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Dear Breakup Girl,
One of my dearest friends started dating her future husband at 22, married
at 30, divorced at 32, and met me at 33. She has repeatedly stated that she
never loved her husband and wants to find a relationship with passion. Fast
forward to 1999, she's 40 and meets a cab driver who tells her that he's
married but that he'd like to have an affair, how 'bout it? She reasons that
it'll be fun because she won't get emotionally involved with him because he's
married, but two months later she's head over heels for him and is desperate
for him to leave his wife. Over the last six months, they've broken up and
reunited numerous times, and it turns out that he's an alcoholic, a bit of a
liar, and a Republican to boot. Also, he likes Rush.
I really do not like this guy. Aside from the fact that he's married, I
think he's sleazy, telling her things like, "Oh, this time next year we can
have our own His & Hers embroidered bathrobes!" and tripe like that, before
he pulls on his boots and heads home to his wife. Clearly, my friend is getting
something she needs from this relationship for her to keep yo-yoing back into
it. My question really has to do with me, and how I can continue being a
supportive friend to her when I think that this situation is absurd,
emotionally abusive, and generally a really bad thing. She claims that I don't
want to hear about him, and she's right, I don't. I think he's a moron, and I
find it increasingly difficult to keep my mouth shut on this score. She will
call or e-mail the latest details of their involvement but has made it clear
that she doesn't want to hear any kind of critique of the relationship. I don't
want to lose her as a friend, but when she's involved with Mr. Wonderful, she
is usually so hysterically upset and obsessed such that she no longer functions
as a friend. So please, BG. Help me help myself, and maybe my friend as
--Bungling in Boston
Okay, I know everyone thinks I'm going to develop that
one mention of Rush into a series of insulting yet illuminating metaphors.
but my first Big Deal Boyfriend was a huge Rush fan; I thus I have many giddy
mirror-ball-speckled memories with "Closer to the Heart" as the soundtrack.
So no: some things are just too sacred.
Back to Bridget, then. When Jude announces that she's
marrying Vile Richard -- and inviting Bridget's nemesis to the wedding --
and Shazzer basically go on friendship strike. Cold shoulder and all that.
it's not about Vile Richard (who eventually proves his epithet inaccurate);
it's about how [temporarily] willing Jude is to mow over her truest loyalties
in the name of bridal and social registries. And Jude does get the point (Cf.
her speech, above).
Meaning what for you? That unconditional friendship
in its own way, include conditions. So what are your options?
- A strike. Taking an "I'm not talking to you until
you dump him" position is radical, but it does send your message loud and
clear. One could argue (and you may have to) that it's a strong position on
your feelings for her, not on your selfish sickness of hearing about him.
- Boundaries ("subdivisions," if you will. Okay,
resist). A modified strike. You could issue one final statement about why
you think this cab ride is dangerous, and then tell her that henceforth you
will be delighted to talk/e-mail with her about anything but. You
want to hear it, she doesn't want to hear what you think about it, so put
- Nothing. Uh-huh. You see, wrassling with her
over this provides some of the gas she needs to keep the drama cylinders
As in: "What I'm doing is wrong in the eyes of moral and faithful society,
and in the eyes of my friend!
Va-va-voom!" So bite your
tongue -- cover your ears and play Tomb Raider while she rants if you like
-- and offer only the most neutral, passive feedback. It's sort of the
version of "acceptance therapy," the "Oh! When you quit trying to change
they actually sort of do!" approach that, if experts are correct, is
keeping couples together at an alarming rate. Put another way: in the same
way that kids quit tantrumming when they realize no one's listening, she
also start to hit empty.
Choose as you will, but there's something to be said
-- if you can bear it -- for the final option. You can most certainly tell
how you feel, but you can't tell her what to do. And As Bridget's
friend Magda observes: "People's relationships are quite mysterious. No one
from the outside ever really understands what makes them work."
I mean, she did find "a relationship with
Even His & Hers stompy fallouts are passionate -- as opposed to
-- just the way a friendship strike is still friendship. Good
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