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Set limits on demands of friend

Dear Abby: "Tracy" and I have been best friends since junior high. (We're both 31.) A couple of months ago, she and her two sons (my "nephews," ages 9 and 5) moved out of her parents' home and into their own apartment.

Tracy has never lived on her own before. As a result, she's constantly asking me to come over, spend the night, keep her company, etc. I'm happy to visit for a couple of hours once a week or so, but feel uncomfortable and pressured doing it to the extent she's asking.

I am single, childless, have my own place and a full-time job. My home is my sanctuary, and I value my peace and quiet. The last thing I want at the end of a hectic workday is to go to her apartment and hang out for hours on end with her and her sweet (but loud and rambunctious) boys.

Tracy is also single. She works full time and is a devoted mom, but there's an obvious deficiency in her life. How can I make her understand that while I love her dearly, I can't be her lifelong security blanket?

-- Smothered in the East

Dear Smothered: Do it by explaining to your friend what you CAN give her, rather than what you can't. If it's one afternoon or evening a week, arrange your get-together for when you're available.

Let her know you need time to unwind after work, that you also need to run errands and do housework. You can be her good friend without coming running every time she snaps her fingers. And remember, she can't "smother" you any more than you allow.

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Love strikes at any age

Dear Abby: The young lady I have fallen for (and am probably in love with) is half my age. Is it wrong to like someone who is almost young enough to be my daughter?

-- Younger Than Springtime

Dear Younger Than Springtime: No, it's not wrong -- it happens frequently. A more pertinent question is could SHE be seriously interested in someone who is almost old enough to be her father? Only she can answer that.

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