Dear Carolyn:

My best friend got married 10 years ago. At the bachelor party, he introduced me to his high school buddy. A few months into his marriage he suspects high school buddy is cheating with his new wife. Nobody believes it is really true, including me. Fast-forward to now. They are divorcing, and it has come out that high school buddy was indeed guilty.

Well, during that 10-year period I became good friends with high school buddy. My best friend cannot fathom why I continue to hang out with him and sees it as a betrayal. I can see his point, but he now lives in another town, and I always make sure the two don't see each other when he visits. I just can't tell a friend I can't be his friend because of what he did 10 years ago.

What do you think?

Strange Situation

I think ignorance is underrated.

You're right that it would be weird to sever the friendship now; the buddy's (hereafter, HSB) betrayal is history, just one of a decade's worth of things you like, dislike, admire and deplore about him.

And those who judge you for remaining his friend need to check their speed-dial buttons for those sexist, jingoist, elitist, anti-elitist, racist, selfish and/or twisted people who have little to recommend them besides loyal friendship since youth. We all do the math and make our decisions on friends.

But whether this is a rationale or a rationalization depends on the severity of the things you deplore. If HSB had instead, say, murdered your best friend -- or even if it had been your bride he "borrowed" -- I doubt those 10 years would be as morally cleansing.

So while you don't owe it to your best friend to shun everyone who's done him wrong, you do owe it to him not to take such a loaded allegiance lightly.

Meaning, you ask yourself: Is HSB a good guy who made one bad mistake for which he expresses remorse? Or are you giving an exploitive person a pass because the alternative isn't convenient? Or have you dodged the whole thing?

You have a right to stand up for the first. Your friend shouldn't stand for the rest.

Dear Carolyn:

What do you think about a man who dates Woman A for a few months and then immediately rebounds with Woman B? When he realizes it won't work with B, he gets back with A, upon her request, but shakily. Then when Woman A goes on vacation, he hooks up with Woman C. A month later, he dumps C, and takes back A, who is still madly in love with him. He then learns Woman C is pregnant and tells A he doesn't want anything to do with women for a while. (C gets an abortion.) Weeks pass and he invites A over for dinner, makes out with her and tells her to get over him. One week later he is engaged to Woman B.

I suppose more important is what you think of Woman A, who sought out all this heartache to begin with?

R.D.

I think they all reinforce an assertion I've come to believe: that beneath the surface of even the most (seemingly) ill-suited pairs are people who've found their emotional match.

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