Q: I’ve been friends with this guy for over 10 years. Nothing romantic has ever happened between us, and he’s happily engaged; I recently received his wedding invitation in the mail. However, he called me last night when he was drunk and confessed that he had feelings for me and thinks about me all the time. From the level of drunk he sounded, I am not sure if he remembers this phone call. Do I confront him or pretend it didn’t happen? Do I still attend the wedding?
Professed Love of Engaged Friend
A: Even in the worst case — he secretly loves you! in vino veritas! his engagement is a sham! — none of the obligations here is on you.
His secret feelings would be entirely his to reckon with.
His inability to face a wrenching truth sober would be entirely his to reckon with.
His willingness to marry someone while secretly loving someone else would be her problem, too, of course — but he’s still the only one in a position to reckon with that.
If you guys are close then, yes, say something. If he’s someone you’d casually call or text, then check in with a noncommittal, “Weird call — everything OK?” But if you’re just acquainted through a group of friends — i.e., never gone out of your way to hang out with each other one-on-one — then there’s a case to be made for developing compassionate amnesia. Remain his friend as you always have been, and go to the wedding as you always intended. Take shelter in the many ways it’s possible this call didn’t mean a thing. If there’s more to his feelings for you, then it’s wholly on him to act.
Q: I’ve been friends with a buddy for over 30 years. However, he recently said something in an email that was so gross and offensive, I wish to end the friendship. This isn’t something I feel can be talked out and resolved. I just don’t want to be friends with someone so disgusting and offensive. This isn’t the first time, but the straw has now broken the camel’s back. So how does someone go about such a task? I can’t just contact him and say, “Been nice knowing you, but don’t contact me anymore,” though that’s the result I’m wanting.
A: Actually, you can just contact him and say that. And while I generally don’t recommend holding important conversations by email or text — so much emotional nuance gets lost — you also can reasonably, in this case, hit “reply” and write back that his words were so offensive that you can no longer consider him a friend.
Just because it feels weird and awkward doesn’t mean telling him the truth is the wrong thing to do.
The alternatives are to carry on as if nothing has changed except to maintain a discreet distance, or to remove him from your life without explanation. Each has its place in the business of disengaging with unpleasant people, but an up-till-now active 30-year friendship is not one of those places. A history as long as yours deserves a concise airing of your grievance.
Washington Post Writers Group