Reader question #73: I’m always the last to know about my friend’s love life.

First, thank you all so much for your incredibly generous contributions to the Captain Awkward Dot Com Pledge Drive. It is extremely humbling to receive your support, and I can definitely put the contributions to good use.  Between my best friend getting hitched and your outpouring of help and well-wishes, there as a lot of “good crying” yesterday.

There have also been some updates from past letter writers:

Do you guys ever read the comments at Salon or The Chronicle of Higher Education (SRSLY – that place is a cobra pit of the meanest commenters on the Internet) or other advice places where the people are judgmental jerks and very mean to the letter writers and everything drips with schadenfreude?  Yeah, not here.  While we may throw out the occasional side-eye, everyone is constructive.  The Letter Writers feel it, you guys.  Good work.
Now for a new reader question about old friends acting weird.

Captain Awkward,

I have been friends with this guy — I’ll call him P — since we were in junior high. We remained close friends through high school and even when he attended college out of state and I remained in town, we still stayed in touch. Whenever he would come home to visit his folks, he’d stop by and see me too.

However, some weirdness started during this time. P would never say anything about his love life. At all. I never had any idea if he were dating someone and just assumed he wasn’t because it was never anything he mentioned during the inevitable “So what’s been up with you?” part of our visits. Then one day he took a call from a college friend while he was over at my house and they were talking about P’s current girlfriend versus a past girlfriend. It was obvious from P’s stilted answers that he did not want to answer these questions in front of me, so I cleared out to let him finish the conversation in private. I will admit I was confused that he obviously had this whole dating history that he’d never even mentioned in passing, but I figured he had a reason for it and I let it drop.

But it continued. All through college, all through grad school, nary a mention of his girlfriends that I knew he had because I was close to his family who would mention these women in passing like I was supposed to know who they were. I even met one of them at P’s grad school celebration and, even though we sat next to each other at the family table for the dinner, there was never any introductions made. She, in fact, did not even acknowledge my existence which was hilarious but also horrifying.

Fast forward to last year when I last saw him. He happened to be in town for someone’s wedding and I spent a few hours with him and his aunt, just hanging out. His aunt kept mentioning a person I didn’t know, a person I’ll call H. The conversation was peppered with “H this” and “H that,” and I finally asked who H was. His aunt gave me a funny look before explaining it was P’s girlfriend and hadn’t I met her when she’d been in town with P a while back? I had not, even though me and P had spent considerable time together during that particular visit. And, again, she had not even come up in conversation before that day. (H is not the same girlfriend from the paragraph above, FYI.)

This again left me feeling awkward. I couldn’t help but wonder why this continued to be weird. We were both almost 30 by now, so I really no longer felt like it could no longer be blamed completely on ‘weird boy logic,’ as I’d been telling myself for years.

The final straw came a few months later when I found that he had gotten engaged to H. And, by found out, I mean it was a Facebook status update. I had spoken to him on the phone only a couple weeks beforehand and, of course, the fact that he was planning/hoping to get engaged never came up. Like always.

That call, in fact, turned out to be the last conversation I’ve had with him period because he hasn’t contacted me once since then. Now we’re edging toward a year without any communication and it’s still bothering me. He has been one of my closest friends for a very long time; I only have one friend that I’ve known longer. While his calls and visits have been sporadic since we became adults and not just college students, a year seems a little much. I have to admit one of the reasons I haven’t reached out to him is because I was (and still am) incredibly frustrated with the secretive crap about he’s pulled about his girlfriends/fiancée. I’m not asking for intimate details or anything, but knowing she exists when they’ve been dating for years doesn’t seem like an unreasonable expectation. More than frustrated, I’m hurt and I don’t know how to deal with it. Aside from a few joking comments about his secrecy, I tried for years to respect his silence on the
subject but that clearly hasn’t worked for me because all it’s done is allowed my hurt to fester.

Most of my other friends seem to think I am either a) overreacting and should just get over it or b) think it’s obvious that P has tired of me as a friend and I should just give up. And maybe I should do one or both of those things, but I do miss him as a friend. I would really like to resolve this and see if it’s possible to continue our friendship, even if it’s just a few calls a year.

Oh, and to answer the question that everyone ALWAYS has for me about P: no, we’ve never been more than platonic friends.

So, Captain Awkward, I am looking for any sort of insight you can offer me on these separate but related problems. How can I salvage this friendship? Or should I even bother? And if you have any theories about why P has acted the way he does, I’m interested in those, too.

– Frustrated, Forgotten Friend

Dear Frustrated and Forgotten:

The script for what you could say to P. is pretty easy.  “Is there a reason that you never ever tell me about your love life?  Like, literally, I am the very last to know?  Because, I mean, do what you want, but it’s weird to hear your Aunt go on about someone I’ve never heard of, and it robs me of the opportunity to be really happy for you. Tell me about this awesome woman you are marrying!”  Maybe work a friendly punch on the arm in there somewhere.

But yeah, he’s put you in the circle of friends who find out big news on Facebook.  So how big a deal do you want to make of it?  What is your goal, here?

If the goal is to get to the bottom of his weird reticence at the expense of making him uncomfortable, ask away. You may get to the truth.

If your goal is to rebuild your close friendship with P., I might leave it at “I’m so happy for you! When do I get to meet her?”  That may lead you into a deeper conversation about it, or not. Sometimes you just have to call “Byegones!” and decide not to dig below the surface.

