You can’t choose your friend’s pals, but you can con­trol how you react to them

The Washington Post Sunday - - DIVERSIONS -

Hi, Carolyn: Years ago, I had a friend named “Amy” who was very ex­plo­sive and ended up be­ing ver­bally abu­sive to­ward me. I ended that re­la­tion­ship. Fast for­ward to to­day — my clos­est friend “Julie” has re­cently be­friended Amy, and they do lots of so­cial things to­gether most week­ends. I feel up­set that Julie is be­com­ing close with some­one who treated me so poorly.

How do I nav­i­gate this? Ac­cept this is life? I want to take the high road.

— Friend­ship Col­li­sion Friend­ship Col­li­sion: There are ac­tu­ally two things to ac­cept here — that your “clos­est friend” is be­com­ing close to some­one else and that the some­one else is a per­son who hurt you.

Maybe I’m just pro­ject­ing on the for­mer; it does seem, though, that “lots of so­cial things to­gether most week­ends” would inevitably cut into the time Julie has avail­able for you.

Ei­ther way, you don’t have to get off the high road to talk to Julie about both con­cerns, as long as you stick to how you’re feel­ing.

For ex­am­ple, tell Julie you’re: sad to be see­ing less of her; skep­ti­cal of the idea that Amy now is so dif­fer­ent from Amy then; con­flicted by be­liev­ing both that Julie has a right to be­friend whom she pleases and wouldn’t be­friend some­one who had been so cruel to you; frus­trated to be in this po­si­tion at all; un­cer­tain how to han­dle it.

To pre­sume to tell Julie whom she can and can’t be­friend would be the low road — “Amy goes or I do” or any­thing sim­i­lar — as would judg­ing Julie’s de­ci­sion with­out know­ing more about her rea­son­ing, or about Amy’s be­hav­ior now.

The last is where it gets com­pli­cated. You’re en­ti­tled not to be Amy’s friend ever again, not even if she’s evolved into a liv­ing saint, but her past abu­sive be­hav­ior doesn’t dis­qual­ify her from ever hav­ing friends again. On that, I imag­ine even you agree; los­ing your friend­ship was her pun­ish­ment for that emo­tional crime, the cor­rect and pro­por­tion­ate one.

Amy may have learned from your exit, af­ter all, or got­ten coun­sel­ing, or just grown up since then.

But by this logic, and given the pas­sage of years, Julie is just as el­i­gi­ble to be Amy’s friend as any­one else.

The ex­cep­tion is whether you be­lieve that any real friend of yours, know­ing what Amy did to you, would avoid Amy on prin­ci­ple. That ex­cep­tion is what you need to wres­tle with af­ter you’ve talked to Julie. You can’t tell her who her friends can be, but you get to de­cide who your friends are and what that friend­ship means. There’s no high-road law that says you can’t re­think Julie for this. Dear Carolyn: My ex-hus­band cheated on me with “He­lena” for one year be­fore fil­ing for di­vorce and mov­ing in with her.

Two months af­ter the di­vorce was fi­nal, he be­gan bring­ing her to my daugh­ters’ soccer games, where she took many pic­tures and in­ter­acted with soccer par­ents.

My ex has never in­tro­duced me to her and tells her I say bad things about her so it has re­mained con­tentious. But my kids seem to like her and her teen daugh­ter. So I have ac­cepted all of it with as much grace as pos­si­ble.

I was okay un­til this past week­end, when my 9-year-old daugh­ter had a big soccer tour­na­ment and He­lena and her daugh­ter at­tended the team lunch — with all the other par­ents.

I told my ex it was un­com­fort­able for me as a first­time meet­ing and to please tell them not to come, but he did not lis­ten and brought her and the daugh­ter any­way. He­lena sat in my seat, and I did not at­tend. Was I wrong? — Cheated On Cheated On: If you’re try­ing to out-wrong your ex-hus­band, then you’ve got a long way to go, even if you stop read­ing this right now and go kick pup­pies. (Please don’t.)

Stay­ing home to avoid mak­ing a scene was an act of com­pas­sion for your child. It was also your pre­rog­a­tive.

But it would be a ter­ri­ble prece­dent if you let it be­come one.

Your hus­band has, de­lib­er­ately or no, ar­ranged things so that you can ei­ther avoid con­flict or en­joy your daugh­ters’ mile­stone events, but not both.

And while I can sym­pa­thize with your con­flict aver­sion, it will cost you dearly to keep in­dulging it. How much of your daugh­ters’ lives are you pre­pared to miss while dodg­ing the mis­tress?

The first meet­ing has to hap­pen. So, pre­pare your kids for it, sum­mon your deep­est re­serves of grace for it and walk up to He­lena and your ex. “Hi,” as you ex­tend your hand. “I de­cided we’re over­due to meet.”

Don’t ex­tend this hand or swal­low your fury or brave this po­ten­tial melo­drama be­cause they de­serve it, but be­cause you and your kids do. Seize what’s yours: the free­dom to be where you please. Those two cer­tainly did. Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post.

Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.

Carolyn Hax

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