“Jeff” has been my best friend for almost 20 years. We’ve supported each other often during that time. A couple of years ago he started seeing a woman he met online. Right from the start, Jeff noticed sometimes she could be quite disrespectful, especially when things didn’t go her way. After a couple of months trying to work through it, he called things off. I told him I was sorry it hadn’t worked out but was glad he valued himself enough to expect better.
Within a few weeks he “missed her” and they picked up where they left off. That was the beginning of an on-again/off-again pattern that continues to this day. When he confronts her, she apologizes but nothing changes, and couple’s counseling hasn’t made a dent, apparently. I hate seeing my friend in an unhealthy relationship, but he keeps choosing to go back to her.
I finally told him to stop talking to me about the relationship because I’m so worn out listening to it. He was dismayed but agreed to my request and has abided by it.
So here’s my problem: Once in a while he will drop her name into a conversation, in a neutral and passing way, and I realize the mere mention of her name makes me feel agitated and angry. I want to be mature about this but on the inside I’m feeling anything but. Short of silence, how do I respond when her name is mentioned?
— Sad and Frustrated
You respond by feeling agitated and angry and by keeping that to yourself.
And you keep the conversation going as you would if any other friend made normal and passing reference to someone close to him.
You had every right to ask Jeff to stop subjecting you to the in-depth dysfunction reports. But it’s still a big ask: You’re his best friend and this is a big part of his life and you want him, essentially, to pretend it doesn’t exist.
So it seems more than fair for you, in return, to put up with the occasional clenching of teeth as he dutifully talks to you about other things, which inevitably brush up against the relationship part of his life.
Gratuitous parting comment: I hope your Jeff and other Jeffs recognize themselves in your letter. Missing someone does not correlate 1-to-1 with its being a good idea to date her.
Upon my return from a three-year social media break, someone I knew in my previous home state sent me a direct message “wave” with a link to donate toward her personal health-care costs. She has now done this twice.
The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got. I have not talked to this person in years, and without even a “hi” or “how have you been,” she is asking me for money (again). Am I being a jerk, or is she?
— Have My Own Bills
How about this. She can ask, you can say no, and no one has to call anyone a jerk.
You don’t even need a “good” reason not to contribute money. Because not wanting to is good enough. And since she was soliciting money versus offering friendship, you can say no just by ignoring the link.
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