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by Abigail Van Buren

Longtime Friend Runs Out of Patience With Warring Couple

DEAR ABBY: I have some friends -- a married couple -- who are very dear to me but who drain me emotionally. The husband has been disabled for well over a decade. Although they have a home care nurse, the wife is his primary caregiver.

I know their situation is horrible, and I have offered my help only to be refused. They won't let anyone help, yet the wife is always complaining that she has no help. The husband is very angry and nasty to her, and her behavior has become passive-aggressive toward him.

The only conversations we have anymore are about how horribly they are treated by the other one. It's like they're competing to see who is the bigger victim. The wife calls when she needs to vent, but vetoes any suggestions. We have a long history together, but it has reached the point where I dread talking to them. I hate to withdraw, but I am emotionally drained. What should I do? -- EXHAUSTED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR EXHAUSTED: It's time to tell these unhappy people what you told me. They may not like hearing what you have to say, so be prepared.

Suggest the wife join a caregiver support group. The other members will relate to what has been happening and may be able to offer her some suggestions. The husband is angry because his life hasn't turned out the way he had planned, but that doesn't mean he has a right to abuse her. A licensed marriage and family therapist might be able to help them repair their damaged relationship if it isn't too late.

And while you're at it, tell them that unless they stop dragging you into their dysfunction, for the sake of your own mental health you will have to have less to do with them. It's the truth.

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors