Dear Maria,

An old friend who is a lovely person, but has some annoying habits, has a husband who over-protects her. I’ve tried to let her know that I value her friendship, but I would like her to be a little more thoughtful of other’s time. For instance, her annual Christmas visit from her sister makes her feel like a poor housekeeper. When I suggest she plan ahead using a system like FlyLady, she calls for her husband to defend her, and he says it can’t be done. She asks for help, but all she really wants is a shoulder to cry on.

What is one to do when the holidays roll around, and her sister is coming, and she is desolate and needing consoling again?

Signed,

Tired of Being a Soft Shoulder

Dear Tired,

It sounds like you’ve been around this block with your friend more than once. This couple seems to be in a comfortable rut: she, the victim; he, the enabler. Since you’ve made efforts to help them change this pattern, and they’ve consistently rejected the ideas, I’m not sure there’s much more you can do. The deeper question is whether or not you want to stay stuck with them? I sense a restlessness in your words, like you’ve grown weary of this pattern. When the holidays come around, and your friend seeks your counsel, respond with simple statements such as, “This must be hard for you,” or “The holidays can be very stressful.” Leave it at that. Accept that you cannot change the fact that she (and her husband) do not want to change. (Note how easily the word “tried” becomes “tired.”) By affirming her feelings, you may create a comfortable place for your friendship to reside. If, however, you’re still feeling agitated with your friend, you may want to spend less time letting her vent on you. True friendship doesn’t give people license to dump unlimited junk on each other. Your time and energies are better spent with friends who lift you up, and who are making positive changes in their lives.

Amy Grant may say a few things in this song that you’d like your friend to hear: