Detroit: We are friends with two good people who are very forgiving of "bad" people; specifically, one friend's brother is now a convicted child molester (three years ago, he molested his own 13-year-old stepdaughter, spent time in jail, and is now a registered offender); and another (no longer mutual) friend tried to sleep with someone else's wife (while she was sleeping in her own bed—he walked in through the garage and admitted he had no invitation for his advances).
We have cut off contact with these predators, but our friends have not. An important birthday is happening for OUR friends, and of course, they've invited the Not Good Folks. Do we grit our teeth and ignore Bad Men Partying, or do we make polite excuses and stay away? The friendship with the forgiving folks is multiple decades in duration. Obviously, if we go, our children won't be out of site for a second, but still—how does one cope with (registered) sexual predators in a social situation?
Emily Yoffe: This letter is in contrast to the one in which the homophobic uncle wants to ban his lesbian niece from family gatherings. You raise the point that here is behavior that crosses legal and moral lines, and which is grounds for removing people from social events. As for the guy who tried to sleep with someone else's wife—was that an attempted sexual assault or was he just a creep dropping by hoping to get lucky? In any case, if he were the only miscreant at the party, then you could just avoid him. Of course, it's your friends' choice to invite the child molester now that he's out of jail, but it's your choice not to socialize with him. So you have to decide if his presence is too disturbing to you. If so, it would be easiest to say you unfortunately won't be able to attend. You have to weigh the effect on the friendship to say you simply wouldn't feel comfortable having your children at the same event with their brother.
State College, Pa.: Yesterday would have been my three-year anniversary with my ex boyfriend. We broke up almost six months ago, but I can't help thinking about "what might have been," especially since we had been discussing marriage and kids. Every time I think about it, though, I feel grateful that we didn't let it get that far. In hindsight, we had a very unhealthy relationship, and both of us enabled the not-so-great qualities in each other.
The thing is, most of my obsessing has less to do with missing him and more to do with wanting to apologize for all of the mean (and, at times, emotionally abusive) things that I said during our relationship. In the end, he lied to and stole from me, so my friends don't think I'm at fault at all, but I can't help feeling guilty about how I treated him. We haven't had any contact since the split (he deleted his Facebook, changed his phone number, etc.), but I recently found out that he works only a few blocks away. Should I apologize to him? Or should I focus on forgiving myself?
Emily Yoffe: It sounds as if behind your regrets is a hope that he's feeling you've both learned from your mistakes, and that if you get in touch with him you'll get a chance to belatedly celebrate that third anniversary. However, it also sounds as if you're two people who simply should not be together—and given his actions, he really doesn't want to be with you. It's good you're not stewing in thoughts of how you were mistreated but are recognizing how your own behavior made your relationship a fiasco. So honor that by continuing your self-examination and bringing this insight and self-restraint to your next relationship while you let this one remain dead.
My friend's sister refuses to leave her house without her dogs: My friend's sister "Marlene" lives in Providence. She refuses to leave her house for any reason whatsoever without bringing her three little dogs with her. The dogs travel in a baby carriage and have been sneaked into restaurants, museums—you name it. Marlene does not see anything wrong with her behavior and becomes instantly hostile and defensive when told that it is not always appropriate to bring dogs along. She refuses therapy and medication outright, and her husband enables the behavior. How can we get her to see that she is destroying her relationships with her family and friends by always putting the dogs first?
Emily Yoffe: Part of the issue here is that she would rather be with Boopsie, Poopsie, and Buster than the rest of you, so it's clear what she's going to say if you say unless she leaves the dogs at home, your relationship with her is going to the dogs. True dog maniacs actually think the rest of you are sad for spending so much time with bipeds. So accept that when you get together, either she comes pushing the doggie stroller or she doesn't come at all.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Happy Columbus Day, and I'll talk to you in two weeks.