Ask Amy

Wait for details from divorcing friend

Dear Amy: I have a very good friend who just told me she is divorcing her husband. Our families have been very close, and my husband and I are shocked and sad.

She is very tight-lipped about the details, which is understandable, but I don’t know how to offer support to them when I have no idea what caused the breakup.

I respect their desire for privacy, but I would love some advice on being supportive, because I don’t know what to say.

When one of my girlfriends has an issue, we all talk about it and give our advice — and I really can’t in this situation because I’m in the dark.

I also know that once the word gets out, neighbors will ask me about it, because we are very close, and I don’t know what to say. — Worried Friend

Dear Friend: When you are faced with news of someone else’s loss or hardship and are at a loss for words, its fine to say, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.”

Divorce disclosures often happen in phases. The first phase is notification, the second phase involves disclosure and the third phase often involves tears and endless cups of coffee.For now, you don’t need to know exactly what’s going on. I give your friends credit for handling this privately. If others ask you what’s happening with this marriage, you can truthfully say, “Honestly, I have no idea.”

Dear Amy: My husband and I live overseas. Friends visited us with their 15-year-old daughter.

The daughter was bored and not interested in experiencing European culture. Walking along the streets, she would rarely look up to soak in the surroundings.

She never greeted us in the morning or said good night, she waited to be served at dinner and did not pitch in to help with anything, and in short she treated me and my husband like a maid and a chauffeur.Unless she wanted something, she ignored us.

We cooked and cleaned for her, did her laundry, took her sightseeing and bought incidentals for her, and never once did she say “please” or “thank you.”

On the last day, she made a rude, flippant remark to my husband, and I exploded.

Her mother defended her. Then I realized her obnoxiousness wasn’t entirely her fault; she was raised to treat everyone, including her parents, like servants.

The husband admitted his daughter’s manners were lacking and there was no one to blame except themselves.

Now the friendship is over, and I am heartsick. What’s your take?

— Living in Germany

Dear Germany: My take is that you are completely justified in being disappointed. This teenager’s parents have failed her on many levels, and having taken her all the way to Europe, they have little to show for it.

The mistake you made was in waiting way too long to set down some very basic ground rules and expectations. If you had asked more of this girl (clearing the dishes, etc.), she would have been more engaged, and you would have felt less like a servant.

Exploding at the last minute is understandable but not very useful.

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