Welcome to "Friend or Foe," a regular Double X advice column for your queries about the trickiest of all love affairs: friendships. Lucinda Rosenfeld, author of I'm So Happy for You, a novel about best friends,is now taking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Friend or Foe,
I've had a life-changing year that included a new marriage, the unemployment of family members, housing-crisis woes, an annoying injury, and a promotion at my job that has me traveling and working long hours. As my life has gotten more complicated, I've found that my tolerance of fair-weather friends (FWFs) has diminished completely. These days, a few canceled plans, missed call-backs, or insensitive comments, and I delete said FWFs from my social repertoire.
For example: I have a "friend"—"Jenny"—who, while very sweet and well-meaning, invites me to too many religious events, even after I've told her "thanks, but no thanks" when it comes to Bible-thumping. If we do have regular plans, she tends to cancel either right before or stands me up. She apologizes with a variety of eyebrow-raising excuses. She is one of five FWFs I've recently dumped. Others have been jettisoned for reasons ranging from: "I'm too old to get drunk every night" to "uses people for money" to "one shared interest is not enough."
To be fair to myself, I do see my good friends on a regular basis. Throughout a year of ups and downs, they've been supportive and spectacular. Meanwhile, I feel very guilty about my serial-dumping, but I can't seem to have the same open-minded acceptance that I once had. My question is: Is it OK to dump those friends who don't fit 100 percent in your life? Or is it a selfish act?
Help, I'm a Serial Dumper!
If you told me that, after a year spent losing your patience and temper with Sally, Ann, Mary, Suzy, and Kate, you found yourself completely friendless—and with not a single pal in your rolodex with whom to see It's Complicated, I'd suggest you review your approach. But since you say you have a core group of great, supportive girlfriends, I'm not sure why you feel so bad about spring-cleaning the riff-raff. We all go through periods during which we realize who our real pals are, and move away from those with whom we lack any meaningful connection.
Regarding "Jenny," I received a letter a while back from a hard-core secularist whose born-again friend wouldn't leave her alone on the subject—and I suggested that the friendship was doomed. I don't know enough about you and Jenny to know if this is the case. But the facts that she's been bailing on your plans and that she only invites you to religious events suggest to me that she's keen to end the friendship as well. You might as well hold the guilt.
Perpetual money borrowers are best crossed off the list for the good of your bank account. Ditto—on behalf of your liver—for those boozy buddies. But I do think there is such a thing as a one-activity friend, which is to say that not all your friends in life have to be the closest and mostest. You could have, say, a jogging friend. Or a knitting friend. Or even a friend with whom you exclusively compare notes on dumping your other friends.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
"Shelly" and I have been friends for almost 20 years. But she and her husband don't learn from their mistakes. Three years after they married, they declared bankruptcy. Today they're on the verge of doing so a second time. Their debt load boggles my mind. Although they both asked for my advice, that advice was ignored. But the phone calls—in which they whined for two hours about the financial strain—continued. Another example: Shelly insisted her husband needed therapy for depression. Since we have the same insurance coverage, I researched and sent her a list of half a dozen therapists in their area. She never called any of the names. But almost every call since then included her complaining about his behavior.