Dear Carolyn: My old friend, who still introduces me to others as his best friend, got married and didn’t invite me and another close friend of ours to his wedding. We were his best friends in the world and were very close. When we asked him about the plans, he said he was not going to have a wedding and so there was no need for us to travel to the West Coast to be there. He wanted something very minimal. We respected his decision.
When visiting him a few months later, we found out from his wife that he actually did have a wedding. A few years have gone by and now my friend regularly calls for advice and support regarding his marriage. Should I feel obliged to help my duplicitous friend with his marriage problems, given that he excluded me from his wedding? One detail: We are people of color and the wife is not. She is from a wealthy White family on the West Coast. Were we segregated from the wedding?
Excluded: You know better than I do, and you don’t know because you haven’t tried to find out. You’re not obtuse. You can intuit, add 2 + 2, and generate informed opinions. You probably know a lot of the story that way.
But by your own account, you don’t equate that to certainty your friend had racist motives for excluding you. Right? Because exclusion based on race would be horrific and end the friendship on the spot, yet you didn’t even follow up when you learned of his lie. Hmm.
And maybe you don’t feel the same sense of best friendship anymore, but you’re still there for him, taking his “regular” calls, reciting your lines as his friend, which may be muscle memory, but still tells me you think it’s possible there was an innocent enough explanation for his lie.
That seems right to me because the only thing you know for certain is that he said one thing and did another. That’s it. (Well, that and everyone’s skin color.) So you clearly need more information. Yet instead of saying something, you have quietly harbored your pain, resentment and terrible theories while pretending you’re still his best friend. That, by the way, is also “duplicitous.” It’s reactive where his lie was proactive, but still.
Anyway, please just get on with it and tell your friend what you know. Say how you feel about it. Ask whether he’s willing to share the real story. Then see whether his answer satisfies you. Decide what to do next based on this information. It’s not a perfect remedy, but it’s better than asking me to search my mind for what your friend had on his.
Dear Carolyn: On a recent visit with my cousin and his wife, I observed him speaking to her in a very disrespectful and demeaning manner on several occasions. It was very distressing to witness and I can’t stop thinking about it. He is normally a gentle and good-natured soul. I’m tempted to approach him about it but worry I’d be overstepping my grounds. Your thoughts?
Distressed: Flagging mistreatment you witness firsthand is not overstepping. Neither is inquiring after loved ones who aren’t themselves lately. Ask him, “Are you okay? You seemed edgy last week,” and have an objective example at the ready, just the facts.
In other words, at least start from the possibility he’s mishandling his stress versus something more sinister, and offer an ear. If it persists or gets worse, thehotline.org can help you with your next step.