'Crazy banter' is ruining friendship

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • Updated: August 14, 2011 - 7:35 PM

Dear Carolyn: I have been very good friends with another girl for many years. We're both in our 20s and have always had very different political views. This has never been too much of a problem because we learned to skirt most issues and "agree to disagree."

I've been noticing more recently that her views are affecting our friendship. My boyfriend has been hesitant to spend time with her and her boyfriend because of the extreme comments he has written on Facebook. Most recently, some of my friends and I hung out with her and her boyfriend, and had a few drinks. This turned into her making some comments that were, in my mind, downright ignorant. My friends really don't like her now and my boyfriend seems to agree.

She and her boyfriend know we're not the right audience for their crazy banter, so how do I tell her not to bring that stuff up because it's hurting our friendship?

Carolyn says: Maybe I'm just cranky, but that sounded like a threat: "Quit your wing-nut comments or else."

It's not your place to silence someone's views with ultimatums, even ones you find "downright ignorant." As long as you choose to remain her friend, you're choosing that side of her, too.

It does seem, too, as if you're ready to bury your truce before it's actually dead. Your boyfriend is reacting to her boyfriend's Facebook posts, that's one thing you cite. The other is that your friend made "some comments" the other night.

That amounts to her violating your agree-to-disagree pact exactly once. Does that really warrant your calling her out?

If she keeps spewing, then certainly you're entitled to make a request. Just as you'd say when choosing a movie together, "No horror or musicals, please, they give me nightmares," you can also say, "No politics, please, it gives me nightmares."

That is, if you still like her. This one night seems to be deep under your skin, so maybe the real problem is that the reasons you're "very good friends" are in the past, and what's left are wincing (around your other friends, cough), avoidance and nostalgia. Completely normal. In that case, find polite ways to see less of this friend.

Sisterly hurt

Dear Carolyn: I got formally engaged in March, after an informal agreement in January. My fiancé and I have only been together since last November, but we met via a matchmaker and it's just right between us (even in the moments we want to kill each other).

Most of my friends and family have been super happy and supportive because I had given up on ever getting married -- I am now 36 -- and planned to have kids on my own. I chose my only sister as my maid of honor. I've seen her be so adult, supportive and fun with her friends in similar situations; I thought we would have a blast planning my wedding.

Instead, she's made it clear that, although she said yes, she's not really interested and doesn't really support my getting married "so fast." I'm really hurt.

Is it wrong to think that if she can't support my relationship, she shouldn't have said yes? I'm really afraid this will ruin our relationship.

Carolyn says: Let's say you're right to think that; what do you plan to do about it?

We've probably all seen the other side of this problem, where someone with misgivings about a couple must decide how to handle an invitation to be in their wedding party. It's an awful spot to be in.

From that awful spot, your sister made the choice with the least integrity. Both of her other options -- accept and rally or decline and explain -- are quite difficult, but either one would have been better for the health of your sisterly bond. That is, if you had been able to take "no" for an answer gracefully, which isn't an "if" to take lightly.

So has your sister let you down? Yes, of course.

It's not too late, though, for you to choose one of the better options for her. Explain that it's breaking your heart to have her quasi-involved. Acknowledge that she's entitled to her opinion and that you're grateful she was honest with you. Then offer her the chance to bow out gracefully. But only if that's what she wants, and no hard feelings.

That will be the toughest thing of all -- whether she accepts your offer or remains your listless maid of honor. Keep reminding yourself that she can at once care about you and choose not to support you, and resist the urge to be punitive. One of the most important things we can do for the people we love is love them as a package, conflicting opinions and all. That means trusting the relationship to be bigger than their dissent. Since you admitted desperation, met someone, then got engaged at the two-month mark, certainly there's slack to be cut for a sister burdened by doubt?

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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