Dear Amy: I am a 39-year-old married man. I made a friend two years ago at work. She is 39, divorced, and lives alone. Our friendship built up over time and is solid.
Over the last few months, she has been opening up about her darkest feelings and deepest secrets. Best friends do share a lot, but I am unsure how much is too much. She has been behaving in a platonic way, but sometimes I do get vibes of this crossing the line.
I once felt that she wanted to give me a long hug but then walked away. (This was a very strong vibe.)
I had a quick and honest talk about her behavior. She confirmed that things are platonic, but I can't shake off these vibes.
During some conversations, the look in her eyes does tell me that something is up.
She has anxiety and depression and is on meds.
How should I manage this?
Should I assume that she isn't having feelings?
I am not someone who gives up on friends, but at the same time, I can't handle it if she develops feelings for me.
Dear KK: Married people can certainly have and maintain friendships aside from the marriage, but here’s a reminder: Your spouse should really hold “best friend” status for you, and it is important that you convey this — in large and small ways — to your work friend.
An analogy I appreciate is to envision a structure – a house – where you and your wife are inside together. When others seek a friendship with you, they should knock on the door and be invited in.
Your work friend seems to be jimmying a window open. She is confiding in you, which is establishing a private intimacy. It obviously makes you feel uncomfortable, and my suggestion is for you to gently close the window and direct her around to the entrance of your metaphorical house.
Do not share deep and personal intimacies of your own life with her. Refrain from commenting too deeply when she confides in you.
Do not communicate with her outside of work.
Establishing firmer boundaries should help your friend to transition to a more appropriate relationship with you. It is important for her to recognize that you should not be her only friend and confidant.
It is important for you to recognize that any time you feel uncomfortable, you have the right (and responsibility) to respond in a way that protects you and your own interests, regardless of your perception of the other person’s needs.
Dear Amy: I am fully vaccinated and boostered, but I do not believe it is anyone's business except for my medical providers.
If I am invited somewhere and the person says that they need to know my vaccination status first, I would like to tell them that it is none of their business and I'm not comfortable with their questions, so let's not get together now. I’d like to say, “Let's get together when you feel comfortable issuing invitations without the medical questionnaire.”
I don’t want my response to sound as aggressive as that, however.
Can you help me with a friendlier, more diplomatic response?
– Trying to Save Friendships
Dear Trying: Like you, I believe in anyone’s right to hold their vaccination status privately, and I have guarded my own.
And then my rural hometown became the nexus point of an invasive viral spike and a family member became ill. And now I believe that – if answering this simple question helps someone else to feel less anxious and vulnerable – then, OK!
We now know that vaccination does not totally prevent the spread of this virus, but it helps.
You can politely answer, “I’d rather not disclose my own status, and I understand if that means we won’t be able to see one another for a while, but I look forward to seeing you when things settle down.”
Given that many restaurants and public venues are now requiring proof of vaccination to enter, you may be facing a lonely few months, but your privacy and your principles will remain intact.
Dear Amy: “Proud Papa” wondered if he should tell his daughter that she was too overweight to wear a crop top.
Thank you for discouraging his impulse to comment on his daughter’s body!
Well-meaning people seem to have absolutely no idea how damaging this can be.
– Been There
Dear Been There: I can’t imagine that any person would welcome this sort of assessment.
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