The day the friendship died.

Dear Amy: My husband and I are retired. We have a good life in a city that we moved to about seven years ago.

We’ve been able to make lots of friends. I’m so pleased by the variety of people in our friend group.

What I’m not pleased about is that one of my dearest female friends, “Marge,” has a husband, “Mike,” who seems to insert himself into all kinds of situations where I would prefer that he not be.

Mike spends more time on Facebook than Marge does, and he seems to be “friends” with everybody in our social circle, which is pretty large.

The problem is that this guy has no filters. He comments on everything, is often loud and inappropriate, and is sometimes vulgar.

I think he thrives on being the center of attention.

I don’t believe there is a mean bone in his body, but there are days when just seeing his name on Facebook makes me want to shut my phone off.

Marge and I are close enough that we have talked a lot about our marriages, and we both agree that our spouses have their good and their bad points. She knows that Mike can be a nuisance.

There is at least one other woman in our social community who had similar feelings about Mike. She told Marge how she felt, and I’m pretty certain it has damaged their long-term relationship.

Do you have any advice for me?

I just don’t know if I have the patience to put up with Mike for the long run.

— Frustrated Friend

Frustrated Friend: Based on how you describe this, it seems that your connection with “Mike” on social media is a regular trigger for you. So, turn off his microphone! If you aren’t exposed to his constant comments and obnoxious behavior on Facebook, you will be able to put Mike on a shelf until you are forced into his actual company again.

Mike is his own man. “Marge” is not in charge of him, and so why did your other mutual friend report her feelings about the man to Marge, instead of responding to him directly? Don’t make the same mistake.

The unspoken rule about marriage is: “I can criticize my spouse, but if you do, I’ll be forced to defend.”

Marge knows her husband is obnoxious and vulgar. He’s the bull in her china shop.

Respond to Mike when you’re in his presence, but continue to develop your friendship with Marge in his absence. (c) Ask Amy

[Editing note: Ask Amy named Mike’s wife “Meg”, so I changed her name to “Marge” for purposes of simplification, since my name is Meg. I generally never alter advice questions and answers, instead printing them as they appear.]

I get what Ask Amy is saying here: the letter writer should deal with Mike directly instead of complaining to Marge. The implication seems to be that the letter writer should unfriend Mike. (Unfollowing him wouldn’t prevent him from posting on her posts, would it?)

Here’s the problem. I once had a similar situation, and I followed Ask Amy’s advice: I dealt with the person directly. It got me burned.

My best friend used to be Kristi, several years ago. Kristi is a nice woman who has two sons who were teenagers back when I knew them all. I went to visit Kristi and her family, and we had a great time.

However, her younger son, who might’ve been fifteen at the time, decided after my visit that I’m not “cool”. (I took out their trashcan with my car, among other things.) I was friends with Adam on facebook, and he interacted with adults regularly through his interest in cross-country biking. He seemed to be advanced for his age, as far as communicating with adults.

So when he quit “liking” my comments on his posts, where I (and all the other adults) would write, “Great bike ride!” or, “Great job making the honor roll again!” I asked him if everything was okay. He gave me a bogus line about spending less time on social media. However, that didn’t explain to me why he kept liking the other adults’ posts and not mine.

Several months passed, and I posted our “friendversary”. He ignored it, even though his mother and my aunt both “liked” it or “loved” it, respectively.

I shrugged it off. Maybe he wasn’t into friendversaries. They were pretty lame, come to think of it.

But the very next day was his friendversary with a woman biker who was also a friend of his family’s. He wrote on it, and I quote, “Here’s to many more years of friendship to come!”

I was through.

Now, whatever reasons the teenagers of today have for not thinking I’m cool, I don’t want to know. It was hard enough not being cool when I was their age. No reason to relive the glory years.

I thought about it and decided not to go to his mother. Adam was a mature young man who interacted with adults all the time. I wasn’t going to get him in trouble with his mommy for ignoring me on FB! So I just unfriended him and continued with my life. And see? This is exactly what Ask Amy is advising here!

Three pleasant days passed. My self-esteem was improving, and I was moving on with my life. Then all hell broke loose.

