Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Friend having an affair and you don’t approve? Father-in-law behaved badly at Thanksgiving and now you are afraid of spending Christmas Eve together?

DEAR NATALIE: A male friend of mine befriended a woman who is married. In the time they've spent as friends, they seem to have racked up a pretty tight relationship, constantly going on dinner dates and spending time alone with no other friends around. When he's not with her, he spends his time texting her or talking about her nonstop. He gives gifts and sends flirtatious notes, too. The woman plans to divorce her husband, and my friend is dead set on a relationship happening in the near future. Others have said their cozy relationship smells of extra-marital affairs, but my friend says otherwise, and I struggle to believe him. My friend knows I don't condone cheating and knows our friendship would be over if that happened in his case. I've suggested he needs to cool off for a bit, but he fails to take my advice and continues sneaking around to hang out with her, going as far to say I'm not being supportive, and threatening to end to our friendship. I'm at my wits' end here. His lack of regard for me and shady character in this situation makes me question the type of person he is. He's not who I thought I became friends with. I fully support men and women being friends, but also know there's a fine line between friendship and flirting. Do you think that I should end our friendship? --AT WITS’ END

DEAR AT WITS’ END: Whatever is going on between them, it is better if you stay out of it. I understand that you are frustrated with your friend and the way he is behaving. I also understand that you don’t condone this behavior, but trying to give him an “ultimatum” of sorts really isn’t going to do much besides create a bigger wedge between the two of you. I would recommend letting this play out however it may and try to avoid passing judgment. We have no idea what her marriage is like. Maybe her husband is abusive and she has found solace in your friend. Maybe she has been miserable for years and is too afraid to let go. I’m not trying to make excuses about why someone would have an affair, but I think it is always easier to look from the outside in and project our thoughts and feelings on to a situation that we know nothing about. He clearly knows where you stand, so for now, let it go and let the chips fall where they may.

DEAR NATALIE: My father-in-law behaved so badly at Thanksgiving that I am cringing at the thought of spending Christmas Eve at my home. He would not stop talking about (you guessed it!) politics at the dinner table. It was to the point that my mother, who is a living saint, actually told him to shut up. It turned into this big thing and now I don’t know what to do for the holidays. My husband told me I just need to suck it up and deal with it, but I am so tired of having to be the one that ignores other people’s bad behavior. Why should I suffer because his dad is such a mean person? --YOU’RE A MEAN ONE

DEAR YOU’RE A MEAN ONE: Your husband is probably telling you to “suck it up” because that is how he has most likely dealt with his father throughout his life. You ignore the bad behavior, you cringe on the inside, you deal with the fact that this is your dad and it that isn’t going to change. What is really frustrating about this situation, however, is that your father-in-law is allowed to make everyone else feel uncomfortable, and yet no one is allowed to call him out for it. He’s a bully. Bullies push people around and only respond to strength. I give your mom credit for standing up to him, even though she probably could have handled it a bit more tactfully. I would just play it cool on Christmas Eve, but if he says something rude or insensitive, you have every right as the host of the party to tell him that you don’t appreciate unkind words being said on such a festive night. If he can’t control himself, he can leave.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: See someone by themselves at an event? Maybe they are a little shy and need a friendly face to help them get out there. Introduce yourself and extend a hand. You may just make a new friend.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)