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#289 & #290 Friends with Significant Others

Captain Awkward,

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.

– #289

Dear #289:

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.

Specific advice:

  • 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
friend.

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.

Thanks,

Don’t want to be a third wheel (#290)

Dear #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.

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28 comments
  1. General Assortment said:

    I have been ‘coupled’ for about four years now. And just want to say I am pretty much always willing to find some ‘us’ time for a friend. I love hearing from people. All it really takes is a text message, ‘Haven’t talked in a while, wanna grab a coffee next week?’ or a slightly more specific/exclusive invitation ‘Up for some girl* time this weekend? Maybe come over for wine & humus?’.
    Keep the invitation open & flexible, but solid enough that it is a real event and clearly meant for the two of you.

    *I wasn’t sure of genders of all parties in the letter, please sub in any other noun for ‘girl’, maybe ‘us-time’ or ‘gossip-time’ or ‘catch-up’.

    • Alanna said:

      I would like to emphasize something General Assortment mentioned: coupled people often respond happily and well to *invitations* for alone time. If my friend wants to grab a cup of coffee with just me, I’m all for it, but most of the time it just doesn’t dawn on me unless they suggest it. I’ve been happily coupled for almost three years, and my *need* for just friends time has gone down, so it doesn’t occur to me nearly as frequently to arrange for it.

      That said, having recently graduated and so moved out of the “we see our friends all the time” mode and no longer studying with all my friends (boyfriend was a different major), I’m finding myself seriously craving friend A or friend B, because boyfriend is awesome but not a substitute for all my friends! So even the very happily coupled people can sometimes use a partner break.

  2. I have four thoughts about these letters:

    (1) Brand new and relatively new romantic relationships are a lot more consuming of time and attention than more-established relationships. So it is very reasonable to just ease uppe and wait things out, and if the friendships are truly as close as the letter-writers feel they are, they will start to get more time with their friends in due course.

    (2) It is one of the most awesome aspects of life to have really close friends. But to me it is a pretty big redde flagge for someone to feel like their peace-of-mind and happiness depends on how much time and attention they get from one or two particular friends. Although the suggested scripts are ways to try to come across as not-needy in seeking additional time with the wayward friends, people are *extremely* good at sensing neediness. And it is one of the bedrock rules of relationships that the more you need someone else, the less likely it is you will have your needs met in a healthy and mutually rewarding manner. So I would suggest to these letter writers to try to figure out why they are feeling so strongly negatively about their friends’ shifts in priorities and find ways to strengthen their ability to unilaterally maintain happiness.

    (3) As people get older, professional and personal lives get more and more complicated with more and more moving parts and more and more demands on one’s time and attention. And people who are fun and rewarding to be friends with are exactly the kind of people who tend to accumulate more and more friends as they get older and meet more people. This means that any single given friendship is by necessity going to get less and less direct time and attention over the years, especially when it is with someone who is an awesome fun friend. (A perfect example of this is the history of the friendship between Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith.) A more robust and expansive notion of friendship can encompass this fact of life and allow one to gain the benefits of truly close friendships even when direct communication between the friends is sporadic or, even, rare. This is because each of our close friends lives inside of us in a real and tangible way, and learning to enjoy and benefit from our friends’ existence inside of us even when we are not physically with them is possible.

    (4) All that being said, it is possible that the LWs will find out that their friends whom they perceived as very close didn’t reciprocate the feeling. If so, it will ultimately be manifest in their behavior, and may require a recalibration of the LWs’ own feelings towards them.

    • This is some magical, psychic advice. Point 3 has become the absolute rule in my life after college. I like to see all of my friends, and they’re awesome and we have fun times, but they’re busy with real lives, and that’s okay, because I have things to do, too. When I was at a friend from high school’s wedding, I spent the time connecting with some other old friends (and the bride, of course). I didn’t know the groom very well, but he’s a nice, dorky boy, and the important thing is my friend is happy! I don’t need to be besties with the groom; he’s not my husband. That’s one of the things about coupling: you can be really good friends with half the couple, but not the other half even if the other half is completely okay and decent. Your friends don’t have to date someone who could also be your close friend. Sometimes, this happens, and it is awesome, but other times, it is what it is.

