The Humanist Dilemma: When Politics and Anger Sabotage a Friendship

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My Spouse was Rude and Now I’m Dropped: Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, my spouse was at an event and ran into a couple who were my friends. He saw they were wearing pins supporting the candidate he opposed, and he got into a heated conversation with them that ended with my husband telling them to get the f*** away from him.

I was mortified. As soon as I he told me what happened, I sent them both an email apologizing for him and reminding them that, unlike my spouse, I voted for the same person they support. I never got a reply. I tried again a few weeks later with an unrelated forward I thought they would find amusing. Radio silence. It has now been months without a word. For the past fifteen years, the wife of the couple and I got together for lunch regularly as well as attended each other’s milestone events. Years ago I stopped making plans for the four of us since my husband never cared for either of them, and I’m not fond of her husband. But I still enjoyed maintaining my relationship with her.

I feel miffed that my spouse couldn’t contain himself and cost me a friend, but I am even more miffed that my friend apparently dumped me, a totally separate person who doesn’t even share my spouse’s views on this (and I would still be miffed if I did share his views).

There was no point in asking my spouse to apologize, since he would have refused. Was there anything else I could or should have done about this, or should do now after all this time?

—He’s Not Me


Dear Not Me,

All I can suggest is that you attempt to persuade your husband to avoid hot-button topics like politics and religion in future social settings. It may not have any effect, but you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If he can’t or won’t contain himself, he could at least respect your relationships (what if it had been your boss?) and back off if he isn’t able to be polite.

There’s also the question of what your friends said to your husband and how they said it to elicit his irate response. They may not be innocent either. But the overriding fact is that this couple was so brittle, they scuttled you—an innocent party who wasn’t even present—because they were offended by him. Real friends don’t do that. Especially after you reached out to say, “I’m not him and I care about our friendship.” Apparently, the feeling is not mutual.

We all have friendships that drop like autumn leaves over time. Sometimes we never even notice. Sometimes it’s just attrition. Sometimes it’s prioritizing how we want to spend leisure hours. Sometimes there’s more reason to abandon a relationship than to maintain it. This one is out of your hands and you need to let go. We can’t keep everyone in our circle forever, so it’s fine to allow nature—or an incident—to take its course. Make lunch plans with other friends.