You’re Not a Mind Reader; and To Catch a Thief
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner and I are friends with a couple of women who weekend in Rehoboth. We enjoy them, but we never know when they’re going to be here, so we naturally wait to hear from them. One of them just scolded my partner on the phone, accusing us of never instigating anything, and not caring enough to make plans with them. We were shocked, as we usually make ourselves available when they decide to spend a weekend here. I’m disgusted and want to drop them, but my partner wants to start calling them. I don’t agree. Help!
Dr. Hurd replies,
First of all, who gets mad over something like this? I used to live here part-time too, and I didn’t expect people to know when I was and wasn’t here. The onus was on me to let them know. Now that I live here full-time, I expect the same from our part-timer friends. Isn’t it obvious?
The problem isn’t that your friend’s feelings are hurt. The problem is the way she handled it. Obviously, your partner is reacting this way because she gets more out of this friendship than you do. Your friends might sense this, and they’re “testing” to see how much you’ll put up with. She feels that you don’t like her and her partner, so she stirs things up to see how much you really do. It’s immature and childish, but it’s how some people are programmed by experience. I’m not excusing what she did; I’m just explaining what likely motivated it.
Sometimes people are even more manipulative than this. For example, for whatever reason, your friend might be trying to drive a wedge between you and your partner. If so, she’ll get her wish if you and your girlfriend start to fight over this. I suggest you don’t waste your energy struggling over this incident. Tell your partner what you think. Tell her you don’t like your part-time friends’ behavior, and that they could have handled their hurt feelings in a more sensible way, other than whining to you two. When you’re too quick to forgive something like this, you are telling the person, in effect, “It’s okay to act this way when your feelings get hurt.”
There’s a saying I like from economics: “When you subsidize something, you get more of it.” The same is true of people. When you tolerate someone’s dysfunctional behavior (in this case by constantly calling them), you’d better believe you’ll get more of it in the future. Is that what your girlfriend wants?
At a minimum, maybe you can convince your girlfriend to say to them, “The way you handled this was not okay. We’re not mind readers, and we don’t know your schedule. One hint of this again, and we’re done.” It’s either that, or this pattern will repeat itself. Is their friendship worth it?
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner has a friend who works at a small store where he grew up. The owner is good friends with all of us and invested his life savings in the store. The friend confided to us that he was stealing things from the store to sell to friends, or using them as gifts. We feel terrible that we now know this and that the store owner doesn’t. We’ve decided to pull away from our thieving “friend,” but should we tell the storeowner or just allow this conniving to continue?
Dr. Hurd replies,
You’re not the world’s policeman, and you’re certainly entitled to not get involved. But are you permitted to tell? Absolutely! And I don’t mean “permitted” by me or anyone else. I mean permitted by the nature of the situation.
If you do tell, your friendship with your stealing friend is over. But it’s already over, isn’t it? So that’s no additional loss. What you could quite possibly gain is a strengthened friendship with the storeowner. Think how appreciative he’ll be, at least once the dust settles on this bad news. Get ready: There might be consequences. There will be immense conflict and, depending on the storekeeper’s reaction, even legal action against the worker who was your friend. But you are not the one who created this. The thief is.
There could also be consequences for not telling. Your stealing friend will probably expose himself eventually (most do— he stupidly told you about it, didn’t he?). The victimized storeowner might learn that you knew, and that would be the end of your friendship with him.
I wonder what’s making you hesitate to go ahead and do it. You chose to ask my opinion, and I’m flattered. But isn’t it obvious that it’s perfectly fine to uncover a thief—especially if he’s victimizing your friend? A lot of this nonsense goes back to childhood. Adults often tell children, “It’s not cool to be a snitch.”
Ridiculous. What is this, Alcatraz?
To tattle about petty stuff is one thing. But theft is a serious crime, and on top of that the victim is your friend. I’d tell him in a heartbeat.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist, life coach and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email Dr Hurd