DEAR CAROLYN: Four great friends do a lot together, “Jeanne,” “Sophie,” “Kaylie” and “Penny.” Over time, Sophie constantly “finds faults” with Jeanne and begins to alienate her from the group. Sophie doesn’t share this with Jeanne and doesn’t want her to know. Penny and Kaylie tell Jeanne the “faults” Sophie sees.
Sophie leaves the group. No longer wants anything to do with any of the friends.
Now Sophie wants to be friends with Penny and Kaylie, but refuses to be around Jeanne. This puts Penny and Kaylie in an awkward situation. What would you recommend for Jeanne?
– Friends On Sophie’s Terms
DEAR FRIENDS: Sophie, Kaylie and Penny frighten Carolyn. (Jeanne just confuses Carolyn a bit with her storytelling.)
Penny and Kaylie are not in an “awkward situation,” they’re in a decency test – and failing it with flying colors. Here’s the answer to Sophie that prevents a snake pit: “Join us all, or don’t. Up to you.”
It’s their second F, actually. They earned the first by reporting the “faults” to Jeanne via back-channel.
As for Jeanne, it’s her call whether any of these friends is worth keeping.
DEAR CAROLYN: My husband’s parents are divorced and both remarried. My mother-in-law’s husband is wonderful, but my father-in-law’s wife is overbearing in every sense of the word. She is also very critical of my husband, me, my sister-in-law and her husband.
When my sister-in-law had a baby, my father-in-law’s wife suddenly became even more overbearing toward her. What irks me most is that the wife insists on referring to herself as grandma.
My future child will have two wonderful grandmothers – this woman is not going to be one of them. How can I politely ask her not expect to be called grandma by my children?
DEAR HELP: Nothing like riding a stream of contempt for someone, then landing, thump, at a straight-faced request to express this contempt “politely.”
You cannot, should not, and have no business trying to shove her The Wife off the grandma shelf. Even if she’s every bit as negative as you say, her grandma spot is secured by marriage. Deal with it. Or get ready to explain “politely” that “wonderful” Stepdad can’t be Grandpa.
Plus, she might be one more person in your child’s corner.
The more you push her away, the more overbearing and critical you can expect her to get.
Grit out some pleasant engagement instead – including, when she gets mean, “I’d appreciate your support, not criticism.” Diplomacy, not war.