Adapted from a recent online discussion.
HI, CAROLYN: 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.
DEAR 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.
DEAR CAROLYN: Earlier this week, management said they were considering allowing people to bring their dogs to work and were open to comments on the matter. People got really excited, especially three people on my team.
I do not like dogs. I’m not allergic, I just prefer not to be around them. Service or therapy dogs, I would be fine with.
I want to approach them with my concerns, but I am worried about backlash. I am considering asking management to designate a few days a month, but not to make it daily.
DEAR DOGGED: Sounds fine. Or how about a trial period — canine Fridays? — so you can see how it goes?
I am pro-dog but amazed at how inconsiderate people are about foisting them on others, particularly with allergies but also with anyone who’s not a fan.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.