DEAR AMY: My friend “Liz” and I have been best friends since high school. We’re now in our 30s. We’ve been there for each other through breakups and divorces and childbirth and her coming out as a lesbian. We have always told each other everything, so when she started telling me things via text about her new girlfriend that sounded like emotional abuse, I told her I worried that’s what it was. There have been many, many red flags throughout their relationship that pointed to emotional abuse and I had in the past mentioned that it sounded as such. She said she wanted to meet in person to explain why she didn’t feel it was emotional abuse. I explained that if the meeting was to convince me of her girlfriend’s virtues it was a waste of time. After that I didn’t hear from her for months, despite my texts and phone calls. She finally reached out to me six months ago to say that they were likely breaking up. I kept my mouth shut this time, having learned my lesson. That was the last I’ve heard from her in months. I’ve reached out many, many times and have received no response. I don’t understand what is happening or how to resolve it if she won’t respond. I’d hate to think that a 20-year friendship is destroyed because of what, exactly? What should I do?
DEAR CONCERNED: One theory is that “Liz” did not in fact break up with her girlfriend, and because she has remained in the relationship and she knows how you feel about it, she has decided to keep her girlfriend, and let you go.
It is a devastating reality that when you have a loved one you believe to be in an abusive relationship, you sometimes have to willingly relinquish your own influence, in order to continue to stay in the relationship.
Reach out to her in a neutral attitude of support. Do not raise the issue of her relationship, and don’t pressure her to be in touch. Simply tell her, “I was thinking about you today and hope you are doing well.” Share a bit of news from your own life, and then hope that eventually she will gradually work with you to restore your friendship.
DEAR AMY: Your advice has helped me to deal with many unhappy/unpleasant situations. My 15-year-old daughter and I were watching the news when the clip of the Ft. Lauderdale shooter came on. It was gut-wrenching and awful. We talked about it for a few minutes and she left the room. Five minutes later she came back and said, “Mom I need a hug.” So I hugged her while she cried. She wanted to know why people do all these bad things and how do the victims cope and would she ever really be safe. I really didn’t have a good answer for her, except that as her mother I would do everything I could to protect her from the bad things in life. What else can I say to help her know that while there are bad things that happen, there’s good stuff, too? My advice just felt inadequate. Thank you!
Mother of Empathetic Daughter
DEAR MOTHER: Your daughter’s reaction to this terrible event was real and raw, and completely appropriate. Your compassion and comforting was natural and right, too.
When I was in elementary school, we performed drills where we hid under our desks against the possibility of nuclear war. College students now perform drills to try to protect them from active shootings on campus. The beauty of this world is matched by its imponderable and random dangers. The sometimes privileged reality of your daughter’s life is leavened by its occasional terrors.
As parents, we need to comfort, and explain, and be prepared to talk, pray, hug, reassure, and go through this process repeatedly.
Our job is to try to explain the world to our children. This includes the reality that the world can be a dangerous place. Celebrate your daughter’s empathy and compassion. Urge her to use her concern toward positive action. And continue to love her as well as you can.
DEAR AMY: “Concerned Sister” was worried that her brother and his wife intended to give their children different surnames. My wife and I did this with our children, and we have never regretted it.
DEAR DONE THAT: Many parents have responded that their children sport different surnames. It is increasingly common and shouldn’t create problems.