My Friend’s Indiscretions
A fairly close friend of mine who is not married recently shared with me that she’s been “dating” a man who is married. I say “dating” in quotation marks, because what she’s really doing is having an affair, although she didn’t term it that. I’m married and am kind of put off by her affair. It seems like a terrible thing to do to this man’s wife, and I can’t figure out what my friend thinks she’s going to get out of this relationship. Married men do not leave their wives for their girlfriends.
Truthfully, knowing this about her lowers her in my esteem and makes me less interested in being friends with her. I feel like I have some responsibility to do something about this, since I know about it. Should I tell her what I think about the whole situation? Is there a way to say it without sounding judgmental? Should I caution her that she is likely to end up hurt? I just think she’s being unwise and kind of selfish in doing this.
The Other Woman’s Friend
There’s not a way to tell her what you think without sounding judgmental, TOWF, because you are being judgmental. You’ve made the judgment that what she’s doing is wrong. I don’t think you’re in a position to say that, though. Maybe this man and his wife have agreed that they’re free to date other people. Or, maybe he is violating the terms of their marriage, a hurtful thing, but one that many people do for many different reasons, and not something that will be mitigated at all by your interference.
Are you complicit in this because you know about it? Yes, a little bit. But you also know that systemic racism exists, that a tremendous inequality in distribution of wealth exists and that many people in your community go hungry every day. And your knowledge of those things makes you culpable in them as well. I strongly suggest you start by trying to right some of those problems.
I understand your distaste about what she’s doing, but it’s not really your business. She told you, as a friend, about what’s going on in her life but it doesn’t sound like she asked for your advice.
Of course, you’re not required to maintain your friendship with this woman, but I urge you to exercise a little compassion and empathy here. Your friend is in a situation that you predict will lead to her being hurt, which suggests she’ll need a friend sooner or later. Surely there’s been a time or times in your life when something hasn’t worked out the way you anticipated—you did something that hurt someone else or you were hurt by something unexpected. I don’t think the penalty for that should be loss of friendship.
My Friend’s Children
My husband and I are close friends with another couple. We have a six-year old boy, and they have two children, an eight-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl. For years, now, the kids have socialized, because we socialize. That’s largely been fine, but for the past couple years, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with it because of the way they’re raising their kids. I know it sounds horribly snobby to say this, but their kids are allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Their kids are noisy, ill-behaved and constantly interrupt the adults when we’re having a meal together or talking. It’s become unpleasant for us to be around their kids, but worse than that, our son has started imitating some of their habits, something we do not tolerate at home and certainly not something we want him doing with us, at school or anywhere else. Is there a way to deal with this without jeopardizing our relationship with our friends? I don’t know how to make the shift to socializing just as adults, since we’ve included the kids for so long. I’m not inclined to tell them the truth about what’s going on; how they raise their kids is their business, but it’s really not something we want our son around.
I see two courses of action for you, PP. The first is to begin to limit the amount of time your kids spend together. You can do this under the guise of wanting to renew your adult friendship. Start suggesting getting baby-sitters and spending time out as grown-ups. You can couple this with a gradual increase in your son’s busy-ness: other play dates, a need to spend more time together as a family, etc.
The second option is to continue letting your children be together, but insist that your son act the way you expect him to. This is an opportunity for you to talk to him about behaving the right way in different situations, when other people aren’t. To be effective, this will have to be a series of conversations over time. Children learn the majority of their behavior at home; I suspect your son will emerge from this friendship pretty well unscathed. He may come to the realization on his own, eventually, that they’re too different to be close friends.
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