Andrea Bonior

Dr. Andrea Bonior
Special to The Washington Post

Q. I recently broke up with someone I was with for four years. We were supposed to go to my best friend’s wedding in October and had responded as a couple. My friend has told me that my ex has now “updated” his RSVP to be bringing a date. She is upset because they do not have the extra space. I am upset because I don’t want to see him with another woman all night. (I will be going solo no matter what. Maid of honor duties and other close friends will keep me occupied.) The problem is she wants me to talk to him and tell him not to bring someone. We are now a little tense about this because I don’t feel it’s my duty to do so and I really don’t want to talk to him and it will seem like I am just jealous. Tiebreaker vote?

A. Sorry to your friend, but she can’t just outsource “bouncer at my wedding” to the ex of the person being problematic. Especially when that ex doesn’t want the gig. I am sure she has much on her plate and is assuming you and Ex are in contact anyway (are you?). But it is a simple logistical issue for her to address, whereas for you to address it, it goes beyond logistics. The time for her to intervene was immediately after the “updating” (by what means did he do this? Stealing the little embossed card and resending it?), but late is better than never. “Sorry, but the caterer already had the final count” sounds good to me.

Q. My mother’s cruelty is increasing as she gets older. She was always critical and somewhat cold, but now she has nothing positive to say, ever. I know she is depressed about recent health problems (she is in her mid-80s and getting frail), but I am having a super hard time striking a balance between letting it bounce off me versus telling her that it is not OK to act that way, which will only escalate further.

A. You may not be able to change her behavior, but you can remove yourself from the situations where it gets to be too much for you — a line that you alone get to decide. Whether it means ending the phone call, leaving the room or even leaving her home, it is not reasonable to force yourself to endure repeated cruelty. So that is where the balance is — neither expecting yourself to be emotional Teflon nor escalating it nor giving her the chance to keep testing you. “I don’t feel that that’s kind, Mom.” “Let’s change the subject, please.” “That’s hard for me to listen to. If you keep talking that way, I’m going to need to end this phone call/my visit.”
You should also, of course, try to help her get some support — health problems, decreased mobility and isolation are mentally grueling, even for those folks who started off chipper — but you need to protect yourself whether she takes it or not.

Q. I have recently realized that a close friend is a habitual liar. She had always been an exaggerator, and she likes drama and big stories and entertaining people. However, she had a pretty big story about what happened at her workplace — an extreme situation — and I have since gotten to know a co-worker of hers at yoga and apparently this thing never happened. At all. The co-worker had no idea what I was talking about. I don’t know what to do with this information.

A. First, it is worth my saying: Can you be certain that this wasn’t a big misunderstanding? (All right, all right. I didn’t think so either.) Pick a private time that won’t feel like an ambush, and bring this latest discrepancy up in a polite, “curious” and “puzzled” way. Be aware that no matter how kind you are, she might go on the defensive — especially if she feels like she has been found out and had never imagined her fabrications would ever be a problem. Say that something strange happened when you were chatting with X, and you are confused, and want to get her take on it. But since you already suspect that her lying is a chronic issue, you have to figure out what you are looking for out of this conversation: her side of the story? An explanation of why she does it? Her awareness that you are onto her? Her chance to make things right? Her being put on notice that if it keeps up, you are jumping ship from the friendship? Be prepared if this starts a fire.

Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist.


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