Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I decided to end a 25-year couple friendship after many years of putting up with the wife’s veiled, and not so veiled, insults. In addition, we dealt with her unceasing competitiveness and childish bragging. We have no good excuse for not calling her on her behavior from the beginning. It was a slippery slope of weeks of good times, then the mean zinger or insult. And it was simply a lot of years (children, holidays, travel, loss of parents, mutual friends) together. It is hard to admit that we tolerated this for so long. Our choice finally came after a dinner party during which she asked me if one of my daughters was still struggling with her weight problem. My daughter is smart, lovely, kind, unfailingly sweet, and if she had a weight problem, that is her private business. The woman in question has brought up her own weight constantly over the years (we are all slim and fit, not that it matters). During that same evening, we were introduced to their new friends. She “accidentally” shared our recent private financial setback and imminent foreclosure with them in front of us. Her husband, as always, managed to not hear any of this. Both incidents really hurt. We chose to simply stop calling, never making plans with them and refusing invitations. If invited to mutual friend’s events, we go and are polite, but distant. We have not and will not discuss it with our friends, not that anyone has inquired. Our non-confrontational “freeze out” is because we don’t believe anything in her behavior will ever change. She is what she is, and they are a couple. We do not wish them ill will, but we do not want to resurrect the relationship. My youngest daughter feels it is us that changed (true, we had enough). She says that to make a choice is fine. However, she also says that after all those years, we owe them an explanation. Do we?
DEAR MOVING: If your former friend contacts you and asks for an explanation, you should be truthful. However, in my experience, people who behave as she does tend to blow through friendships and don’t seem to care much about the consequences of their actions. She is not likely to ask a question that might prompt personal reflection on her part.
Otherwise, you should be inspired by your former friend’s behavior and do exactly what you want to do. Avoidance and politeness on your part is better than she deserves, but I agree with your choice.
DEAR AMY: I have a friend whose daughter is a well-known TV actress. Recently, someone showed me some defaming gossip about her daughter and her family’s personal life on TMZ’s website. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s none of their business. Should I tell my friend in case her daughter doesn’t know and might want to ask for a retraction? Should I keep mum?
Concerned in Los Angeles, CA
DEAR CONCERNED: It is 100 percent impossible that this actress would be unaware of whatever gossip TMZ is peddling. Notifying celebrities of this sort of gossip and controlling the impact and fallout is what publicists and handlers are for.
Here’s what friends are for: Everything else.
Do not take this on. Don’t read it, don’t repeat it, don’t report on it and don’t believe it.
DEAR AMY: I’m responding to the letter in your column from “Worried Mother.” She was very concerned about the fact that her mother-in-law openly favored one of her children over the others. I agreed with your response and was especially impressed by your insight that this favoritism is even bad for the child who is branded the favorite. My grandmother openly favored me in such blatant and obvious ways that it was embarrassing to me and created a rift between my siblings and myself. As you pointed out, this kind of behavior is very bewildering to a child. On the one hand, you sincerely believe that all adults know how to behave and always make the best choices. On the other hand, you see your wonderful grandmother treating you one way and your siblings another. It was not a privilege to be singled out in this way. It was awful, especially in retrospect.
DEAR FAVORED: Thank you for sharing your unique insight into this harmful dynamic. I hope parents and grandparents read this and choose to behave in a way that benefits everyone.