The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

Taking a gamble on a friendship

It's always risky to tell a friend something they don't want to hear.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I am a 52-year-old woman who had a very close friendship with a young girl in her late 20s whom I worked with for about two years. We met at our training class and continued once out on the floor.

I'm a young minded person and get along with mostly every one. I have a 24-year-old daughter of my own so I made sure to never put my two cents in when this friend would talk about her relationship with her fiancé.

My friend was going through one of the most exciting times in her life. Her fiancé had just joined his first law firm as an attorney after working as a state defender; my friend was going back to school for her Masters degree. So life looked to be very good for both of them. I went through the excitement of the engagement ring and also attended the engagement party.

One day, she mentioned that she had sat with him at a casino that weekend and watched him play poker. Then a couple of weeks later while working a Saturday she mentioned she was going to meet him at the casino. That is when my concern set it.

I was previously married for seven years to a man who had a gambling addiction. By the time we met, he had been going to casinos for years and placing bets with a bookie. He was out of control and had no intentions of ever stopping. After years of neglecting his marriage and thousands of dollars loss each year, I was no longer able to bear it so the marriage was over. Through conversations with him, I learned that while still in his twenties, he had control and knew when to stop but I guess like drugs or alcohol, gambling can get out of control and take over your life.

I was in the process of moving out of state and a couple of months before I left, I told her to be careful and mentioned my experience. Looking back, that was not the thing to say. Almost immediately, she changed her attitude towards me and made it obvious that she didn't care to associate with me. Possibly I threw an axe in her beautiful life and, at that point, while planning her wedding it wasn't something she cared to hear.

Anyway, I have come to realize with our age difference I shouldn't let it bother me and I know that she still has a lot to learn in life and I wish her well. I did email her once after my move and she did not reply. Just curious what your take is on this situation.

Thanks,

Robin

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ANSWER

Dear Robin,

It's always risky to tell a friend something they don't want to hear. Based on your experience with your former husband, you are probably someone who is exquisitely sensitive to the potential problems of living with a gambling addiction. While there is some possibility that your concerns about this woman and her fiancé may be misplaced, my hunch is that you hit on a real problem and that's why your friend reacted so defensively.

It may be that you weren't the first person to raise this concern. Perhaps, this is something she's been worried about but has been unable to face. Unfortunately, since she was in the throes of the heady excitement of planning a wedding, your message may have been on-target but its timing may have been wrong.

Even though you consider yourself "young-minded," there is a significant age different between you and your friend. Adding fuel to the fire, she may have reacted to you as an authority or parental figure who was questioning her judgment.

At this point, if you still miss having contact with your friend, write her a note. Tell her you miss her and you hope things are going well for her, both at work and personally. Even if she doesn't respond to you now, she may do so in the future when she's ready. While you can't intervene any further or tell her what to do, you can let her know you're there as a support if she needs you.

Best,
Irene

 

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Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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