Dear Starshine,

I have organized a trip for the past seven years with a great group of friends, but my oldest friend since childhood has never been invited because distance has grown between us, my husband does not enjoy her company, and another close friend has married my oldest friend's ex. Last year, my old friend called the place where we vacation and made arrangements to be there the same weekend as us (she knew through a mutual friend that we were going). She then invited me as if she had no clue I was going, and then invited other families, too. I was shocked... but I rolled with it, and we all had a good time. That said, I wimped out, and the real issues were never discussed. And now I just found out that she called the lodge and booked the weekend for this year's trip, too, and wants me to organize the rest of the crew. I love her and know she just wanted to feel included. But I'm angered by the lies and sidestepping. Any insight on how to approach this?

This is how horror movies begin: The jilted, forgettable girl. The grudge that grows, silently, until she takes matters into her own hands one surprising weekend in the woods…

Look, inviting herself is rude. Pretending she doesn't know you're going is devious. But expecting you to rally the others so that her blatant sabotage will appear legitimate? That's straight-up, hide-the-kitchen-knives deranged. You blew it by not addressing her imposition the first time. Now put on your big-girl britches and repeat after me: "This crap will not stand with me, sister." 

I'd feel justified in telling such a person that her passive-aggro manipulation is exactly why she wasn't invited in the first place — and why I'll take pains to ensure that our vacations don't collide, er, coincide in the future. 

But (sigh) I know the cloth of girlhood camaraderie is tightly woven — and it's clear you have empathy for this wounded, wily interloper. Do you want to preserve the friendship? Establish an honesty-only policy. Tell her that if she felt left out, you wish she'd spoken to you directly. Explain that conflicting personalities and tricky group dynamics would make her an awkward addition to your annual getaway. And ask if she'd like to join you for a one-on-one weekend sometime, then follow through. 

Do keep an eye on this one at all times, though. In horror movies, it's always the one who turns her back that gets it first.


Dear Starshine,

Several times over the last year, I've told my husband of nearly a decade that I no longer love him the way a wife should love her husband. This is a second marriage for us both, and he asked me to sign a pre-nup when we married. Splitting up would mean completely starting over for me — and I'm not exactly a young chicken. He once said to me, "Where are you going to go?" as if he knows I'm trapped. I'm afraid to start over at this age, and he is probably afraid of being alone, and of what people will say. I think he feels if he ignores it, our situation will just go away. I don't want to hurt him, but I feel so empty inside, and that I am living a lie. 

First of all, I don't like the way he's talking to you. The proper response to "I don't love you anymore" is "What can we do to make this better?" Any other response — particularly one that aims to add fear and helplessness to the already agonizing emotions ricocheting through your head — is a Get Out of Jail Free card, as far as I'm concerned. It's your walking papers. It's an honorable damned discharge. 

It's impossible to be hollow and happy at the same time, and you've already devoted too much time to the former. Can you picture yourself writing this exact same letter to me 10 years from now, having wasted yet another decade in your loveless cage? That has to be scarier than starting over.

If the financial security you have now isn't making you happy, then the lack of it can't make you unhappy. And despite his protests, your husband doesn't want to spend the rest of his life with a wife who only sticks around because he feeds her and she can't figure out how to leave; that's what cats are for.

It's time to focus on who you are outside of this marriage. If you don't have a job, get one — even part-time, even doing something stupid. It'll be a great distraction from your worries at home and remind you that you're capable of taking care of yourself. 

You don't have to be a young chicken to trade "empty inside" for a fresh, if intimidating, new start. In fact, my friend, you don't have to be chicken at all.

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