Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.
A reader writes:
An old friend bought a cottage close to mine. Last summer she came to my door unexpectedly with her dog. I told her she couldn't bring her dog inside – and she turned around and stomped out of my yard! Maybe I should have gone after her to explain my reasons – my cat was there, and she knows my cat is frightened of dogs. But I didn't and she hasn't spoken to me since. How can we repair our friendship?
March over and apologize
First, walk over to her cottage and sincerely apologize for spending a year dithering about this. Second, explain the problem your cat would have had with her dog. Then tell her that you would like to be friends again and see how she reacts. Bring her a bouquet of flowers too – if she throws them in your face, tell yourself that maybe she is allergic but couldn't think of a way to explain this simple fact, and forgive her.
– Cathie Fornssler, Saskatoon
Invite her over – outside
So let me get this right – it's your cottage and it's your cat that is afraid of dogs but your friend has the right to come in with whomever or whatever she wants? You need to explain, by e-mail or phone, that you panicked when you saw her dog and maybe got a little "enthusiastic" in your tone. Offer to have her over again, so you two can sit outside with the dog. If she still refuses to speak to you, then you need to move on.
– Marianne Bahlieda, Newmarket, Ont.
It's not all your fault
I never bring my dog to someone's home without asking. It's just rude. Dogs, especially country dogs, sometimes smell, they poop on lawns and they generally chase things that run away from them. Would you bring a big smelly rug into your friend's house and drop it on the couch? Don't feel bad for asking your friend to respect your wishes in your home. But perhaps she felt disrespected, too. After all, she loves her dog as much as you love your cat.
– Theresa Mizzi, Mono, Ont.
Were you really that close?
I'm somewhat surprised an "old friend" didn't know about your cat. Okay, so maybe you weren't close during the best of times and she caught you off guard and instead of saying, "Oh, I have a cat, I'm sorry you won't be able to bring your pooch inside, what a cute dog," you looked down your nose and just said "No." Whatever, the harm is done. Only way to fix it is to start the conversation going again or decide you didn't really like her anyway. It's on you to decide and to say mea culpa if you choose.
– Patricia MacDonald, North Bay
THE FINAL WORD
If it's any consolation, I once didn't invite a friend into my home when she dropped off her son for a play date because my house was too messy. I left her standing on the front porch while I peeked around the door acting all twitchy and nervous. You would have thought I was hiding a dead body instead of dust bunnies.
When trying to save face for a clearly overdue talk, use what I call the "stealth apology." I agree with Cathie but think you should go one step further: Instead of flowers, visit your friend with a novel gift that took some thought and time to make. It's easier to break the ice if you bring something unusual that will spark a conversation. This way both of you will have a chance to feel comfortable before you deal with the real subject at hand. Food is great because it's hard to be angry when you're hungry and curious.
Since you're at the cottage, I suggest making something interesting that you can grill on the barbecue. Take it over and start a conversation about how hard it is to find ingredients this far from the city.
She'll be so gobsmacked that you went to all this trouble for her, it will give you an opportunity to ease into a conversation about the day when you didn't want her dog Fido to come in. Explain that you regret not mentioning Fester the cat earlier, and sincerely regret making her feel unwelcome.
Chances are she'll be happy to see you. Then pass the beer and start gabbing. You two have a whole summer of catching up to do. And leave the fighting to the cats and dogs.
Regina-based Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of the CBC-TV sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie.
Next week's question
My friend and I are two women in our 50s who regularly vacation together, sharing rentals. On our last trip, I invited a guy friend to visit me for a few days. My girlfriend had met him and knew he was coming. But after his first night, she left abruptly and went to a hotel. Later I learned she expected him to sleep on the couch. It's been months and she's still mad at me. Was I wrong to invite the guy?
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