#1018: My boyfriend’s female “friends.”

Greetings, Captain Awkward!

To get to the point, I keep getting inklings that my boyfriend isn’t as loyal as I would like but I’d love your perspective and any advice you might have.

My boyfriend has a couple of female friends who are not friendly to me, and he doesn’t seem to mind this.

For instance, after Boyfriend and I spent time with some of his friends, I said something kind about “Alice” (I can’t remember what it was) and he said he was impressed by how I rise above her, because “she sure isn’t kind to you.” Alice flirts with him and is mean or dismissive of me. It’s textbook boring high school stuff (we’re in our late 30s, for Christ sake!) and she’s kind of flighty and blabby, so I just roll my eyes inwardly and move on. But I didn’t realize that he sees how rude she is to me. He flirts right back with her and gives her big hugs and kisses, which is pretty gross to me since he’s aware of her rudeness.

It would be great to have a game plan and/or script for the next time this person is around and decides to avoid making eye contact with me and ignore what I say while flirting with him.

There’s another female friend with whom he has a brief physical past, has known for many years, and wanted to be in a relationship with not long before he met me. She flaked on him then, not responding to letters or texts, and she only came back into the picture after he and I started dating.

All throughout our 4-year relationship, “Sue” has sent him little texty-texts saying she misses him and “How long is it going to be before I can see you again?” They get together every now and then. He’s always said she’s a very good and close friend, but that it would be “weird” for she and I to meet. Two years into our relationship, I had to insist that she and I meet. However, Sue backed out of meeting me at that point saying (via text) that she’d have to put their friendship on hold while she searched her heart…but a few months later she was back to her little texty-texts and wanting to see him.

More than three years into our relationship, he wanted to see her and I again said, wait, if you have this supposedly close friend who lives in the same city as us and is so important to you, then she and I need to meet. It’s so fucking basic. But she became angry and spouted something about prudes and Catholics, and that she’s known him for so many years that she shouldn’t have to meet me in order to see him…before finally agreeing to meet me (with him). She then flaked a few hours before we were supposed to get together, and didn’t respond to his follow-up text to pick another day. Now it’s been another few months and he wants to see her and tells me that he knows she needs to be willing to meet me and acknowledge our relationship, but I don’t feel like she’s ever going to be someone I can trust even if she does put on her big girl pants and actually meet me.

I have a lot of other things in my life to think about and focus on, and these women are like annoying flies buzzing around in the background. But when I focus on them, I doubt my relationship. When my boyfriend and I talk about them, he tends to say that I’m making a bigger deal of it than it is and that Sue is just a good friend and that Alice is kind of gross. I think he’s mostly innocent but likes their attention, the thrill of the non-girlfriend and all that.

Do you have any thoughts on these situations, or talking points to help me feel empowered?

Thank you!

Hi there!

My read is the same as your read: “I think he’s mostly innocent but likes their attention, the thrill of the non-girlfriend and all that.”

Your boyfriend loves the idea that all these women are interested in him and he loves dangling that idea in front of you to make you feel jealous and off-kilter and loves dangling you in front of them all “I have a girlfriend, back off ladies!” and he loves the drama and the charge he gets out of telling you that you’re making a big deal out of nothing. And he likes painting himself as the put-upon one when really he’s sitting in the middle of this web of drama like a big fat spider.

If he wanted this to be different it would be different. He’d be like “Alice, quit being rude to my girlfriend if you want to keep hanging out with us” and “Ugh, Sue, enough. Either you want to hang out as friends or you don’t” and he’d ignore her 10,000 cutesy “I miss you” texts.

If you’re not ready to break up with this living Taylor Swift song yet, try these things:

1) Whenever he wants to subject you to Alice, say, “No, I’m not hanging out with Alice anymore. She’s rude to me and I don’t like her. If you want to be her friend, go have fun, but stop inviting her to group hangouts with me.

Be prepared for him to accuse you of being jealous. If you were jealous, it would be okay, since she/he/they are trying to make you feel that way, but a response of “You say jealous, I say bored & annoyed, either way I don’t hang out with Alice anymore in this lifetime. Go have fun.

2) Whenever he talks about “Sue,” roll your eyes and change the subject. “Whatever, Sue’s gonna Sue, who cares, howabout that local weather team that’s playing sports in the subject change bowl this week?” Don’t plan any more dramatic meetings/showdowns with her. Her feelings and weirdness are 100% not your problem and you wouldn’t even know about them if your boyfriend didn’t keep shoving it in your face.

