Q. In college, I had a pretty major crush on a schoolmate. She briefly shared my feelings, but after graduating and moving to different towns it became clear she did not feel "that way" anymore.
I tried to have a "where do we stand" conversation. She got very angry that I still had feelings for her and stopped speaking to me for three months. Then she resumed friendship mode, but we were not to discuss my feelings for her or how she reacted to them. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I was so grateful that she still wanted to be friends, I agreed.
Over the next near-decade, my crush fizzled out. I began to see that I'm just not that important to her. And, although she has many good qualities, I'm not among the people she shows those good qualities. Our contact dwindled to once a year or less. I moved on to other things.
Well, she is visiting my city and wants to hang out, acting as if we are long-lost best friends. I thought I had gotten over my feelings, but I'm incredibly angry with her for her long-ago behavior and dreading her visit.
Interacting with her makes me feel strangely disempowered; I've let her call the shots all along. Now I am supposed to jump for joy about how amazing it will be to "reconnect." "Reconnect what?" I want to ask.
Is the mature thing just to get over my hurt/anger (it's been YEARS) and enjoy this friendship? Or is it to listen to my gut, which is warning me that I always seem ready to ask, "How high?" when she says to jump?
A. I can feel how gratifying it'll be to cancel.
That's the temptation you probably want to resist.
Probably. What you don't want is to perform for her, be it to show up to please her or blow her off to spite her, since she'll still own you then.
What you do want is to make this one choice fully and gloriously for you. Wanna go, or not? Imagine yourself free to do exactly what your heart needs, because that's exactly what you are.
Q. Our good friends just visited with their kids, which we do every two or three months. The couple has been at odds for years, and last night they barely spoke; the husband tried to talk to the wife, but the only time she responded was to degrade him.
Their daughter, always a drama queen, continued with the show, leaving the house on at least two occasions and complaining (with curse words) what a terrible father she has.
The husband has proposed family counseling, but the wife refuses. We really like the couple, but last night was so uncomfortable we are not sure if we can continue getting together. Any thoughts?
A. It's time for the one of you who is closer to one of them to call that one with a concerned but friendly, "What the heck was that? You OK?" And: "We care and don't want to stop visiting, but because we care, lately the visits upset us."
They're in this every day; no doubt the incremental nature of their decay has made the extent of it hard to see.
• Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.
© 2012 The Washington Post