Hax: Maybe it's you, not friend's girlfriend

The Washington PostDecember 6, 2013 

Carolyn: I went to college with two friends who are now a couple. I currently work with the boyfriend while his girlfriend works in a different organization down the street from us.

When the three of us get together or I ride with them to see mutual friends, the topic of work inevitably comes up between me and the boyfriend, including some inside jokes. This is perfectly natural!

But I think the work talk makes the girlfriend jealous. On a couple of occasions, the boyfriend has asked me not to talk about work when his girlfriend is with us, and recently when I talked about work he kept explaining to her what I was talking about. If she has a problem with me, shouldn't she address it directly to me?

I feel like she is talking about me behind my back to her boyfriend, and I've noticed she's been rather cold to me. I just don't think I've done anything wrong, and I worry my co-worker and friend is caught in a dysfunctional relationship with someone possessive and insecure.

What can I do to convince her I'm just making conversation, especially if she's avoiding me?

ANONYMOUS

You can start "just making conversation" that includes her, instead of excluding her and defending it as "perfectly natural!"

That means you stop talking shop when you're seeing these two socially, because, besides the fact that you risk boring even colleagues to tears, it's plain rude to hold a conversation that denies entry to others.

The inside jokes, meanwhile, may come up organically, but that doesn't mean they aren't also a toxic combination of topically and emotionally exclusive.

Or, get used to her being rather cold to you. That's what people do when you repeatedly leave them out …

If you're attracted to the boyfriend, or like the little ego boost from steering his attention your way when his girlfriend is right there, then please admit this to yourself. Know your ulterior motives, because worrying that "my co-worker and friend" (isn't she your friend, too?) is "caught in a dysfunctional relationship" doesn't pass the sniff test. You're invested, and digging in. Time to figure out why.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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