Dear Friend or Foe,
About a year ago, I met “Leah.” She’s the girlfriend of “Eric,” my husband’s co-worker at his ad agency. At the time, Leah and Eric had been dating for a couple months, and my husband and I had been married for a year. (We’re all in our early 30s.) After Leah and I both got laid off at the beginning of this year, we started spending time together. Sometimes, the guys would come meet us for dinner. During one girl-bonding session, Leah mentioned that Eric isn’t her physical type but that my husband is. I found this funny, because, objectively, her boyfriend is better-looking than my husband. I ignored it at the time because she also says she loves Eric and talks about their future frequently.
Once, I noticed Leah looking admiringly at my husband while we were working on her car. Then, within the last month, when it gets close to dinner time, Leah will ask if my husband is coming to meet us but doesn’t call Eric to join. When I ask whether we’re doing an impromptu double date, she brushes the topic of Eric’s attendance aside. Then there was the time she dropped in at his office midday and, when Eric was unavailable for lunch, asked my husband to eat with her. And when my husband has come to meet us and greets me with a kiss, Leah always asks for a kiss, too, albeit in a playful fashion. My husband usually offers an awkward hug in response.
My husband was the first one to bring up how Leah makes him feel odd—and now we’re on the same page. But I fear that tackling this head-on with Leah could ruin our friendship and also make things uncomfortable between my husband and Eric, who I’m pretty sure has no clue about Leah’s strange crush. What do I do or say? Last time my husband and I talked about it, we agreed that we’d limit the amount of time they were alone together.
Help, My Friend Is Hot for My Husband!
It depends how valuable this friendship is to you. I tend to agree that accusing Leah of being crushy on your husband is going to make things mighty strained between the two of you, no matter whether she denies it vehemently or tearily fesses up—never mind the embarrassment potential between your husband and Eric. I know readers are going to disagree with me here, but since Leah isn’t an actual threat to your marriage (your husband finds her attentions irksome and has agreed to limit contact), you might be better off making your point through subterfuge rather than a heart-to-heart.
Quit the three’s-a-crowd dinners in favor of double dates or nothing. If Leah demands an explanation for your husband’s absence, put the onus on him. Tell her that he always feels like he’s intruding on “girl talk” and enjoys it more when the four of you meet up. Maybe she’ll get the message that way and you two can preserve your friendship.
Meanwhile, from what you write, it sounds as if Leah and Eric’s relationship isn’t long for this world. It seems possible that Leah is simply using the flirtation with your husband, however one-sided, to separate herself emotionally from Eric. It’s also possible that the feeling is mutual. In every scenario you describe, Eric is AWOL. If he were that keen on Leah—and assuming he has the same work schedule as your husband—wouldn’t it follow that he wanted to spend actual time with her? In any event, that’s their problem. Yours is to protect your assets, romantic and platonic alike.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe, One of my oldest friends—”Evelyn” —and I have both lost about 20 pounds each of baby weight over the past year. As far as I know, we did it quite naturally and healthily, often enjoying a rich sauce, dessert, or glass or two of wine together along the way. Before pregnancy, we wore the same size. And although we’ve dropped the same amount of weight, I still need nearly the same size clothing I wore before I was pregnant. Evelyn, however, has gotten skinnier. I wouldn’t care, except that at every opportunity she stresses the fact that her pants/dress size is now three or four times smaller than mine. For example: If she’s visiting my house, she makes a point of mentioning that borrowing anything is out of the question because my outerwear/tops would now “swim on her.” I can’t help but feel that this is a dig. I also find the whole thing bewildering, because she’s already more attractive than I am. But I don’t know how to raise the issue without sounding catty myself. What should I do?
Stop Implying That I’m Fat
Dear SITIF, My guess is that Evelyn, in addition to being pretty, is also quite vain—or, at least, vainer than you. And while attractive to you and the rest of the world, she’s actually feeling quite unattractive at the moment—possibly having something to do with the fact that she just had a baby. Her weight may have dropped, but when she looks in the mirror, maybe all she sees are dark circles under her eyes, varicose veins on her calves, and a puffy midsection. In order to feel better about that perceived fact, she reassures herself (out loud) that at least she’s thinner than her old friend (you). I’m not excusing the behavior. (There’s also the chance she’s just a thoughtless narcissist.) In any case, I suggest a mixture of honesty and humor. The next time she tries out one of those “swim on me” lines, turn to her with a wry smile and say, “Are you trying to make me feel like a beached whale, or is that unintentional?” She’ll likely be caught off guard, apologize profusely, and not repeat the mistake. In the meantime, please send further details regarding your cream-sauce diet. It sounds too good to be true. Oh, and congrats on the new baby!
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I’m blessed with a core group of friends from college. We’re from a variety of backgrounds and enjoy learning from each other. One of them, “Emily,” practices a particularly conservative form of Christianity. I’m also a Christian, but from a much more liberal protestant denomination. I teach Sunday school and attend church regularly, and Emily knows that. Yet when discussing the choices that she and her church friends have made, she’ll say, “Since we’re Christians, we [do it this way].” More often than not, it will be something that I disagree with.
This bothers me because, a) I feel she’s grouping me in with beliefs I don’t share, b) I feel she’s putting me down as less of a Christian for not believing/acting as she does, and c) I’m confident she speaks to non-Christians this way and is representing her very narrow beliefs as mainstream. Am I being over-sensitive, or would it be reasonable to ask her to preface such opinions with, “In my belief system …” rather than to paint with such broad strokes?
Still a Christian Even if You Don’t Think So
I’m not a Christian myself, but I know that Jesus’ message was one of inclusion, not exclusion. It’s a shame that Emily has forgotten that lesson as she goes about subtly denigrating those who don’t worship in exactly the same manner as her. (I’d hate to see how she acts with those who actually pray to a different God!) I suggest sitting down with her and saying that you sometimes feel as if she’s dismissing the version of Christianity that you practice and that it hurts your feelings because you consider yourself an equally devout person. You might also remind her that religion, at its purest, is not about judging others but about love and humility, forgiveness and sacrifice. At that point, either she’ll admit that she believes you’re an apostate who deserves to be burned at the stake or she’ll realize the error of her ways and try harder in the future. If it’s the former case, I don’t see how the friendship can survive. Or, really, I can’t see why you’d want to remain friends with someone who is so intolerant. Hopefully, though, she’ll see the light—no pun intended—and change her ways. Insisting on her using a particular grammatical clause may be asking for too much, however.
Friend or Foe
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