DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I own a condo in a 22-unit building. A homeowners' association board member posted signs about the building rules during the pandemic. The rules were typical for these trying times, but the number of signs was obsessive. Many building residents did not like the signs, but my husband was the one who wrote a nasty letter to the association about the number posted. The board member responsible is a friend of mine. Her feelings are hurt and she has said some snide remarks about the letter. She and I were both part of a group of women who meet weekly for happy hour. I feel caught in the middle. My husband has had a hard time getting over being mad about the signs, and I know the board member is angry at him. I just want to go to happy hour and drink and gossip. Why can't we all just get along?
L.: Maybe ... because your hothead husband fired off a nastygram when he could (easily!) have made his exact point (about sign quantity!?) in a measured, cooperative, and sympathetic way? Such as:
"Thank you for posting the new rules. It helps to have clear expectations. The sheer number of signs, however, seems excessive at an already anxious time. Would the association be willing to take redundant ones down? I would gladly help out.
"I appreciate your consideration.
"Sincerely, Not a Complete Self-Righteous Volcano Person"
The middle is a tough place to be, yes. But it can also be a helpful reminder that sometimes we must stand on principle, even if it draws fire (or, egad, awkwardness). If your husband hasn't figured out yet that going "nasty" was infantile, impulsive and needlessly hostile, then you need to point it out for him in a gentle, loving, don't-even-bother-yelling-because-I'm-not-budging kind of way.
You can even say that you agree with him on principle, if you feel the need, but that his methods were unbefitting a member of a community and unfair to people just trying to do their jobs — the "many" annoyed residents notwithstanding. Seriously, "Everyone agrees!" is no excuse. Say he owes your friend an apology for losing his composure.
Your friend also chose a childish platform for her anger, because "snide remarks about the letter" are a weak response where a strong one would have involved almost zero extra lifting (and when does that ever happen?). She could have said to you directly, for example: "What's up with your husband? He sent the nastiest letter to the board." Assuming you're mature enough yourself to have taken this as a bridge versus a lit match, the two of you could have exchanged information and moved past the issue in all of five minutes, leaving 92% of your hour for happy.
But your husband is further out of line and closer to your responsibility, so he's the one you address.
Obviously pandemic living has people stressed, under-rested, vigilance-weary, on edge, and angry. These are ripe conditions for the kind of adult tantrums your husband just had and your friend is barely resisting. (Over, again, sign quantity.) Don't stint on spelling that out. It's compassionate and it's right.
Then propose an antidote. "We're all ready for straitjackets. Let's be kind to each other instead."