DEAR AMY: I am a happily married man in my mid-40s. There is a lady that works in the same office, and we visit with each other a couple of times a day. She is also married.
We have been very friendly for a few years; we confide in each other about work stuff, and we sometimes phone and text small tidbits of information after work. Occasionally, we will have lunch or grab a cocktail after work. We have never been romantic.
I know there is "chemistry" between us, and I know she recognizes this as well. I have noticed a growing closeness between us, but I have never addressed this issue. I recognize a need to change our situation.
I am confused because I am happy in my marriage, but at the same time I can't ignore my feelings for my co-worker. Is there a way I can "reverse" our relationship without hurting anyone or jeopardizing anyone's career?
— Hopelessly Confused
DEAR CONFUSED: Your query perfectly illustrates an "emotional affair" in its earlier stages. These relationships grow over time and participants face any number of opportunities to change the nature of the relationship — but they don't change it because they don't want to.
You can alter this work relationship by behaving differently. Limit your private time and private communication. No more lunches unless other colleagues are with you. No after-hours cocktails unless your wife can join you. Don't generate or return an after-work phone call or text unless it is a work emergency (otherwise deal with it the next day).
In short, treat this person the way you treat your other workplace friends. Be aware that there are special risks with this friendship — so work hard to avoid them. This could be painful as you adjust, but you can adjust as you shift your professional relationship from becoming too intimate.
DEAR AMY: I'm a 74-year-old man who was married for 29 years and has been divorced for 25 years. My religious beliefs and avoiding the possibility of repeating that experience have kept me single.
On occasion lately, I've visited the apartment of a woman who is a fellow volunteer. I have no romantic interest in her, nor does she in me, and that is fine with both of us. Recently I drove her to a medical appointment. She was going to be quite early, so I asked her to stop by my apartment beforehand to listen to some music we had discussed. She adamantly refused. That irked me and made me think I should cease my visits to her place.
But then I wondered if I was behaving naively. Do women who go to men's apartments believe that in doing so they have automatically agreed to sex?
DEAR WONDERING: Your friend might feel nervous about visiting your apartment for any number of reasons, including the possibility that you will somehow "get the wrong idea" about her. When she invites you to her place, she feels more in control of the situation.
She may also have a misguided idea that men's apartments are caves populated by mountains of tube socks. Preserve your friendship by giving her the benefit of the doubt.
DEAR AMY: I agree with your advice to "Meat Lovers" regarding their future in-laws' vegan Thanksgiving requirements. One of our family members is vegan, and we make extra provisions for him at holidays. He comes and seems to enjoy himself, although he may ask to be served first to avoid cross-contamination. At times, he has asked to inspect our recipes.
Some people use food rules to avoid interacting with others, and that's their choice. Inviting them, offering to make reasonable accommodations for them and graciously accepting their response is often the best you can do.
— Flexitarian in N.C.
DEAR FLEXITARIAN: You are demonstrating a wonderful and accommodating Thanksgiving spirit.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.