Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a girlfriend who is separated from her husband, and she would like to have some male company during the holiday season. I believe she should reconcile her relationship with her husband; however, I know how adamant she can be when it comes to making up her mind. How can I tell my friend that what she is doing is wrong? -- The Fixer, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR THE FIXER: You should not stand in judgment of your friend. How do you know that what she is doing is totally wrong? If she and her husband are separated, clearly the two of them feel that they have reached a major divide.

It can get messy for someone to launch a relationship with someone new before ending the current relationship. What you can do is point out to your friend that she might want to handle first things first. If she believes her marriage is over, she should see an attorney and head toward divorce. If she is ambivalent, she should seek counseling. Seeking comfort from another before getting her house in order can make her life more complicated.

You can gently point out these things, but ultimately, it is her life. Step back and let her live it without the burden of your judgment.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A former business partner called me recently to ask if I would like to work with him on a future project. I told him that I would respond to his offer at a later date. I am hesitant because we worked on a project a few years back. We had a lot of fun, but we did not make any money. If I say yes, I feel like there would be the potential to get burned again. I really like my former business partner as a friend, but I am not too sure about as a businessperson. -- On the Dotted Line, Chicago

DEAR ON THE DOTTED LINE: Trust your gut. While one bad experience does not guarantee another one, if your heart is telling you that it is not a good idea to work together, don't ignore your inner wisdom.

If you simply want to walk away, thank him for the offer and decline. If you are interested in learning more details, tell him as much. Whenever you consider embarking on a business project, you should learn everything you can about the opportunity so that you can assess its value objectively and think about the risks versus potential rewards. Since you had poor results in the past, be sure to learn about all of the financials up front. By going through this process step by step, it will be easier for you to speak to your friend about whether you think it makes sense to move forward.

Working with friends is often difficult. Weigh the odds to determine whether it is worth it for you to enter into a business relationship with this friend or if it is smarter to stay friends without business ties. When you decide, tell him the truth about your choice.