Dear Amy: How do I keep a relationship casual with a friend whose hobby is creating drama?
"Emma" and I are members of an informal social group which communicates a few times a week. We also attend group events.
The group has an ongoing online chat, and Emma is the most vocal contributor. She often overshares about her life, or just generally complains. She and I had a casual friendship for years until she started dating another member of the group — in secret.
After soliciting the views of me and two other members of the group, she sent an e-mail basically telling us reasons why our advice was wrong and how we can't judge the nature of her relationship, even though that was the advice she sought.
She further told us that we were wrong because we wouldn't reinforce her decision to disregard advice from her therapist.
I am worried that anything of substance I tell her might become fodder for her drama machine. I have tried to avoid getting into serious topics, but she keeps asking to get together one-on-one.
She really wants to have a "deeper" friendship, but I don't feel safe doing that. How do I set a boundary to keep the relationship casual without causing a rift in the group?
Amy says: Your instincts are sound. Follow them. You should assume that anything you say can (and will) be used against you. Drama addicts need fuel to accelerate and sustain their narrative and when they lack story elements, they'll instinctively turn to others to fortify their supply.
Unfortunately, honesty ("You're indiscreet so I want to keep our relationship casual") will be conflated by her into a feud of some kind, and so the best technique is to deflect, and/or ghost.
When "Emma" appeals to you or solicits anything personal, don't respond, or delay responding. When you do, resort to something noncommittal like, "Umm, interesting question; I don't really have anything to add." If she wants to get together, claim to be busy or tired. You should not gossip about or offer any opinions about her to the group.
In short, back away slowly, and then keep your distance.
Call for transparency
Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for eight years. We have three kids.
Recently, he left his social media account open. I snooped (and know it was wrong). I learned that he is trying to reconnect with former high school girlfriends by inviting them to lunch/dinner. He was not going to tell me about this.
It has been more than 20 years since these friendships have had any merit, and in my opinion, I do not see the point. In fact, with as much public social media postings we all see, I feel that he has already caught up with their lives.
What are your thoughts on this? Should he reconnect with the old friends?
Amy says: Yes, your husband should reconnect with old friends, if he wants to. You should, too! But these reconnections should be conducted in full view of the family.
I infer from your question that your husband is private-messaging various people (only women, it seems) and inviting them to private get-togethers. That's not cool.
Transparency is important in marriage, if for no other reason than to avoid this sort of dust-up. You two should talk about this. You can start by copping to viewing his private messages. He may try to make the whole conversation about that. If you stay calm and don't get defensive, he will have his say, and then you can have yours.
Send questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@ amydickinson.com. Twitter: @askingamy