Dear Amy: I had an intimate relationship with a wonderful man for more than three years.
We met when I hired his company to do a project for me. We developed not only a great personal relationship, but a wonderful working relationship, as well. We have worked successfully together on projects.
He was formally separated from his wife when we met. They recently decided to reconcile for the sake of their (teenage) children. He told me he still wants to be platonic friends and that he “will always be there” for me. I know he is sincere, and he continues to text me occasionally.
Naturally, I was heartbroken. I am working hard to get over my feelings for him by staying busy. However, when he texts me, it reopens the wound. In addition, we have a new project starting and working together will be challenging. I am trying to work solely with his partner but will eventually need to work directly with him, something I always looked forward to until now.
I would like to be able to work with him and don’t want to lose the great friendship we had, but I really don’t know how to be platonic friends after an intimate relationship. Is it even possible to maintain a friendship and working relationship after being intimately involved with someone? If so, how?
— Past Flame/Working Friend
Dear Past Flame: It is possible to have a working relationship after an intimate relationship, but only if you maintain strict boundaries and adhere to some common-sense guidelines. This will be very challenging at first, because you two are essentially reframing and narrowing the scope of a relationship.
You need to keep a disciplined attitude toward this person. Ask him not to text you. Communicate primarily with his partner. Don’t spend time alone with him. Basically, you are going to have to turn the page.
Be aware that you have more of an incentive to change than he does, because this likely hurts you more than it hurts him.
You should continue to keep yourself busy socially and professionally.
Dear Amy: My younger sister “Annie” and I have never been very close, but I’ve always attributed that to me being cut from a different cloth.
Our parents are successful in their careers. Annie has followed their fine example and even raised the bar by purchasing her first home and paying for her own beautiful wedding, all before she turned 27. I brag to my friends about her often.
I, on the other hand, did not follow “the plan.” I did not attend college. I rent a very small studio apartment, work a mediocre job that I like, and make enough money to enjoy my life without all the flashy possessions that seem to define success to the rest of my family. I am happy with my life.
At Annie’s wedding earlier this year, I helped usher guests, walked with my mother to our seats during the ceremony, and sat with my immediate family for dinner. However, throughout the evening, I was approached by three separate “close friends” of my sister’s, who each had a strikingly similar comment for me: “Your sister has been one of my best friends for nearly a decade and I had no idea she had a brother.” If one person had said this, I wouldn’t notice, but this was a real pattern.
I haven’t mentioned any of this to my sister or our parents because I don’t know if it would matter, but it still bothers me.
What do you think I should do?
— Upset Brother
Dear Upset: I can understand why this has upset you. But one reason you and your sister aren’t closer is because you don’t communicate. Respectfully stating how you feel may ultimately bring you closer, and I think you will feel better.
You should contact “Annie.” Tell her how nice her wedding was. And tell her about these comments and how they made you feel. Say, “I’ve always been very proud of you and your success, and I really do wish we were closer. Maybe we can work on that...?”
Dear Amy: “Sale of the Century” asked you an ethical question about returning to the store to pay for a pair of jeans that the cashier had mistakenly not charged them for.
I’d say: If the cashier had charged me twice for that pair of jeans, would I go back to the store and say something?
Turnabout is fair play.
Dear Patricia: I love your answer.