Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my friends, "Emily," used to be an alcoholic and a drug addict. Now, she is completely sober. I am very happy for her, but she insists on going to bars with everybody and doesn’t like it when people call attention to her sobriety. Should I tell others to stop buying shots for Emily or offering her sips of their drinks? I think spreading the word to our immediate friends might help Emily feel more comfortable. -- Sober in a Bar, Newark, New Jersey

DEAR SOBER IN A BAR: One of the things that is taught in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous is to be wary of people, places and things that could serve as a trigger to a relapse. Your friend Emily is playing with fire by hanging out in bars with people who are actively drinking. It is not up to you to share her personal business, though. It is her responsibility to tell others of her sobriety.

Speak to Emily privately and express your sincere concern that her decision to hang out at bars with friends seems reckless and unsafe. You can also stop inviting her to go with you when you join others in bars. What you cannot do is control her actions.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been in a “friends with benefits” relationship for five months. Recently, "Alex" talked to me about our “relationship,” and I was stunned. I think he’s assumed we have progressed into a relationship, but this was never discussed. Do I have the obligation to explain where I feel we stand? I have considered just telling him this agreement is over. -- When You Assume, Baltimore

DEAR WHEN YOU ASSUME: If the roles were reversed, you would probably want to know where Alex stands, and if he didn’t tell you, chances are you would feel duped. So here’s a time when the Golden Rule applies. Do unto Alex as you would have him do unto you. That doesn’t mean you have to break up with him. It does mean that you owe him the truth. If you are happy with a casual relationship that sometimes includes intimacy but truly is not headed toward a permanent bond, tell him. Then ask him if he can handle that.

Believe it or not, some guys can’t. The stereotype is that only men can handle casual sexual relationships, i.e. the friends-with-benefits type of engagement. The truth is that there are people who can handle the relationship and some who can't. To avoid things getting messy later down the line and you hurting Alex’s feelings or destroying a perfectly good friendship, be upfront with him now. If he agrees to stay involved with you, do yourselves a favor and check in from time to time to see if either of you wants to change the rules.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)