Friends expending a lot of effort just trying to get along
Q: How do you recognize a toxic friendship? I have a very close friend who has stopped speaking to me because she says I have hurt her feelings and she is too upset to talk about it.
I often feel that our relationship is emotionally draining for me, but I'm afraid that might be because of my problems with depression and communication. I'm wondering if I'm the "toxic" friend who demands too much from her. Does it matter who is at fault if the relationship is just not good for one or both of us? What should I say when I do have the opportunity to talk to her about it?
A: Simplistically speaking, your willingness to see yourself as toxic means you aren't toxic, and if she's able to calm down and talk to you about what upset her, then she's not toxic, either.
Toxic people don't give anyone else a chance to be right.
Toxic people also aren't the only reason friendships fail. Being ill-suited kills them, too, as does annoying each other, or boring each other, or even just slipping down each other's priority lists until one of you gets pushed off once and for all.
It sounds as if both of you expend a fair amount of energy just trying to get along, whether you mean to or just do it out of habit. People have different thresholds for when friendship becomes too much work — but if one of you has reached yours, then that alone suggests it's time to part ways. Sometimes it's nobody's fault.
As for what you say if you do get a chance to talk to her — and I certainly hope you do, since under-explained refusals to speak are the pettiest form of torture — just keep it simple. Ask what you did to hurt her, what she would have preferred you to have done, and what you can do now.
It's a towering if, but if she gives you a straight answer, then you can do the same about your ability — or even willingness — to make things right.
Go to destination wedding happily, or not at all
Q: My sister-in-law and her fiance have planned a destination wedding to Hawaii. Since they are family we feel we must go. However, I am feeling resentful about the huge cost, the use of vacation time, the vanity of it all.
We live near this couple and are friendly with them. The only sign that they might realize how they are imposing on the people closest to them is that they are constantly attempting to justify their choice as doing us all a favor. I just keep thinking of all the other ways I would rather be spending this money (like on a bunch of those $300 coffeemakers they want!). Any suggestions to help me get over my resentment, besides deep breaths?
A: Don't go; say it's too expensive. Or get excited about the wedding and/or Hawaii, and go. They're your only good choices. Going grudgingly serves no one — not you, not the couple, and therefore not the institution of family, which you cite as your purpose. While I'm with you on the cost, time and vanity arguments, which rightly indict the couple, it'll be your decision and your attitude, ultimately, that determine whether you waste your money and time.