DEAR MISS MANNERS: I became fast friends and drinking buddies with an (essentially) married couple and the wife’s business partner and close friend, a married man. They helped me through some hard times, although I don’t hang out with them much anymore.
The wife, Arlene, and the partner, Josh, were often together because of their work, and she considers him like a brother. I’ve been single for years, and Josh apparently developed a crush on me. I’ve never had similar feelings, in spite of enjoying his personality -- besides, he’s married. He also has serious weight issues, and I would consider both him and Arlene heavy drinkers.
But Arlene consistently mentioned how she thought Josh just needed a “good woman” to get him out of his marriage. She has flat-out told me numerous times she thinks he went on such-and-such diet hoping to date me.
I made it clear to her from Day 1 that I won’t engage with someone who is married -- happily or not -- and that I don’t have those feelings towards Josh.
Fast-forward to a long-overdue, socially distanced dinner with Arlene, where she mentioned that she really thinks Josh and I would be great together. I lost my patience and point-blank said, “I will never be romantically attracted to Josh.”
She looked like I’d just stolen her beloved cat. How can I dissuade these continuous comments, and what is the correct way to respond?
GENTLE READER: One way to respond is to understand that someone who -- for whatever strange reason -- has no respect for either your wishes or your principles is not your friend. Then if Arlene chooses to pout, you need not attempt to mollify her.
If, for whatever strange reasons of your own, you want to continue the relationship, Miss Manners suggests putting the matter before Josh. As he has apparently not made direct overtures to you, you are free to treat him as another victim of Arlene’s delusion.
“I suppose Arlene must mean well,” you can tell him, “but she is embarrassing us both by trying to promote an adulterous relationship between us. Under any circumstances, a romance between us will always be out of the question, although I hope we will remain friends. She doesn’t listen to me, so please tell her that you don’t want her pestering me on your supposed behalf.”