Dear Amy: How do I keep a relationship casual with a friend whose hobby is creating drama?
“Emma” and I are members of an informal social group that communicates a few times a week. We also attend different types of group events once or twice a month.
The group has an ongoing group chat on a messaging app, and Emma is the most vocal contributor. She often overshares about her own life, or just generally complains. She and I had a casual friendship for years until she started dating another member of the group — in secret.
After soliciting the views of me and two other members of the group, she sent a follow-up email basically telling us multiple reasons our advice was wrong and how we can’t judge the nature of her relationship, even though that was basically the advice she sought.
She further told us that we were wrong because we wouldn’t reinforce her decision to disregard advice from her therapist. It seems she has had a crush on nearly every male member of the group at one time or another, whether or not the person has a partner.
I am worried that anything of substance I tell her about myself might become fodder for her drama machine. I have tried to avoid getting into more serious topics, but she keeps asking to get together to talk — one-on-one.
She really wants to have this “deeper” friendship with me, but I don’t feel safe doing that. How do I set a boundary to keep the relationship casual without causing a rift in the larger group?
— Walking a Tightrope
Dear Walking: Your instincts regarding this drama machine are sound. Follow them. You should assume that anything you say can (and will) be used against you. Drama addicts need fuel to accelerate and sustain their narrative, and when they lack story elements of their own creation, they will turn to others to fortify their supply.
Unfortunately, honesty (“You’re indiscreet and so I want to keep our relationship casual”) will be conflated by her into a feud of some kind, so the best technique is to deflect and/or ghost.
When “Emma” appeals to you or solicits anything personal, you should either not respond or delay responding. When you do, resort to something opaque and noncommittal like, “Umm, interesting question; I don’t really have anything to add.” If she wants to get together, you should claim to be busy, tired or binge-watching an about-to-expire program. You should not gossip about or offer up any opinions about her to the group.
In short, back away slowly, and then keep your distance.
Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for eight years. We have three kids together.
Recently, he left his social media account open. I snooped (and know it was wrong). I learned that he is trying to reconnect with former high school girlfriends by inviting them to lunch/dinner. He was not going to tell me about this.
It has been over 20 years since these friendships have had any merit, and I do not see the point. In fact, with as much public social media posting as we all see, I feel that he has already caught up with their lives.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think I’m overreacting? Should he reconnect with the old friends (single or married)?
Dear Wondering: Yes, your husband should reconnect with old friends, if he wants to. You should, too! But these reconnections should be conducted in full view of the family.
I infer from your question that your husband is private-messaging various people (only women, it seems) and inviting them to private get-togethers. That’s not cool. The optics, as it were, are not good.
Transparency is important in marriage, if for no other reason than to avoid this sort of dust-up. You two should talk about this. You can start by copping to viewing his private messages. He may try to make the whole conversation about that. If you stay calm and don’t get defensive, he will have his say, and then you can have yours.
Dear Amy: I’ve grown very tired of your continuing focus on LGBTQ issues. This is a small segment of the population and you give them too much weight in your column.
Dear Upset: Happy Pride month! People are people, and human relationships have resonance far beyond a person’s sexuality. If you can’t recognize fellowship, then you’re just not trying hard enough.
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Copyright 2019 by Amy Dickinson
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