Ask Amy: Depressed friend can’t be happy for others
Dear Amy: My partner “Deanne” and I are living well. We moved from an expensive large city closer to her family and we both got jobs right before the pandemic hit. We have been working from home and saving money. We are very lucky. We love each other very much, and are very supportive during this depressing time. We are planning to get married.
My problem is that Deanne’s friend “Stella” doesn’t like it when Deanne talks about me or our relationship.
We have been trying to play online games with faraway friends.
After introducing one game, Deanne suggested that her friend’s partner and I join next time with others in the friend group to increase the numbers.
Stella made an issue about it, saying, “Maybe I would invite a partner to join, if I had one ...”
Stella’s relationship broke up during the pandemic. She also is trying to be a mother, and these depressing times have made her feel stressed.
Deanne and her friends have tried to be emotionally supportive, but she also doesn’t share in the joy of her friends.
Another person in the group shared cute baby photos, and Stella’s response was, “He’s cute, but I can’t be happy for others right now.”
Should we lie and say that things are horrible for us? Should we give her more space? — Not Lonely
Dear Not Lonely: You seem to view this as a binary: You are doing well. You are very happy. Your friend “Stella” is not doing well. She is depressed and unhappy. Stella is doing what many depressed people do NOT do: She is acknowledging it and trying to talk about it. Her blunt statements are making you uncomfortable, and so you are somewhat cynically suggesting that the only way to cope with her negativity is to lie to her. But you have other choices.
I agree with you that Stella is being self-focused and somewhat rude to declare that she can’t be happy for people who are doing well. But she is doing what we actually want people to do: she is stating how she feels. You should not hide your own good fortune under a bushel, but you should also modulate how you report on your awesome life. When she bluntly states that she can’t be happy for people, her friends could honestly respond that they want to be as supportive as possible while she goes through this rough patch.
Dear Amy: For years our large family has followed a plan for Christmas giving. My generation is now in their 60s and 70s and the next generation is not interested in following our previous plan.
I suggested that each of the sisters (five) buy one gift for each of the other sisters this year and not extending the giving further. Four of us voted yes.
Our fifth sister, who was out voted, then sent an email to all of us that she would not be participating this year, leaving the four of us to exchange gifts.
She says she is overwhelmed by all the other presents she has to buy for her immediate family and the fact that our husbands will not be receiving any gifts from “The Plan” this year.
Most of us will be having Christmas alone. One sister lost her husband this year and this will be a difficult holiday for her.
Should we carry on with our decision, return to original plan, or nix gift-giving, while heavily shaming the one sister? — Dismayed and Disgruntled
Dear Dismayed: Being disgruntled when someone reports being overwhelmed directly subverts the whole gift-giving concept.
Christmas should be about reconciliation and generosity, not score-keeping and retaliation.
I think all of you sisters should be loving and generous toward one another, by including the sister who is so overwhelmed. That generosity could take the shape of a warmly worded card, a specialty fruitcake to help feed her family, or just a simple acknowledgment that it’s OK for her to drop out of “The Plan” this year, with no hard feelings attached.
Dear Amy: Your response to “Suspicious” seemed fairly responsible and complete, but she said she had PTSD after a cheating incident 20 years ago.
I assure you, adultery does not bring on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder! — Upset
Dear Upset: “Suspicious” said she believed she “had a form of PTSD” after this cheating episode. PTSD is extremely serious, but the term seems to have entered the lexicon as a shorthand to describe extreme distress. I didn’t take her wording literally.