Dear Richard Madeley: ‘I want to bring a friendship to a close with minimum hurt’

couple friends - Getty
couple friends - Getty

Dear Richard,

Some 20 years ago, my wife and I met an American couple while on a Caribbean cruise. We got on well, especially the wives (both Pisces). They have visited us in the UK, and we them in the US. Great times. Sadly the American wife recently became ill and then died in late 2022.

Early this year, the American husband announced he had a new lady in his life – and they were coming to the UK and would like to stay with us. The four-day visit has just happened. She was a nice enough lady, but not the one we had known and loved in the past.

The thing is, because there’s an ocean between us, we’re not able to meet informally – it’s got to be a proper visit, staying for a few nights, being taken around, and it’s quite a big deal. Both my wife and I feel that this friendship has run its course: we would prefer to cherish the great times we had together.

Can I bring this transatlantic relationship to a close with minimum hurt? Or should we give it another chance?

Anon, Hants

Dear Anon,

I’d give it another chance. You were friends with this man and his late wife for two decades. It was your own ‘special relationship’, a transatlantic tie-up that stretched all the way back to the start of the century. On a purely practical level, it allowed you a place to stay – a proper home, not some anonymous hotel – when you travelled to the US, and them (and now him and his new partner) somewhere to base themselves when here. I’d be hesitant to just toss all that away.

Of course you miss and mourn his wife, but it’s not as if his new partner is some sort of appalling nightmare, is it? You say you got on perfectly well with her when they both came to stay with you. That sounds like a solid start; something you can all build on for the future. And – I’ll say this softly – don’t you think you might have something 
of an obligation to your old friend? He’s lost his wife. He’s trying to rebuild his life. You can help him by being a part of that – a link with the old days and a bridge into new ones. Isn’t that what friends are for? To be there, in good times and in bad?

In asking for my advice you gave me the option in my reply – to stick or twist. I honestly think you should stick, at least for now. Allow yourselves time to get to know this new person in all your lives. She would have realised she was stepping into big shoes when she stayed with you; the chances are she was secretly nervous and self-conscious. Give her a chance – and him, too. He was probably desperate for your approval.

Friendship is a precious gift, Anon – don’t be too quick to chuck this one into what your old buddy would call the trash can.

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