Break-in at friend's house exposes rift in surprising place

Break-in at friend's house exposes rift in surprising place

Q: My partner and I have been good friends with a woman we've known for years.

Last summer, during her vacation, she asked me to help repair a small item in her home. I went over and fixed the item, and also mowed her yard as a surprise for when she got back home. I even left a welcome bottle of wine on the table.

I was shocked to learn the next day her home had been broken into, ransacked and damaged. She called me hysterical and said I was responsible for leaving the garage door open! I was equally upset at her damaged home but knew in no way had I left the garage open.

My friend did not believe me. She terminated our friendship, repaired her home, and put it up for sale because she could not live in it anymore. I tormented myself trying to remember details of that day. My own partner even suggested that maybe I was preoccupied or distracted.

Our ex-friend and my partner work together and remained on good terms, but she would not permit him to speak of me in her presence.

On the eve of her home sale, her adult daughter confessed that she was the one who left the garage door open. She was too embarrassed to admit her mistake and let me take the heat for it.

Ex-friend shows up at our door, bottle of wine in hand, to explain the situation and express her desire to "renew our friendship and love" and that "all is forgiven and forgotten." I hand back the wine and express that nothing is being renewed, forgiven or forgotten.

Now I am still the bad guy. My ex-friend is upset and my partner thinks I am being unreasonable and hurtful to everyone. He wants me to put the matter to rest to help our friend deal with the new issue of her own daughter's integrity and character. Am I the unreasonable one?

No More Mr. Nice Guy

A: No. The daughter does indeed have character and integrity problems, and that isn't a coincidence.

Had you been responsible for leaving the door open, it would have been an accident by a steadfast friend who made an error of good intentions. A mature person would have assured you it wasn't your fault, it was the burglar's.

Likewise, a mature person would now want you to forgive this small-minded and ridiculous woman — if only because it would be good for your own well-being to do so. There would be a certain poetry to forgiving the mistake of someone who is so emotionally stunted that she can't forgive anyone's mistakes but her own.

Still, that same good friend also would support, not challenge, your decision not to associate with this woman again. As it did with her daughter, this incident exposed the sparkling void where your (alleged) friend's character was supposed to be.

Which is why your real problem here is what the incident has told you about your own partner's integrity. Couldn't speak of you in her presence, hello? I get that professional-personal ties are complicated, but he seems more concerned with keeping things easy than making things right. It would be quite reasonable to ask your partner why his sympathies aren't with you.

Break-in at friend's house exposes rift in surprising place 01/01/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:51pm]

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