An Enemy Has Infiltrated My Walking Group. Help!


For 10 years, I’ve belonged to a walking group of 12 women. We all raised our children together. We take long walks on Saturday mornings and have a lively group chat. We also go to dinner once a month. I feel lucky to be friends with these women. The problem: A woman who coordinates the group with me recently added her best friend, with whom I had a falling-out several years ago. She broached the idea of including her on the group chat on a day when I wasn’t checking my phone. (She knows about our falling-out.) I have not seen this other woman in years, and I have no interest in reconciling with her. This group was my most cherished social outlet; now, I no longer want to participate. What should I do?

WALKER

Over time, affinity groups — like your walking group — take on lives of their own. No one owns them. And I suspect that trying to blackball a woman from joining friendly group walks on public roads would seem petty and meanspirited to your friends.

Forgive me if I misunderstand the setup, but you probably don’t walk 12 abreast or single file. I envision the group breaking into smaller subsets of three or four women who may shift companions over the course of a walk. So, even if you are committed to your estrangement from this other woman, it seems relatively easy to avoid walking with her (or sitting next to her at a monthly dinner).

Now, you haven’t shared the details of your falling-out. So I want to be respectful of your feelings while posing the essential question: Are you really willing to give up your “most cherished social outlet” over a years-old beef? I know (firsthand) that it can be hard to abandon old grudges, but I hope for your sake that you are willing to try. Otherwise, you are only spiting yourself.

My husband and I have no children. We live a few miles away from my brother and his wife, who have a grown son and a grandchild. I’ve asked my brother to include us occasionally in their weekly family get-togethers. So far, my request has been ignored. I just learned from my brother that they had a birthday dinner for his grandson — to which we were not invited. Should I ask why we were excluded (and risk sounding hurt) or let this go?

BROTHER

Let me suggest a third possibility. Rather than focusing on your exclusion or pretending that it doesn’t bother you, take a more positive approach: Choose a date with your husband a few weeks out and invite your brother and his family to dinner at your place. There are more ways to see people than by being their guests. You may even start a new tradition of extended family dinners.

Our neighbors’ daughters, 6 and 8, come over to play with our daughter frequently. (She goes to their house, too.) The girls are great, and the family is lovely. The problem: I get stressed when the neighbors’ kids eat all our food! I have a family of five, and the cost and time required to stock our refrigerator and pantry for the week is huge. So when the girls ask for sandwiches, apples, multiple clementines or anything else they see, my heart sinks because I know there won’t be enough for my family. The girls get plenty to eat. So what should I do, knowing that my daughter eats snacks at their house?

NEIGHBOR

I am tremendously sympathetic about the cost and the labor of feeding your family of five. (I feel as if I spend half my life shopping and cooking, and I’m responsible for just two adults and a small dog.) Remember that you are the adult in this situation, not a short-order cook, and that the girls are quite young.

The next time they start foraging in your kitchen, tell them they will get a snack — something you can plan in advance — at a set time. If they want something different, send them home to get it. Now, if I have misjudged and you don’t want to feed the girls at all, speak to their parents: “We love your kids, but I’m struggling to keep our fridge stocked. Can we skip the snacks on play dates?” There’s no shame in ensuring that your family’s needs are met.

My youngest son lives in Colorado. He eloped in September, and the newlyweds are giving a wedding party there this spring. Our oldest son has been critical of these arrangements. He and his wife say it’s too much for them to fly from New York to Colorado with their 5-year-old son — even though the child has flown to Greece before. We suggested they leave our grandson with his other grandparents, but they won’t do it. My youngest son finds this disrespectful. What’s a mother to do?

MOM

Butt out, as painful as that may be. This is a conflict between your adult children. As much as you want to help resolve it, only they can do that. If one son complains to you, suggest he speak directly to his brother. Your continued entanglement risks alienating one or both of them. (Sorry.)


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on the platform X.





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