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Best friend lied for years; can she forgive and forget?

Woman can't get over a lie her friend perpetuated for years

Q: "Mary" and I have been friends for 28 years. To say we are BEST friends is an understatement. There is nothing we haven't been through: marriages, divorces, births, deaths, good times, bad times. Over the years there have been a few bumps, sometimes more than a bump — but I have rolled with it, and we continue to be the best of friends.

Ten years ago, after a divorce, she moved 45 minutes away. This past weekend she told me she is back with her ex-husband, which I suspected, and (this is the INSANE part) she has been living 10 minutes away from me for years. YEARS!

She has been lying to me all this time. My Christmas cards came back, "Forwarding Order Expired," and she said indignantly, "I will have to go to the post office about that!" When we go for a girls' night out, we text each other "HOME" so we know the other has arrived safely. So she would wait 45 minutes to text me! I keep thinking of all these things.

She tried to explain. How she felt sheepish admitting she had gone back to her ex, etc., and a week went to a month, to a year . . . but nothing she says makes this right. I finally said I don't want to discuss it anymore. I told her I sincerely hope she gets help because this is TOO crazy.

So now I want to move on. Tie a balloon to it. Let it go. But I can't! Should I?

Illinois

A: Since 28 years of BEST-friendship offer 28 arguments for letting it go, and since you still can't get past the "crazy," I'm guessing you need a rationale for her behavior that makes better sense than the one she provided.

So I'll give it a try.

Every exchange between two people — every every — involves both people. Sometimes the responsibility splits 50-50, sometimes 99.9-0.1 From the TONE of your letter, it appears you see this as 99.9 hers. Certainly Mary earns well over half the credit just for the baldness and bulk of her lies.

Still — when someone is so afraid to admit the truth, the natural question is, why? Can a character defect in Mary explain it all? Has the trajectory of her behavior been leading her here? Or is it possible she also had the oldest motivation in the book: fear of punishment/consequences/getting in trouble?

Please ask yourself whether you've been the safest, most forgiving place for Mary to bring her frailties over the years. Maybe think back to some of the "bumps" you mention, to see whether any of them can be traced to your impatience with Mary's foibles. (You do say, "I rolled with it," not "we," which is telling.) Even reflect on things you've said not about Mary, but to her, that might prove you have high expectations — and contempt for those who don't meet them.

I float this idea not to accuse; for all I know, Mary earns 99.9 percent credit for this mess. It's just that letting go often follows forgiveness, and forgiveness often follows recognition of our own frailty, even our 0.1 percent. Try saying to Mary, "I'm sorry I wasn't someone you felt you could tell this news." See if that balloon flies.

Best friend lied for years; can she forgive and forget? 08/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 5:31am]
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