Dear Carolyn: My friend “Chloe” was raised to be fairly independent (as was I), but she married “Joel,” who is very traditional and likes to wax poetic about how important it is for the husband to provide so that the wife can focus all her attention on the home. I suppose this is a valid setup that works for some people, and Chloe seems happy with him, so be it.

Except that for the past five years or so, with Joel’s urging, Chloe is actually becoming sort of a multilevel marketing queen. My disdain for that industry aside, I find it really strange that spending several hours each day working on building her MLM cred somehow does not count as “work.” She knows not to bug me about sales or try to recruit me, but the entirety of her social media presence revolves around what looks to me like a regular job.

How do I respond to Joel when he inevitably (and frequently) goes off on one of his self-congratulatory diatribes about how wonderful it is to have his wife home, and what an incredible feeling it is to provide for her and their child?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: “Okay, Joel.”

There’s no winning this one.

Except maybe with the dawning realization that your friend has gone the way of so many friends, down a path that reveals more about how you differ than about what you share.

That doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends, it just means you need to be extra mindful of their marriage as none of your business.

Do keep an eye though, if you can, on Chloe's well-being — as you would any other friend … and a splash extra. Bragging about his power doesn't just make him a blowhard; it's an abuse predictor. Humans of all kinds who have the upper hand are famously bad at remaining humble in the way they exercise it.

This can be especially true if he, say, loses his job, and suddenly has a cherished and deliberately crafted self-image he feels intense pressure to maintain. When someone is so invested in being in charge, things can go sideways fast.

Readers’ thoughts:

· I wonder whether Chloe’s devotion to the MLM industry is her desperate way of trying to make enough money to get out of that relationship.

· Considering the average profitability of MLMs, it’s very likely that Joel is in fact still the only financial provider for the family. Might be some consolation to Anonymous.

· Unless she’s making a profit, it’s “work,” but not work. MLMs are, at best, expensive hobbies. She paid upfront for an inventory, so she already started in the hole. Excessive social media presence is not indicative of success — find me someone who hasn’t had at least one Facebook friend use their page to shill MLM garbage nonstop — so unless you’re privy to Chloe’s earnings, “MLM queen” seems highly unlikely. Again, that’s by design.

· It bugs me that MLM often seems to go together with fundamentalist religion and/or traditional gender roles. The products shilled are just more STUFF. Those who claim to follow God’s word and command to take stewardship of the earth should not be engaged in blatant consumerism. Hypocrisy 101.