Hax: Is it time to let old friendship fade?

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • Updated: January 15, 2012 - 3:51 PM

Dear Carolyn: An old friend and I have really changed over the past couple of years. I converted; she became a little more wild. Now, the only thing we have in common is that we are both female, and that we have been friends nearly our whole lives.

I really want to be friends again, but because we don't really share ideals anymore, it might just completely deteriorate if I try to bring our friendship back where it once was. We mainly just send each other Christmas cards now.

Should I give up the friendship, or try to reinstill it, and possibly break down whatever we have left? I am really upset, because we were very good friends.

Carolyn says: Surely there's more to you both than your social habits? You read, you watch movies, you have opinions about food or sports or music? You cry at weddings (or wonder why people do), you take too many pictures at family events (or manage to forget your camera every time), you laugh at your own jokes, sometimes after telling the same one to the same person twice? You think sitcoms are (adjective), TV news is (adjective) and reality TV is (adjective)?

In other words, not every detail of your humanity has been subsumed by your conversion, presumably, nor has her humanity gone entirely wild. That's where you start your effort to renew your friendship -- with the understanding that neither of you is just a vessel for your differing ideals. "Lifestyle" and "life" are not interchangeable terms.

It may be that a shared lifestyle is all you liked about each other when you became friends, and your divergent paths have taken you to the point where nothing is shared, and no amount of effort will make her company enjoyable to you again. It happens.

But as "friends nearly our whole lives," you hold -- and shaped -- so much of each other's history. For that reason alone, you owe it to both of you to look for what you once valued in her. Maybe new things, too. It rarely takes more than that to keep an old friendship warm.

How to shield son?

Dear Carolyn: I am a divorced, 30-year-old father of a bright, happy 11-year-old. I have been in several long-term (two years-plus) relationships that he has been a part of, growing to know and care for my partners.

I've been dating a married woman for six months. She had said from the beginning she's going to get a divorce. She has been staying with me the past couple of months, only stopping at her shared apartment with her husband to get clothes and things she needs. They are still talking, working out the logistics of their separation.

My concern is how I present her to my son. I have been very tentative and protective of him in the past (he doesn't meet my girlfriends until I've been with them at least six months). However, this has been so great of a relationship he has already met her. Honestly, if she weren't married, I'd have proposed already. I believe she is the one, and she says the same about me.

Am I being foolish? I'm experienced enough to know this could be the real deal, but I still know to shade my son from the infidelity side of it. Should I keep these two separated until she's actually divorced?

Carolyn says: A little late for that, no?

But I'll answer you anyway: Yes, you're being foolish, though that's a quainter term than I'd choose. And, yes, keep the new woman away from your son until she's actually divorced.

Then keep her at arm's length until you're able to appreciate that chucking your old protectiveness is not the good sign you believe it to be. It doesn't say, "She's the one"; it says, "She's the one who dismantled my impulse-control system," and that's about attraction, not love. Sometimes love follows attraction, but never bet the household-with-children on it.

Remember, too, she isn't saying, "Hey, wait, I'm married and you have a kid -- let's slow this sucker down."

In a way -- I can't believe I'm going to say this -- it's good that she's married. Dating her is a dumb move, as you know, but that dumb move is keeping you from the far dumber one of rushing to marry someone you barely know as your boy takes notes you don't want him taking.

When the truth is one you can't tell your son, then please see that as an argument for a different truth. You still have time to make this true: "Beth was unhappily married while we were dating, which was wrong, so we broke up until she was single." If you're the ones, you'll withstand it.

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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