Q: How can I convince my friend to chill out about her daughter’s schooling? We’ve been friends since our daughters were babies, and now they’re in kindergarten. Ever since school started, she has been obsessed with perceived flaws of her daughter’s teacher and our school. It irritates me because I think they’re overblown, and she’s undermining her daughter’s experience. She wants me to be a crusader with her.
A: I hear the annoyance and irritation, loud and clear. But I’m getting radio silence on something more crucial in this years-long friendship: your willingness to empathize and help her get to the root of her problem.
Presumably if she’d been this intolerable before, your friendship would have never survived the minefields of babyhood. Now, she’s suddenly very stressed. So tell her you’re concerned, that she seems not herself, and you wonder what’s going on under the surface and how you can help. That’s being a friend, even if you don’t know a curriculum from a kumquat. Co-crusader? No. Listener, stress-reliever, empathizer and alternative-solution-bringer-upper? Absolutely.
Q: Is it appropriate for a man to be attached to an ex’s mom? My boyfriend (now 38) was with his ex for seven years in his 20s. The breakup was amicable, she is remarried, and they’re not close. He is, however, still very close to her mom – they text on and off and she invited us to Thanksgiving. (He was considering it before I blew my top and said that would be insane.) My boyfriend’s parents aren’t very nurturing people, so I can understand why he likes his ex’s mom as a mother figure. But he needs to build a life with me. If we got married, then my husband’s ex’s mom would be my mother-in-law!
A: If you’re viewing a Thanksgiving invite as “insane,” it seems the fear of her has eclipsed the true threat she poses in reality.
I can understand your unease, given that their closeness serves as a reminder of the fact that he loved another woman before he loved you. But is it really fair to expect him to cut a supportive parental figure out of his life? Building a life with you doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game against someone he’s come to love over the course of a decade and a half.
Andrea Bonior is a psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix.” www.drandreabonior.com