Dear Carolyn,

I found out my boyfriend's friend was saying not-so-nice things about me to my boyfriend. He of course defended me, but I'm having a hard time getting over this. I can't help but feel insulted and hurt by his friend. Since my boyfriend and I are likely to move on to the next level of our relationship, I will likely have to see this person again. How do you suggest I deal with this situation? Kill him with kindness? Ignore him?

Washington Put him in perspective. The problem isn't that the friend said not-so-nice things. People say all kinds of horrible stuff, about people they hate, love, know, don't know, have no opinion about, want for themselves -- and they say it for reasons good, selfish, selfless, caring, careless, staunchly defended, quickly regretted, totally understandable, easily misunderstood out of context. Or because they're jerks.

The problem is that you know about it. And since it was an insult you weren't meant to hear, that means it arrived at your psyche stripped of its larger conversation, and, I'm guessing, of its back story, too. It's the isolated opinion of a guy you apparently don't really know, who doesn't really know you. Big whoop, cosmically speaking.

Plus, this is a strike against him, but it's still just one strike.

So suspend your opinion. Achieve your Next Relationship Level alerted to the possibility this friend doesn't like you (which you'll weather, via the high road), but open to the possibility that his opinions, and yours, have more than enough room to change.

Hello, Carolyn:

I have a friend, J., who, though a good person, is competitive. She would like to be married and have a family, but does not, and recently adopted a dog. I am married and have a 9-month-old son. Recently she told me, in all sincerity, that having a dog was harder than raising a baby! All I could do was stare at her, mouth open. I have been through hell and back with this baby (some postpartum depression -- which J. knows about) and I just can't believe she would compare the two. I know this is possibly jealousy, but this has gone too far. I feel at a loss for what to do.

B.She does have a point; her dog will never learn to work a can opener, doorknob or leash.

Depending on how close you are, you (1) laugh, (2) humor her, or (3) say, "I would laugh or humor you, but since you know the postpartum hell I went through, I'm too angry to blow it off."

It may seem counterintuitive, but I think the closer you are and the warmer your history, the more easily you'll master the urge to tell her she's wrong.

She apparently felt the need to reach -- across decency boundaries, across credulity, into your emotional sacred ground -- just to build herself up. The more you sympathize with her, the more forgiving I think you'll be.

What she said is outrageous. Yes. But it's also so far beyond ridiculous that it's almost beyond a straight-faced response. The way you respond should reflect whether, after some time to reflect, you feel outraged for you, outraged that she'd use you to feel better, or in the end just sad for your friend.

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