Advice columnist

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: What responsibility does a wife have to push her husband to be a decent friend? For years, my husband was close with a few guys from grad school. As they got married and started families, the frequency of their get-togethers died down and the friendships have understandably cooled, but they are still the people my husband calls friends.

One lost his mother last week and asked my husband to come to the viewing. For nebulous reasons, my husband wavered and then backed out at the last minute. This week, there's another opportunity to support the same friend — helping him clean out his late mother's garage, which a few other guys are gathering to do with him — and my husband is again starting to spin together some flimsy excuses.

He's not too busy, he'd just rather not, which I think is appalling, considering the length of the friendship. Do I need to do anything here, or do I stay out of it and let my husband's friendships take whatever shape they will over the next several decades?

— Spouse

Spouse: I think this warrants an exception to the leave-him-to-it rule. A well-placed “Get your butt over there and be a friend” can be a friendship-saver, as well as a gift to your husband given that the chances he comes home regretting that he helped are probably verging on 0.


(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Just in general, I think that the (very) occasional butt-kick is in the job description of close friends and family, and that avoiding it in every single circumstance is taking the hands-off approach too far.

Besides — this isn’t about pushing someone to be a good friend; it’s reminding him what it looks like to be a good person. Tomayto-tomahto, maybe, but the stakes sound higher this way.

Re: "single butt-kick": It is necessary when you find yourself horrified at the moral choices your partner seems to be making. The night my husband's mother was paralyzed from the chest down in an accident and it was time for someone to go see her in the ER with his father for the first time, he stammered and said it was better for his father's friend to go. I was horrified, and interrupted him, and pushed him and his father out of the waiting room toward the ER. We've never talked about it since, but that was so clearly the last moment of my husband's childhood and I've never regretted what I did.

He's stepped up 100 percent, and more, after that moment to care for both his mother and his father. Sometimes we panic and have issues dealing with this hard stuff. A partner should be able to nudge.

— Nudged

Re: Spouse: This probably comes from not knowing what to say to his friend and feeling embarrassed about that. That's hard for everyone, but just showing up makes the difference. Can you weave this into your butt kicking? He will feel much worse later if he's notable by his absence because of awkwardness.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Good points both, thanks.

Weaving + butt kicking and somehow I think Etsy.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.