Adapted from a recent online discussion.

 

Dear Carolyn: I dated “Mark,” literally the boy next door (OK, two houses down), all through high school and college. Our families were and remain close and we really did love each other but broke up when I had to move away for my career. I asked Mark to come with me, but he just couldn’t stand the idea of leaving home or living in a city, so that was that.

We stayed friends and I see him when I go home — about six times a year. He’s been dating a really nice girl and got engaged recently, and I made sure to be home for the engagement party.

Everything was going well until his fiancée introduced me to her mom as “the girl who broke Mark’s heart.” I let it go as a misaimed joke but have since found out Mark and his entire family described me that way to her.

That is really unfair, since I could just as easily call him, “the guy who broke my heart when he refused to move away with me.” I see us as two people who weren’t compatible in the end.

I’m really hurt that Mark and his family want to paint me this way and I’m wondering if I should confront them, especially him — since I thought he was my friend — or if I should chalk it up as a lesson learned and do a slow fade after the wedding?

Carolyn: I’m lost — the fiancée has a valid complaint against Mark and his family, but otherwise I see their description of you as a lovely compliment ... to the point that I expected your question to be, “I still love him, too, so what should I do?”

You seem to be taking it as, “She was mean to Mark,” but it just means, “Mark loved her.” If they meant to “paint” you as bad, then they’d be saying, “This is the girlfriend we were all glad to see move away” — i.e., they’d be saying nothing at all.

Third wheel

Dear Carolyn: Friends of mine, who have been a non-monogamous couple for many years, have recently taken a “third,” a shared girlfriend who is now another romantic partner to them both. This is a big change from the previous status quo in which they each just dated other people separately and kept it private.

They are slowly integrating the girlfriend into our social circle. I’m having a hard time understanding how to adjust to this as one of their closest friends. The guidance they gave me was to “do everything exactly the same as usual,” but that doesn’t always work out in practice. For example, I am in the early stages of planning a fairly small wedding. I want my friends there, but do I have to invite the third? I host fairly regular, intimate gatherings of eight friends or fewer. Does she have to start coming to those, too? I’ve actually put off hosting one for a while because I can’t figure out how to deal with that question! My friends understand it’s weird for me, but I really don’t want to pathologize what they’re doing by asking more questions.

Carolyn says: Invite the third. Solves it all.

 

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.