Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My housemate is smitten with a girl (nothing has happened yet), and he asks me for advice and I just have such a bad feeling. It’s so viscerally anti-her that I wonder if I’m secretly harboring feelings for him. And it’s nothing glaring — she seems thoughtful and is very friendly.
Can you tell me if my red flags are ludicrous? (1) She has dated at least four of his friends. (2) All of them still have strong negative feelings about her. (3) She started getting very close to him (gifts, late-night texts) while still dating someone else. (4) She seems to need to be desired, by a lot of people, a lot. (5) She is MUCH friendlier to men than women.
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Am I a jealous hag?
— Red Flags
DEAR RED FLAGS: Each flag seems legitimate, and you do have feelings for him.
The former isn’t a tough call, and the latter isn’t my call at all — you basically admitted it. If I’m right, though, then think of it as a game of hearts. Either stay out of it entirely while his crush runs its (collision) course, or shoot the moon — admit you’re allergic to her for what you think are legitimate reasons in spite of your blatant self-interest due to your, ah, feelings for him.
TO RED FLAGS: I don’t know if I agree with Carolyn. I have had similar feelings about a woman whom you describe to such a tee I genuinely wondered if it was the same person. This woman didn’t really encroach on my marital territory (although she did overrun my social network), so it wasn’t an issue of romantic jealousy. She just … triggered me. It can be personally offensive to watch a woman use your (male) friends for their affections, and also not value other women at all.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Thanks. You’re right, someone can still offend you when you have no personal stake in her actions.
… To the extent that, when I read the description, I too thought it could be someone I once knew. Same thing — couldn’t abide the person even when nothing of mine was at stake. Still can’t.
DEAR CAROLYN: I do think I probably have feelings for him. Our housing situation is essentially a sexless companion marriage — I have never gotten along with anyone quite so easily or well, down to the level of messiness tolerable, correct procedure for making a stir-fry, kindness and musical taste. I’m protective of him for that, and also because his mother recently died. I get irritated every time this girl’s name comes up. I know he loves living with me, but I don’t think the romantic feelings are mutual.
— Red Flags again
DEAR RED FLAGS AGAIN: I hope you two find your way to each other.
There might be a middle way to handle this, if you think you can admit she rubs you the wrong way and also admit you’re not an unbiased judge … without overcommitting to an analysis of either. Planting seeds, leaving breadcrumbs, pick your cliché, would let him think things over, at least.
If you let things run their course, though, remember — he’ll apparently have “strong negative feelings about her” soon.