I’m a fairly successful gal in my 40s, yet I seem to be a magnet for nosy, judgmental women who want to “school me” on everything. Recently, a female relative went off on my parenting skills, even though she has a child who is morbidly obese. How do I respond to these women without losing my temper? It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to open my mouth around anyone female anymore. —Annoyed

Unless the entire female population has gone catty, there’s probably something that you’re doing to bring out this type of behavior. I’m not saying it’s necessarily your fault, but you’re somehow rolling out the red carpet. I know you’re only asking how to respond without losing your temper, but I think you need to take a step further back and analyze how you’re getting there.

Be mindful the next time this happens, and try to reconstruct it afterward. And ask people you trust for their take. Eventually, you should start to see patterns to avoid. As for that response? A simple wordless stare, a “Wow” or a “My goodness, what an opinion you have!” should do the trick.

Keep It Clinical By the Cubicles
My boyfriend broke up with me, and my co-worker’s been having issues with his wife, and somehow we bonded over our relationship woes. I won’t go further than friendship, even if he wants to. But I’m conflicted, because he’s not getting the emotional support at home that he needs, so I understand why he wants to be in my company. He recently told me he’s in love with me, but for the sake of the kids, he wants to try to make things work at home. I don’t know what to do, especially because we have to see each other, so I can’t just distance myself from him. —Guidance Needed

Just because you’re near someone a lot doesn’t mean you can’t get emotionally distance. I respect the fact that you are declaring that you won’t go further than friendship, but I worry about your resolve. He’s telling you he’s in love with you, but you both know you shouldn’t be together. End of story.

Yes, he needs emotional support, but for you to give it to him defeats the purpose, as it damages his marriage further. He should be in therapy, and you should be backing away, and healing from your breakup on your own terms, not his.

Talk back to Dr. Andrea by leaving a comment below. To ask a question for Baggage Check in the Express print edition, e-mail baggage@readexpress.com or submit an anonymous question here.

Photo courtesy Bendependent.com