3) Ask him directly, “What’s this all about? What are you going for when you tell me this stuff?”

Can he be honest and self-aware about it or will he double down on gaslighting you and trying to set you against these women that you don’t really know or care about?

Theme song: Gloria by Laura Branigan

 

 

328 comments
  1. I’m just tuning into say that this comment made me laugh If you’re not ready to break up with this living Taylor Swift song yet . Thank you so much, capt’n.

    For the LW, I admire how clear and factual you’ve laid out the facts, and I think you’re clear eyed enough to see what’s in front of you and you’ll do the right thing. But ugh at your beau for acting like a PILL, tbh.

    • doctormead said:

      Sage advice here. Don’t be a living Taylor Swift song!

      • Cannibal Queen said:

        “Don’t be a living Taylor Swift song” should be embroidered on a pillow!

  2. Laura said:

    Honestly, OP, I don’t think this is about trust at all – or at least, I don’t think it *needs* to be about trust.

    Here is what you know as facts:

    Your boyfriend is okay with someone treating you rudely. Your boyfriend will not stand up for you when he exposes you to someone he knows will treat you poorly. Your boyfriend rewards this person for being mean to you.

    Your boyfriend is okay with encouraging another woman to have feelings for him. Keeping someone around that he knows has feelings for him and wants him to be with her is an action that he is taking, deliberately, to undermine your relationship with him.

    At this point – who cares about whether or not you can trust him? That seems to be almost peripheral at this point. Your boyfriend encourages and rewards bad behavior towards you, and your boyfriend is undermining your relationship through his behavior.

    What are you going to do about the facts you have right now?

    • Lissy said:

      THIS. You can’t control what Alice and Sue do or how they feel. What they do and how they feel is secondary to you. But you’re in a partnership with Boyfriend, and yeah you can’t control what he does or how he feels either, but you can be communicative with him and say “when you do this, I feel this.” A good, loving partner who respects you would *want* to change the way he interacts with these people because it makes you feel bad.

      I gotta say, that whole pointing out how Alice is rude to you and “congratulating” you on rising above it really irks me, and I can’t put my finger on why. Obviously, it’s ridiculous that he *recognizes* the rudeness and does nothing about it. But there’s something icky about him saying how you rise above it. I feel like it’s a way of silencing you and saying you shouldn’t call Alice out on her crap. Just… ick.

      • Alucius said:

        Seems like a form of the “cool girl” syndrome. It a threat disguised as a compliment because as soon as she starts NOT “rising above,” this situation her coolness in his eyes is erased.

        • Oops, should have refreshed before I commented! What you said!

      • Nancy M said:

        “I gotta say, that whole pointing out how Alice is rude to you and “congratulating” you on rising above it really irks me, and I can’t put my finger on why.”

        It strikes me as a flavor of “you’re not like other girls!” with undertones of “here is the bullshit behavior I expect you to put up with from me* and my friends, oh and also let me subtly train you to be required to be ‘better than that’.” As others said, he doesn’t necessarily *have* to change his behavior or friends to suit op – but conversely, neither should op *have* to tolerate the junior high levels of bullshit in order to ‘earn’ words of love and admiration (which only happen when the extremwly low bars he’s comparing her to aren’t in the room, coincidentally enough).

        * in the words of an old cliche, if he’s not with op, he’s against op

        • I agree with this, but I would also like to add that this is a not-so-subtle way of telling her about the bad behavior, in the first place. After all, how can his girlfriend be insecure about his relationship with Alice, if girlfriend doesn’t know Alice is treating her like dirt and boyfriend is letting her? “Ignorance is bliss,” and boyfriend is going out of his way to prevent that bliss and stir $h)t up for the LW.

          Personally, after four years, I say that this is never going to get better with him, and it’s time to look for someone who actually WANTS LW to be happy. LW, you are better than this, and deserve better than this, and no one here will blame you if you DTMFA.

      • But there’s something icky about him saying how you rise above it. I feel like it’s a way of silencing you and saying you shouldn’t call Alice out on her crap.

