Friend caught in the mid­dle

How can I tell my friends I don’t like lis­ten­ing to them fight?

StarMetro Vancouver - - DAILY LIFE - ELLEN VANSTONE

Dear Ellen,

I am sin­gle but I of­ten so­cial­ize with some old friends who have been mar­ried for a long time. They have al­ways bick­ered with each other, but lately I’m very un­com­fort­able with how angry and ar­gu­men­ta­tive they act.

I told one of them, who is my best friend from school, that I didn’t want to in­trude on their pri­vate time, and maybe they needed time alone to so­cial­ize with­out me. But she said it was eas­ier to have me around than for her to be alone with her hus­band, and in­sisted that I con­tinue to so­cial­ize with them. How can I de­cline with­out be­ing rude? — DX Dear DX,

Your friend seems to be suf­fer­ing from the de­bil­i­tat­ing ef­fects of cou­ple cul­ture.

Cou­ple cul­ture doesn’t have to be de­bil­i­tat­ing. For some peo­ple, float­ing through life in­side the cou­ple bub­ble makes them nicer and more po­lite — they feel loved and con­fi­dent, and as a re­sult they treat peo­ple around them even bet­ter than they nor­mally would. Friends like these are a won­der­ful gift to the rest of us, whether we’re sin­gle or part­nered our­selves.

But too of­ten cou­ple cul­ture can lead to obliv­i­ous dis­re­gard for oth­ers, es­pe­cially if the cou­ple is a deeply un­happy dys­func­tional duo like your old friends who feel they have the right to air their pas­sive-ag­gres­sive, or ag­gres­siveag­gres­sive, griev­ances in pub­lic.

Un­for­tu­nately for you, such crapped-out cou­ples be­have even worse around sin­gle friends be­cause deep down they wish they were sin­gle as well. But as long as they’re too afraid or too con­ven­tional to un­cou­ple, they’ll vent all their frus­tra­tions on poor, pa­thetic sin­gle you, be­cause you (ac­cord­ing to their pro­jected fears) are so des­per­ate for com­pany you’ll put up with any­thing.

Con­tinue to so­cial­ize with your best friend one-on-one if you want, and give her any sup­port she might need to nav­i­gate her way through, or out of, her de­struc­tive re­la­tion­ship. But don’t feel obliged to serve as a dis­trac­tion for their prob­lems. Un­less their mar­i­tal hos­til­i­ties at­tain the Ed­ward Al­beean en­ter­tain­ment lev­els of Who's Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf?,

there’s no rea­son to put up with their rude­ness.

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