Telling the truth about a friendship might be hard, but it’s kind

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 18, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear 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

My friend’s husband is obnoxious and offensive, and I’m out of serenity. I just want to leave now, but our lives are entangled. I feel like a heel waiting out mutual obligations to make my exit, but I don’t see any good in telling them what’s going on.

My friend will just see one more person denigrating her husband. She seems happy, and she’s repeatedly assured me she’s happy with him. Her husband generally gets defensive and is unable to admit fault.

Does waiting a couple of weeks and then pulling a quiet, gradual exit make me a coward? (No, it’s not really possible to see the friend without her husband.)


Friendship Breakup?

I think the best thing you can do is tell your friend you value her greatly and know this is a sore subject with her, but you’d prefer not to be around her husband because of some things he has said/done lately. (Specific examples required.) Say you’ll understand if she can’t do this, though you’ll miss her.

That is, if you really mean it that you plan to exit regardless: As unkind as it will feel, truth-telling is kinder, because it leaves room for her to respond instead of just wondering where you went. You might not like the response, but taking that chance also allows her to surprise you with a response that works for you both.

Re: Friendship Breakup:

I had this happen years ago when a friend’s significant other dropped the N-word at a party, in front of my other, heavily pigmented friend, no less.

When I said to my friend, “What the heck?” she attacked me for not trusting her judgment about men, which had never been good, so I backed off.

The problem is, we have a mutual friend who later came to me and said the other friend missed the friendship and did I want to reconcile? I thought about it and realized, no. I didn’t feel any anger or animosity over what happened, but whatever bond we’d had was just no longer there and I honestly didn’t miss her.

Ever since then, I get sarcastic comments about how judgmental I am; since I don’t want to rekindle the friendship, I must still be angry.

But I’m just totally indifferent. I’ve said the above to the mutual friend, but the sarcasm and eye rolls continue. At what point can I abandon reasonable discourse and tell her to freaking drop it, possibly in a raised voice?

Anonymous

It sounds as if you’re at the beginning of a bigger transition, not just out of one friendship but out of a cohort you’ve outgrown.

Just a theory, not passionately held, but the fact that you’re getting “sarcastic comments,” accusations, eye rolls and someone relaying friend-to-friend messages says you’ve got at least one other friendship you won’t miss one wee bit when it’s gone.

Anyway. You can explain to the eye roller one (more) time: “I feel no anger over that past racist comment. I don’t want to reconcile with her because I don’t miss her friendship. If you’re absolutely convinced I’m not being straight with you, then so be it.”

Then give some thought to that whole outgrown-cohort thing, seriously.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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