    • But to me it is a pretty big redde flagge for someone to feel like their peace-of-mind and happiness depends on how much time and attention they get from one or two particular friends.

      That’s…not what either of the LWs said. Neither of them is claiming that their entire peace of mind or happiness depends on these one or two friends. They just want to spend some one-on-one time with people they care about, and want scripts for bringing that up. Nothing about that seems unreasonable to me, let alone red-flaggy.

      • staranise said:

        Seconded. I don’t think it’s weird to have a moment of “Wait, where did you go? That makes me sad” when you get less connection with a friend.

      • CL said:

        Agreed — I thought that both LWs actually sounded quite reasonable and understanding, considering the situation.

    • lizzieladie said:

      Normally I would agree with 2, but I think you’re mostly talking about #289 here, and the fact that they’re roommates makes me see it differently than I would otherwise. Sometimes people get into roommate relationships just to have cheaper rent, but sometimes people very specifically choose to live with, or continue to live with, specific friends because they want some fulfilling routine social contact at home. When that contact starts to go away it can make things intensely lonely in a way that having less contact with a friend you don’t live with won’t.

      I think that you’re spot on with your point number three, but I also think that a lot of people in our society (though by no means all), choose to balance some of that spreading by also spending a lot of time at home doing routine life stuff with a family of some sort. For people who do want some sort of daily contact and emotional support but who haven’t found a life partner or family yet, roommates can fill some of that void in a way that friends who you don’t live with can’t. I strongly suspect that #289 is mourning the lessening of the roommate relationship in addition to the friendship, and I think that it’s valid for them to do so, although it’s probably unrealistic to expect to get things back to the way they were before as long as the roommates are developing romantic relationships that are fulfilling the daily contact need for them. Asking for something in between the current situation and the previous one, or making more of an effort to schedule time together does seem quite reasonable to me though.

  3. alphakitty said:

    A point to make when asking for “just us” time is that ANY two people interact differently with ANY third person present, even if everyone is equally good friends (which naturally is not true for the threesome of you, your friend, and a new significant other)…. The conversation has different focus, different flavor…

    Saying you’d like a little Cherry Garcia today doesn’t mean you don’t sincerely enjoy Karamel Sutra when it’s Karamel Sutra time…

    • CL said:

      Yes, this is definitely true. And when you have a BFF, and she gets a boyfriend, the conversation usually becomes way less personal and intimate. Before, you might have dished to each other about dating, girl stuff, insecurities, other relationships in life — but it would be awkward to dive into those topics when the boyfriend is there, especially if you barely know him. Evenings with a friend + her boyfriend can be great fun, but for me the conversation inevitably is group small talk. So if this completely replaces a friendship where I used to be able to share very personal things one-on-one, it feels like a loss.

  4. I like the little shout-out to the Newly Coupled at the end there. I find that it is sometimes true of myself that when I’m dating someone, I often default to making dates with my date. I am a bit of a planner and I often want to Do Things, but Doing Things with friends can sometimes seem insurmountably complicated (Who do we invite? Everybody? What about the people who can’t make it? Won’t they feel bad?) and it’s just… easier… to say “Hey boyfriend, let’s go to the zoo/see a play/go dancing/etc.”

    Happily, as I’ve lived in one place and deepened friendship for several years, I’ve established some routines with friends so Friend A or B may the first person I call when I want to see a play, or cook a big meal, or whatever. Boyfriends come and go, but watching bad tv and making dinner after yoga on Mondays with a lady friend will never change. I recommend this.

    And yet, there are still some local folks I haven’t really made time with in the four months since I started seeing a dude, so that goes into the calendar NOW.

