a mutual hobby. I joined to try to spend more time with my wife since it was important to her. By last year, my feelings were starting to hurt as she spent more and more time and emotional energy on this friend. I told her I'm happy she has a friend but she's my spouse and MY best friend – so it hurt to be left out. Many mutual friends have approached me to ask what the heck is up because they can see things have shifted. They joke my wife's friend is her "real wife." (Ouch).
Fast forward to last fall. Her friend leaves her husband (unrelated, that needed to happen forever) and my wife invites her to move in with us. I like the friend, she's nice but a) I'm sick of having a house guest in general and miss my space, and more importantly b) I have become the third wheel in my own house and it's breaking my heart. I'm not worried about infidelity in the physical sense (in the emotional sense that ship sailed). Recently we've had some disagreements and our communication has broken down. I worry it's because she can get all of her emotional needs met via this friend so why engage or work on the relationship with me? I come home and they can chat pleasantly about their day while I get the silent treatment. I want my wife back or I want her to acknowledge that maybe she's moved on. We tried counseling and it didn't go well; she can be defensive about criticism. What do I do?
– Third wheel at home
Try counseling again. I know that's a frustrating recommendation, but it sounds like you need a professional to guide you through some of these complicated feelings. It also sounds like you need a system for making choices as partners. Did your wife ask you before inviting this friend to stay in your home? Was there any discussion about how long you'd be comfortable with this arrangement? You should have a say in that kind of household decision. A therapist can talk to you both about how to have difficult conversations that involve negotiation.
You can also seek help on your own. Yes, I'm suggesting a lot of therapy here, but you're describing a very isolating/frustrating home situation, and it might be nice to focus on yourself for a bit. What are you seeking from your wife? What do you want to ask of her?
It also might help to remember that you have other friends who want to see you, even if you're on your own. You say your spouse is your best friend – but that's probably not true. She's your romantic and life partner, but that's a different kind of relationship. You have other people in your world who are watching from the outside and want to be there for you when you're ready. Let your closest friends in – even if it's just one of them – so you have a support system. The people who love you should know enough not to make those "real wife" jokes at all.
Readers? Third wheel?