Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: Is it ever OK to veto one of your significant other's friendships? My boyfriend is thinking of getting back in touch with a friend of his who was an alcoholic who self-destructed and refused help - at which point my boyfriend ended his friendship with him.
I do not want an alcoholic in my life, I can't see how this is a good idea, and I'm not comfortable with this at all.
Hax: Er, major piece of information missing: Has the friend since gotten sober, or is he still abusing?
Be careful, too, how you throw those absolutes around. "I do not want an alcoholic in my life" is the kind of thing that inspires people to say, "I do not want judgmental people in my life." Someone who gets and stays sober is still an alcoholic; is that person also unworthy of you?
Reader: No, it is not OK to veto one of your significant other's friendships. The only thing it is OK to do is to remove yourself from situations you don't want to be in. You cannot control anything another person does/says/thinks. I believe this is Rule No. 1 of Hax. And to quote Monty Python, Rule 2, same as Rule 1.
Hax: Yep, that, thanks.
You do have the right, in exceptional situations, to object strenuously (reference to a different kind of cinematic comedy) to a friendship and ask your partner to end it. The classic example is someone with whom your partner cheated on you, or someone else who deliberately tried to harm you or the relationship. If you are not personally injured by this objectionable friend, then I see the bar as pretty high - abuse, for example. Child pornography. Animal cruelty.
Of course, when you get to any of these points, you're often right back to "remove yourself from situations you don't want to be in," relationships included.
Reader: Just because the boyfriend is going to see his former friend, doesn't mean the girlfriend needs to. Do they not ever socialize apart?
Hax: True. However, if experience says that an innocent-sounding "going to see his former friend" will quickly morph into receiving wee-hours phone calls to bail out a still-drinking alcoholic friend, then I think a little leeway on this is fair.
For the last word, I'm throwing in a third movie reference: "You'll never be a first-class human being ... until you've learned to have some regard for human frailty." (http://bit.ly/GQ6Q5N)
Question: My father recently passed away. My adult stepdaughter, who has always been somewhat of a challenge, has known my father just about all her life, and texted me a message of condolence. I am having a hard time with that. I know she is of the "social media" generation but isn't that taking it a bit too far?
Answer: I could easily agree, but instead I urge you not to look for reasons to be disappointed in people. You will always, always find them.
Instead, please look for reasons to be grateful: Your always-challenging stepdaughter thought of you and expressed her sympathy.
I'm sorry for your loss.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.