    • I have this “problem” as well. Dude is right there, so we end up going to the thing. It’s also pretty wonderful that we have a lot of interests in common and want to do those things anyway, alone or together. But if he doesn’t want to see a particular movie, I get to reconnect with that special someone who does. And of course it’s fun to visit with people in a group to. We both definitely struggle with the “who from our friend group” invitation quandary, especially with the added logistics of some folks having children.
      My friends sometimes ping me and say “hey, it’s been a while,” and I make a date with them and that’s great. And sometimes I think (as I did reading this post), “Hey [name], I miss your face! Let’s fix that!
      Balance!
      But yeah, if the coupled friend is in the first 2-3 months of their relationship, just wait that one out. They are too busy finding all the yummy new crevices in the other person to want to watch bad TV. : )
      Who wants to come over and watch Hoarders with me?

  5. A friend once invited me out thusly: “Hey, let’s have dinner tomorrow. Just you and me.” I’m sure he phrased it that way because the previous time we’d hung out, my bf was there too…and they didn’t really hit it off (nothing nefarious going on, just no clickage of personalities). So this was definitely a hint that the friend didn’t want the bf along. But the request itself focused on US, not the exclusion of my bf, and I think it was subtle and brilliant.

    • karinacinerina said:

      OK, perversecowgirl is the best username I have seen in easily six months.

  6. DeskGnome said:

    Dear #289 (potentially #290 as well),
    Please tell your friends about your feelings right away. Do not stew! For the love of whatever you hold dear, do not keep your feelings bottled up. My personal experience isn’t exactly the same as yours, but it is close.

    This past year I lived with a girl who I considered a close friend. We spent the summer together and were looking forward to sharing an apartment together in the fall. What I hadn’t expected (and what we unfortunately never talked about beforehand) was the amount of time her boyfriend would be over at the apartment. At first, I was okay with it–I was friends with her boyfriend and had spent a summer living with him a few years prior. But after a month of constantly having a third roommate who wasn’t paying rent, my patience started to wane.

    I should have spoken up. I should have asked my friend for some one-on-one time like Captain and the commenters have suggested. But I felt awkward about bringing it up in front of her boyfriend. I didn’t want to appear rude or inhospitable. The longer I didn’t say anything, the more my resentment grew. It got to a point where I became anxious going home because I felt like it wasn’t my apartment anymore.

    Long story short, my friend and I are no longer roommates, and we’re most likely no longer friends. I haven’t spoken with her in months and don’t intend to reach out to her when the school year starts. I ended up seeing a therapist in order to sort out the stress I was feeling due to my living situation, which has helped a great deal, but I hope you’re not at (and don’t get to) that point.

    Wishing you success and I hope you get the one-on-one time you need.

  7. DWM said:

    I lost my best friend of 17 years after she met her future husband. I was dumped quicker than a nuclear hot potato after years of being inseparable. When I tried to have a heart to heart with her about it I was met with defensiveness and excuses and an absolute unwillingness to listen. It was like a death after being so close for all of high school, college, and then adulthood into our thirties. I thought we’d always be friends and our kids would grow up together. We do not keep in touch at all now, it’s been about a decade since she replaced me with her spouse. I tried to reach out to her many times to no avail. Losing friendships hurts, I still mourn this one deeply. It took time and years of therapy to bring the wound to a dull pain. I have made an effort to not exclude my friends after I coupled up. This may not be helpful at all, I’m sorry.

    But I value my adult friendships now more than ever and the new friends I’ve made are now priceless, so there is that. I wish you the best of luck!

    • It happens. A lot of the time, someone getting married or finding Twue Wuv does seem to mean that the friendship is over once you’re in different life stages and they are occupied with the husband 24-7. And I have learned over the years to just get used to friends not being around as much once they get married. My friend and I, well, I think our friendship is circling the drain because (a) we’re not doing the same hobbies and activities at the same time as we used to, because (b) she now drops everything to do whatever hubby wants all the time. I can only see her when hubby is totally busy. To some degree I think we just have to accept that sometimes we’re going to have to let go, or make do with less, or just accept that things are going in a different direction. She is moving on, her life revolves around whatever hubby wants and hubby’s friend circle in the Big City, they want to move to Big City where their real life is and… well, when hubby doesn’t like it when she isn’t spending time 24-7 with him…I give up. She’s chosen her priorities and I can’t fight against the tide. Sometimes that happens too.

