Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Boyfriend's 'platonic female friend' is way out of line
Manhattan: I'm in a great relationship of three years. My boyfriend has a platonic female friend, "Megan," whom he met at work last year. Every time I've been around her, she flirts with him overtly and shamelessly. Usually it's framed as a joke, but sometimes it really crosses the line, such as a recent time when she actually grabbed his crotch at a restaurant. (He pushed her hand away but kind of laughed it off, which irked me.)
I think I'm totally reasonable when it comes to trusting my boyfriend around other women, but I think Megan's behavior displays an utter lack of respect for me (and, frankly, makes her look ridiculous). Should I continue to look the other way? Approach her directly? Or stop joining him on work-related outings?
Carolyn: I was waiting for this and it wasn't there, so:
(d) Tell your boyfriend you have no problem with his friendships with other women, but feel really uncomfortable around Megan because she's out of line on a regular basis. See what he says.
Manhattan again: I did (d) the very first time it happened, and again a few weeks later. My boyfriend is highly nonconfrontational and would rather die than have an awkward discussion with Megan about it, which I can understand and sympathize with. He basically told me he understands how I feel, but that he has to work with her, and he's afraid a confrontation like that would make it too tough to be comfortable around her in the future.
Megan is about 10 years older than we are and married, which makes my boyfriend view her as more of an authority figure than a peer. I don't blame him for not feeling comfortable with this, so it's up to me to say something (if it's necessary).
Carolyn: No no no, it's not. This is his life, his job, his crotch(!). Megan is his problem to solve.
And your boyfriend is yours. Telling her to keep her hands off his pants would be awkward, but letting her grab them isn't? Oy. He doesn't necessarily need to "confront" Megan. A hands-off demeanor and judicious avoidance at and outside work would likely suffice.
I feel the pain of the nonconfrontational, believe me — but while it's fine not to blame him for his discomfort, eventually you can blame him for being unwilling to leave his comfort zone long enough to stand up to the Megans of the world.
He lacks courage here in one of two ways: Either he feels as you do about Megan and lacks the nerve to set even unspoken limits, or he's involved with Megan (you have to at least consider it) and lacks the nerve to tell you. And passivity like this is like seeing a cockroach in your kitchen — do you really think squashing one bug will mean the problem is solved?
Atlanta: I suggest asking the boyfriend about his employer's sexual-harassment policy.
Carolyn: Federal law is readily available — http://1.usa.gov/hatEYa — as are the types of workplaces it governs: http://1.usa.gov/i8PqEf.
But remember, Megan is the boyfriend's "platonic female friend." The line between workplace and private life, or coercion and choice, is one we need more facts to draw in this case.