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Ask Amy

Loyal friend is not such a loyal wife

Q. My wife and I are in our mid-’50s. We are close friends with a successful, respected attorney. She has stuck by us through thick and thin, including the loss of our only child and the ensuing trial and lawsuit for wrongful death some years ago.

We have always highly respected her integrity and honesty. Her husband is a lazy, amiable layabout. Their marriage is not good.

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Two weeks ago she told us she is leaving the marriage of some 25 years and has been living a double life with another man for the past several years, including going on vacations together and buying a house with him.

She says she wanted to wait until her child started college before leaving the marriage. She seems to feel we should all be happy for her and can’t wait for us to visit her new home and meet her new love — something we have no desire whatsoever to do.

I haven’t spoken with her since we got the news and I just don’t know what to say or do. I don’t have so many close friends that I can afford to lose one, but we are totally stunned by this.

A. Long-standing, loving, and loyal friendships can tolerate — and require, really — honesty. She has not held up her end of the friendship contract by withholding her life from you, but would you have wanted her to share these things as they were happening? This would have put you in a tough position.

You can correct for her behavior by being honest now. You say to her, “We’re shocked. We’re confused and bewildered. We are totally stunned. We don’t really know what to say or do. We need time to adjust to this.” Keep the door open. She stuck with you through thick and thin, and now you are returning the kindness.

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Q. I recently changed jobs. During my search for new employment, my boss encouraged me to use her as a reference, which I did.

She was contacted by two companies, but gave one a terrible recommendation and did not return repeated calls from the other.

At the time of my departure, she was barely speaking to me, which I found hurtful and confusing since I had been a good employee for five years.

My former boss lives down the street from me and we occasionally cross paths. I’m not sure how to interact when we see each other in the neighborhood. How should I handle this?

A. What your former boss did was unprofessional and unkind. She offered (begged) to give a recommendation and then betrayed this offer in her response (and lack of response).

Because she has given you no reason to doubt your performance, you can only assume that she is retaliating because you chose to leave. This is petty and foolish on her part. In work, and in life, you simply never know when the way you conduct a relationship will have ramifications later. After all, she may need you some day — for instance, she may want to come to work for you at some point in the future.

You have to determine if you could learn something useful by confronting her. If so, then you should be brave enough to ask her to explain her behavior.

If you don’t want to do this, the way to respond to her when you cross paths is to be cordial, neighborly, and as if you are unfazed by her behavior. Behaving well is (most often) the best revenge.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.

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