        Yes, this. It seems like he noticed that she wasn’t treating you well and he didn’t stick up for you, and by saying how he’s impressed that you rise above it he’s setting you up in this “Cool Girl” position where if you now choose to respond to her next time or you ask him to change his behaviour, you’ll be disappointing him by no longer living up to the “Cool Girl” standard. Or something.

        • Oh, yes. And every time he tolerates Alice being rude to the LW, he makes those expectations clear. Plus there are these weird shifting alliance manipulation vibes around the whole thing that I haven’t got words for, though “triangulation” may well have some relation to it, now that I’ve looked up what the other posters mentioned.

          (I used to have one who, when “Alice” was not being rude directly to me because I was no longer interacting with her, would drop little things into conversation like “You’re really great. Alice may say awful things about you, but I don’t agree at all!” ORLY? You’re going out of your way to make sure I know she’s shit-talking me? Wow, dude.)

          Being a Cool Girl in this particular scenario is a lot of work, and the benefits are lousy.

          • Vicki said:

            Putting it this way reminds me of the letter from the woman with the very critical sister who, when LW said “stop saying these things to me,” started coming up with “my five-year-old says” and then the exact same criticism. And the same advice the Captain gave there might apply: stop him and say “why are you saying this?…no, why are you saying this to me? the person who is saying these unkind things to me isn’t Alice, it’s you.”

            It might even be worth following the advice on that letter to ask “and what did you say to her when she insulted me?”

          • myswtghst said:

            “Being a Cool Girl in this particular scenario is a lot of work, and the benefits are lousy.”

            Yes, this. So much this.

      • John said:

        Congratulating OP on “rising above it” means that he recognizes there’s a problem but is refusing to do anything about it himself. Plus it’s a way of playing up the conflict because he gets off on being the source of these jealousies.

        • That occurred to me to: it’s kind of stirring. LW was saying something nice about Alice, meaning she was willing to get along with her; Boyfriend then deliberately called attention to Alice’s bad behaviour. That’s undermining an attempt to get along while simultaneously insisting that they get along.

          If he is getting a kick out of being in the middle of all this drama, then that would be an attempt to increase it by making sure that LW notices Alice is against her.

          Maybe it was just tactless; it depends on how much he’s into actively encouraging drama versus passively enjoying it. But it’s not exactly smoothing things over.

          • My dyslexia turned “Maybe it was just tactless” into “Maybe it was just tentacles,” and I started thinking about manipulative squid who were all “yeah, let’s you and the other fish fight over me!” and “Gosh, you’re so much nicer about them than they are about you!”

            OP, it looks like tentacles all right, but they look like deliberate tentacles.

      • Guava said:

        What I see in the “pointing out how Alice is rude to you and ‘congratulating’ you on rising above” is a guy who refuses to have your back when someone comes at you.

        You can make a boundary to never hang out with Alice again…you can ignore Sue…but sooner or later, someone else will come along and he will put their feelings above yours, and tell you to get over it.

        • OP said she’s getting ‘inklings’ that the boyfriend is not ‘loyal’ to her and maybe she meant loyal strictly in the ‘not cheating’ way; we can’t know that and I don’t think it even matters, because the truth is he ISN’T loyal in the ‘have your back’ way either. Or at least, that’s what his behaviour means. If she wants to point this out to him and give him a chance for a while, fine, or if she’s already decided it’s not worth it then I certainly wouldn’t blame her.

      • “I gotta say, that whole pointing out how Alice is rude to you and “congratulating” you on rising above it really irks me, and I can’t put my finger on why.”

        I read it as him being passive aggressively annoyed that the OP actually doesn’t care about what Alice says, because it takes away from the drama he’s getting off on.

        • oh my god yes, that is such a good point

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      This.
      LW, you don’t have an Alice and Sue problem. You have a boyfriend problem.

    • Amy said:

      Yepyepyep!! His reaction to Alice’s rudeness is especially a problem to me. He could come up with excuses for Sue’s nonsense (blah blah yeah she’s out of line but blah blah such a GOOD FRIEND blah blah trying to maintain Important Friendship through adverse situation blah), but the only acceptable reaction to him realizing that Alice is treating you badly would be for him to tell Alice to cut it out, and he’s not doing that. He could be the most honest, reliable, trustworthy person on the entire planet, and it would still be weird and bad that he’s OK with his friends being outright rude to you.

