Hi Carolyn:

What do you do when you silently but strongly agree with people who criticize the work of your boyfriend, who works for the same organization? He works in another department, but his work affects the organization's public image. In the past I have argued with him about this. I've long since decided I need to butt out, but I have trouble keeping my opinions to myself when he talks about his frustration with co-workers and I find myself sympathizing with them or finding him at least partly at fault. When I say nothing or just, "Mm-hmm, okay," I feel dishonest.

For the sake of the organization I want him to change course, but as his girlfriend I don't want to undermine him.

Nonprofitland, USA

If "supporting" means "always agreeing with him," then we need to change all those bumper stickers to Friends Do Let Friends Drive Drunk Because Taking Their Keys Away Might Cause a Kerfuffle.

Office errors may be grayer than drunken driving, but still. He's taking heavy, legitimate criticism at work; that strikes me as the perfect time for a person he trusts to say, next time he complains, "I see your point, but I can see your co-workers', too."

Especially when he's all but inviting you to. He's still talking to you about this, despite knowing you disagree; that sounds like your cue.

Unless the happiness of your relationship depends on your remaining butted-out. In that case, you can always ask before you butt back in: "Do you want my opinion, or are you just venting?" And while you're there, you can ask yourself if a relationship that depends on mm-hmm-okays to stay happy is as happy as it could be.

Hey Carolyn:

After several dates without a goodnight kiss, I simply had to ask what was going on. She tells me she doesn't "want to be in a serious relationship right now," but would like "to keep hanging out and getting to know each other." Am I a total goob taking this at face value? Am I completely misguided in thinking that "hanging out" on a regular basis sounds a lot like the early stages of most serious relationships?

I seem to recall "not wanting to be in a relationship right now" often means "not wanting to be in a relationship with you . . . ever," and in that case she wants me to be her talking puppy, which is not cool (okay, a talking puppy would be cool, but you get me). I'll admit, I think she's a fantastic person, but is there any reason to keep banging my head against this metaphorical brick wall? Should I be a supergoob and ask for semantic clarification on this "right now" business?

New York

You like her? Then take her at face value and keep hanging out -- no expectations.

Either your next call gets screened, or you get strung along till one of you gets sick of that, or you become good friends, or you fall for each other.

Meaning, rejection is the worst case (97 percent chance), and best case you get close to a fantastic person (2 percent). (One percent, you fall for her roommate.) Sometimes, making a conscious choice to be gooby is the gutsiest call you can make.

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