A friendship falters as forgiveness fades

Dear Amy: A dear friend of mine of many years got angry with me and treated me very poorly. She apologized, I accepted and we moved on.

I don’t want to lose the friendship, however I am on edge around her because I am afraid of doing something else that might set her off.

I don’t know how to handle this.

I am even fearful of trying to discuss this with her.

Do you have any suggestions?

— Embarrassed in NY

Dear Embarrassed: You don’t seem to have fully believed or accepted your friend’s apology. You have not successfully moved on.

Forgiveness is a heavy lift. So is friendship. If your friend’s reaction was out of the blue and out of character, you should try to imagine what might be going on in her own life that might trigger this sort of reaction.

If you are so fearful of this person’s reaction that you won’t even risk broaching the topic with her, then your friendship is not back on track. If you want your friendship to be restored and functional, you need to be brave enough to bring up this incident.

Try: “I want you to know that I’m still struggling with some emotional fallout from our upsetting disagreement. Can we talk about this some more? I really want to get back on track.”

She may say, “Hey, I’ve apologized already. You need to get over it.”

This is the knee-jerk reaction of someone who is at fault and wants to throttle past their wrongdoing. And that’s when you should try to be brave and vulnerable to say, “Well, I’m still struggling.”

Dear Amy: I’m in a bind.

A year ago, my wife died. At the time, I told only our close friends. It was hard enough telling them, much less anyone else.

It’s still difficult for me to talk about.

Now I’m getting announcements about life events from the friends that I didn’t tell, about their new grandchildren, or of their daughters or sons getting married.

I don’t know what to tell them. I want to congratulate them, but I also feel that they deserve to be told about my wife.

It doesn’t seem right to reply to their wonderful news with my tragic news. I don’t know what to do. Can you help?

— Wondering Widower

Dear Wondering: Yes, you should start to tell people about your wife’s death. If you can’t bring yourself to do this under any circumstances, I wonder if you can appoint a surrogate to handle this. If you have an intimate friend who you think might be particularly good at this, I think anyone who knows you and loves you would be happy to take on this task in order to help you through it.

Otherwise, write out a little script for yourself. Work on it until it sounds the way you want it to sound.

Maybe this will get you started: “Congratulations on your new grandchild. This is great news, and I know this will mark a new and joyful chapter for you. I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch recently, but unfortunately I have sad news of my own to share…”

I’m very sorry you are going through this. Keep in mind that sharing this news gives people the opportunity to express their sympathy, memories and love for you and your late wife. Receiving this outpouring might be hard for you in the moment, but I do believe you will feel better in the long run.

Dear Amy: I loved your response to “Clean,” the woman whose mother-in-law would come to her house and clean like a maniac. You suspected that her mother-in-law might have OCD.

I have lived with OCD (with a co-diagnosis of social anxiety), and it’s best to just let us soothe ourselves for a few moments and we’ll be back to normal again.

This MIL needs to find ways to prepare herself and plan before social gatherings so that she can enjoy time with family and friends.

No matter what we go through, we have to be mindful to maintain those strong relationships with the people who love us.

— Happy OCD Mom

Dear Happy: I presented OCD as an idea, not a definitive diagnosis (I can’t diagnose anyone) — mainly because this person’s cleaning seemed to be somewhat ritualized and obsessive. I was also hoping that the daughter-in-law could see this as a soothing ritual, versus a verdict on the cleanliness of her own house.

Thank you for sharing your insight.