Ask Dr. Keith; June 2024

Dear Dr. Keith,

I’m a 57-year-old man who met my best friend when we were in preschool. His family treats me as if I were one of their own and mine the same. I’ve always been there for my pal, through the good times and the bad. We lived in a small town. While growing up, we hung out with the same group of girls and guys through elementary, middle and high school. Even though most of us went our separate ways during our college years, we all hung out when everyone came back to our town for summer. My friend and I went to the local community college and university to finish our degrees. We both graduated and started working for companies close to the city we grew up in. We decided to move in together, become roommates to save money and eventually purchase our own homes. We played on the same local recreation softball team, double dated frequently, traveled together with no big issues. I spent a lot of time with his family and he with mine, and when I got married, he was my best man. He eventually got married and maybe it was an obvious red flag when he asked a coworker to be his best man instead of me. There have been other slights throughout our friendship, but I either chose to make excuses or ignore them. At the beginning of his marriage, things were great between us. Our wives got along well, and we spent a lot of time together socializing, traveling and creating great memories. In time, things have changed.


When we go out with other couples, my friend makes me the butt of most of his jokes. He continually criticizes my laugh, behavior and tells stories of our past that make him look good and me like an idiot. If I start to push back or relate my version, he gets angry and degrading; I just shut up and take it so I don’t create conflict. When we attend social gatherings together, he must be the center of attention, and if for any reason he doesn’t get it, he pouts, gets upset and ruins the evening for everyone. When we go to a party where we know most of the people, my wife and I go out of our way to introduce him and his wife to everyone to make them feel comfortable. When we go somewhere they know most everyone, they leave us to fend for ourselves, making us feel unwelcome. My wife continually asks me why I put up with it or continue to pursue the friendship. When I look back on our shared history, there have been incidents and confrontations with our group of friends growing up, where they chose to end the friendship with him. He’s no longer in touch with any of them, and I’m still in touch with many of them. In our conversations, a common question frequently arises, “Why are you still friends with him?” My usual answer, “He has been my best friend since we were kids; I don’t want to abandon him.” I’ve been taught that loyalty is a great trait, so I don’t want to be disloyal to my friend. Here’s my dilemma – I take pride in being a good friend and a good person. I don’t want to throw away years of friendship, however, I’m fearful that if I continue our friendship my wife will view me as weak and lose respect for me, ultimately threatening our relationship. Is my loyalty blinding me, and would it be wrong for me to end a lifetime friendship that doesn’t feel good anymore? I’m struggling, please help.


Jeremy R.


Charlotte, NC


Hey Jeremy,


Maintaining healthy relationships and friendships is work, but it shouldn’t be hard work. They need to be reciprocal to be successful, however long they last. Some relationships will be short in duration, some longer and some will last a lifetime. Hopefully, they’ll be healthy and bring you joy, not heartache, your choice. One of the greatest things we possess is our free will, our freedom of choice. It’s important to choose your friends wisely because who you choose to surround yourself with will have a direct effect on the quality of your life. Only you know what you’re willing to put up with in a relationship. Healthy friendships require compromise, not sacrifice. I believe there are three sides to every story; your side, his side and the truth that lies somewhere in the middle. If we were face to face, I’d have a lot of questions to fill in the blanks. What are you afraid of if you choose to walk away from the friendship? You call him your best friend – has he ever said that of you or made you feel you are by his actions? Does he make you feel secure and supported in your friendship? Just some things to think about. You’ve maintained the friendship for all these years with what it sounds like the negatives outweighing the positives, sacrificing your dignity to appease your friend. Instead of making you feel like an important part of his life which is what best friends do, he goes out of his way to make you look and feel bad, so he feels better, making you feel like an outcast. Is that what friends are supposed to do? I don’t think so! Sometimes our wives notice things that we don’t, and sometimes, not all the time ladies, we might want to pay attention. Your wife will learn to respect you when she can trust that you’ll set healthy boundaries with others, as well as with yourself. 


I look at life as a train that leaves the station when we are born. It’s our job to take care of our train by cleaning it, maintaining the engine, keeping it on safe routes and insuring it against the unknown casualties that life presents. At every stop we make on our journey, every station we visit, we’ll have passengers that will get on, off or continue on. The passengers are our friends, family, coaches, teachers, coworkers, bosses, spouses, etc. Some will take a short ride, some go further and some will take the whole journey, and we get to decide who comes along. Some will be respectful and take good care of your train, some will be careless and trash it and others will try to destroy your train if you allow them to continue on your journey. Those that have been along the longest, that we become attached to, acquire their own car by earning our trust, respect, love, loyalty or sometimes through manipulation and fear. It’s up to us to make our train a priority, take good care of it, remove those who abuse it and invite those who respect it to climb on board and enjoy the ride. In the case of your friend, it sounds like he’s abused and trashed his car, so it might be time to uncouple it and move it to another track.


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