My basic question is – how do I make my peace with friends whose significant others have taken over their lives, to the exclusion of our normal activities? I’m not talking abusive situations, as far as I know, just two separate close friends (let’s call them S and L) who I no longer really see outside of “see you later, off to date with boyfriend” or “let’s go out to dinner, and I’ll bring my boyfriend.” For S, it’s been a thing that’s going on for months, which was more okay until L started doing the same thing.
It also just so happens that they are both my roommates. I usually only see S every two weeks or so, and she’s never at the house, but L is sometimes around – just sort of unavailable. It’s to the point where I feel depressed about it, and very alone. I have other friends, but I was incredibly close with each of them, and I miss them!
I’m really not sure how to broach the subject without sounding needy or jealous. (I may be needy, but I’m not particularly jealous). I like both their significant others, but I find the whole joined-at-the-hip thing incredibly frustrating. I also have a sinking feeling that if I were to raise it with them, I’d get some weird answers about me “not being in love” or not being in a “serious” relationship and thus not understanding. So any responses you might have for that would be very helpful. L recently brought it up of his own accord, apologizing for not being around much, but I felt too weird to call him out for it further.
I just want to be able to spend time with my friends in the contexts I used to (dinner, coffee, pizza and watching bad TV after a shitty day), without feeling like I am deliberately keeping them from somewhere they would rather be. If that’s not going to happen, I would love some advice about ways to make peace or move on, as I feel like I’m harboring a lot of bitterness towards them and their newfound happiness.
Boyfriends/girlfriends are time-consuming. In the best possible way, when you have one, and in the worst possible way when you’re like “Hey, where did my friend go? She looks really happy when she runs by me on her way out.”
I definitely found my schedule changing when I coupled up, but I cannot think of one of my close friends that would get a negative response to “Jennifer. I demand Friend Time. Check your calendar and choose your poison: a. brunch b. scotch c. dinner d. a movie with or without big hats e. coffee f. other ________.” And I would be mortified….MORTIFIED…if I responded to such a request with even a whiff of “Well, if you could only understand the depths of my heterosexual love you would not make such petty demands on my time.”
So if these are your close friends, do not fear to wave the flag of utter bluntness. “You. I am happy for. However, I miss you. We schedule something now, yes?”
If you want to use a lighter touch, invite your friends for some one-on-one time. Keep it simple. Lunch. Breakfast. Go to see a movie. Also, as they are your roommates, invite them both to a stay-at-home night or a “let’s all make breakfast and eat it in our pajamas and watch bad TV” lazy Saturday or Sunday together.
- START it future-oriented and positive. Guilt is not a motivator. See if you can get what you want by just asking in a direct way that’s easy to respond to. They haven’t been stewing about this the way you have, so try not to punish them for not reading your mind or getting caught up in other concerns. Give it a fresh start and see what comes of it. Especially since L brought it up – he’s already perceptive to what’s going on and probably went through some of the same withdrawal you did when S. coupled up. Throw him a bone.
- Keep it time & date specific which is easier to agree to than “sometime.” The best way to handle this is by giving 2 options and letting them pick one.
- Keep your expectations realistic. Some quality time every 2 weeks is realistic. Back to how things used to be is unrealistic.
- You want to stay away from “But you always bring him/her/you’re never here!” fight if you can. Sometimes those need to happen but they can be hard to bounce back from.
Some rough scripts:
“Friend, it seems like you are busy and happy! I want to hear all about everything and also tell you some stuff. Can we have lunch Tuesday or Wednesday and catch up?“
“Roommates, would you both be free to hang out Sunday or Monday night? I’d love for us to all make dinner and chill out together for a bit.”
“I’m going to be at home all night Wednesday, will either of you be around? Cool, want to make some food and catch up?”
“I’m going to see Brave sometime this week, maybe Friday. Do either of you want to come with me?“
Potential problem #1: They can’t find a time and it becomes impossible to schedule anything.
Response: “Well, why don’t you come back to me in a couple of weeks and schedule something when you are free?”
Sad truth: They may forget. Which will suck. They are sending you a strong message about priorities.Which sucks.
Potential Problem #2: “Sure, let me check with partner to make sure s/he can make it, too!“
Response: “Your partner is most excellent company. But I was thinking more of a just-us thing. We can make it an early night if you want to head over there afterwards.“
Begin very enthusiastically and optimistically and assume that if you do this you will get what you want.
If you don’t get what you want, then move on to a more direct expression of feelings. Such as:
“You guys, I’m thrilled that you’re so happy romantically, but I really miss my friends. Can I reserve your Tuesday night for some just-us time?”
If they start lecturing you about the Primacy of Romantic Love, go ahead and get pissy about it. That’s out of order.
