Carolyn Hax: Advice

Give your buddy a second chance

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Hi, Carolyn! I had a college friend until age 35, when he started dating and then married a girl who was not just entirely uninterested in me and my then-girlfriend (now my spouse), but downright rude to us. We overlooked much. Our friendship ended when after six months of planning, we drove 300 miles, checked into a hotel and called them to go out to dinner as we had arranged and she (and he) blew us off. We were incredulous.

It takes two to make a friendship, but only one to really screw it up.

Twenty-some years later, I reached out to him through social media. That was in March. No response.

Four months later, I get an email from him asking me to call him. Turns out he just completed a divorce from said anti-social wife. I said something to the effect of, “Well, she never did like me and (my wife).” Under his breath he said, “Yeah – a lot of my friends have been saying that.”

It’s sad he let 20 years roll by. He was so “whipped” he even waited until his divorce was final before reaching out to me even though they separated seven months ago. I’ll keep that acquaintance at arms-length from now on, if I even keep in touch with him. I’m inclined to just let it go.

It’s his loss. It’s a shame because he was a buddy for many years, but clearly he didn’t value our friendship. I refuse to be abused.

J.

What if he couldn’t refuse, though – or more likely, didn’t even realize he needed to until it was too late?

If the friend in question were a woman, and if she had married a man who, as soon as they started dating, stood in the way of all of her existing friendships, alienating and isolating her through a 20-year marriage, and if she had emerged from their eventual divorce by gradually trying to reconnect with these old friends, what would the narrative be?

“She finally got away from her abusive husband, and, her confidence shot, she’s trying to reconnect with whatever’s left of her old life and self” – right?

He was “whipped”? That’s really the best you’ve got?

Strength isn’t just physical, so the nature of overpowering someone isn’t just physical. Skilled manipulators can be half your size, bedridden, and still get you talking their talk, walking their walk, thinking it’s your idea. Or worse, thinking it’s your manly and marital duty to cleave to your wife, as male victims of abusive women so often do.

It is sad, yes, that he let 20-some years and those extra months roll by. But how much sadder would it be if his happier, healthier friends threw away the potential of 20 more by denying him any compassion?

Given that he might have paid wildly disproportionate price for his choices, can’t you at least give him a chance before making him pay yours?

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

  Comments