Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Female friend flirts with coupled men

Carolyn Hax on

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.

-- Maryland

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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.

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