Friend or Foe: My friend is dating her jerky married boss.

Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
July 26 2011 10:05 AM

My Friend Is Dating Her Married Boss

He's a total jerk who dictates what she eats and who she sees. How can I stay friends with her?

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Dear HEOPF,

I have a feeling a bunch of commenters are going to write saying, How do you know she wasn't raped that night? I'm going to trust you on this one (that she wasn't). Though I'm left wondering how extensive the accusation was. Did she go to the police? Did she just tell you and your other roommate? In any case, it's clear you want out of the drama.

While in Valerie's company, I suggest smiling, saying "hello" and "how are you" in a friendly but brisk manner that doesn't invite an answer, and sitting on the other side of the room. As for your earlier charges, it sounds as if Valerie has quite a temper. That's a nice way of putting it. (A less nice adjective would be: unhinged.) Though allow me to suggest that I, too—like many, I assume—find it strangely disquieting when a text isn't returned ASAP. Modern etiquette gives us 24 hours, if not a week, to answer emails. But there's something about an unanswered one-line text—especially one saying, "Dinner tonight?" —that leaves the insecure among us feeling as if we're the only kid in the 12th grade who didn't get asked to prom. I'm sure you're as crazed as the next grad student struggling to make ends meet. But is it too much (social) work to write back, "Sorry—busy tonight"?

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

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I met "Mary" over 30 years ago when our husbands were in grad school together. We maintained contact by phone and visits since we also had kids the same age. Now, our contact is almost exclusively by phone. Mary has admirable qualities, but the phone brings out the worst in her. Calls aren't conversations, they are Mary Monologues which go on until I interrupt and tell her I have to go. If I try to get a word in, she usually interrupts me—often by finishing my sentence!

Worse, her favorite topic is her dysfunctional family and battles with her siblings. Her husband won't listen to her, because he said she is obsessed. I finally told her I'm not interested in the family fight. I also emailed this to her, but she still always brings it up. I've told her I'm too busy for phone calls and to email me or go on Facebook, but she says, "It's easier to just call." I've told her to see a therapist to talk out her family issues and she says, "I already have."

For the past few years, I've allotted an hour per month listening to her, but now I don't even want to do that. I've reduced contact to about once every three months, but then she calls back the next day! I talked to her 10 days ago for 1½ hours, and she's called seven times since then! I feel guilty for dodging her calls, and possibly like I need permission to let this relationship die. We have a long history, but dreading phone calls from someone doesn't sound like a good friendship. Is there another way I can handle this?

Sincerely,
Unpaid therapist Looking To Retire 

Dear UTLTR,

Old friends are good friends—until they're not. You have my permission to hand in your letter of Mary Resignation. Life is short, and Mary is running down the clock with her one-sided prattle. Also, may I suggest a modern invention called Caller I.D.? When face to face with Mary's digits, you can simply make the decision not pick up the phone. Maybe she'll finally get the message. Or if she doesn't, then after the 68th message (or missed call), send her an email saying you're so sorry but you're simply swamped and don't have time to talk on the phone these days. Just be sure to limit ALL future requests for reprieve to text-based mediums. The very fact of you being on the phone seems to spur Mary to keep chewing the fat. So you need to deprive her of that food source. Like a parasite, she'll eventually go looking for new hosts—and new ears in which to din. Pity the next friend she makes!

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

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