Steel Advice: Tread gently after neighbors' divorce

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DEAR MARY ANN: I am hoping that you can advise me on a situation. My husband and I and two other couples in my neighborhood are close friends and socialize together. One of the couples split, but we are still friends with both of them. The third couple are friends with the ex-husband but not as much with the ex-wife. It is awkward socializing with this couple and the ex-husband and not accidently letting the ex-wife know. I want to spare her feelings. I would like to invite them both to our get-togethers, but they really do not want to be in the same space together. How can I include them both and not have them feel awkward, or us feel awkward? We like them both equally. In a case of a breakup, who gets the friends?


DEAR TRYING: When a marriage dissolves, couple relationships are never the same. Your friends have told you they are uncomfortable socializing together. Respect their request. They are trying to move forward in separate ways. The half of the couple who stayed in the neighborhood is the most logical one to include in the neighborhood parties.

When you join in activities that include the ex-husband resist the temptation to be a pipeline back to the ex-wife. Include her in plans that don't include her former spouse. You are transposing your own hurt feelings when you attempt to keep things the way they were. As time distances you from the breakup you will begin to feel comfortable with the new arrangement.

DEAR MARY ANN: I have a co-worker who smokes cigarettes so much it is like he owns stock in the company. To each his own. However, the odor of the cigarettes is such that it clings to him, follows him, and lingers everywhere he goes -- long after he has left.

After he leaves my office, I have to air out the premises and spray air freshener everywhere. When told about this ongoing issue from other co-workers he just laughs.

I have been subtle with him. I have been direct with him. I have been blunt with him. How can I keep him out of my space and his odor out of my face?


DEAR SMOKING MAD: A limburger cheese sandwich stinks but it is not toxic. When tobacco toxins cling to fabric and permeate the atmosphere they leave more than an unpleasant smell. Thirdhand smoke residue creates a health risk. Speak with your HR department but don't expect an instant solution. Office odors are problematic and controversial issues. The HR department may choose to ignore your complaint and you can be labeled a troublemaker.

Your smoking colleague can't smell his own stench. Fresh air helps dissipate stale cigarette odor. So if you are meeting in your office open the window before the meeting begins. Don't be judgmental or presume a vigilante role. The office playing surface may be uneven and the smelly smoker could hold a trump card.

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice. First Published April 9, 2013 4:00 AM


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