Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My best friend told me yesterday that she has been seeing a guy for a month now. I was thrilled to hear the news because, at 21, she has never been with anyone before. Then she told me the guy is married. I want to be supportive and nonjudgmental, but I don't agree with her actions. I told her to be careful, and she insisted that she knows what she's getting herself into. She really likes him and apparently he likes her, too. She says that she has nothing to lose from the situation -- after all, she's not the married one -- and she is aware that something may eventually happen, but she's not concerned because she's enjoying herself in the present. I think she's so completely blinded by her infatuation that she hasn't rationally considered the consequences. What do I say to her? I don't want her to get hurt, but do I let her make her own mistakes? -- Afraid for Friend, Shreveport, La.

DEAR AFRAID FOR FRIEND: You have no control over your friend, no matter how much you love her. You may have influence, though. When you talk next, check in to see how things are going. Express your concern once more about what she is doing. Tell her that you love her and that you are concerned for her, since this man is unavailable to commit to her. Add that you are worried about her safety.

In situations like hers, when the spouse finds that her husband is cheating, you never know how she -- or he -- will react. Suggest that she watch a few Lifetime movies. While fictional, that network shows some of the worst outcomes of such liaisons. Unfortunately, our police departments are filled with stories of violence sparked by adultery. That should be plenty of ammunition without you having to bring up the morality issue.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who constantly comments on how I spend my money. When she notices that I have bought a new dress or that I got my hair done, she always asks me how much it cost. Then she makes nasty comments about how I spend too much money on things. I don't think my spending is any of her business. I can afford to spend money the way that I do. I also save. I have a good job and have figured out how to afford my lifestyle. She is a single mom with a low-paying job. I get that she can't do it, but that is not my problem. I never talk about what I have, but I do answer her questions. What can I do to handle this better? -- Uncomfortable, Racine, Mich.

DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: Stop answering your friend's questions about prices. When you answer, you make it her business in a way because you give her information that she can evaluate and comment on. She seems to be living vicariously through you and then crashing emotionally because she realizes yours is not her life. To get her to snap out of her vicarious reverie, you may need to tell her that her running commentary on your possessions hurts your feelings. Sometimes the direct approach is required, even if it may seem harsh at first.