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It might be worth it to learn why former friend made life change

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

It might be worth it to learn why former friend made life change

Washington: A very close friend said she was never going to do XYZ and now, nearly a decade later, she is doing XYZ. I was thrown by this decision. I thought she was the type of person to stand by what she believed in. Or, she was lying to me the entire time, and to herself.

We are no longer close friends. I don't regret my decision not to be friends anymore, because we already had a lot of other problems. But I do wonder if I was right to feel the way I did about what was ultimately her decision and her life.

Carolyn: In place of "do XYZ," plug in "divorce a spouse for having a disability that inconveniences her." Now plug in, "mix plaid with paisley."

In other words, I can't answer you without knowing what XYZ is.

Washington again: We are both Asian but born and raised in the United States, and we bonded over not really fitting into our culture. She was always more vocal about it than I was, and now she wants to do all those things we made fun of in the past. Basically, patriarchal, antiquated notions of what daughters must do out of traditional obligation. I feel all alone again, on the outskirts of our society, doubting more than ever my own decisions not to do what my family expects. I hope that's enough explanation.

Carolyn: That's enough, thanks. Still, it doesn't elicit an automatic "Yes, she sold out" or "You have to respect her choices." There's so much nuance to a hairpin life-turn that I don't think even you, as her friend, can draw conclusions without getting her side of the story.

Was her scorn for tradition passionate, a manifestation all along of the hate that lies next to love — whereas yours had more clinical distance? Did she have an epiphany resulting from some other big life change? Is this more about your abandonment than her principles?

It's certainly your place to decide she isn't your friend anymore — especially if your friendship was more one of politics than feelings. But if you felt a strong emotional connection to her, then it might be worth the effort to understand why she made this change, instead of just condemning it out of hand.

Anonymous: Sometimes people really don't know how they'd react to a certain situation until they get there. I have a friend who was a very outspoken opponent of abortion. When she got pregnant due to failed birth control, she got an abortion. I do not blame her for doing something she said she'd never do. When she said that, she really didn't know how tough this decision was going to be.

Carolyn: Fair point. But she was judging people strongly and baselessly; there's a sell-by date to blanket pronouncements and vehement oppositions. If people are a decade-plus deep into their adult lives, and have presumably shared or at least witnessed the experiences of many and varied others, and they're still issuing "I'd never … " judgments, then I reserve the right to a private "Yeah, good luck with that." Either you preface it with "I hope I'd never …" or you're mounting a high (and wobbly) horse.

It might be worth it to learn why former friend made life change 03/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 3:30am]
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