Hax: Be careful about using absolutes

The Washington PostOctober 31, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Is it ever OK to veto one of your significant other's friendships? My boyfriend is thinking of getting back in touch with a friend of his who was an alcoholic who self-destructed and refused help - at which point my boyfriend ended his friendship with him. I do not want an alcoholic in my life, I can't see how this is a good idea, and I'm not comfortable with this at all.

VETOING

Er, major piece of information missing: Has the friend since gotten sober, or is he still abusing? Be careful, too, how you throw those absolutes around. "I do not want an alcoholic in my life" is the kind of thing that inspires people to say, "I do not want judgmental people in my life." Someone who gets and stays sober is still an alcoholic; is that person also unworthy of you?

Re: Veto: No, it is not OK to veto one of your significant other's friendships. The only thing it is OK to do is to remove yourself from situations you don't want to be in. I believe this is Rule No. 1 of Hax. And to quote Monty Python, Rule 2, same as Rule 1.

ANONYMOUS

Yep, that, thanks. You do have the right, in exceptional situations, to object strenuously (reference to a different kind of cinematic comedy) to a friendship and ask your partner to end it. The classic example is someone with whom your partner cheated on you.

Dear Carolyn: My father recently passed away. My adult stepdaughter, who has always been somewhat of a challenge, texted me a message of condolence. I know she is of the "social media" generation but isn't that taking it a bit too far?

STEPPARENT

I could easily agree, but instead I urge you not to look for reasons to be disappointed in people. You will always, always find them.

Instead, please look for reasons to be grateful: Your always-challenging stepdaughter thought of you and expressed her sympathy.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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