My oldest friend and I grew up together in a small town. After school, we moved to different cities for our careers. Now we’re 30. She’s killing it at work. I am not, and I’m super jealous of her. We text all the time and comment on each other’s Instagram Stories. But I struggle to feel happy for her. I know I’m as talented as she is, and we’re both working hard, but I have little to show for it. Mostly, I feel angry when I hear about one of her achievements, even though she’s not a bragger. I’m thinking of sharing my feelings with her. Do you think that might get rid of the burning bubbles I feel in my chest when I think about her? Or am I just a hideous friend?
Let’s hold off on confessions of hideousness until we’ve examined those burning bubbles in your chest — which, by the way, is a pretty good description of the physical sensation of envy. I should know. I feel it frequently. Most of us do. Covetousness is about as human as it gets.
Now, sharing our vulnerabilities with friends can deepen our relationships with them. So, I’m not opposed to your idea; I just think you’ve skipped a few steps. In my experience, envy is often triggered by feeling that I’m not “good enough” to achieve what someone else has. It’s more about my self-esteem than their accomplishment.
Here’s my advice: Start with some compassion for yourself. Your career is not progressing as quickly as you’d like. That can hurt! So, feel those feelings. By your own admission, though, you’re talented and hard working. Maybe you should make some changes in where or how you’re working. (Someone more experienced in your field may be a good sounding board.)
Remember: Careers are long, 30 is quite young and comparing yourself to others, while inevitable, is rarely helpful. Better to focus on your own work and confidence than to make your friend the star of your show. If after these efforts, you still want to share your feelings of envy with her, go for it!
Weddings and Vaccines, Yet Again …
My niece and her husband are giving a party to celebrate their recent marriage at their home in Texas. They were forced to cancel their wedding because of the pandemic and had a small ceremony instead. The problem: My niece is not vaccinated. I’ve tried to persuade her to get the vaccine, but she is adamantly opposed. The invitation says the entire party will be held outdoors and that she and her husband will be tested beforehand, but they will not force any precautions on guests. My husband and I are vaccinated, but we feel torn about flying from California for this event. Advice?
Just so you know, readers: Over 18 months into the pandemic, variations on this question still make up about one-third of my inbox. I don’t get the reluctance to create ground rules for ourselves. We’re swimming in data! And we don’t seem shy to make judgments in other areas.
My thoughts: The party itself doesn’t sound too scary, assuming you stay masked and outdoors, and are not at higher risk for serious illness from Covid infection. Then there’s air travel, which experts say is relatively safe. (Airports, on the other hand, seem less so. I’ve witnessed low levels of compliance with masking and social distancing rules.)
Now, throw in hotels, restaurants, local infection rates — and perhaps, the likely cohorts of adamant anti-vaccine hosts. I can’t make this call for you. But I encourage you to honor your own calculus. If you are reluctant to make the trip in this time of breakthrough infections, decline the invitation politely. It’s just a party!
Honoring the Past?
My wife and I are both on our second marriages. We’ve been married for 23 years. Recently, she showed me her wedding band from her first marriage. I asked her to get rid of it. She refused. She said it’s part of her history. This bothers me: The ring was given to her by another man with whom she exchanged vows and to whom she was married for six years. Your thoughts?
I agree with your wife. The ring symbolizes a chapter in her life that is long finished (and probably ended unhappily). Just because a relationship is over, though, is no reason to pretend it never existed or to expunge every trace. Try to let this go.
But It’ll Go to Waste!
Almost every week, the mother of my college roommate sends him a box of baked goods from a fancy bakery. He barely touches them until they’re stale, then he throws them away. Sometimes he offers me one, but usually not. I feel weird asking for one. May I simply take the occasional croissant since I know they’re going to waste?
You may not. It’s called stealing even if it’s made of dough. Overcome the weirdness of asking (which I recommend) or go without.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.