Dear Carolyn: I have a great friend who I have kept some distance from, and sitting in my inbox is an e-mail from him asking why.
The truth is that his wife made a pretty blatant pass at me that I deflected and, well, there is a level of awkward around them that I just don’t want, and it seems like inviting just him out doesn’t work.
So is lying the less painful road, or do I really have to engage in “he said, she said” when she’ll just deny? I am thinking writing you for permission to lie is probably weak sauce, but the truth seems like a bitter pill.
Carolyn says: Until you know the bitter pill is necessary, I suggest suck-it-up sauce.
A pretty blatant pass at one’s spouse’s great friend is a big violation of trust. I won’t argue with you there.
But it’s a violation of her bond with your friend. Your bond with him, technically, is unaffected; you deflected the pass as your duty to your friend required.
By avoiding your friend in response to the pass, though, you’re making him pay; this friendship he obviously values is the price of (presumably) a problem in his marriage. Possibly a problem he doesn’t even know about. How is that right, or fair?
Awkwardness alone is not an excuse to avoid somebody. For all you know, she’ll never cross that line again and prove avoidance to have been an overcorrection. (Suck-it-up sauce mixes well with forgiveness.)
If she crosses another boundary, then you will be ready: a dispassionate and audible-to-all, “Please get your hand off my knee,” for example, serves notice to both who are due to receive it. That’ll be awkward, but also the closest you can get to having her tell him the truth herself — while making it harder for her to spin you as the one hitting on her.
This could all backfire on you, yes, but wouldn’t you rather fail at protecting the friendship than succeed at protecting yourself?
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.