Kristi approached me. “Meg, did you unfriend Adam?”

I couldn’t think of how to tactfully say that it should be between me and Adam, so I went with honesty. “Yeah, sorry. He doesn’t really like me anymore, so it felt like the right decision.”

“How could you unfriend my son?”

“Kristi, he doesn’t like me. He thinks I’m not cool.” I gave her the evidence.

“He didn’t reply to your friendversary?” she asked. “Hold on.” I waited. “He says he never saw it,” she reported.

I scoffed. “Well, he’s lying. This won’t affect our friendship, will it?”

It affected our friendship.

Now, to be clear, I don’t believe for one minute that Adam was crushed or hurt by my unfriending of him. I never project my relationship issues onto people who are underage, which is why I blithely went along with his flagrant crap about spending less time on social media. I still believe, despite Kristi’s hysterics, that Adam was glad to be rid of me, and that Kristi was in denial about that. I would never have unfriended Adam as a means to hurt him, since he was under eighteen.

“How dare you call my son a liar!” she yelled.

“Kristi, of course he’s lying. He doesn’t want to disappoint you by admitting that he thinks I’m not cool. Put yourself in his shoes. It would hurt your feelings! He’s trying to protect your feelings, that’s all.” I truly believed this and had no real animosity toward Adam.

“No! My son is NOT a liar!”

I groaned. “Look, I don’t see anything wrong with his lying, given these circumstances. Again, he doesn’t want to disappoint you. He doesn’t want to admit that he thinks your best friend is lame.”

“No! I’ve taught my children never to lie!”

Because of course she had. I was screwed.

“Lying is wrong,” she added.

(Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. I’m a big believer in tact, privacy protection, and discretion.)

The sad thing was that this created an impasse. I’m normally a huge fan of backpedaling, but in this instance, for me to say, “I believe you. I’m sorry I called your kid a liar. I know Adam would never lie,” would require me to lie! Oh, the bitter irony! And once I knew how much she loathed liars, I didn’t have it within me to lie to her face like that.

And thus our friendship withered on the vine.

It could happen to this letter writer, too, if she follows Ask Amy’s advice:

Mike: “Marge, why’d your friend Anna unfriend me?” 

Marge: “What?! Anna did what?!” [Flies into a violent rage.]

After all, Ask Amy says it right here:

The unspoken rule about marriage is: “I can criticize my spouse, but if you do, I’ll be forced to defend.”

So I’m not sure that Ask Amy’s approach is the right one, seeing as it destroyed one of my most cherished friendships. And all I have left of it is this great story to tell about the day our friendship died.

That said, Ask Amy’s advice might be good. The whole debacle I’ve outlined here might’ve been Kristi’s fault because she made me answer for unfriending her son, even though it was between me and him, and even though I’d wager anything that he wasn’t upset by it. It could be a sign of how strong the friendship is, if Marge accepts the letter writer’s unfriending of Mike, or if Marge goes postal over it. I guess for me and Kristi, the friendship wasn’t strong enough to survive it. On some level, I’m wise enough not to blame myself for it, so there’s that.

4 thoughts on “The day the friendship died.

  1. I think Amy’s advice makes sense to the effect of, mute this guy’s updates on your feed so you don’t have to listen to him.

    But I think talking to the husband directly vs. going to the wife-friend is a terrible idea. Like if one of my close friends or my relatives had an issue with my husband, I’d be livid if they talked to him without talking to me first. Like I don’t care if it’s his relatives or friends that he’s closer too, but I would be unbelievably pissed if one of my close friends/relatives didn’t talk to me first. I might put them in touch directly, but I would be pissed to be left out of the conversation. It goes both ways. During wedding planning when his relatives were being more demanding and obnoxious about religious stuff that I refused on principle to accommodate, Husband deliberately ran interference.

    With Facebook, it seems like there’s options for passive controls (hiding updates from certain people) and more aggressive controls (unfriending, blocking, etc.) In retrospect, it might have been better to have used a more passive option re: “Adam”, but that’s easy to say in retrospect and hard to know at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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