Script: “I’m SINGLE, I’m not an idiot. I totally understand that your schedule has changed and your priorities have changed. I’m just asking for a little time with my friend when you can spare it.“
Now, you’re understandably grieving for how things used to be. Do a little of that. Invite your friends in. And then take this as a big waving neon sign of “Go out and make some new friends/prioritize other friendships/activities of your own” so you’re feeling less lonely and bummed.
Dear Captain Awkward:
I am currently having difficulty dealing with a social situation and could use a script.
I have a good friend – and fairly major confidant – who began a relationship about a year ago. I like her boyfriend, but feel like we’ve never really got past the acquaintance stage. The few times we’ve been alone together, our conversations have never extended much past pleasantries.
The problem is that recently whenever I spend time with my friend, her boyfriend always seems to be there. Usually this is due to our having agreed on a group thing, although occasionally her boyfriend has ”invited” himself to events without waiting to be asked, or just assumed it’s ok for him to attend. He does act as if he’s making an effort to befriend or ”include” me and I appreciate this, but it also occasionally makes me feel as if he’s muscling in on my time with my friend. It’s come to a point where I feel like spending time with the two of them has become a habit, and I’d like to be able to get some one-on-one time with my
However, I’m not really sure as to how to articulate this without seeming as if I’m deliberately excluding her boyfriend. [Some background information; I have AS and often have trouble with social protocol; I've never been in a relationship or had that many close friends. I also have a habit of avioding confrontation and tend to focus on a worst-case
scenario. Me and my friend are relatively long-distance, so our meetings tend to take the form of extended visits. I've recently moved to a fairly isolated area where I don't really know anyone yet, so at the moment the friends I have are something of a lifeline for me whilst I try to socially establish myself]
I’ve never really brought this up with my friend, and I think she’s come to assume that her boyfriend and I are friends now and we can act like one big happy family. I get the impression her boyfriend turning up to things has more to do with him asking than her inviting him explicitly, although that could be wrong.
I’d also like to get to know my friend’s boyfriend – I think we have the potential to get on better – but on a more one-to-one basis so I don’t feel so much as if we’re associating out of politeness or obligation. Again, I’m not really sure how to initiate this. I’m also wondering
whether it would be worth politely explaining that whilst I don’t want to exclude him and I’d like to continue doing stuff with all of us, I also occasionally need some alone-time with my friend, or whether it’s better to just arrange things with her and only bring it up if he asks to come along.
Don’t want to be a third wheel (#290)
I like this letter because everyone in this situation cares and is doing their best. I think in the absence of any reports of douchey boyfriend behavior in your letter, it’s probably mostly good that the boyfriend wants to engage you and wants to go to social things with your friend and meet her friends. I think it’s good that you want to get to know him better but also preserve alone time with your friend.
I think it would help to designate certain activities and routines as Potential Group Activities and accept that boyfriend wants to come and will most likely be there. Those are your chance to get to know him better and see if you can get past that passing acquaintance stage of friendship (or not – there is no obligation for you to become closer to him). Enjoy what there is to be enjoyed about the event and seeing your friend and let your anxieties go.
I think it would ALSO help to say directly to your friend “Can we schedule some one-on-one time soon? I feel like whenever I see you these days it’s in a group of other people (because: visit), and I want to catch up about (topic that you usually confide in each other about) when you have a chance.”
You are technically excluding the boyfriend with that second question, but it comes out so much better as “I really want to see YOU” than “Why you always have to bring your boyfriend to everything we do?“
You could also say “Hey. I wanted to bring up something a teensy bit awkward with you. (Boyfriend) is great and is invited to 90% of things, but I would feel better sometimes if you asked me first if you could bring him to (specific type of event) or just let me know if you are bringing him. Not because I don’t like him, but sometimes I just want to hang with you and talk about girl stuff, especially since I only see you in these weird chunks since I moved away.” “I REALLY don’t want to make you feel weird or make him feel unwelcome, but I also REALLY need some alone time with you!”
You follow that up by making an extra effort to be nice and engage when he is around to show that it’s not personal.
If she pushes the issue (by bringing him along, balking at alone time, making it weird), push back. “Friend, I love you and I like boyfriend and I’m glad you’re happy, but I feel like whenever we do something it’s the three of us and not the two of us anymore. I promise I’ll enjoy the parts where it is the three of us way more if I can see just you sometimes. Is that cool?“
I’m optimistic all of these situations will work out. People do change, their priorities change, but friendships can survive a little distance as long as it’s handled with good humor and generosity. Good luck.
For all of you who are newly coupled up, maybe take a minute when you read this and make some plans to hang out solo with someone you love but haven’t been making time for in a little while, ok? They will be happy for your happiness and also happy to see you.