  3. backwardschic said:

    I think the Cap’s advice is spot-on. I’m curious what on earth the whole “prudes and Catholics” was about since it seems like such a weird non-sequiter.

    • Inspector Spacetime said:

      Probably “You’re such a prude for not letting your boyfriend hang out with any female friends without your permission or you being present,” which, IMHO, makes it even more likely that they’re sleeping together. :/

      • Nancy M said:

        Possibility #1 – what you said.

        Possibility #2 – she wants to sleep with him and is trying to kill two birds with one stone, i.e. set up a one-on-one meeting w bf in the hopes it will “just happen”, but until she can swing that, she’s willing to settle for just driving a Seeger between her target and his gf by treating *her* like the wierd and irrational one in the soap opera in her head. Even if that’s so though, it still leaves bf guilty of following along with her casting of op as “the wierd and irrational one”, not to mention him as (as I mentioned in another comment) “‘normal’ guy who is cool with being rude to gf and (not so) secretly on soap opera writer’s side.”

        Possibility #3 – she’s a rude asshole that op’s bf is assisting to be a rude asshole to a woman she’s never met. Which is really just repeating possibility #1 & 2 without the “s/he wants to sleep/is sleeping with him/her” motivations, which just means we’re left with two questions:
        A – what *is* their motivation in all this and
        B – do we really care about the why behind “why is it so ‘cool’ to not just let but assist a total stranger to op be a rude asshole to op?”

        • I would consider possibility #4

          Boyfriend has made OP sound weird and controlling because he enjoys the drama.

          • Emma said:

            Bingo.

            I’d put money on bf having said something along the lines of “LW doesn’t think it’s /appropriate/ for us to hang out together, you know, because we have a bit of history, she’s being really weird about it, like she thinks we’re automatically gonna sleep together just because we’re a guy and a girl, ha ha…”

          • aebhel said:

            Yep. I dated a guy who did shit like that ALL THE TIME, and I could never figure out why all of our mutual friends (mostly his friends) treated me like a ticking time bomb every time we hung out. It’s such a mindfuck to do that to someone, but it seems right in line with the rest of this guy’s behavior.

          • That was my read too. I dated a guy who played me as the controlling and jealous GF to his longtime woman friend, and framed her as a jealous and judgmental to me. He’d also repeatedly tell me things like “I’d totally date her, she’s amazing and awesome but it’d *ruin our friendship.*” It screwed with my head the entire time we were dating. Eventually, I broke up with the jerk, met the woman friend independently, and we shared notes and realized he’d been jerking both of us around because he enjoyed the drama and the attention.

            Letter is giving me strong, strong parallel vibes.

          • Knayt said:

            I’m piling on the agreement here. Boyfriend appears to be deliberately shit stirring with the OP, and there’s no particular reason to think that pattern of behavior is in any way restricted to her.

    • Jaybeetee said:

      My bf had an incident along these lines years ago, in a different relationship. A female friend in his circle started sending him messages about sex dreams she was having about him, etc. When he asked her to stop, she’d start going on about him and his then-gf being “too prudish” and “people should be open about these things, they shouldn’t be taboo” and “they’re just dreams, what’s the big deal?” etc. He had to lay it out for her that she was putting him in the position of either telling his gf about these messages and upsetting her, or NOT telling her and keeping a secret from her, and that that was seriously affecting his friendship with Dream Lady. I think in the end he did a fade from her – from what he’s said, I don’t think she ever got it. But yeah, dismissing someone as prudish seems to be a go-to for certain boundary-challenged people who are trying to move in on someone else’s relationship.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        THIS ^^ is the appropriate response to someone behaving inappropriately. Shut it down. The LW’s boyfriend should take notes.

      • thepaintedlady said:

        I mean, if it were a less antagonistic situation, we’d call it grooming.

      • slythwolf said:

        The whole concept of “prude” is anti-boundaries.

        • Well, if someone is nosy and censorious about other people’s private lives, it’s probably fair. That doesn’t apply here, though.

        • whingedrinking said:

          Not at all. Prudes are just boundary violators of a different sort – they want to know what you’re up to and whether or not they approve of it, and they *will* let you know.

          • BarlowGirl said:

            Um, not to be all “make this about me” but y’all know “prude” is used against ace people a lot right? TBH I kinda don’t trust people when they use it. Just an FYI.

