Carolyn Hax: Friend’s ‘joking’ remarks put her on the precipice of a breakdown

Carolyn Hax
Columnist July 11, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

The last few times I have hung out with a friend, she told me I am “cheating” on her when I mentioned that I hung out with other people. She has also said that I can’t have other friends. She says these in a joking manner, but it’s happened more than once.

It makes me uncomfortable because back in the day (prior to therapy!) I was always in the company of controlling people — parents, boyfriends, relatives, siblings. I figured out why I followed the controlling requests, and I no longer allow it.

When she referred to “cheating,” my automatic response was to shut down and get quiet because I felt like I was going to lose it in a nonproductive way. I hate the way I felt when I was controlled, and I started to feel that way again after those comments. I was sad, upset and angry, because she is well aware of my history.


(Nick Galifiankis)

I don’t know if I’m overreacting and should just brush off her comments or, if I’m not, how to approach this situation. Up until recently, our friendship has been really good.

Friend Drama

How ’bout this, next time: “You are kidding, right?”

If she backpedals, calls you oversensitive, insists it was just a joke, etc., hold firm. “Remember, what is a joke to others is a trigger for me.” Then you see whether the friendship reverts to the really-good mode or stays weird. If it’s the latter, please consider that the change might not be in her, but in you, as you continue to get stronger — and better at spotting clinginess in others.

If you feel awkward bringing it up, remember that a real friend won’t punish you for your frailties.

If everything is some kind of trigger for you, of course, then that’s a different story; while everyone has sore spots, it’s still on us to minimize their impact on our relationships.

But if she won’t humor you on this one point, then please consider whether this friendship is a healthy one for you. Summon the courage, speak up, find out.

Hi, Carolyn:

Do you have any advice about becoming involved with someone who drinks too much? He is responsible, only drinks socially, and is a happy rather than antagonistic drunk, but the absurd quantities he can consume suggest he is an alcoholic.

Of course he has many lovely qualities, which is why I’m thinking about it, but I don’t have much experience with alcoholism. What issues should I be considering?

Drunks Need Love Too?

The only issue to consider is how much harder it is to get out of an alcoholic sinkhole when you’re at the bottom than it is when you’re just standing at the edge, peering in. Right now, you can get out with one conversation and a little willpower. If instead you embark on a committed relationship with him — and, egad, reproduce — then getting out will involve a team of professionals (medical, legal, therapeutic, possibly law enforcement), many moral quandaries and much pain.

Yes, drunks need love, too, but the only love that creates ex-drunks is sufficient self-love for them to seek and accept help. Either he finds his off switch, or involvement will be bad for you both.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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