Like that New Yorker cartoon about a guy making plans — “How about never — is never good for you?” — I find myself in a pickle. A longtime friend lives with a man who makes my skin crawl for many reasons: financial vampire on her, drinks too much, always in a sour mood, always fighting with her family, but most of all, it’s hard to watch her bend over backward to “make” him happy when he does zippo for her. Every few months, she will want me and my husband to meet them halfway between our cities for lunch or go to their apartment for dinner and stay overnight.
I know I can’t change her choice in men or make her go to therapy to discern why she chose this guy, but I’m running out of excuses for why we can never get together. I’m also not sure what to say when she says none of our mutual friends ever visits — they feel as we do about her beau.
I try to see her solo for brunch once a month to make sure she’s OK, but otherwise, I dread having the “couples date” convo when it crops up. Advice?
— Never Is Good for Me
Is there any reason not to say to her, at this point, next time she complains that none of your mutual friends ever visits: “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have my own reason. Would you like to hear it?”
And then if she says yes, to tell her you are not comfortable with X, with X representing the least subjective of the complaints you have about her boyfriend.
For example, “He makes my skin crawl” is about as subjective as it gets, but, “He has at least six drinks at a clip and then gets belligerent” is a matter of fact. Stick to facts so she doesn’t have room to rationalize it into your problem — even though she might still try to, since that’s the nature of the denial beast.
Make sure you include assurances of your commitment to your friendship and your openness to another interpretation of what you’ve witnessed.
If you’re not doing this already, then please keep an eye out for signs she’s unhappy. The main reason is maybe not as obvious as it’s going to sound: Her boyfriend may be terrible, but if she is happy, then it’s not really anyone’s place to object to her taste in men. There’s no saying, really, what works for someone else.
You can keep saying no to her invitations, of course, but otherwise it’s appropriate to leave a peaceful friend to her choices.
The other reason is that if she is showing signs of distress, talking about those directly is a lot more productive than criticizing the guy — which tends only to make people defensive. An, “I noticed you’ve seemed stressed lately about [fact-based item here] — are you OK?,” can end up being the dots she needs to start making important connections.
Your brunches are ideal for this, not to mention a compassionate way to stay close.
— Washington Post Writers Group