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dear-debraDear Debra,

A friend and I get together once a month or so for dinner. I look forward to catching up as we don’t email or talk on the phone in between. For the second time now, she has invited along a friend of hers whom I know through her but have never socialized with otherwise. The first time this happened, my friend said something along the lines that she’d bumped into her friend on her way to meet me and invited her along. I was annoyed but kept quiet.

When I got to the restaurant last month, there was her friend again. I am ticked off that my friend cares so little for me and our friendship. My friend’s friend is a lovely person, but when it’s just my friend and me, there is a deeper connection and our conversations go in different directions. I don’t know what to do to keep her from inviting this friend along on a future visit.

—Dinner for Two

 Dear Dinner,

I understand your dismay at having a third person invited along without being consulted.

Where you lose me is your zero-to-90 assumption that your good friend “cares so little for [you] and [your] friendship” that she is inviting this friend along.

Until you ask, you have no idea why your friend has turned dinner for two into dinner for three. And until you speak up, your friend has no idea that you are even peeved, much less tarring her with catastrophic thoughts of rejection. (I’d keep those thoughts to yourself, by the way.)

If you haven’t set up your next date yet, do so and use the opportunity to say something along the lines of while you find Extra Friend perfectly lovely, you so much prefer having dinner with your friend alone. Express your dismay at not being asked when plans change. Then give your friend space to respond. Maybe Extra Friend is going through a rough time. Maybe Extra Friend has somehow insinuated herself into your duo and your friend needs a bit of spine strengthening herself. Another option is to get to know Extra Friend better. You might come to like her as much as your friend does. Until you have the conversation, all you have is resentment toward a good friend whose company you enjoy. Not good for the digestion — or the friendship.

Dear Debra,

We will be traveling soon to New Jersey for a family bar mitzvah on my husband’s side.

The only family I have left in the area is a dear cousin and my brother, from whom I have been estranged for years.

I haven’t yet let my cousin know because I don’t want my brother to catch wind that I will be in town because I do not plan on contacting him. I would love to visit with my cousin, who knows about the (non) relationship my brother and I have. Should I not tell my cousin I am coming and miss visiting with her so as not to irritate my brother?

— Zelda

 Dear Zelda,

To mangle Sir Walter Scott,* Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we obfuscate what we perceive.

If you and your brother are estranged, how would he catch wind you are in town? And if your cousin knows about the estrangement, and you have a good and loving relationship with her, why do you imagine she would muddy family waters by telling your brother that you are visiting? Third, since you and your brother are not speaking anyway, why would he be “irritated” if he found out you came to town and didn’t let him know? See what I mean?

You are spinning this thread of “what ifs?” into crazy-making territory — unless this estrangement is driven by you, and your brother is in the dark and hurting as to why you are no longer on speaking terms. But that’s another whole column and nothing you intimated in your letter.

Simply call your cousin. Tell her you are going to be in town for a family simchah and you’d love to catch up. Assuming you are going to be busy with the various bar mitzvah events, it is entirely acceptable to invite her to your hotel for an hour’s visit or whatever time you feel is appropriate. Then cozy up with cousin and enjoy the family time. It’s that simple. *

 * Like many others, it seems, I thought the Bard had penned this quote. Google informed me otherwise.

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