DEAR AMY: A couple very close to my husband and me split up recently due to repeated infidelity on her part. The impact of this split has been heartbreaking to us and our other friends. The husband confides in us and lives nearby. The wife has moved out, maintained toxic relationships with grad school friends, and has not chosen to confide in us. She and I are childhood friends. Most recent encounters have been dishonest and painful. Lately she has asked to take part in family events to which her ex-husband has been invited. Things recently hit the fan when we hosted a gathering to celebrate the arrival of our second daughter. I invited the husband, but not the wife -- due to the general pain and awkwardness it causes. No one questioned this, or thought it a hard decision. When the ex-wife found out about her exclusion, she was deeply hurt and responded angrily to me -- wanting to meet, express her unmet expectations and dish out childhood baggage about how she's been wronged. I say that I love her, and we are friends, but it is uncomfortable and extremely painful to have her in a situation where her ex is also there. We seem to get nowhere in understanding each other. I admit to her that I still feel angry about her infidelities and general lack of love in the last year or so. I'm not trying to shut her out, but at some point this is all very exhausting, confusing and too much work. What are my responsibilities in inviting her to things? How can I communicate a nonjudgmental presence while still protecting our family gatherings and friendships?

-- Not So Fast Friend

DEAR FRIEND: You can't communicate a nonjudgmental presence when you're busy judging.

I'm not saying your judgment is flawed -- but more that you should cop to it and live with it.

And so my basic advice could be summed up like this: Whoever causes the least trouble gets the brunch.

Hometown ties don't buy a free pass from consequences. It is hard to choose between divorced spouses for a family event, but at some point you must -- unless each party can guarantee to offset the awkwardness by being drama free and low maintenance.

Your friends can't manage that just yet.

You should admit to her that this is confusing and difficult for you, but that you and your husband are forced to make choices -- and stand behind your choices. You two old friends should try harder to be patient with each other until things settle down.


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