DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend "Kim" has been having a rough time recently. She is going through a lot, but she's lashing out at me due to stress. I understand she has a lot on her plate (a critically ill parent, children in trouble at school and a stressful job), but this has been months of me feeling emotionally drained every time she calls me to vent or chastise me for not doing a favor properly for her, like unloading the dishwasher. When can I reach my boiling point? I feel bad for her, but I need to preserve my sanity. -- Emotional Crutch, South Bend, Indiana
DEAR EMOTIONAL CRUTCH: You have every right to speak up for yourself right now. You are Kim’s friend. You are not her therapist. You should schedule a time to see Kim so that you can speak face-to-face. Tell her how sorry you are that she is going through so much difficulty right now. Make it clear to her how much you love her and wish that her load would not be so hard to bear. Then tell her that you also forgive her for being unkind, harsh or unreasonable in her interactions with you, but you need her to know you cannot handle her intense ways of communicating with you anymore. It is wearing you down. Suggest that she see a mental health professional who can give her strategies for handling her life’s challenges. Let her know that her difficulties right now are too much for you to manage. Be clear that you are not abandoning her; you will continue to support her as you are able, but you believe she needs professional help.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am about to become an empty nester. I spent the past 20 years taking care of my children, and now I have only a few months left with children at home. I am completely unsure about how I am going to react. Most of my friends work at least part time, but I haven’t had a job in decades. Should I attempt to get into the workforce? Should I try to find a new passion? My husband has not been helpful during this time. -- Every Chick Gone, Mamaroneck, New York
DEAR EVERY CHICK GONE: A good friend of mine gave me a piece of advice when my daughter was born: namely to put my husband first before my child. "Why?" I exclaimed, rather shocked. “Because one day your child will leave, and all you will have is each other.” That was great advice.
Rather than bemoan what will happen when your children are gone, begin to cultivate bonding activities with your husband. Reinstate date night once a week. Plan fun activities that you both enjoy, and rekindle the bond between the two of you.
Personally, I think it might be perfect to take a class to learn something that interests you greatly but that you haven’t taken the time to consider. You can also volunteer for a charity or hospital where you give your time and resources to others in need.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)