Dear Julie: Advice About Secret-Keeping and a Client-Friend Situation

DAME’s Friendkeeper reveals the statute of limitations for sharing another’s confession and takes on doing business with a pal.

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Dear Julie,

I’m bursting with a secret and I have to tell somebody, so I’m writing to you. A close friend of mine, let’s call her Jessica, is moving with her husband and two kids to a state far, far away. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, grownups move all the time for work, family, whatever, but it is. There are three of us—me, Jessica, and, um, Kate—who have been close friends since college and we’ve all lived near our alma mater ever since we graduated many years ago. Though Jessica told me about her plans several weeks ago, she has yet to tell Kate (Kate will be so bummed) but she asked me not say anything because she wants to share the news herself. I totally understand that, but I see Kate ALL THE TIME. I feel like there is a huge elephant in the room every time we hang out because I know this bit of incredibly important information that is not mine to share. I appreciate that Jessica wanted to fill me in on her impending move, and asking me to keep quiet about it is a reasonable request. But asking me to keep this a secret from Kate just feels like a burden. What is the statute of limitations when it comes to secret keeping? Am I just being selfish because I want to be able to talk about this with someone other than Jess? What can I do?

Moving Violation


Dear MV, 

I just looked up the Statute of Limitations on how long you have to keep a secret and according to Article II, Section 4—it’s forever. Though of course people don’t do that. They tell the secret and they tell the person not to tell that they told which is what that person says when they tell the next person and so on. I was on the subway yesterday and there was a big, sweaty, hairy arm in my face with a tattoo that said, “Three people can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead.” So true, Mr. Stinky, so true. So why the hell is Jessica taking so long? I’m assuming she hasn’t told Kate because she just hasn’t gotten to this, but you are right—the longer this goes on the more hurt Kate will feel for not being in the know and she is putting you in a bad position because you need to keep it from Kate as well. It’s one thing for Kate to feel hurt from Jessica, but it’s not okay when it’s coming from you, too, you have done nothing wrong, but you are protecting Kate’s feelings by getting Jessica to get it out. Just say, “Jessica, Please tell Kate immediately or I’m going to get an embolism!” You will be the one left behind with Kate and it’s important to not be left with her hurt feelings.

xx Julie


Dear Julie,

I’ve made a terrible mistake. A friend of mine is starting a small business and because I do consulting on just that very thing, she asked if I would help. Not as a favor, but as an actual paying client. We’ve known each other for a couple of years and she’s an incredibly lovely and inspiring woman, so of course I said yes, and quoted her a “friend’s” rate. Turns out, as a client she’s a total pain in the arse. Though we originally decided on what the scope of the project would be, she continues to ask for more. Her questions are never-ending and if I don’t respond right away to her many emails she follows up with more, and in a tone I can only describe as incredibly impatient. I’m not sure if she’s always like this when it comes to business or if she’s leaning on our friendship to get more for her money. Either way I’m starting to feel taken advantage of. When we are not discussing this project, she’s still a wonderful friend, but our working dynamic is beginning to tarnish the way I feel about her. How can I extricate myself from this arrangement without torpedoing our friendship in the process? Please help!

Risky Business


Dear RB,

This is a very familiar scenario for a lot of us. Recently I got a dental implant from my very dear friend’s oral surgeon husband—I got the “friend’s rate” and I kept accusing him of using a Chiclet and a thumbtack instead of whatever the hell dental implants are really made from. You know you can’t be too careful. But seriously, there are two sides to the dynamic and you have to deal with both of them. For the “friend being a pain in the ass” part it’s a good idea to separate the two in your mind and deal with them as two different entities. My friend Barbara is a freelance graphic designer and she said it helps her to give the friend and the client different names. “Gigi is the best friend you could want, but Aunt Ginger of Aunt Ginger’s Pies is kind of a pain…and she wants what she wants whether she paid a ‘friend price’ or not. But then there’s a second part to this. You have to look at how you’re behaving as well. Are you treating your friend differently from a “real” client? Are you expecting her to wait longer or take what’s she’s given because you gave her a break on the price?? If she were a “real” client how would you be handling the situation? I’m sure she’s not the first client to go outside the scope of the project. Seeing this differently might make it work and maybe even make it enjoyable. At least you’ll get through it and you can always decide to never do it again. 

xx Julie


Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.


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