Dear Annie: When I was a freshman in high school, I became friends with "Agnes," who was (like me) something of a social outcast. Agnes still considers me to be her best friend. That was 10 years ago.
We have both grown up to be very different people. I am repelled by Agnes' lifestyle of promiscuity and high-risk behaviors. Although she is free with praise and is loyal in an odd sort of way, she is incredibly narcissistic and often condescending. Add to that a volatile and sometimes violent temper, and she is a person I no longer want in my life. Still, we have a history. When she says I am "the only one who has stuck with her," I feel a responsibility to maintain the friendship. I am also fond of her 5-year-old son.
I don't want to be dishonest by pretending that her decisions, her manner and her lifestyle don't bother me. It seems dishonorable. But if I tell her any of this, I know it will lead to a nasty confrontation. The truth about my feelings would crush her. She considers friendship and loyalty to be sacred and would take my disapproval as a betrayal of her trust. Should I tell her the truth for my sake or continue the deception for hers? - Conflicted
Dear Conflicted: It depends on what you want. If your goal is not to see Agnes anymore, go ahead and let loose. People outgrow friendships all the time. You don't have to maintain this one, although it means you would not be around to show her son what a stable person looks like. You also could slowly make yourself less available to Agnes so there is no confrontation at all while the relationship withers. But a true friend would tell Agnes gently and kindly that you are worried about her. In turn, Agnes, while not pleased, would accept your concern and not cut you out of her son's life.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.