Dear Carolyn: I cant stand my best friends boyfriend. Hes passive-aggressive and is always making snarky, spiteful comments. Its common for him to join activities in which he has no interest, and then disparage anyone or anything involved. And rather than express his feelings honestly, he keeps them bottled up until he explodes in a fit of snarkiness.
I love my friend but Im running out of excuses for not hanging out with him. What should I do? Tell him I cant stand his boyfriend and risk losing a friend I value, or accept that the price of admission to the friendship is putting up with his soul-sucking boyfriend? Best Friend
Carolyn Says: It might help to recognize that your letter is a snarkless version of the bottle-bottle-explode tactic the boyfriend uses.
When he disparages someone or something, he hands you an opportunity to say, Im sorry to hear that; Im having a great time. Or, Whyd you come, then? Or just, (Shrug.) Your loss. Right? Your words, of course but as long as youre dukes-down and not fighting snark with snark, these are opportunities to express your feelings not just honestly, but also to the source.
Instead, the options you suggest amount to rolling your many grievances against the boyfriend into one I-cant-stand-him confrontation with your best friend, or continuing to bottle it up.
Your calling out the poor sportsmanship again, without snotty inflection might move your friend to start the conversation anyway, and thats OK. Even if hes defensive, keep Hes a soul-sucking, spiteful, passive-aggressive joy vampire between us, and stick to I think its fair for me to respond to his comments or How do you feel when he says (latest example here)?
Your behavior change, though, in limit-setting versus avoidance and excuses, might on its own spur a behavior change in the boyfriend, your friend or both. And regardless, youll have done something. Isnt that what you want?
Sisters moving fast
Dear Carolyn: My sister was married 41 years and her cheating husband died of lung cancer four months ago. She stayed and took good care of him till the end.
Three months after he died, his high school best friend (my sisters first love) came to see her, and now they are engaged. She wants to get married yesterday.
Ive been asking her to wait, slow down, etc. What can I say to persuade her to give it some time? S.
Carolyn Says: Its easy to understand your concern, but its hard to summon motivation to find ways to interfere with a grown woman who is living her life as she sees fit.
Its also easy to see how the promise of a little joy is more persuasive to her than your implied forecast of doom. Your opening sentence speaks unhappy volumes.
While your impulse to warn is natural, youll be more credible to her if you acknowledge her view: Im so happy youre happy or You deserve some joy or, now, I should have said this upfront: Congratulations.
After youve shown that you understand, youll make more sense to her when you say, This sure does look wonderful, and in a year or so youll know whether it is that is, if you choose to say it. Choosing not to heed you doesnt mean she didnt hear.
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