I have no idea what was going through his head all those other times.  Perhaps he lusted for you in his heart, and felt weird about it.  Perhaps he assumed you lusted for him in your heart, and felt weird about it.  Perhaps he’s a weird compartmentalizer and it never occurred to him that you would want to know. Perhaps he didn’t think of you as as close a friend as you considered him. I’m sorry, if that’s the case.  Thoughts, anyone?




9 thoughts on “Reader question #73: I’m always the last to know about my friend’s love life.

  1. I don’t fancy myself any expert, but having seen whata few people do in certain situations, he might have been trying to string you along incase he found himself single and wanting you. So you might say he coukd have been trying to keep you in his proverbial(sp) pocket. But that is only one possible explination of a few. I don’t know him, so i can’t really judge, just based on his actions as you describe it, thats what I get. Otherwise, use the cap’ts advice as to what you really want to do, which outcome you want. Good luck to you.

  2. Yeah, there’s no way you’re going to find out what he is/was/will be thinking unless you ask him about it. There is no secret Guy Code, much as RedCosmoViewTeen would like you to believe otherwise, so there’s no way to read into his behavior alone with any success. (Gentlemen, see also that there is no secret Lady Code whereby all women act in the same way for the same reasons.) Humans are wild, and we all do things that cannot be easily explained or pop-psychologized.

    Just as an overall thing, if you wonder why someone is acting a certain way, the best way to find out is to ask that specific person why, specifically, they are acting that way.

    All the scenarios the Cap’s laid out here are plausible, but you won’t know if any of them are accurate if you don’t ask. Also, consider strongly her question of if this is something you actually need to know, or if you can just call Bygones.

    Good luck!

  3. I’m betting it’s the “lusted for you in his heart” and if he mentioned to you that OMG he liked some other girl THAT way then it would shatter his fantasy. I know, have we like graduated seventh grade yet?

    You could ask him but I doubt you’ll get an honest answer.

  4. Hi, Captain awkward!

    In light of all the updates from readers, I just wanted to say that I used the “So, what is your best-case scenario?” tactic today, in a very difficult discussion with someone I’m close to. Worked like a charm. So thank-you so much for introducing me to this and many other amazing techniques.

    Your blog is the greatest. ^_^

  5. Maybe ask once so at least he’s had a chance to explain, but you’ll probably get some kind of “Oh, it just never came up” denial.

    My instinct is that one or other of the Capt.’s explanations involving lusting and hearts is probably true – but if he never admitted lusting / your assumed lusting (delete as appropriate) in years, he’s not likely to start now. He’s already proved he’ll make things chronically awkward rather than risk one acutely awkward conversation. Whatever the explanation, it seems that however long you personally tried, your school friendship never really translated up into an honest, healthy adult one – calling bygones is looking like the best option. Which sucks.

  6. I know it’s all just speculation at this point, but I agree with those who have suggested he has some not-quite-platonic feelings for you. Part of how he deals with those feelings is to ALWAYS BE SINGLE in his dealings with you. Now that he’s engaged, that really needs to come to an end, but sometimes habits can be hard to let go of.

    What’s weird to me is that your other friends have suggested that he’s tired of you and that this is why he never tells you anything about his love life. Where is that coming from?

  7. Hi everyone, I’m the OP. Thanks for your replies! I’ve heard a lot of what the Captain and the commenters have said from other friends over the years in response to my ongoing spazziness on this topic, but somehow it’s more reassuring coming from people with a more objective eye to the situation.

    I’ve always wanted to give something like the Captain’s script a try but since our time is usually short, I never wanted to rock the boat during the few times a year we saw each other. Especially since it feels weird to bring something up after I’ve let it go for so long. My own contribution to my own awkward situation.

    Hopefully by the next time we chat, I’ll have figured out what I really need the most from him (friendship, answers, a chance to throw a hissy fit) and follow your advice accordingly. Thanks, Captain!

    1. Hi FF, I’m glad all these replies have been helpful to you. Your question has been on my mind since it went up because your friend’s behavior is so odd! Not introducing you to someone he’s seeing even once you know about her is extreme. It would hurt my feelings too.

      But I can think of one reason (other than secret lust) that I would act like that, so I thought I’d– carefully!– mention it. Even with friends I really love, if I consider them weird about a certain topic (religion, dating, work, whatever), I will avoid telling them about it to avoid getting weird advice I don’t want, and better enjoy the more awesome parts of our conversations. This isn’t to say you probably give weird, bad advice! You submitted your question here, so you’re clearly a fan of sensitive, sound advice. But your friend wouldn’t be the first person to know someone from childhood, see that person a few times a year as an adult, and fail to notice how much their friend had changed.

      And those same friends whose advice I avoided on one issue or another? When I finally decided I did need their shoulder to cry on, after all, they came through. I’m as guilty as anyone of looking at my 24-year-old friend A, but approaching her as if she’s my 17-year old friend A or even my 14-year-old friend A. And– surprise!– 24-year-old A is a thousand times nicer and more sensitive (in addition to being nicer and more sensitive than me, as this anecdote illustrates), and the problem was with me, not with her. Your friend may have his own reasons for not sharing that are weird and not relevant, like mine were. But if you emphasize that you just want a chance to be happy for him, he’ll probably come around.

      Best of luck!

  8. So glad your pledge drive is going well, Captain! It is work to keep up an active blog (witness my inactive Tumblr), keep a positive community around it, and do such an awesome job at it to boot. You deserve it.

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