Dear Carolyn: So, I know what NOT to do when another woman openly hits on my husband: call her names, start a public fight, generally look like a jealous fool.
But … what exactly is the appropriate response when this happens? A woman in my social circle has major boundary issues and is very flirty and physical. Recently she has targeted my husband and done one or two really unbelievable things that other people noticed and pointed out to me.
My husband does his part – he is good at pulling himself out of awkward situations – and I trust him, so I don’t feel a real need to confront this woman, but I wonder whether I should, on principle.
– San Francisco
A: Way-out-there flirting with people who have already been spoken for is sad, attention-seeking behavior; when it works, it brings positive attention from the target and negative attention from the target’s partner. Score.
So on principle, you do nothing. No matter how delightful they are for witnesses, skip the hands-off-my-man confrontations.
Your husband’s role is to have no interest in her as a guilty pleasure. Yours is to have no interest in her as a threat. Voilà, a beast left unfed.
If you feel compelled to intervene, then wait. When she does “really unbelievable things” to someone else’s squeeze, you’re free to speak discreetly on everyone’s behalf, hers especially: “Desperella, what’s going on? That was over the line.”
Concern for sister
Dear Carolyn: My sister was married 41 years and her cheating husband died of lung cancer four months ago. She stayed and took good care of him until the end.
Three months after he died, his high school best friend (my sister’s first love) came to see her, and now they are engaged. She wants to get married yesterday. I’ve been asking her to wait, slow down etc. What can I say to persuade her to give it some time?
A: It’s easy to understand your concern, but it’s hard to summon motivation to find ways to interfere with a woman who’s living her life as she sees fit.
It’s also easy to see how the promise of a little joy is more persuasive to her than your implied forecast of doom.
While your impulse to warn is natural, you’ll be more credible to her if you acknowledge her view: “I’m so happy you’re happy” or “You deserve some joy” or, now, “I should have said this up front: Congratulations.”
After you’ve shown that you understand, you’ll make more sense to her when you say, “This sure does look wonderful, and in a year or so you’ll know whether it is” – that is, if you choose to say it. Choosing not to heed you doesn’t mean she didn’t hear.