Dear Captain Awkward –
I have been dating a lovely fellow with whom I have an excellent rapport and we both agree we see long term potential in each other. We’re quite happy. The awkward thing relates to one of his best friends, a female. I am all about opposite-sex friendships and have many myself – those aren’t implicitly a problem.
Background: When they first met, he had asked her out romantically and she turned him down. Over the intervening couple of years, however, they have become each other’s kind of de facto/default date to social things, and actually see each other as much if not more than some dating couples. Nothing has ever come of it romantically, but she says some things and behaves in some ways which lead me to suspect that she may have developed feelings for him but is too afraid to act on it. He would agree that she is pretty emotionally dependent on him, and he does not see her as a romantic/sexual object at all any more, but he admits they may be more emotionally intimate than perhaps many friends are. Now that he has me to bring to things, and to develop emotional intimacy with, she and he still get invited as a “social couple,” but he wants to bring me as his girlfriend and then it gets complicated.
I feel self conscious in front of her when he is affectionate with me, and she has been trying to socialize with us a lot lately, as if to be able to see him as much as she is accustomed to seeing him. Meanwhile I am hoping for us to spend some time with my friends who are just slower about initiating fun things to do than she is, and then we get too busy with Girl Friend’s activities. He’s OK saying no to her for just-him-and-me time, but she gives him a big guilt trip.
The awkward part is now that he has me, he has a romantic plus one to bring to dinner parties or game nights, rather than his friendly standby plus one (whom everyone assumed he was dating and usually invited them out as if they were a couple). I definitely would never want to get between their friendship, but at the same time, the intensity and frequency of it kind of interferes with our still-burgeoning relationship.
Maybe it’s just an adjustment period – any time one has a friend who was single and becomes not so, one has to readjust one’s expectations for their availability, but I just wonder what I can do to alleviate some of the tension. It is definitely his responsibility to manage his friend’s expectations and adjust the social awareness to include me as his “default plus one” rather than her, but I would like to do the right thing and support the friendship while also supporting my rights as the girlfriend.
I read this letter looking for red flag, and it’s right there at the end of the third paragraph – “...we get too busy with Girl Friend’s activities. He’s ok to saying no to her just for him and me time, but she gives him a big guilt trip.”
This is really his problem to manage, not yours. It reminds me (far less dramatically) of this old letter about the boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend who won’t let go, because you don’t have a relationship with her, he does. He’s the one who needs to set a boundary with her and rework the parameters of their friendship. It may, as you say, just take a little time to even out, but the guilt trip thing really bugs me and makes me annoyed on your behalf.
You can’t control how he will behave, and you certainly can’t control how she will behave, so if you’re looking for things you can do, I see a couple of roads open to you that are still the high road.
1. When she invited you guys to stuff with her friends, decline anything that you don’t enthusiastically want to go to. Go to like, every 3rd thing, have a good time, don’t worry about it the rest of the time, because you don’t give a shit and her feelings are not your problem. Your script? “Yeah, that sounds nice, but I really want to do something with my friends this weekend. Maybe next time.”
2. Give him plenty of space to go hang out with her without you. Actually make plans with your own friends during that time and go enjoy yourself. Do not let it become a thing where you are competing with her or you are the one running that relationship for him. Script: “I want you to have whatever friendship with ___ that you want to have. Go and have a good time.” Go back to officially not giving a shit.
Now, I realize that you are not a mythical creature who can actually be totally above it all and not care, like some kind of Girlfriend Unicorn. This woman is getting under your skin by trying to preserve your boyfriend as her +1 to everything in her life. So if you ride it out for a couple of months and this stuff is still going on, bring it up very directly with your boyfriend. Tell him how it makes you feel (weird) and ask him how he’d like you to handle it. “I really appreciate how ___ goes out of her way to include me in stuff, but sometimes I feel like we’re both your date, like it’s you and your weird harem of women, and it’s especially weird to me how she gives you a big guilt trip if we don’t go to something. Is this something you’ve noticed? Is that okay with you? How do you want to handle it?”
And then see what he says.
Finally, if you haven’t already, DO NOT FACEBOOK FRIEND HER. She is HIS friend. Just leave it there. Otherwise she’ll be even more up in your business. You don’t like her. I don’t like her for you. Just admit to yourself here in the Captain Awkward confessional that she bugs you. It will help you actually be nice and friendly when you see her, rather than trying to pretend you like her and having everything come out through gritted teeth. She may be pretending really hard that she likes you and that’s why everything is so weird right now – she’s trying way too hard to show how cool she is with everything! Even though her romantic backup plan that she always thought would be there like a pair of comfortable old shoes is now dating someone else! Look how cool she is being! She invites you to everything! No one can say she isn’t being cool!
You may come to really like her in time, and she may come to really like you, once some equilibrium is reached where she isn’t trying to pee on all of your boyfriend’s free time and feels more secure in their friendship and you get more secure in your relationship and everyone stops trying so hard. This is very primal stuff, and she’s quite understandably feeling a big shift in how she thinks about her social life and you’re understandably confused and annoyed. Just ride it out for right now. If she keeps behaving this way it will start to really bug him, too, and then he’ll make some necessary changes.