Advice columnist

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My best friend, "Pam," and I have been friends since college and run a small catering business together. We were married the same year and have children who all grew up together. While Pam is still married, I've been divorced for years.

I love Pam like a sister, but she's a little rigid in her thinking, and I think she'll disapprove of my current relationship since the man, "Gary," is married. His wife lost interest in both him and sex years ago and has looked the other way when he sees other women, as long as he's discreet, so it's not like we're doing anything really underhanded.

Pam knows I'm seeing someone and has been pushing to meet him, but I haven't told her he's married because I'm afraid she'll freak out and won't accept that the current setup works for all of us: me, Gary and his wife.

Since the wife is an occasional client of our business (that's how I met Gary), I don't want to risk introducing Gary to Pam without telling her the whole story. What's the best way to handle this? Should I keep stonewalling her or come clean?

— Me


(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Me: “I’m dating a man who is in an open marriage. Is this going to be a problem?” Proceed from there.

Dear Carolyn: You've advised posing ideas as questions — "Do you think . . .?"

People will know they are not questions. My family does this, as if I'm too dumb to know what they're really doing. Not helpful.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Then say so! And then say what would be helpful to you.

I take issue with the notion, though, that framing things as questions equates to treating people as if they’re stupid. I see it as a gesture of respect: I have thoughts, but you have the last word, so I will address whatever you have presented to me, but I will do so in a way that clearly defers to you.

That’s also just my view, not a universal one, and so it’s a gesture of respect to let people know what bothers you by saying so and why. “I find this conversation frustrating.” And then: “I’d appreciate just having someone to listen,” or “I would rather work this out on my own,” or “I’m well aware of how you all feel, and I respectfully ask you to drop it,” or “If you have a suggestion, then please just say it directly.”

The calmer and more specific you can be, the better.

Hi, Carolyn: I had a mutual interest in someone back in college, about five years ago, that eventually amounted to nothing. I wanted a relationship, she did not, we parted ways and have not kept in touch outside of a few social media posts.

About a week ago, she reached out in what seemed like a harmless, let's-catch-up manner. We've been texting nonstop ever since. She is overseas for work and returns in a few weeks. Am I merely an emotional/boredom crutch for her while she's on her assignment, or is there something she wants to rekindle?

— Old Flame

Old Flame: Assume it’s the least unless and until it proves itself as the most. That’s about the limit of my divination skills. Sadly.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.