Just received this letter from a reader seeking advice on a friendship in crisis....
Dear Social Grace:
I have an old friend, JJ, who has recently behaved in a way that has made me question our friendship. Over the years, he has occasionally been has been rude and disrespectful to me, but I have always let things go. Recently something occurred that I feel was simply over the line. It upset me greatly. I wanted your advice as to how I should proceed.
I have been married for 5 years and last year my elderly mother moved in with me and my husband. My husband and JJ know each other but are not close at all. My husband knows that JJ and I are friends, but sometimes feels a little insecure and threatened by the relationship. JJ has a lot of female friends who really are just friends. There has never been a romantic aspect to my friendship with JJ. We used to spend more time together before I was married, but not as much lately--partly because my husband would not be overjoyed and partly because I have other responsibilities and limited time. JJ knows this. In light of this, JJ is aware that if my husband knew what happened below, he would be upset.
Recently, JJ had a day off and decided to visit me--unannounced. (I work at home.) When he stopped by, I wasn't even home. Upon my return from the grocery store, I saw that his car was in my driveway and apparently he was inside. When I entered the house, I found JJ and his dog visiting with my mother. I was immediately annoyed by all of this. For safety reasons, I do not want my very frail and elderly mother answering the door, and I felt that JJ had been intrusive.
He knew I was upset by all this: the 'surprise' visit; the fact he was already inside my house with my mother; and that he brought the dog. I was not very friendly, and suggested that he'd better get going soon since I had some work to do. But before he left, the dog left a pile on my carpet.
After he left I called and told him that I thought he was out of line. He didn't seem to get it. Then he told me that I have no love in my heart or home. I then said that he was rude and disrespectful to me and that I was upset. He told me then I shouldn't call him anymore.
What do you think?
Oh, my. Must pause for deep, cleansing breath. So much rudeness in so little time.
I have two different strategies for you; you choose the one that feels right:
1. Take JJ's advice (i.e. don't call). He behaved badly on several different fronts, not, as you mentioned, for the first time. The ball is now squarely in his court to make it right. By my count he owes you apologies for several infractions, but people as inconsiderate as JJ seems to be rarely see it that way.
To accuse someone of being short of love in heart and home who has worked to maintain a friendship with JJ while being respectful and sensitive to your husband's feelings AND to have taken your elderly mother into your home is clearly someone who has plenty of both. Pardon the cliche, but "with friends like JJ, who needs enemies?".
2. Wait a few days and call him again. Calmly explain the reasons for your feelings. Give him a chance to say his piece. He may genuinely miss your companionship and have gone about seeking it in a clumsy and inappropriate way. If the conversation is productive and positive, and you decide that you want to maintain the friendship, consider including JJ and your husband together in some group outings so they can get acquainted and possibly forge a peaceful and non-threatening relationship.
Please, please tell me that he cleaned up after the dog.