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Life Hax


Carolyn Hax

What to do about the friend horning in on coupled dudes?

Ar 180109876
Carolyn Hax
Ar 180109876
Carolyn Hax

My girlfriend recently mentioned, in a very respectful way, that my relationship with my female friend “K” makes her uncomfortable, using reasonable examples of physical contact and things K has said.We both acknowledge that K, who is single, crosses lines with the married and coupled men in her social circle (oddly, not the single ones), but I had been somewhat naive and hadn’t noticed I was one of them.What to do now? My girlfriend asked me to talk to K, which seems like a recipe for creating drama where there isn’t any. I am capable of just sort of boxing her out of my life, but that seems cruel, and making a statement the next time it happens would probably embarrass her – or both of them, if I bring my girlfriend into it.Maryland

The possibilities you list are all, to my eye, about treating the symptom of K crossing the line.

But what about the underlying ailment? There’s no “oddly” to the part about K’s cozying up to coupled men. It’s quite common and usually means K fears intimacy and sees paired off men as “safe,” or she gets a power jolt by making inroads with other women’s men.

Both point to a K who isn’t emotionally healthy, though what ails her does matter. Someone who can’t handle being close is much more sympathetic (and of course a better candidate for continued friendship) than someone who needs to sabotage others to feel good about herself. You probably know her well enough to know which she is.

Either way, the next time K crosses a line, speak up. A gentle but decisive, “Hey – stop,” or even, “What are you doing?” won’t embarrass her. Then, enforce that limit by walking away if she persists. If she pushes you to a kind of line-drawing that embarrasses her, then that’s on her, not you.

And don’t bring your girlfriend into it for any reason, no no no. The reason for boundaries is that K doesn’t have them, not that your girlfriend is the one who noticed.

Maybe when K’s friends hold the line, K will get the message about how often she crosses it.

You may ultimately need to distance yourself, even if her actions elicit more sympathy than anger or annoyance. That’s because the specifics of someone’s neediness eventually become secondary to a lack of interest in being part of it anymore.

Is it ever OK to lie to someone? What if this person is a very persistent ex-boyfriend who is asking invasive personal questions? I just got busted for lying to him and know I shouldn’t have lied, but, frankly, the only way to get him out of the way was to lie.Tempe, Ariz.

No, that’s a lie you told yourself.

Lying is OK in two general situations, to protect yourself or someone else from immediate danger – e.g., your friend’s abusive spouse asks if you know where your friend is – and to protect someone’s feelings. But even then, a strategic half-truth always beats a lie. (Person who spent all day cooking you a terrible dinner: “How did you like dinner?” You: “You outdid yourself, thanks!”) Situations in which it’s OK to make excuses for one’s own mistakes? None.

Lying was the only easy way for you to dodge your ex. You also could have said, “I will not answer invasive personal questions, no matter how many times you ask me.” Side benefit, it would have advanced the cause of Citizens for Having the Guts to Say What You Mean.

And if he didn’t relent, you could have screened his calls/ignored his emails/walked away. And if he still didn’t relent, you could have asked the police about anti-harassment laws.

If you want easy, just know your bounds and enforce them. Getting caught in your lie was a hint.

How do you know when it’s better to bring up an issue of concern (pick any) with your boyfriend or girlfriend or to deal with it by yourself?Seattle

If it’s a significant concern or says a lot about who you are, share it. If it affects your partner, share it. If not sharing means it’s going to fester till you spew green stuff, please, share it. If it’s minor but has entertainment value, please share it with the rest of us.

If it’s of no real consequence, not even remotely amusing, or if it’s something you’ve brought up 17 times before and ruthlessly failed to confront, please deal with it all by yourself.

I am about 5 pounds away from being model-thin (i.e., probably a little TOO thin) and have a little bit of fat on my stomach (some days more, some days less, depending on what I ate). He asks me, “Did you do your situps?” or “What did you eat today?” What’s up with this? There are no other signs that I ought to flee.Va.

You say that as if you need other signs.

With him, you are only as good as what you ate today. Worst case, he’s abusive; best case, insensitive thug. Surely, life can be better than that.

Is it cruel to take bets on when mutual friends in an on-again, off-again relationship will recover from their latest major breakup and swear undying love again? In front of them?D.C. College

It is cruel to do it behind their backs. In front of them, it’s encouraged.

After three months of dating, my boyfriend got a job in another city. It’s less than three hours away and we have been doing the middle-distance thing for about four months. Boyfriend is amazing, a wonderful kind heart, and so handsome to boot!At first the distance wasn’t that big of a deal, but lately it’s been very hard. Both of us are busy at work right now, and it’s been difficult to see each other.I feel like after seven months it’s time to talk about when we can close the distance. My job is more flexible, and I know I would be the one to move; I’m ok with that.But how do I start this conversation? He tends to be a little defensive when we talk about “feelings” and has trouble expressing himself. I want this to be a positive conversation, although I realize we might not be on the same page if he hasn’t brought it up either. Any advice on how to start this conversation?In a Middle-Distance Relationship

Just start it. If you can’t talk without first achieving the exact planetary alignment necessary to avoid triggering his defenses, then this thing is toast. Or should be. Seriously.

There are a whole lot of variations in what people want in a relationship and what works for them and how they define “too soon,” but if you know you have to tiptoe around important subjects and you choose to stay anyway, then you’ve introduced a layer of effort and stress that will only get thicker and heavier and more obnoxious over time, especially since the typical arc of life is to hit progressively heavier stuff as you go on. With no new-love happy chemicals to float you through it.

So, talk. Find out now if your affection for each other can withstand it.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at tellme@washpost.com.