Dear Hobie & Monk,
Here’s the situation: I’m a single woman in my 40s with a single male friend the same age — truly a really good, platonic friend. Tom has two other female friends, Lindsey and Julie, whom he’s known forever, and I’ve known and liked both of them for about 10 years. Sometimes the three of us women get together socially without Tom. Recently, all four of us have gotten into kayaking and started training together on weekends. Tom and I in particular have really gotten into paddling. All good, right?
Three months ago, Tom got elected vice chairman of the kayak club where we all train and started inviting me as his plus-one to club events. It’s still platonic and we’ve had a good time, but Lindsey has started acting out toward me and making it clear that she’s jealous. Tom seems uncomfortable with the situation. I’m really not up for drama, so part of me thinks I should back out and let the old friends stay friends. But the other part of me is enjoying the events, knows I haven’t done anything wrong and thinks that these other adults need to grow up. What do you think?
– Navigating Troubled Waters
Hobie: Ah, kayaking, known worldwide for its insidious ability to break up otherwise happy, platonic adult relationships. Wait a minute, seriously? I know, and you know — and I know you know — that this is classic silliness playing out against a sporty, cocktailing but otherwise irrelevant backdrop.
Plan A (refusing a role in the drama by recusing yourself entirely) and plan B (refusing to remove yourself from people and events you enjoy just to placate insecure or weak friends) are fine options. Your choice seems to depend on exactly how invested you are in the various friendships — and investment requires putting in and getting out something meaningful, worthy, enjoyable, etc.
If you really enjoy spending time with Tom and/or with Lindsey, be direct with him and/or her about that and how the fun seems to have eroded. Let their responses guide you from there, and by all means, if it’s really the kayaking you enjoy most of all, don’t let grownups who haven’t quite grown up rock your boat.
Monk: Hobie’s sound advice on plans A and B will help you navigate the choppy waters of friendship loyalty, but I must admit, I’m listing hard toward B. Why? Because you are enjoying kayaking and Tom, and I see no reason for you to jettison both because of misguided expectations about friend sharing.
The best way to weather this storm is to paddle through, which means having a conversation with Lindsey and Tom (individually or together). Convey how much you value your friendships and address how your recent shared interest in kayaking has caused a strain. Suggest a few of the zillion ways besides kayaking that you and your longtime friends can enjoy time together and follow up to make it happen. Chances are Lindsey and Tom will embrace your sincere attempt at righting the friend-ship.