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Life Hax: A potential affair and an awkward roommate crush

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Carolyn Hax
Ar 181119814
Carolyn Hax

Life Hax: A potential affair and an awkward roommate crush

Carolyn Hax

A woman in our set of friends initiates touching and chumminess with my husband, who returns it, but not in a serious way. We know from this woman’s parents that she is in a long-term affair with a married man.I don’t believe my husband will go beyond public chumminess and flirting with her, but I do believe he is intrigued by the fact that she is interested and available. The last time this happened we were having dinner around a table together so I could not avoid being a witness, and I was definitely uncomfortable and annoyed. Part of that feeling was the difficulty of deciding if this is random, harmless flirting or did it go beyond. If I find myself in this situation again, should I handle it right then or later in private?Uncomfortable and AnnoyedBy “this situation,” you mean your husband’s openness to having an affair, yes?

Because if you believe flirting can be harmless and random and if you’re OK with your husband engaging in that, then the affair potential is the only part of this that’s bothering you.

Of course even the affair isn’t a problem if you’re open to that, too ... and, at the other end of the spectrum, the flirting alone is a problem if you don’t believe it can ever be harmless ... so I guess I need to be more clear here.

Please ask yourself:

(1) What behavior do you find problematic in this situation;

(2) Why;

(3) What, if anything, is within your power to change (handy guide: if you’re doing it, then you can change it; if others are doing it, you can only ask them to change it);

(4) What’s the best way to try to make those changes.

So, for example, if you think your husband is crossing a line, explain your concerns to him later in private. Say you’re not angry, or accusing, you’re just uncomfortable and trying to understand what you’re seeing. Is he interested in Scarlett? Does it intrigue him that Scarlett is interested and available?

Radical honesty isn’t always a gotcha – it can also be an invitation for others to respond in kind.

If it’s been a REALLY long time since you’ve been in a relationship, and now you have a possibility that you’re feeling pretty ambivalent about, how do you tell if that’s because you’re just not clicking in the right ways with this person – who on paper looks great for you – or if you’re so set in your single ways that you can’t even picture it anymore? I honestly can’t tell if my lack of enthusiasm is a sign, and a sign of what. Help, please.AmbivalentIt’s a sign you’re not enthusiastic. Please take it at face value and don’t push for more of this person. When more is called for, the MORE light will light up. And probably flash and buzz and stuff. Not to scare you or anything.

Four months ago I moved into a new place, and have fallen for one of my roommates. I want to ask her out, but given our yearlong lease I don’t know if this is a good idea. We hang out and really get along and I do not want to jeopardize our friendship.I was telling her about a road trip I am taking in about seven months for a wedding, and she wants to come with. It would be us two on a 12-hour road trip to the wedding. We would then take five days to go hiking about in the mountains because we both love to do that, and then head back home. This does not seem like something you would do with “just a friend,” but again, we really get along and maybe she is just doing this because she likes to hike and hang out with me.It’s hard for me to keep on going like this. Do I wait until the end of the lease to ask her? What if she loses interest in me because I waited too long to ask her out? Do I take the chance now and, if she does not like me, have a possibly awkward living situation and maybe lose a friendship?Do I Wait?

Congratulations on such a nice problem to have.

It sounds like you’re handling it well. You have way more to lose by rushing in than by biding your time – and I’m not even sure waiting seven-ish months while actively hanging out and travel-planning and suffusing the air with expectant glances like so many dust motes in sunlight even qualifies as romance-snuffing behavior. Seems more like a blueprint to build it.

Also don’t forget she is just as equipped to ask you out as you are to ask her.

So, enjoy the will-we-won’t-we for a while – there’s a reason that tension drives many a TV hit – and GET TO KNOW HER. Up close. Really well. Including the most important thing: whether she’s mature enough to handle difficult emotions gracefully. Make sure you are, too. Someone you know will break up ugly is a great person not to date.

Our son was briefly married to Sally and produced our grandson. They divorced and Sally had a daughter, Zelda, with another man seven years later. Because Zelda is our grandson’s half-sister, is she any relation to us? We are close with Sally and always treated Zelda as a granddaughter, though not blood-related. Just wondering.J.

Zelda is of no relation to you.

Which makes your embrace of Zelda all the more lovely a gesture. Not that you meant it to be so, and not that you were even asking me about this (ahem), but your choice to be inclusive sets such an important example for these kids.

It’s not always possible to do this, of course. Sallys aren’t always open to an ex-parent-in-law’s presence in their new families, so yay for her, and even just numbers can get in the way. You have one grandson and one Zelda, but imagine if you had multiple grandkids and recoupling had introduced multiple Zeldas. Not everyone can manage that.

So think role versus relation: Do the best you can.

Emphasis “can,” emphasis “best.”

I’ve been dating someone for a few months and thought things were moving in the right direction. He’s just informed me that he recently ran into an ex, and now he is confused and needs time to figure things out.I don’t really know what that means – do I wait and see what he figures out and, if so, how do we get back on track? We’re both in our 40s and I’ve been looking for someone like him for a long time. I was starting to have real feelings, and thought this relationship had serious potential.Taking a Break

I’m sorry. It’s surprisingly painful when the simple pleasure of someone’s company becomes complicated.

Your best chance of moving on from this, and of rekindling it should he have the proper epiphany, is to uncomplicate it again: Treat it as a breakup. Do what you would if he had ended things with you definitively instead of confusedly.

If he decides he’s over the ex and misses you, and if you still care, then date him as you did before – as an open question you’re hoping to answer with time.

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.