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by Abigail Van Buren

Job Competitors Must Work on Friendship After Hours

DEAR ABBY: My best friend and I recently got jobs at the two biggest competitors in town. We always have confided in each other about everything important, including work-related problems. However, our two businesses are so cutthroat and competitive, we're not even supposed to associate with people who are employed by the competition.

I don't want anything to affect our closeness. How can we maintain our friendship and also our jobs? -- TROUBLED IN TEXAS

DEAR TROUBLED: You will be doing a bit of a balancing act to stay friends in a competitive job situation, but it can be done. Look at Mary Matalin, who worked on the Republican campaign of former President Bush, while dating James Carville of President Clinton's campaign. They later married. Or United Press International's White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who worked in competition with her late husband, Doug Cornell of The Associated Press.

The secret is to keep your business and personal lives separate, agree to avoid discussing work-related problems or situations outside the office, and don't spread office gossip.