Dear Amy: I made friends with “Bruce” at a yoga class about 10 years ago.
We’d meet for classes and then grab dinner.
I moved away about a year into the friendship, and we lost touch.
Just before the pandemic, Bruce was visiting the city where I lived and looked me up.
We grabbed dinner and he told me he had no close friends (his previous friends had ghosted him) and that he had considered suicide.
I told him to get in touch any time, and that he was welcome to visit. I also told him to seek help.
He took me up on the offer and started visiting every two or three months (including on Christmas and for his birthday) – and stayed for two or three days each time. We didn’t have much to talk about. Bruce was fussy and demanding and frankly, I hated the visits, but I felt responsible.
He also complained nonstop about his family and coworkers. It sounded like he’d also complained to them about me.
Now I’ve moved back to the city where Bruce still lives. He’s made more friends, is closer to his family, has a girlfriend, and seems well.
When I meet him now, though, he still complains nonstop about everyone in his life, reporting petty slights and missteps – and I just nod and listen.
How can I end this friendship?
Do I owe it to him to remain in the friendship since he confided in me about his depression?
I’m wondering whether just pulling away (being busy when he wants to meet) is kinder than telling him the reasons.
– Downward Facing Friend
Dear Downward: You seem to have been an extremely compassionate and patient friend to “Bruce” when he needed you – or seemed to need you.
You seem also to have never placed any boundaries around your relationship with him.
You took his mentioning the possibility of depression and suicide as a cry for help, and you did your very best to help him through a dark time in his life.
However, you don’t report that you are a clinician or mental health professional; this is an extremely heavy burden for a friend to carry.
You don’t say whether he ever received professional help, but Bruce may have used the opportunities to vent and temporarily relieve his own anxieties with you as a reason to avoid getting other help.
Because of the combination of Bruce’s manipulations and your challenges creating boundaries, I do suggest a slow backing away. Yes – be busy.
If he confronts or pushes you, congratulate him on creating a healthier and happier life. Encourage him to continue.
You might do some work on your own to learn new ways to create and maintain healthy boundaries.
Dear Amy: I have a common question, but now that it has come up in my own household, it feels unique to our family.
Before having children, my wife and I agreed that I would be the stay-at-home parent, and she would continue with her career.
Fortunately, she has a fulfilling career that also pays enough to fully support our household.
When we adopted our first child, I left my job and stayed home. It worked out well.
Now we have two young children. My wife’s career has also intensified. She works hard and finds her career fulfilling.
The issue is about what happens when she gets home.
She’s great with the kids, but has stated that basically all of the work related to the children and our home should fall onto me.
The way I see it, her idea is that she should work 40-50 hours a week at her career, and I should work 168 hours a week at … everything else.
What is the right balance?
– Weary Wives
Dear Weary: In my opinion, the most balanced arrangement is that your job is to 100 percent maintain hearth and children during the hours when your wife is working outside the home.
When your wife comes home, your workload there should decrease to 50 percent, and hers should increase to 50 percent.
Dear Amy: “Taken Aback” wrote that her parents were considering opening their marriage, and she couldn’t figure out why her mother had told her this.
If her parents are truly interested in polyamory, her mother might have been trying to prepare her for the possibility of other people becoming part of the family.
Dear E: I think of “open marriage” more as pursuing various partners and polyamory as more permanent family-bonding, but you could be right about this.