Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Close friend set you up on a bad blind date...on purpose? Girlfriend keeps cheating and you keep taking her back. Why?

DEAR NATALIE: Recently, a very close friend set me up on a blind date. She knows I am a vegetarian and she knows that I am an animal lover. I have two dogs that I rescued from a shelter and I work at a veterinarian's office. I say this because she set me up with someone who was a carnivore, hates dogs (he’s allergic) and basically was opposite of everything I like. We had a really awkward date and we actually ended it with a bad argument. It was a mess. I can’t believe my friend would set me up with someone like that. Why did she do that? I called her after the date and she laughed! She said she thought it would be funny and that I take dating too seriously. Now I’m really offended. How do I handle this? --BAD DATE, WORSE FRIEND

DEAR BAD DATE, WORSE FRIEND: Yikes! With friends like this, who needs enemies? While I’m sorry you had a bad date, what’s worse is that you had a friend who found humor in a bad situation that she intentionally put you in. I don’t know what your definition of “close friend” is, but when I think of close friends of mine, I think of people who love me for who I am, who nurture my positive attributes, and who are there when I need someone to laugh or cry with. But they aren’t the ones making me cry. I know friends argue, but I wouldn’t be friends with someone who puts me in harmful or negative situations on purpose for their own entertainment. That is pretty creepy and even sociopathic. If I were you, I would put this friend on ice for a while. If she wonders why, confront her about what she did and say that you need to rethink this friendship. Unless she can be supportive and caring, why do you need her in your life? The world is rough enough, you don’t need your “friend” making it harder.

DEAR NATALIE: I’ve caught my girlfriend cheating on me several times, but we always end up getting back together. I love her and I have a hard time letting her go. Every time we get back together, things are great for a few months, and then I can tell she is getting bored with me. Inevitably, she cheats, we break up, and cycle continues. Recently, we broke up again and I told myself I would not let her cry her way back into my life. What do I do to keep myself from making the same mistakes? Do you think people can change? --PUSHOVER

DEAR PUSHOVER: The question isn’t whether people can change, but whether you can change. She has shown you who she is and she has no reason to change because you continue to take her back. She is someone who thinks about herself and knows that if she cries on your shoulder, that manipulation will pull you right back in. She found your soft spot and is exploiting it so that she can have her cake and eat it, too. She sounds like she enjoys the comfort and security of having a steady boyfriend, but she obviously likes the thrill of cheating, as well. Cut. Her. Loose. Stop letting her play you for a fool. Yes, this is your tough love moment because you need it. You sound like someone who is kind, loving and forgiving. These are all wonderful qualities in a partner, but you have to be more discerning or you will keep getting hurt over and over again. End things for real, and then work on building up your own self-confidence so that when the right woman comes along, you will have enough self-respect to put up healthy boundaries from the start.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: You are never too old or young to start expanding your network. Whether it means going out one extra night a month to meet up with networking groups, or whether it means reaching out more to those in your social circle, get in the habit of making connections. We are not islands. We do better when we have friends, colleagues and people that we can count on. If you want to find that person you can rely on, be that person to others.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email,; 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.)