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If support for friend is genuine, offer it

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

If your support is genuine, offer it; friendship shouldn't be fake

Halfway to divorce: Five months ago, a friend left her husband. They'd been married only about 18 months, but within six weeks of the wedding she was dropping by for long spells of crying that she'd made a horrible mistake. They've both got issues, and kids, and they probably moved too fast, but she decided to stick with it for at least a year. They saw a therapist together; she continued to see her own therapist. It seemed like such a relief when she finally left — she'd been so miserable and the whole relationship (postwedding) really brought out her very worst insecurities.

And now I hear through the grapevine they've been sighted in public together. I don't know if they've just decided to be friends, or are working on getting back together. I don't want her feeling like she needs to slink around or not tell me, but hearing this, I was honestly overwhelmed with dread. I'm not sure that I can fake being supportive. Am I just going to have to suck it up and start practicing my fake-supportive smile for when I see her next?

Carolyn: She'd have less reason to slink around if your default response were to think, "Well, let's see what's up and whether they've fixed their problems before I put on the fakey face."

Since you didn't have the default, then it's likely one of two things is going on here: (1) You tend to be quick to see the negative and she knows that, or (2) She has a history of waffling her way through these lousy relationships and your well of optimism about her choices ran dry years ago.

The former means some self-examination is called for, to see if you've gotten a bit too cynical for your own good; the latter means it's time to examine this friendship, to see if it has run its course.

Either one beats fake support.

Halfway to divorce, redux: (1) I am a little quick on the negative response and I don't have a lot of empathy for "sticking it out."

(2) She does have a history of waffling through bad relationships with passive-aggressive, manipulative bullies. Except that this time they weren't together long enough before the wedding to sort out that he was the same as her previous long-term relationships. This time they looked blissfully happy (from the outside) until she started to break down. And from that moment the dread set in for me, but I worked really hard to be supportive while she tried to work things out for the past year. But I was deeply relieved when she finally moved out.

Thanks for the advice. I'll try to suspend judgment and just see how she is.

Carolyn: So it's 3. Both of the above! Thanks. Funny how chaotic people befriend eye-rollers, and vice versa.

Your best bet might be — regardless of what's really happening with her — good-natured acceptance of your differences. She's not you; she has, for whatever reason, an appetite for relationship drama. So think about what your most satisfying place in this drama might be: Active helper? Honest reality-checker? Lip-biting listener/martyr? Relieved absentee who gets updates via grapevine? You've listened to her plenty. Now, listen to you.

If support for friend is genuine, offer it 02/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 3:30am]

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