Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Friend's boyfriend makes girl talk hard to manage
D.C.: My best friend has a serious boyfriend, and I do not. She and I are in our early 20s and live in different cities, so we have limited opportunities to see each other. The two of them, meanwhile, live together. Whenever we visit each other, there is an unspoken understanding that he will come along. I like him, but it does become frustrating when I just want to see her, or have girl talk, you know?
Also, their being a package deal tends to stack the deck against me when it comes to making plans — their two votes override my one when we're deciding where to go for dinner or who should come to whom. (His vote always matches hers.) It feels unfair, like I'm being punished for being a singleton, while she's being rewarded for having a devoted partner.
Even my limited experience has taught me never to take issue with the SOs of friends, so I am hesitant to complain about this. However, this is really changing the nature of our friendship and making me feel pretty hurt. Is there anything I can do?
Carolyn: You can speak your mind! The world won't collapse into itself. Just tell your BEST friend that you like her boyfriend just fine, but you'd also like to make time to see her one-on-one. And you can point out, when they overrule you on group plans for the umpteenth time, that they routinely overrule you — actually, you can say pretty much anything if it follows the opening, "Cheez, guys . . ."
In other words, please see that you're tiptoeing in situations where it's not necessary to — where it would be completely appropriate to make your preferences heard. This is your best friend, presumably the most forgiving person you know.
That suggests you're even less assertive in less friendly environments; if that's the case, expect the consequences of being timid to get a lot more dramatic than missing out on girl time.
The good news is, because you have a forgiving environment in your friend, these visits give you a great place to practice being assertive. Start taking small steps toward recognizing your wants and needs as legitimate, and expressing them as such. In some cases you'll get no adverse reaction at all, which will help you see that it's not a crime to ask for something; in other cases you will get an adverse reaction, which will help you learn to handle them, which will help you stop fearing them.
Who to invite when activities start to get pricey
L.I., N.Y.: I have a group of about six friends who often get together for everything from movies to vacations. Some are more financially secure than others. If I'm sending out a group e-mail suggesting an activity, should I edit the list of recipients, based on economics? If so, how do I know where to draw the line? I feel bad leaving anyone out of the invitation, but also feel bad inviting those who I think probably cannot afford a certain activity.
Carolyn: Ack, no, don't zone your invitations to exclude certain friends. Invite all, but be mindful of money and make sure a fair number of the activities you plan are affordable for everyone.