Friend Upmanship

29 Jul

Dear LetterBalm: My 15-year-old son’s best friend attends his school and comes from a wealthy family. When he is with this boy, his friend’s parents take him for posh dinners and outings. Last month they took him on an oceangoing yacht for a weekend cruise. The month before that it was a full-blown wilderness experience. My wife and I can’t afford to treat them so lavishly. My son is beginning to act like he should have special treatment. He and his friend are good, grounded kids, and his friend doesn’t act entitled. I don’t want my son to become a selfish jerk. What can I say to him that will resonate?

–Concerned Dad

It’s good that you have a solid rapport with your son. Ms. L.B. wants you to cut your son some slack. He’s experiencing some heady times, and, well, his head is turned. You and your wife can be good role models by example in this situation – and, so can your son’s friend. Even though he’s rich, the young man is humble and worthy. Talk with your son about values and how money doesn’t equal merit. Tell him that your home is open to anyone of any financial background, as long as the individual is a solid human being:

Travis, you’ve been having some great times recently with Blake. His parents have been very generous, haven’t they? I’m glad you’re such good friends with Blake. I’ve known both of you since you were in kindergarten, and I see how you are good role models for each other. You’re a person with good work habits, and he’s a humble person who doesn’t act like his family has a lot of money. The last thing your mom and I would want is for you to feel entitled to special treatment or expensive things. Money doesn’t automatically equal merit. We didn’t raise you that way, and, in fact, we can’t compete with wealth. What we can give – and I hope you know how valuable this is – is a home and parents who are always open to your friends from all walks of life.

Grill Master

28 Jul

Letterbalm GrillDear LetterBalm: I have a friend I’ve known for years who’s a tyrant about food. She insists on lengthy conversations with waiters, butchers and greengrocers, and she’s a stickler – to the point of annoying us all – about her healthy food habits and our unhealthy ones. Well, she’s invited to a big barbecue we’re throwing for our son who’s going into the Army next month. Her latest thing is she doesn’t eat red meat, and she’s told my husband she wants him to clean the grill thoroughly after he grills meat and before he cooks any of her (special) salmon and our vegetable kabobs she feels she can eat. We’ve got 50 people coming, and there’s no way he can do this. I need to stop this, but she’s very sensitive and will probably get angry.

–Griller’s Wife

So your friend gets huffy and wanders your backyard averting her eyes from the grilled burgers, steak, sausages, chicken, veggies … oh, yum. Ms. L.B. wants an invite. Ordinarily, it is praiseworthy that your fastidious friend isn’t eating red meat. (And such a correct food maven as she is should be eating only wild salmon because studies have shown that farmed salmon isn’t as beneficial as it’s cracked up to be.) Now, you act as sweet as pie – Wait. Will there be pie? – and tell her this:

Martha dear, we certainly are aware of your food concerns, but there is no way Norm can clean the grill for you. If you want, he can grill your salmon and a vegetable kabob first. But there will be other foods on the grill at the same time, and he’ll be using the same grill tongs and implements for everything. Also, I’m afraid I’m going to be too busy with the guests and preparation to cook your salmon in the kitchen. I hope this won’t be a problem for you. It would be a shame if you stayed away. We so want you to be there with us as we show support for Denny and the new chapter in his life.  

Falling Out of Love?

25 Jul

Letterbalm Sad Older Woman with ManDear LetterBalm: My husband died unexpectedly four years ago. I wasn’t looking for someone, but I met a man. We dated for about a year, when he got a job posting across the country. My children were grown, so I left a job I loved, my hometown, family and friends to be with him. I thought we were good together, and I got a good job and made friends in my new city. But in recent months, he has been in a temper and refused to speak to me. He also accused me of forcing him to visit my daughter and her husband for the birth of my grandson. Now he says we can live together, but no physical contact, no sex, no warmth. I don’t recognize him. I’m feeling very low, and I need to get to the bottom of this.

–Sad and Mystified

Indeed, the dynamics of your relationship have changed. Are you sure there isn’t a physical reason for his new behavior? As painful as it may be to consider, he may no longer love you, and he may feel guilty about telling you because you gave up so much to move cross-country with him. Perhaps he thinks that if he withholds physical affection, you’ll break things off with him and go home. Ms. L.B. urges you to give him the opportunity to come clean – you owe it to yourself. You’re not too old to make another life for yourself. Don’t replay this with family and friends for now. Talk with him gently and calmly (practice first, if you think you need to):

Larry, I think you know we need to have a serious, absolutely honest talk. You have become annoyed and distant toward me, and you have said that there will be no more sex or even cuddling and warmth. Dear, this is so out of character for you. Is there something I need to know about? If it’s a health problem or you’ve had a change of heart or you’ve met someone else, I’m a big girl, and I can take it. I know I gave up a lot to be with you, but I don’t want that to influence you. I came here freely because I loved you, and I’ve been happy here. But if you want to end our relationship, tell me in no uncertain terms. We’ve been together for too long to start making up excuses. And, we both deserve a full relationship or there is no reason for us to be together. Please talk to me.


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