  8. r1 said:

    A few years ago my friends/roommates coupled up, and now we don’t talk anymore. Partially their fault for not telling me (and leaving me to assume that I was the odd one out because everyone hates me) but also my fault for being all immature/resentful about it. Don’t just sit there and stew, Letter Writers! Things will go horribly wrong if you go down that road.

  9. Britt said:

    This is really wonderful advice, as usual, and just one quick tip for #290 on how to get to know the best friend’s boyfriend better in a hopefully minimally awkward way. Get in touch with him and tell him you want to do something nice for best friend and you’d like his help. If there’s a birthday or other special occasion coming up that you would normally buy her a gift or plan something nice for her, that’s the perfect excuse, but just “I want to do something nice for her because she’s my best friend and is super awesome” is a good enough reason. Then you can go shopping together, or get together for coffee to plan a game night featuring her favorite games, or whatever. If you hit it off when you’re doing more than making polite chit-chat while she’s in the ladies’ room or something, then that gives you someplace to build from, and if you *don’t* hit it off one-on-one, at least you know and you’re in a reasonably not awkward situation.

  10. Dana K said:

    I also had two close (adult) friends of four years, who ended up getting together romantically after my partner and I introduced them, and as soon as partner and I moved, suddenly neither of them would communicate. It got to the point that we thought they might be dead, since two years went by where we kept leaving voicemails and emails maybe once a month, to no avail.

    We finally did hear from them, but we were summarily dumped over the phone. While they had online relationships with people they’d never met in real life, they both refused to keep up the relationship we had with them online or in any other capacity!

    It’s been 4-5 years now since they dumped us, and I found out recently via Facebook that they had a baby girl together just this past couple months. I was uncertain what to do, so I said nothing – while I wanted to congratulate them, I was unsure of how to avoid sounding bitter.

    The fact is, some people *are* unreasonable. The female half of this friend-couple even told me that she refused to visit us if we moved back to Chicago because one of her ex’s “might” be living there and she “might” run into her, and then it would risk her current relationship cause she “knew” she would cheat with her ex if given the chance. Chicago is a big city. The odds of running into someone you are *certain* is there, are pretty small. Let alone someone who was just rumored to maybe be there.

    I would suggest speaking to your friend, but be careful with your heart. Don’t assume that just because it’s a common-sense and normal request you’re making, that means that she will be understanding. Sometimes we see our friend’s truest selves after they find a life-partner. Sometimes we were never *really* their friends at all – sometimes I think (at least in my and my partner’s case) that we were simply “placeholders” until a life-partner appeared.

    The fact that if it weren’t for me and my SO, our ex-friends would never have gotten together, let alone had this beautiful baby together, doesn’t matter to them. We aren’t people who exist to them anymore. More than likely, in their minds, we were simply the vehicle that life chose to bring them together.

    The situation with them has proven to me that no matter how close you are to someone, or how much you think you know them, there is always the chance that you will learn that to them, you never mattered in the first place. It’s a very sad, ego-crushing pill to swallow. I feel sympathy and sorrow for everyone here who has had a friend abandon them in this way.

    Please know that you’re not alone, and I hope you can take some comfort from the fact that it was probably *never* YOUR fault . . . more than likely you just had the misfortune of being friends with someone who had a similar mindset to my ex-friends. It is certainly a relief for *me* to know that I personally wasn’t deformed or unworthy in some way – obviously there are people like this everywhere, ditching friends when they are suddenly “unnecessary.” All we can do is reaffirm our personal integrity and refuse to ever become *that* kind of friend.

