Carolyn Hax: When is it okay to weigh in on a friend’s relationship?

Adapted from two online discussions, here and here.

Dear Carolyn: Someone I’m close to recently had a major relationship disagreement with their partner. They only disclosed the disagreement to me after it had been “resolved” with their partner and never directly asked for my input on the disagreement. I have some questions as to whether the disagreement was actually resolved in a fair way, or whether this person just kind of decided to live with their partner’s version of the disagreement. But my thought is that, generally speaking, people shouldn’t weigh in on someone else’s relationship unless directly asked. Do you agree with that premise?

Say Something?: There’s always this: “Are you asking me what I think, or are you just sharing?”

When the moment has passed, you can go back to it with: “I was thinking about what you told me the other day. Were you asking my opinion or just sharing? I erred on the side of shutting up, but it occurred to me that I might not have been helpful.”

As for your premise, I generally agree on shutting up, but it’s okay to account for human variety. Some people will ask directly when they want something, some won’t, some think they don’t want your opinion but really do, and some think they want your opinion but really don’t. The way to navigate any doubt is to ask what would be most helpful to them — and then don’t press it.

Dear Carolyn: I’m allergic, so I never grew up with dogs, never got excited by them — or any pet, really, not to pick on dogs. My husband grew up with dogs, and his whole family currently have dogs except for us. I take an allergy pill when I visit — their house, their dog, their rules.

I just found out that they ask to bring the dogs when they come to visit, for the day and overnight, and Husband has said no, citing my allergy and not wanting dog hair in our house.

I appreciate him looking out from me, but I’m feeling like the naysayer in something that is totally normal for them. Is there any compromise that still keeps dog hair out of my house? Thanks!

This system is working perfectly. 1. You’re not a “naysayer,” you have a physical condition that rules out dogs in your house. 2. You are already compromising by taking a pill and visiting their dog-hairy homes. 3. Your husband gets that and is standing up for you.

The only problem here is that you see this as a problem.

I guess I’m wondering why you still feel like the bad guy, as if you need to apologize. Is anyone in his family giving you a hard time? Besides continuing to ask whether they can bring their dogs when they know you’re allergic, which is rude, if that’s what they’re doing.

Carolyn: No one is giving me a hard time! In fact, they are all so lovely about it — and virtually everything else — I want to make sure I’m seeing all options and not just the “no dogs” version, since that has been my life up until now. I will count my blessings!

Allergic again: Phew. Good.

· I’m someone who has apologized to a rug for tripping on it, but even I can see no reason to apologize for a medical condition.

· Once upon a time, it was entirely normal for people NOT to bring their dogs when they went to visit people’s homes, although I suppose it may be more common nowadays. There’s absolutely no need to do anything differently or even to feel any kind of way about it.

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