Dear Emuna,

My husband and I are close friends with three other couples. We get together for barbecues in the summer, play bridge and mah jong together in the winters and often take vacations together. Usually we stay at the same hotel (or go on the same cruise) and meet for dinner and activities. It’s a lot of fun – there is female time, male time and couples time.

Recently we changed our pattern and rented a house together. We cooked our meals together and it was all very friendly and cozy, perhaps a little too cozy for my taste. Although nothing specific happened, I personally was uncomfortable with the shared bathrooms, the wandering the hall in our pj’s, the enforced “intimacy”. I’d like to stop things before something does happen but I don’t want to be the party pooper. Do you think I should say something or am I just being paranoid? If I should say something, what can I say that doesn’t make me look foolish and that gets the response I want?

Friendly

Dear Friendly,

Good for you for your highly developed sensitivity to the nuances of relationships between the sexes. I definitely think you are correct in your position. We only need look around our world to see evidence of inappropriate to scandalous behaviors between couples who were “best friends”. The potential for hurt and pain and damage to important relationships is too great to let this continue.

I think if you could get everyone alone and speak to them individually they would understand this. The challenge will be in your tone and your words. You don’t want anyone to feel defensive, like they’ve done something wrong, like you are somehow morally superior to them. If any of that attitude is conveyed in your conversation they will react against it and not only will you not succeed, you will probably lose the friendship. They will continue their “cozy” vacations, just without you and your husband – which does in fact let you off the hook but is not your desired outcome.

I think my best advice, which is a strategy that I think works well with teenagers, is to make yourself out to be the “bad guy”. “I know you’d like a later curfew but I will worry.” “I know you want to drive to – but I don’t trust the other drivers.” In your situation, you could try something like “I know I’m being paranoid but these living circumstances make me a little uncomfortable.” “I know no one would ever behave inappropriately (something of course you can’t know with certainty which is why you’re implementing this change!) but I would feel better if we stayed in more separate accommodations.” Or even “I love you but I need a little more privacy; would you mind if we went back to staying in a hotel?” (Thereby skirting the issue entirely).

If you try the latter sentence, then no one should be insulted and the issue should be resolved. But I would encourage you to try one of the other strategies because I think you might want to get a feel of where your friends actually do stand on this issue – and I hesitate to say this but I will anyway – if they can’t hear your position, if their concern about their own marriages doesn’t match yours, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the friendships.