Dear Friend or Foe,
I'm a woman of 38 who just got out of a one-year relationship with a 25-year-old, "Andy." Despite our age difference, the relationship was somewhat serious. The break-up went from amicable to not-so-much, as we have a lot of the same friends.
About six months ago, "Valerie"—who is 52—and I became very close. When her on-again-off-again boyfriend, "James," started treating her crappily, I stopped hanging out with him—even though James and I were friends before they started dating. When they got back together, I looked like an ass. More recently, she began hanging out with MY ex, Andy, though neither one told me about it. Instead, I found out about the friendship from Facebook, where he was posting about how much fun he had doing such and such with her. When I confronted him about it—and asked how he'd feel if I started hanging out with his BFF—he said he didn't blame me for being upset.
Do I have the right to be mad at Valerie for seeing Andy behind my back? Even though they're not dating, I feel betrayed.
I understand that you're feeling left out, even jealous. But I wonder if you have the whole thing backward. Unless Valerie makes Demi Moore look like an old hag—and/or Andy has serious, and I mean SERIOUS, mommy issues—I suspect that this new friendship (because it's so unlikely, age and gender-wise) may actually be all about YOU, and about Andy's desire to maintain a connection. As such, you ought to be flattered, not freaked out.
As for Valerie, it seems to me that her only error was not to mention the friendship to you—before you saw her tagged, wearing a lei, and pounding brewskis in Andy's "Beach Barbecue Blow-Out" album. Though I don't think she's done anything so terribly wrong. I would even suggest that it was a bit extreme of you to cut off contact with HER ex when they broke up. In short, there's no code of etiquette that dictates that friends of a couple (especially an unmarried or partnered couple) don't get to share the occasional nacho plate at Bennigan's after the couple splits. You also mention that you and Valerie have only been tight for six months—not exactly grounds for going omertà on the woman.
My advice: Loosen the reins and let it go or, if you're still obsessing, use this new friendship to your advantage. I bet Valerie and Andy talk about you sometimes. Maybe you should find out what he's been saying.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
My best friend "Ashleigh" and I both graduated from college last year. For me, post-college life has been fantastic! I have a well-paying job that I love and am excelling at. Plus, I recently purchased a home that I'm living in with my long-time boyfriend, with whom I'm talking marriage. Ashleigh, however, has not fared as well. She was unable to find a job and she's living hand-to-mouth in a small apartment with her husband and mother-in-law. Understandably, she's feeling down in the dumps.
I try to be as supportive as I possibly can—helping with her job search, offering financial advice, talking for hours when she needs to vent, assuring her that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The problem is: I can feel her jealousy and hatred of the things I have oozing through every conversation. Nor have I been rubbing my success in her face. After I purchased my home last month, I mentioned it as casually as I could. She came to see it three weeks later and spent the entire time telling me how I got screwed out of my money—e.g. "The rooms are so small," "The house is so dark," "OMG, look at that wallpaper," and "This was probably not your best decision."
On other occasions, Ashleigh has told me it's a joke that my boyfriend and I still haven't tied the knot, since we've been together since high school. She also criticizes my job, my car, even my dog! Clearly, this is a coping strategy, but I'm getting tired of being her personal cheerleader when all I get from her is (not-so-constructive) criticism. At the same time, I'd feel like a jerk for leaving her at a time like this. Should I give up on her, or should I stick around, hoping that she'll get her life together and stop being so rude about mine? I've tried gently telling her that she's being rude—and not-so-gently telling her to "shut it"—but nothing works.
Tired of Being My BFF's Emotional Whipping Boy
My heart goes out to both of you—though Ashleigh possibly more, if only because she's sharing a bathroom with her mother-in-law, and you're not. It's hard to imagine anybody being civil under those circumstances. My advice would be to take the middle road. Stay in communication, but if she's throwing your encouragement back in your face like so much cream pie, put the kibosh on the phone therapy sessions and let her seek counsel elsewhere. If she confronts you regarding your cooling, be honest and say you felt a lot of anger coming from her and you didn't think it was helping your friendship. But don't cut off Ashleigh forever. Things may turn around, and then, maybe, hopefully, she'll be embarrassed about the way she's acted. For many, the first few years out of college are a scary, uncertain time—even scarier during a recession. You're one of the lucky few who have prospered.