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Ask Ellie: Acceptance of differences key to lasting friendships

Even with close friendships, we need generous acceptance of differences, and efforts to better understand them.

Dear Ellie: I have a question and my father, who reads the paper every day, recommended that I ask you!

I’m in a friendship group from high school, four of us in total. We still talk often but I frequently find my relationship with one girl difficult to manage.

She doesn’t like people asking too many questions about her life, and she often makes fun of me (and the other girls).

Also, our love languages are completely opposite. My way to show my friendship is to hug, ask questions about your life, and be kind.

She doesn’t like questions or physical affection, and makes fun of the people with whom she’s close. I’m sensitive to mean comments, but try to laugh with her.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to feel loved by her, because of these differences. Normally, I’d end this friendship but I love our group and wouldn’t want to leave it.

We’re going on a group trip together. I’m worried that if she makes fun of me too much, I’ll snap at her and there’ll be some tension. I try to laugh with her, but sometimes her comments are hurtful.

What should I do? My friends tell me to develop a stronger relationship with her one-on-one, but I’m not motivated to put effort into someone who makes me feel bad, even if she does tell me she loves me. Thanks for listening!

Complicated Friend

Congratulations to you and your group for establishing a circle of loving, supportive girlfriends! With only one among them being more remote emotionally, it likely means that her general upbringing or specific experiences have taught her to be more guarded.

Consider that there’s some actual reason why she holds back. As a member of a loving circle, you can try to just accept that, rather than take it too personally.

Having a father who is interested in your friendship issues and offers helpful suggestions when asked has helped shape your own approach to friends — open, interested, kind and hugging. That’s you, and it’s admirable, but not everyone’s the same.

This friendship circle is a way to advance your own interest in feeling the love of friends, by you responding in a way that they can handle.

If her comments are hurtful, try a simple response: “I care about you and wonder why you sometimes say mean things.”

If she doesn’t easily accept that, walk away. But go on the group trip.

If more negative comments are made there, open a group dialogue — not about her — discussing how to maintain mutual respect between all.

Gently make your point that if there’s not shared respect and understanding, the love language is more of a wish than reality.

Dear Ellie: My husband, 60 (10 years older than me), is becoming stuck in his ways. He used to like doing all kinds of things but now just wants to stay home.

I want to travel, socialise with other couples, and enjoy life. He doesn’t want to join so I do many things on my own. It’s beginning to bother me and I don’t want this kind of life. Should I leave him?

Half-packed

It’s a sad choice if you haven’t fully discussed your feelings with him, and considered the possible effects of his experiencing physical and/or mental health issues.

To just cut out and run seems a crummy way to treat a partner unless there’ve been negative issues before this change.

Unpack. And talk to a doctor and marriage counsellor before making any plans.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the Love of Obituaries (May 14):

“Much to the chagrin of family and friends, I’ve always read obituaries of people who I do not know. I always feel honoured to have the privilege of reading the life story of someone who has recently died.

“I believe that obituaries are posted in newspapers as a way of honouring loved ones and that family members, and friends want to share their story — after all, why else would you submit it if you didn’t want total strangers to read it?

“I have been touched by so many wonderful love stories, inspirational stories, stories of a life lived well in spite of many obstacles.

“Incidentally, I also visit cemeteries especially while travelling in other countries where burial grounds may be different than ours here in Canada.

“Love your column — never miss it.”

Ellie — Many thanks!

Ellie’s tip of the day

Even with close friendships, we need generous acceptance of differences, and efforts to better understand them.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.