DEAR NATALIE: My parents are less-than-enthused about my current partner. Let’s just say they have a sordid past and will be spending some time in prison. They won’t be spending a long time there, but it is substantial enough that my parents feel as though we should break up and that I should move on. I love my partner and think they are a good person who got caught up in a bad situation. I don’t want to just abandon them as they embark on this difficult journey. We are nothing alike, and I know my parents question why I am with them. But I see a person who could be so amazing if they were just encouraged, supported and loved. They are incredibly kind to me and no one has ever treated me so well. I want to give this relationship a chance, but I also worry about my parents and what they will say down the road if things get really serious.
– STAY OR GO
DEAR STAY OR GO: Don’t play with broken toys, was a message my grandma always gave me when it came to dating. In other words, it isn’t your mess to clean up, it isn’t yours to fix. Recognizing the good in someone is a special gift. Wanting to nurture that good is noble. But unless they are also committed to being the best version of themselves moving forward, you can’t do the work for them. This could be a turning point for them, as well. Perhaps giving them space to sort things out while they are away could give you both the time and clarity you need to see if there is something worth fighting for on the other side. When they are out, and if you still feel a bond, then meet and see if a friendship can be forged to lay a foundation for something stronger. But they need to put in the work. I applaud you for looking beyond someone’s actions and recognizing their potential beyond their mistakes. Our system of mass incarceration is full of flaws and major problems that need to be addressed, so leading with compassion is important and impactful. But you are allowed to keep growing and going along your own path. Once this is behind them, only then can you find out if what you had was worth holding onto.
DEAR NATALIE: My friend divorced recently and I was the last to know what was going on. In fact, I only found out when our mutual friend invited us to her “divorce party.” I was really disgusted to even be included in something so crass, and I told my friend that I didn’t even know they were having marital problems. “Oh yea, she’s been miserable for months,” is what my friend said to me. For months? I had just been out with her and her husband several weeks before this announcement and they seemed fine. I also didn’t appreciate my friend confiding in everyone before me. I don’t think I want to go to this party. We are very good friends with her soon-to-be ex-husband, as well. Do you think if I skip it I’ll look as though I’m choosing sides? I care about her, of course, but why celebrate something so sad? It doesn’t sit well with me. Thoughts on this? – WHY A PARTY?
DEAR WHY A PARTY: Perhaps your friend didn’t confide in you because even in this letter, I can hear the judgment in your voice coming through the keys. You don’t have to go to this party. In fact, it may be better that you don’t, considering how you feel. I would call your friend or meet her privately for coffee or a drink to learn more about what happened if she is willing to share. Don’t center yourself in this. When people are going through a traumatic experience, it is important that they are sharing space with people who will be supportive and empathic. It’s fine to remain friends with both parties as long as you realize that one of the parties may not want to remain friends with you for that decision. Very rarely does remaining Switzerland work out well for friendships during a divorce. If you can’t be there for her right now, I suggest you send flowers or a card at the very least.
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