Dealing with Destructive Friends

Dear Ms. Demeanor:

A friend of mine has been my roommate for several months. She lost my car key early in her stay with me. I had to pay $50 for a locksmith, and she had three copies of my new key made and kept one. Then she took my car on a trip without me and knocked off the driver's side mirror against a truck on the highway. It's taken her months to pay back the damage, and I want my key back. However, when I've approached her about it, she is defensive and painful to deal with. Is there a non-threatening way to tell her, or is this a time to put my foot down and give up on our friendship?



Dear Ann:

You really don't need enemies with this disaster-waiting-to-happen as a friend. If it were house keys, I'd simply suggest that you change your locks and matter-of-factly tell her that you did so to protect everyone. If that's possible with your car, I'd do it. Then I'd let the relationship cool down.

Usually, we get defensive only when we know we're wrong. And she is paying you back for damages to your car. She probably is upset and embarrassed and feeling a bit helpless. I'd avoid a confrontation and simply back off naturally. If she begs the question, you can say something like, "After the unpleasantness with the car, it just seems like a good idea to back off for a while. I'm very upset about it and don't want to say anything I'll regret later. I'm sure you understand."

Good luck!

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