Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I have been friends with a neighbor for almost a year. We have a lot in common, and so our friendship has become very tight. We also have a lot of clashing opinions, however, and it’s hard not to be insulting when she says something I feel is blithely ignorant or one-sided.

She also has a tendency to try to manipulate others into doing her will. I’m not one to be steamrolled, but I really don’t like being told that it’s time for me to leave a group activity because she has to get up early, or that I should order X or Y when I said I was ordering Z.

I know she doesn’t mean to be so self-absorbed, but I hate being told what to do, especially by someone who claims her central philosophy in life is live and let live. Do I just go on pretending it doesn’t bother me and doing my own thing, or should I make a thing of it?

Friendly boundaries

The problem isn’t just that your friend tells people what to do — it’s also that you bristle at being told what to do. Please look at this as a problem with two halves, one of which you’re holding in your hand.

Knowing where your two personalities clash is a lot more productive, I think, than looking at someone else as the problem. It allows you to adjust your own behavior by predicting conflict and preparing a response beforehand that involves neither sparring nor “pretending.” For example, just a smile plus, “Thanks, but I’d rather order Z.”

I might also humbly suggest you became too friendly too quickly. Having things in common can move things faster than our conflict sensors can handle. If you can’t adapt your way around your friction points, you might just have to speak up — but remember not to point fingers at her, and instead treat each “side” neutrally and without judgment.

Hi, Carolyn:

My first baby is due soon. Having had a ton of babysitting experience with my niece and nephews, I thought I was prepared. Then I agreed to care for my nephew for six straight days and boy, was that a rude awakening. It truly scared the crap out of me because I’m on the parenting train and it’s too late to get off. Any hope that love for my firstborn will outweigh some of the horrors I now know I’m set to experience?


Expect it. There will still be days that you’re sure will never ever END, but your sense of long-term investment is everything here. When it’s your child, for almost every parent, even the horrors come wrapped in a blanket of fierce love.

Re: The expectant mom:

Keep in mind that you went from no kids to six straight days with one. That’s a big switch. When you have your own baby, you’ll get used to having a child around all the time. It’s hard in the beginning, but you do adjust. Good luck and enjoy your baby!


Thanks. There’s no adjustment period for your own baby, either — you get home and you’re in it, 24-7 — but newborns, while demanding, demand simple things. Warmth, food, clean bottoms, love.

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