          • The Awe Ritual said:

            Ran out of nest, BarlowGirl but calling ace people “prudes,” is just another form of prudery, a way of being controlling because their sexuality makes you feel threatened.. (And OMG, how insecure can you be, feeling threatened that someone is not interested in sex?)

            Also, cloning myself so I can second, third, and fourth Ice and Indigo’s comment above of, “Well, if someone is nosy and censorious about other people’s private lives, it’s probably fair. That doesn’t apply here, though.” I feel quite comfortable suspecting people’s motivations for, say, censoring anatomy textbooks so they don’t show clitorides; refusing to let their wives masturbate; shutting down Planned Parenthoods and sex education programs, although I like to think I would not use such non-constructive language to say it…but that’s not what LW is being congratulated for not doing.

          • That’s not the common usage. The common usage is “this person is not as sexually liberated as I think they should be.” Maybe prude *should* mean what you say, but it doesn’t. Like BarlowGirl, I feel uneasy when people use it because it’s been used against me so often throughout my life. I would like it very much if we could come up with a different term.

          • I think you’re mistaking “prude” and “holier-than-thou busybody.”

        • I haven’t been called a prude in a long while, mostly because I learned a long time ago that I could choose to actively avoid jerks. But back in the day (high school, college), when I was pushed into socializing with my student peers, I got called prude plenty of times.

          When someone called me “the Church Lady from SNL,” I said, “Thank you!” and was proud of it. Because that means they couldn’t push past MY boundaries, and that was awesome.

          Take pride in prudishness! It means you are strong!

      • Clarry said:

        “Too prudish!” I didn’t think manipulators had used that line since the 60s. The old “I get to do whatever I want with you, and if you object, I’ll call you a name in the hopes that you’ll go along with me rather than accept the label.” I like directly getting to the point: “You’re probably right about that. I am awfully prudish, and I still want you to stop.”

        • Thistledown said:

          I believe that before then it was “be a sport.”

          • Clarry said:

            Well we certainly wouldn’t want it getting around that we weren’t good sports, would we. /s

          • Carrie said:

            “. . . you haven’t the guts to say No when somebody asks you to be a sport. That tom-fool word has got more people in trouble than all the rest of the dictionary put together. If it’s sporting to encourage girls to break rules and drink more than they can carry and get themselves into a mess on your account, then I’d stop being a sport and try being a gentleman.” –Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night.

          • Karyn said:

            Well, Carrie, now I need to re-read my Dorothy L. Sayers. Thanks a heap.

          • Carrie said:

            Join me! We will be sad about the chessmen together!

        • People have been accusing me of prudishness since middle school in an effort to pressure me into conforming.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        This!!! After my ex was my ex we occasionally spoke on the phone to coordinate clothing pickup and try and achieve that “stay friends” thing but he would inevitably randomly interject an innuendo about sexy things he wanted to do to me/with me etc. I couldn’t put my finger on why it always made me recoil….lol…but I did ultimately tell him to stop. I didn’t like it. It did make me uncomfortable. Just because he and I did share intimacy in the past does not mean I must be cool with him re-introducing a sexual element into our discourse for the foreseeable future.

    • the815 said:

      Wanting to meet your partner’s friends is totally normal and it’s shady as hell that the request sparked this weird, angry rant about “prudes.” If you’re not guilty of anything, you wouldn’t give it a second thought, you’d be like, “Oh, great, I’d love to meet your girlfriend!” *Maybe* it would be annoying if the girlfriend always insisted on being present, but the idea of meeting her at all, ever, is cause for Big Drama? ::eye roll forever::

      Grr…so many men pull the “you’re just jealous” crap when they knowingly stir s*** up that they know will upset you. I love the Captain’s sample script – “You call it jealous, I call it annoyed – I just don’t wanna see her any more.”

      • Right? If someone is your good friend and you only have friend feelings for them, you’d be happy to meet their long-time significant other, and you certainly wouldn’t act like it was insulting for the significant other to want to meet you.

        • Sue and the boyfriend had a past physical thing, and right before LW and the boyfriend started dating, he’d wanted to date Sue.