  11. Ruth said:

    I needed to read this! My closest friend and I both coupled up at roughly the same time last year and have lost touch in a big way. Now we’re going out for coffee tomorrow! Thanks folks. :0)

  12. My best friend used to completely disappear when he got a girlfriend. It felt icky and I told him so, but his response was “that’s just who I am.” Not a defense, but not fixing the problem either. Finally, I got over my insecurity and said “You know how you never make phone calls? Or initiate plans? Or make plans more than n days in advance, but n is higher for your gf than for anyone else? And saturate all available time with her? Do you understand how those things combine into something that feels really bad?”

    And at that point he got it. I think what happened is that he weighed each individual habit and didn’t view them as bad enough to fix, but when he saw how in concert they led to either us only talking if I happened to catch him on an unpredictable night without plans, and only seeing each other if he had a last minute cancellation on a day I wasn’t doing anything, he understood how I felt. We’re on his first relationship since this discussion, and it’s going a lot better: he initiates phone calls, and he’s willing to make plans further in advance. I miss seeing him more frequently, but I no longer feel rejected.

  13. Denzi said:

    My person and I have a “one night a week” rule. As in, “we are married and living in the same house and see each other all the time, so at least one night a week we are NOT ALLOWED to spend the evening together.” That way we are forced to be proactive at least one night a week, and not just fall into “oh, of course we’ll cook dinner and have pantsfeelings and watch something on Hulu, because we are married and boring.” (Even though we are totally married and boring.) It means we each either get extra introvert time or call up a friend or two and say “Hey, let’s hang out.”

    I totally recommend making your own version if you are coupled up, so that you have something in your calendar that forces you to reconnect with your friends. Because it’s easy to forget on your own, so just having it in your schedule forces you to remember and be proactive. And if you don’t come up with something to do with friends, you will sit at home going, “Hmm, I like playing tower defense games but maybe I will call Friend A and see if we can hang out next week because that will be more fun.”

  14. Awkward Niece said:

    So I kind of reacted negatively to this in the first letter: “I find the whole joined-at-the-hip thing incredibly frustrating”
    I’m not really sure that that’s your business, and I definitely would try to keep any judgement about how you think your friend’s relationships should operate out of your request to spend more time with them. I think it is statements just like that which often make the coupled respond negatively to the requests of the non-coupled.

    • Lilly said:

      I agree that it’s not any of the LW’s business how his/her friends run their relationships… but I took that phrase as coming from a place of huge frustration because s/he is missing her (OK, I’m just going to write female pronouns…) friends a lot and feels excluded.

      The truth is that the dynamics of friendships almost always change when one friend gets a partner. I think the captain’s advice of asking for friend time in a neutral way that gets across the LW’s needs without criticizing the friends is awesome.

      The other truth is that sometimes, friendships can end and not every friendship will be forever. That hurts. I lost my best friend of many years when I moved thousands of miles away and he got a new gf at the exact same time, and although I tried to keep the relationship going through phone, email etc and I am very happy that he has a gf who sounds amazing, it did not happen as he did not communicate with me at all, forgot my birthday, just faded from my life…

      I wish the LW well in keeping her friendships alive and well, and hope that it works out…

      • Awkward Niece said:

        Sure, and you’re absolutely right – it is coming from a place a feeling angry and rejected. And those are all valid emotions. What isn’t valid is trying to turn those emotions into a lecture about what is and isn’t healthy or appropriate relationship behaviour (given, of course, that we have the LW’s indication that these are non-abusive relationships). Making a loving request for some girl (?) time and keeping the preachiness out of it is in the LW’s best interests and it has the added bonus of not being a crappy thing to do.

  15. Gonna leave a comment here as a “person who consumed my SO’s life”.

    One of the things I didn’t see discussed much in the comments is how people, after about age 22 generally start having a LOT less free time on their hands then they did pre-age-22. Free time becomes a valuable resource. The moment anyone gets an SO attending to that relationship is going to become a Big Deal and a significant portion of that free time is going to be re-allotted to the SO just because, well, relationships are hard and require a lot of time. Plus for romantic (as in, non-aromantic people) there are certain needs that need to be regularly filled that friends just can’t meet. Even after the first few intense months a relationship requires a lot of time.

