Carolyn Hax: Small-town affair tempts bystander to ignore MYOB policy

Carolyn Hax
Columnist February 13, 2013

Dear Carolyn:

Two acquaintances are having an affair, one married, one single. They are not being discreet, and a LOT of people know. We live in a pretty small city, so I am surprised the spouse has not heard yet, as it has been going on for more than a year. The spouse is not the sort of person who would react well, so I am pretty sure there is no tacit understanding or agreement going on.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I am very much for a MYOB stance in situations that don’t directly involve me. But I keep thinking if I were the partner, I would be very grateful if someone told me. Mortified, for sure. But EVENTUALLY grateful. I was wondering if there was ever a situation where an anonymous buttinski note was appropriate?

Overthinker

Your impulse is generous, but anonymous notes are awful. They deny recipients the chance to gauge the credibility and motives of the source, ask follow-up questions, and process how many people know, how much they know and for how long they’ve known — basically, all the paths a mind travels upon receipt of news like this. Hitting a brick wall on each one adds a helpless feeling to this jackpot of pain.


And that’s before the person experiences the bizarre transformation of every errand for milk and eggs into a small-town whodunit: Is that the person who sent me the note? Or did he do it? Did she?

Presumably you are not close to this person, or else you’d have said something already. If you just happen to be close to someone who is, then that’s it for options — to ask that person whether and why (ahem) the spouse still doesn’t know. Besides, of course, MYOB.

Dear Carolyn:

I have a friend who lives in the suburbs, so when he plans a night out he stays with a friend in the city. We recently attended the same party, and when it was over he was unable to get in touch with the friend, so he asked if he could crash on my couch.

Apparently he overindulged, because in the middle of the night I was awoken by his throwing up. He was sick everywhere — in my living room, hall and bathroom (but not the toilet). He watched me clean up some and then face-planted on my couch.

He sheepishly apologized the next morning and left without offering to finish cleaning. I spent more than three hours cleaning/disinfecting my house and doing laundry. I also discovered that my couch is stained. Is it inappropriate to ask him for money to help pay for the costs of all of this? Or is this just a hazard of having houseguests?

Sick of Cleaning

It’s hard to imagine a world where it’s more appropriate to puke-stain someone’s couch without taking responsibility than it is to ask the puker to reimburse you for cleaning expenses. So, let’s not.

He owes you whatever you spent in removing him from your worldly goods. You, meanwhile, owe him a measure of gratitude on behalf of your metropolitan area, for knowing to stay off the roads.

You also owe him a call to his customary host for these sleepovers. If this houseguest routinely overindulges, then it’s time for concerned friends to step in.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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