Nicole Cliffe is filling in as Dear Prudence this week.
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I met both “Teresa” and “Colin” in college. I grew close to both of them in separate friend groups. By the time we were graduating, the two of them were strongly infatuated with each other and began dating not long after. The relationship worried me, as they did not bring out the best in each other. I am ashamed to say I was very vocal about this opinion to everyone but the couple, and they soon stopped talking to me around the time they were married.
Last year, I realized that I had messed up and wrote a long apology to the two of them. I apologized for doubting their relationship, explained that it came from a place of worry, and said that I should have come to them with concerns, not fallen temptation to gossiping instead. They forgave me, and we began to rebuild the friendship.
Last month Teresa confided to me that she was deeply unhappy in her marriage, falling for another man, and taking steps toward a divorce. They are currently living apart. Colin is with his family, several states away, with the purpose of finding better employment, and Teresa is working on cutting him out of her life without telling him first. She has begun splitting the bank accounts and blocking him on social media. She has only told me, claiming she feels comfortable because I would support the split anyway.
While I do agree that a divorce is best for both of them, I know that Colin will be devastated. He supported Teresa through mental breakdowns, lost his previous job because he wanted to care for her when she mentioned feeling suicidal, and moved his whole life to be with her. She will move on easily, as she has already done so emotionally, but this will come as a deep shock to him.
I feel dirty knowing all of this. I feel deeply uncomfortable with the fact that she hasn’t told Colin anything and have encouraged her to communicate her intentions. She says he will lash out and it’s better to have everything in order and then worry about the communication aspect. They are both my friends, and I feel fully stuck.
—Stuck in the Middle With You
Tell Teresa you’re not comfortable hearing any more about her plans to leave Colin and your discomfort for being placed in the middle. If she starts to bring it up again, remind her of that and leave.
This is a good time to mind your own business. This sounds mean, but it’s not meant to be. I also suggest that this extremely dysfunctional friendship may have finally run its course. It clearly does not bring you joy.
Snooping is terrible. I know. But when a co-worker quit and my boss asked me to search her email for something—and I instantly saw a Gchat conversation on the side that “[my name] is the worsssst”—I just couldn’t help myself. I opened the chat and saw four co-workers, all of whom I thought I had good relationships with, spending YEARS making fun of me relentlessly. Screenshotting my social media posts to laugh at them, rolling their eyes at every email I sent, calling me a “try hard” and a “kiss ass” for caring too much about work, making fun of my partner. Just truly mean stuff. I’m embarrassed and so, so hurt.
I know that I can never confront them, because what I did to find the conversation was ridiculously unprofessional. I just wonder how I can move on and continue to work with these people. I’m so self-conscious about my every move at this point. How do I get over it?
—I Feel Like I’m Back in Seventh Grade
Oh, you poor thing. I will not scold you for snooping. No one can say you have not been more than punished in full.
You just have to live with it. It sucks. I would not try to change anything about how you conduct yourself at work. It sounds like you are an excellent employee, and your shine is making them look bad, which is causing them to lash out. People love a scapegoat. It could have been someone else, but, sadly, it’s you.
Please process all your feelings with your partner, so you can say to them what you wish you could say to your colleagues. I would also dust off my résumé and start thinking about finding a new job. It will be difficult to stay in this working environment. Lord knows that’s not an easy solution, but keep your ear to the ground and be open to making a change should the right opportunity come along.
I’m just so sorry.
I recently found out that I have to get a common, outpatient surgery. My problem is not life-threatening, but it does need to be taken care of, and my doctor recommended that I have the surgery this year if I can. The earliest date available is Dec. 24.
I told my mother, and my parents have generously offered to come up and stay to help me after the surgery. But my mother’s first reaction was, “What about all the complications that happen around the holidays? I don’t mean to scare you, but I’d just be so worried about the staffing at the hospital around that time. It’s just something to really consider.” She did scare me, and now I don’t know what to do. Am I being crazy here wanting to get the surgery on a holiday eve? Am I being selfish for basically ruining Christmas?
Ignore your mother. Have the surgery on Dec. 24. Hospitals may be a little wild around the holidays, but they are not staffed by mogwai who have been fed after midnight. You will be having a scheduled surgery and will not be wandering around the ER with people who deep-fried their turkeys unsuccessfully.
No one “ruins Christmas.” It’s just something controlling people say. Tell her that you’ve taken her concerns into consideration and will be following your surgeon’s advice to have your surgery, as planned, on Dec. 24. You hope she and your father will still be able to come help out afterward, but you understand if that’s not possible.
Hold the line.
More Advice From Nicole in Care and Feeding
When does the phantom poop smell end? Both of my kids (3 years and 18 months) are not yet potty trained. And, because I’m a glutton for punishment, we have a 4-month-old puppy also going to the bathroom literally everywhere. At work, commuting in the car, after kiddos are asleep … I smell poop. I understand that smell is the sense most tied to memory, so I know why I’m smelling poop that isn’t there, but when does it end? I’m hoping they can both be potty trained in about a year, so how long after that do I get the smell of poop (and puke!) out of my nose and hippocampus?
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