DEAR HARRIETTE: I ran into an old friend from my hometown recently. He was good friends with my ex-husband. All he wanted to do during the brief time that we chatted was to reminisce about times that we had spent together with my ex.
My ex and I had a bad breakup, and he is about the last person I want to talk about. This guy probably doesn’t know that. I didn’t advertise what had happened between us, but that doesn’t change that bad things occurred.
It took everything in me not to spill the beans on how my ex had behaved as this guy was going on and on about how great he was. I just bit my tongue and let him talk, but I didn’t like it.
How could I have handled that without revealing our history and without having to endure his memories?
DEAR MOVING ON: You could have stopped this guy and told him how nice it was to run into him after all these years. From there you could pivot and say something like, “I know you mean well, but my ex and I have been apart for many years now. I do not want to recall these stories now.” If he persists, you can walk away.
There is no etiquette rule that says you have to endure this man’s memories. You can remain kind but firm and remove yourself from his company.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is virtually a nomad. He’s always traveling somewhere, hanging out in exotic locales with interesting people. I hadn’t heard from him since the summer but thought nothing of it.
When I called, I discovered that he was in the hospital with a medical emergency. I felt so bad that I didn’t know and hadn’t reached out.
I know it’s on him to inform his friends or whomever he wants to know about his condition, but we are close. I am bummed about it.
Now that I know, I am regularly in touch with him and doing my best to support him in whatever ways I can, but he doesn’t really want help. He is a bit of a loner and has pushed back when I have offered to bring him anything or visit.
How can I be a good friend in this situation while also honoring his wishes to keep my distance?
Tending The Ill
DEAR TENDING THE ILL: Stay in touch. Call him each week to see if he needs anything at all.
Send him small items that will make him smile: a book to read, a small memento that recalls happier times, a home-cooked dessert (if his health regimen allows). Periodically you can ask if he will allow you to visit.
You should not spring a surprise visit on him. Allow him to have his privacy and his dignity. You don’t know what’s going on with him, and you don’t know what condition he is in. Respect his desire to keep a distance.
Don’t get jealous if you learn that anyone else is allowed to visit. Just continue to let him know that you are available if he needs or wants your help.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.