December 18, 2009 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Think in practical terms about friends

Carolyn Hax Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: A few years ago, my boyfriend cheated on me and left after I found out. At the time, he was struggling with depression and a drinking problem.

After a couple of years of therapy, he worked things out and got better, and we decided to get back together in January.

My best friend and her husband really helped me through the tough time after he left. I also became close with their daughter, now 5.

But since my boyfriend came back, the husband doesn’t agree with my choice and refuses to see us. This Saturday, my boyfriend, my friend, her daughter and I all had lunch. It was the first time I’d seen the kid since January. She knew me on sight and hugged me wordlessly for a long time.

I want to convey to my friend how unbelievably hurt I am. I understand their caution and skepticism, but this is nuts. I’m feeling like this friendship is pretty well dead, but I love that kid and don’t want her thinking I don’t care about her. – California

You’ve been shut out since January. Why are you just now declaring the friendship dead?

I realize you’re distraught on principle; the degree of shunning does appear excessive.

But you need to think in practical terms. If you confront your friend with just righteousness and emotion, you’ll be making the same mistake her husband did.

Start by trying to understand why they went “nuts.” Let’s say the husband, instead of shunning you, merely distanced himself after saying: “I feel angry, even betrayed, that after months of mopping up your emotional mess, you went right back to the guy and expected us to be happy for you.”

Or: “You’re involved with a guy who we fear, given what we know about him, is a time bomb.” Would you see these as legitimate? Could any explanation be? If they had legitimate reasons but bad execution, would you feel as angry?

Then ask yourself: Do you want to be included more, or just heard?


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