Q: This woman and I have been friends for a year. She’s a free spirit of sorts with zero boundaries. In the time I’ve known her, she’s been married and divorced and then engaged, and now that has ended. She always has another man on the side. (She did even when married and engaged.) She frequently mentions my husband — how he likes animated films and so does she (they’re not my thing) and offers to accompany him to them. She always gives him a big hug hello, even when I’m around, and goes on about how similar they are, and it just strikes me as odd. Here’s the killer: Last week, she saw my husband at a gathering, came up behind him, and kissed him on the neck! Of course he told me, as he has no interest in her, but I was shocked. We are planning a business together, but now I don’t want her near my husband! Should I confront her?
A: “She’s a free spirit of sorts.” Of sorts. The classic, harmless sort is the cute hippie girl who dyes her hair teal, changes her name to Magic Rainbow, and goes off for a year to live in a teepee. What does your free-spirited friend do, make lingerie out of found materials that she can wear when she climbs on your husband?
Boundaries aren’t such a bad thing; they keep the cows from roaming the freeways. Should the urge strike to let one’s lips prowl the neck of another woman’s husband, true friendship and empathy make the best fences. A true friend might find herself attracted to your husband but would be careful to avoid saying or doing anything to tempt him or make you feel threatened. This “friend’s” sneak attack on your husband’s neck meat, along with her notion of sexual fidelity — “Till death do us part or the NBA shot clock runs down” — suggests that she’s a narcissist, a self-absorbed, manipulative user.
Narcissists lack empathy and can’t be true friends or partners because their aggressive self-interest always comes first, although they tend to be good at faking friendship or partnership and painting their toxic opportunism as, say, free-spiritedness: A woman must follow her bliss!…right down the pants of another woman’s man. (Oh, come on, Stuffy…she always has another man on the side — why not yours?)
Do you really want to be in a partnership with a woman whose moral compass seems fixed on magnetic ME! ME! ME!? In deciding that, be careful not to let momentum get the best of you. We’re prone to want to continue down the path we’ve been on and rationalize why that’s a good idea — even when evidence that it isn’t keeps popping up like dogs in humiliating outfits on YouTube.
If you’re hellbent on working with her, get a partnership agreement drawn up by a lawyer (one who is not your alcoholic brother-in-law). Probably your best bet, however, is bowing out now with a host of vague but plausible reasons: You’re not ready; you don’t have the energy right now; it wouldn’t be fair to her. Keep the actual reason to yourself: A startup takes a hands-on approach, but she’s only got two hands, and they’re usually crawling up some other woman’s husband.
Q: My girlfriend had a drug problem but claimed she’d been clean for seven years. It turns out she’s been using for the entire year we’ve been together. Two months ago, she went to rehab. I thought she was doing all right afterward, but then she admitted that she’d twice gotten high and had sex with a guy she met at rehab. I think I can forgive her, but I’m wondering whether I can ever believe her again.
A: Random urine tests can say a lot about a person, like that she either got the dog to pee into a cup or could one day give birth to a fine litter of Labradoodles. Drug addicts lie. Yours has been lying to you from day one, and not about inconsequential stuff. (Don’t run to get an HIV test; grow wings and fly there.) Your girlfriend’s motto appears to be “Just say ‘Don’t mind if I do!’ to drugs.” You could say she’s been cheating on you with drugs. Actually, she’s been cheating on drugs with you. Make no mistake about what comes first and who comes second. That’s not going to change overnight — and maybe not ever. You can someday have a loving, mutual relationship — once you find a partner whose moments of painful honesty involve admitting to stuff like scraping your new car getting into the garage, not “Oh, I had sex with a crackhead I met in rehab. And how was your day?”