    My lovely partner has a full time job which he works at 5 days a week, for 8-10 hours a day, with what days that are off each week changing from week to week seemingly at random. None of his current friendsgroup has cars besides him so any meeting with them requires at least an hour, if not two, of just driving around to gather them up. And then another two hours of returning everyone home. I have a car, but, aside from one mutual friend none of his friends have made a particular effort to get to know me — so it’s not like we can just divide up the driving duties. This means that my partner can basically only see his friends on one of the two days off a week he has. Unfortunately, those days are also the ONLY days the two of us can do more than spend an hour or two together (I’m an employed grad student. I don’t have oodles of free time myself). That means anything we have to do together then — emotional needs things, sexy needs things, finding an apartment together needs things, practical (taking his car to the shop needs) things…

    This is compounded with the fact that one member of the friendsgroup refuses outright to even meet me. A few months ago she regularly sent screed-texts, sometimes while drunk, verbally abusing my partner for not hanging out as much as he did in the past. There was a lot of guilting and the implication that without him and his car the friendsgroup would fall apart because without him playing chauffeur it was too difficult for everyone to see each other.

    So basically he can’t see them without having to give up seeing me for one of the Two Days Off A Week. With all the restrictions (All of them, but two, are working jobs too, and one of those is finishing his college degree. So, their days off only line up with my partner’s days off every so often, and, occasionally, when that rolls around my partner and I will have months-in-the-making plans that can’t be diverted — taking him to meet my parents four hours away*, moving in together, that sort of thing) he’s put his friends on a see-you-every-month-or-two level, and texts and calls them occasionally. Pretty much all of them seem to be understanding except for that /one friend/.**

    So. Yeah. Things are gonna change when people start getting full time jobs, going to grad school, moving to new areas, getting into serious relationships, having children, getting married. All these things demand a portion of severely limited time. Part of growing into adulthood is realizing you’re only gonna see your friends every few weeks, and that dinner parties where everyone’s SOs are invited are going to be a lot more effective for getting people together. Alone time might go from being a nightly or weekly thing to a once-every-coupla-months thing.

    And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s just part of growing up and people’s lives getting more and more full. Expecting that friend with a serious significant other, a busy job, graduate school, an upcoming marriage, a baby, or y’know whatevers to be able to invest the same amount of time in you that they did previous to taking on the new commitment is a little absurd. Take their absence with grace and I’d advise to spend the time you’d be spending with them making some new friends who have the same amount of time to commit to friends as you do.


    * One of the things that set That One Friend off is when my partner and I, after two months of planning, took a weekend to take him to my hometown so he could meet my family, and my longest running friend — you know, that one I’ve had for half my life. He’d previously been making an effort to see more of That One Friend and had seen her two weeks before and earnestly let her know he’d make more of an effort to hang out with her. That weekend, after we’d driven four hours away and were in the middle of hanging out with my sister, she texts asking if she can hang out with him that day. He explained, no, he was 4 hours away and they could rain-check for next week and she fucking LOST IT, went on a screed, threatened self harm in the form of drinking All The Alcohol and tried to initiate a friends-dump that wasn’t an ACTUAL friends-dump, but, rather, a manipulative NOT-friends-dump to try and bully my partner into committing more time to her.

    Pro tip: If you have a super duper busy friend who you’ve been having trouble seeing? Don’t make demands to see them the day you call. Schedule hangouts days, maybe even weeks in advance.

    ** I’m gonna note that my friends — primarily other graduate students, long term friends, and online friends — have all been really understanding and cool with the fact that I have less time now. Not just due to my boyfriend, but due to work, school (primarily thesis work at this point), job hunting (I need a better paying job than my current one), and moving. A lot of them also feel that haunting time crunch and Get It.

  16. Jaz said:

    Two close friends of mine are in the “spending ridiculous amounts of time together”-phase of a new relationship. This post helped me deal with it in a non-whiny way ^^ thanks!

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