Hax; Being a friend in a tough spot

The Washington PostDecember 20, 2013 

Carolyn: For the past few years, my friend, L., has been receiving personal training from K. They have a long, strange history that until recently had normalized.

In the last year they began to be intimate again despite his recent engagement to a woman in Texas and against my advice. The last time they saw each other, they were intimate but did not address his upcoming wedding or their situation.

Six weeks later, he is married and they are involved in a dispute regarding fees that has devolved into ugly messages and calls. L. is thinking about sending evidence of K.’s infidelity to his wife.

I find this ridiculous and hurtful to everyone and am advising her to forego the money and move on, but it seems like her anger is about more. How can I convince her this is the worst approach? I’m trying to stop a petty dispute from escalating uncontrollably.

PLEASE WITHHOLD NAME

Her anger is about more, clearly. It’s not, however, just about money + wounded feelings over his marrying someone else.

This is about your friend’s emotional chaos. K. was the one betraying someone and therefore is easy to point to as the whole problem, but you’re not K.’s friend nor are you asking me about him. You want to know what to say to L., and therefore you need to focus on the fact that L. is now a year, at least, into a sequence of choices that are unproductive at best and self-destructive at worst.

Does she have any awareness of her own emotional health? Do you and she have any history of honesty about the larger meaning of such high-drama entanglements?

If you do, that’s where you start. If you don’t have that precedent with her, then you need to start from scratch by pointing out, kindly but firmly, that her getting sucked into all this — the messing with a soon-to-be-married man, the “ugly messages and calls,” the idea of spite-bombing this new marriage — means she needs to take a deep breath and ask herself who she wants to be.

Certainly people lose their way sometimes, and good friends help steer them back.

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

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