Our plus-one comes over uninvited

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Dear Meredith

My husband and I are seeking your advice on a situation. We have been together for 15 years, and throughout our relationship, we have had a plus-one. It started with my roommate when we first met, after moving it was a friend of mine from school, the the longest one was one of my husband's coworkers. These are casual, no-strings relationships that usually have ended with a move to a different area or the plus-one meets a guy and decides to become a couple. To clarify, our little get-togethers happen between two or three times a month; the rest of the time we are a typical suburban couple who eat takeout and watch Netflix on our couch. We view ourselves first and foremost as a couple, and out we time together is very important to us.

Our latest plus-one is someone who I met a few years ago. At first, everything went well, she is a lot of fun to be with, and we would get together a couple times a month. All that ended when her husband had to cover the overnight shift at work – he is basically leaving after dinner and getting home and going to bed when she is getting up. When he first started, she would call and see if she could hang out with us for a while, which was OK. We would watch a movie or chitchat then she would head home. Lately, though, she has been just stopping by unannounced. This obviously wasn't part of the deal.

To date, all of our relationships have ended on good terms, we even see a few of them socially as couples. I obviously don't want to hurt her feelings, but on most nights we are in bed by 10 so we can go to work the next morning. Any thoughts about how we can put the genie back in the bottle?

- Three used to be company

You have to tell her. It might hurt her feelings, but you can't avoid that.

This kind of relationship – actually, pretty much all relationships – thrive when there's transparency, when people aren't pretending to like what they don't. The boundaries must be clear, and she doesn't seem to know them. You and your husband aren't looking for a roommate or a friend who comes over all the time. You also don't want to keep her company whenever she's lonely. Let her know you're 10 p.m.-in-bed people who love to spend time alone. No just showing up.

Know that the problem with this plus-one seems to have little to do with how you design your marriage. You and your husband know what you're doing and seem to have found ways to enjoy company without making yourselves uncomfortable or confused. Maybe you could work on how communicate your needs to others (sounds like you've been very lucky with previous partners), but this is your chance.

This issue is really about this particular friend and her own need for companionship. It's about her marriage. She wants real companionship, and maybe that makes her the wrong plus-one for the two of you. It sounds like your best partners haven't required strings. So ... cut the strings.

Decide whether you want to continue the relationship at all, and then sit her down and get honest.

– Meredith

Readers? Any reason not to be clear? How do you do this without hurting feelings?