Last month, he flew to my city to visit me. I told my roommate a week in advance, and a few days later she let me know she'd be out of town most of the weekend. We'd all see each other the night before she left, she said. Then, the day before my boyfriend was supposed to arrive, my roommate let me know she'd scheduled a second date with someone she had previously told me she wasn't too interested in. It was the night before she was supposed to leave for a big trip, and after she had worked long hours, so schedule-wise, it didn't quite make sense.
Knowing her and the cultural situation, I'm inclined to think she was hoping to avoid meeting my boyfriend. But as an adult, she's also free to make other plans whenever she wants.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, is sure she's just plain racist and was scared to meet him. He wants me to stop being friendly with her and stop spending time with her.
I agree racism is the most likely reason for her avoidant actions, and I want to stand up for my boyfriend. But I believe it's wrong to suddenly treat her coldly without explaining why or attempting a productive conversation. And I don't feel like her convenient scheduling is enough to full-out accuse her of being racist.
My boyfriend is growing more irritated with me for continuing a friendship with someone who he feels hurt him so personally. Meanwhile, things are going well with my roommate, and I don't want to create an icy living situation for no gain. How can I keep everyone happy?
— Suspicious, but Stuck
Suspicious, but Stuck: Before we get to the “how,” allow me to lay waste to the “what”: “keep[ing] everyone happy” is an impossible goal. Grinding yourself down in service of impossible goals is no way to go through life.
Live with integrity. There’s a goal challenging enough (understatement alert) to bring out your best self but also achievable, and, no matter how many times you achieve it, it’s renewable until you draw your last breath.
The goal of living with integrity is best served by figuring out what your values are in general, what the facts are in any given situation and what response to those facts your values dictate.
I see one solid declaration of your values, packed in some hedging I’ve placed in italics: You’re against shunning without explanation, and “don’t feel like her convenient scheduling is enough to full-out accuse her of being racist.”
Unhedge it and you have something solid to stand on: that your boyfriend might be right and certainly earned his skepticism the hard way, but you don’t have enough proof, and you won’t drop a friend without that.
If that’s an accurate read of your position, then don’t spin it, hide it or, yikes, start shunning your roommate in spite of it, just because you’re afraid otherwise you’ll get guilt-tripped, hassled or dumped. Instead, own it. Say it out loud to your boyfriend. That’s integrity.
While you’re here, it’s a good idea to be just as matter-of-fact about your roommate’s values — evidence of which you haven’t really given here, except to cite “same age,” “same life situation,” and that “things are going well,” which might say more about you and the seductiveness of expediency than they do about her. Presumably you’re gathering evidence daily about her character, including but not limited to her views on race? Weigh it all, carefully and fairly.
Don’t avert your eyes to your boyfriend’s values, either: To him, suspicion of racism is enough for the friendship equivalent of a conviction, and enough to justify dictating to others whom they can and can’t treat as friends. Are you okay with that? Why or why not?
To live with integrity, your values and others’ need to inform your decisions about who fits into your life.
Dear Carolyn: My son's fiancee already has eight bridesmaids and doesn't plan on including his sister in the wedding party. Feelings are hurt on our side. Is this a Bridezilla red flag or am I overreacting?
Overreacting?: Assuming I agree all such omissions are wrong, which I don’t:
Sometimes even wonderful people make regrettable decisions about their weddings. Sometimes they take years to understand their mistakes well enough to regret them.
There is no downside to framing things this way, which I hope your “side” will as you welcome the bride to the tribe.