Carolyn Hax: Advice

Swallow ego and stay friends

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn: I’m a 40-something guy, married with three kids. My best friend/college buddy married a few years back, had his first kid a year ago. We’re practically brothers. Talk all the time. But, due to family obligations we don’t get together much.

His wife shows zero interest in having a relationship with my family despite my being a longtime friend of her husband. When I try to arrange something, they’re always “busy” or we live “too far” (30 miles away). Yet, his wife will drag him and his daughter to all sorts of events and get-togethers — with her friends.

I have raised the issue. In my opinion, guys get to do this once before the other says, “Dude, let it go.” So, I have. But I worry about our long-term relationship since his wife is, well, rude, and I find her lack of interest in the family of her husband’s best friend offensive.

I get the impression my buddy doesn’t want to upset the apple cart at home, but I don’t bother trying to get together anymore because of his childish wife. Too bad. Thoughts?

Best Friend

Thought No. 1, you and I have different definitions of “practically brothers.” A brother is lifelong. A possessive wife, if that’s indeed what your friendship is up against, isn’t necessarily so.

Thought No. 2, you might be right that the wife is “rude” and he’s meekly compliant, but you’re really just guessing, no? Because other possible explanations fit the same set of facts. Maybe his wife is abusive and she’s isolating him from his support network, a classic abuser’s move. Or, maybe she just doesn’t like you, and he (a) understands her reasons and/or (b) feels his loyalty must be to her. Or, maybe it’s not her fault, and he’s the one stepping back from your friendship as his life undergoes profound change.

Your certainty in seeing the wife’s childishness as the culprit here is no doubt comforting, but what you have is the illusion of certainty, and that can lead to misplaced blame and choices that undermine your intent.

Thought No. 3: Declaring war on his wife, even just in your own mind, is not the way to stay relevant.

Thought No. 4: You have every right to feel hurt — that your friend is blowing you off, that he went ahead and married someone who doesn’t respect your friendship, that he’s using flimsy excuses instead of telling you whatever truth there is to tell — but hurt feelings make terrible drivers. Hurt feelings say, “Fine, I won’t bother trying to see him!,” when logic might suggest a steelier-nerved, “Something seems off, so I’ll stay close and stand by.”

So please back yourself off the emotional reactions, and anchor yourself to facts. Practically brothers + his newish marriage and child + his ongoing openness to talking to you “all the time” (right?) + his cheap excuses not to come see you = stay close in the way he’s still allowing you to. It’s bad for your ego, maybe, but better over the long-term — for the sole reason that it leaves room for the truth to come out. See what changes, see what reveals itself, then see what you need — or what he needs from you.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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