Q: I have two very close girlfriends who live in the same town, "Emily" from college and "Jane" from high school. Both have children the same age as mine. Every summer I visit both, trying to split equal time between the two.
I can't bear to be around Emily's child. He is impulsive, defiant, has been outright malicious toward my son and, in one instance, caused him physical harm. I have tried to confront her about my issues with him and she becomes defensive and accusatory, and doesn't seem to see his behavioral issues as cause for alarm. My husband and high school friends note the same concerns.
My husband refuses to come with my son and me on visits to see Emily. This summer, I have planned to spend most of my trip with Jane and her family.
Emily is offended that I am not splitting my time equally between the two. I have no issues with her as a person and still value her friendship, however, I can't handle the stress of being around her son, and I don't know how to express this without hurting her feelings and ruining a 20-year friendship.
Conflicted and Stressed
A: You're tiptoeing around this thing because you're afraid of how Emily will react. Fearing Emily's reaction, though, validates her defensiveness, because it reveals your tacit agreement that protecting your son and reducing your time with Emily are mean, terrible things to do to her.
But they're not. You've seen how the boys (don't) get along and your actions are a rational way to deal with that.
So stop hiding your logic and instead be up-front about it. "Emily, this isn't personal; it's also temporary. The past few visits, Butch and Chachi haven't gotten along. I'm taking the pressure off. When they get older and settle down some, we'll go back to the way things were."