Q: I went to college with two friends who are now a couple. I currently work with the boyfriend while his girlfriend works in a different organization down the street from us.
When the three of us get together or I ride with them to see mutual friends, the topic of work inevitably comes up between me and the boyfriend, including some inside jokes. This is perfectly natural! But I think the work talk makes the girlfriend jealous.
I don't think I've done anything wrong, and I worry my co-worker and friend is caught in a dysfunctional relationship with someone I'm realizing is possessive and insecure. What can I do to convince her I'm just making conversation?
A: You can start "just making conversation" that includes her, instead of excluding her and defending it as "perfectly natural!" That means you stop talking shop when you're seeing these two socially, because it's plain rude to hold a conversation that denies entry to others. The inside jokes, meanwhile, may come up organically, but that doesn't mean they aren't also a toxic combination of topically and emotionally exclusive. You might as well just say out loud to the girlfriend, "See? We share an intimacy that you and he don't." Cut it out.
If you're attracted to the boyfriend, or like the little ego boost from steering his attention your way when his girlfriend is there, or just value his friendship more than hers, then admit this to yourself. Know your ulterior motives, because worrying that "my co-worker and friend" is "caught in a dysfunctional relationship" doesn't pass the sniff test. You're invested, and digging in. Time to figure out why.