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Miss Conduct

I got my friend hired — shouldn’t he thank me?

Plus, wondering what to do for a pal with a difficult spouse.

Lucy Truman

A couple of years ago, I introduced a good friend to a business acquaintance who was looking to hire. My friend was taken on at a significant jump in pay and status. Both people are very happy. Neither has acknowledged my role in making an introduction that has worked out extremely well for both of them, other than a casual “thank you” at the time. Am I wrong to feel they each should have done something more to thank me?

Anonymous / Boston

I worked with a woman once whose life had been saved by a marrow donation from a stranger. After her treatment, she and her donor occasionally had lunch together. I always wondered who picked up the check. No matter how I envisioned the situation, it felt awkward. How can you split a check when you share actual body parts? On the other hand, paying for lunch comes off equally inappropriate: “Oh, hey, you got the white cells — I got this.”

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There’s no good way to thank someone for a life-changing good deed, and thus some folks become abashed and fail to even try. This self-consciousness combined with the upheaval of a new job has probably kept your friend from thanking you appropriately. It may also be the case that the new position brings with it some good old fears, uncertainties, and doubts, and your friend no longer feels comfortable dishing on work dilemmas with the guy who got him the job in the first place. Let it go, or have a chat.

Friendship is an emotional ecosystem. Business acquaintances operate on a more transactional plane. The next time you meet your business acquaintance, tell him that you ran into your friend yesterday, and, boy, he sure is glowing about the job! Then remind yourself that there’s a businessman who owes you a favor, which is social capital in the bank.

An alcoholic and narcissistic spouse has alienated my lifelong friend from friends and family. My friend has a stressful job, compounded by an unsympathetic boss. We meet weekly (without the spouse’s knowledge) for lunch, where the conversation is dominated by woeful tales. Suggestions of therapy fall on deaf ears, and our relationship is lopsided. Recently, I asked for a work-related favor, but my friend never came through, despite several prompts from me. Angry but silent, I seek your advice.

A.C. / Boston

Honey, you’re not seeking advice, you’re seeking permission, and you’ve got it on a parchment scroll as far as I’m concerned. Your luncheons of misery aren’t doing anyone any good, and you should pull the plug on them for a while. Your friend’s problems are real and awful, but that person isn’t taking any action, and you’re not in a position to offer him practical help.

But your friend does deserve to be treated like a friend, and that means a conversation. In person and in public is probably best, but you know the temper and traditions of this friendship better than I do. This doesn’t have to be a breakup, but a setting of ground rules and conditions before your relationship deteriorates further. Chances are, while you can see your friend’s codependent behaviors with this destructive spouse all too clearly, you can’t see the unhelpful patterns that have developed. So take a step or two back, look at those patterns, and offer your buddy a healthier model of friendship.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.
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