          I believe that means some combination of
          a) he still wants to sleep with Sue
          b) he and Sue are sleeping together
          c) he and Sue have only ceased sleeping together when Sue wasn’t interested

          • Paulina said:

            From Sue’s behaviour as reported by the BF, it looks to me as though there’s at least a fantasy relationship, with current flirting and maybe-someday going on (in her mind at least, but actively encouraged by the BF). Sue then doesn’t want to meet the LW because it would break her fantasy by showing her the BF’s actual relationship. There could certainly be more going on, but her avoidance of the LW looks like denial to me; when meeting the LW looked to be a requirement of continuing to be friends with the BF, she was considering stopping the friendship. (Behaviour which would make more sense if it was an affair, but could also just be in her head: she turned him down before so she may be invested in the idea that she could have him whenever she wanted.) If she does have such a fantasy, it’s long overdue for a reality check, but that’s not up to the LW to administer.

            Seriously, WTF. Anyone who goes “I don’t think I can be friends with you if I have to ever meet your S.O.” should be dropped like a stone. Any implied lack of trust from the LW follows from that refusal, likely combined with the BF knowing what he’s been up to with Sue.

          • I was trying to make a point about the boyfriend. That point being: he is hung up on Sue. I can’t tell whether Sue was communicating directly with LW. If so, yeah, she’s got something going on with BF, certainly mentally, probably physically.

            If all communication has been filtered through the BF, then what Sue thinks of the situation is anyone’s guess.

          • Paulina said:

            True, all the LW knows about Sue’s communication is as-reported, by the BF who seems very interested in keeping whatever-is-going-on going (or at least telling the LW that it is). If that communication wasn’t at least observed by the LW, Sue may not even have known about the planned meeting (all the more reason why the plug was pulled on it).

            Whatever Sue may or may not be up to, the LW’s problem is the BF.

          • Got the tshirt said:

            I dated a guy with a Sue, only her name was Cheryl. It turned out that she did NOT want to date him or sleep together, but she didn’t want anyone else to have him either. She had a small collection of male “friends” who had crushes on her but she kept at a distance until they started to wander, then she’d ramp up the flirting. She wanted people to want her, without her having to give them anything in return. He finally figured that out, was hurt and embarrassed and eventually ended up not being friends with her anymore. It was a couple of years until we actually broke up, but the respect I lost for him in watching him let her yank his chain was a factor in our eventual break up, along with his habit of getting bored and creating useless drama every few months. I’ve wondered a few times if he ended up back in her little circle again, that relationship was a great supply of drama to keep him going.

        • Exactly! If you’re best friends with someone, and not competing for romance with that person’s SO, then meeting the SO (even if it’s only one time) is in your best interests, and the best interest of your friendship? Why? Because 1) you can prove your maturity and friendship by not being the creepy “jealous” type, and 2) you can, if needed, coordinate with the SO in regards to special treats for friend, or treats with friend, for you. “Hi, SO. Look, it’s my birthday soon, and I really want to hang out with my bestie. What works best on the social calendar? Hey, can we keep this a surprise?” and 3) if SO is so awesome that your bestie wants to be with them, then odds are they are awesome in a way that you will also enjoy, and friendships can spring up all around.

          If you’re really all about the friendship, and not about sneakily trying to worm your way into a romance, trust won’t even be an issue, because sex won’t even be an issue.

          Sue doens’t want to meet LW, because she views LW as the competition and that is why she’s calling names and feeling “gross” or challenged.

      • If someone called me a prude, I would thank them for the compliment! After all, the word “prude” comes from the French for “good woman,” not to mention sounding like “prudence.”

  4. g2-9f25edeaf85d96ccc5889981c847579d said:

    If OP needs a good read, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare is a VERY good read.

    • Mercutia said:

      OMG, just looked it up. THANK YOU.

      • chris said:

        Same — thank you!

  5. Cyberwulf said:

    My reaction on reading this letter was “Boyfriend loves drama. Also, wtf is up with him saying ‘oh btw Alice is mean to you, did you not notice?'”

    I kinda can’t help but wonder how many other girlfriends of his have had to put up with this preening jackass going “ladies, ladies, don’t *fight* (fight!)”

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      yes to this! I have an ex who used to tell me stories about how romantic he was to his highschool sweetheart all the while virtually ignoring romantic gestures to me. I heard about every sweet thing he did to everyone but me. It was maddening…like what does that make me?…why are you even telling me?…after we broke up I think he started cherishing me more than the entire time we were together..and he weirdly kept a dress of mine and some other things.

      • bad at screen names said:

        You were probably supposed to work to “earn” those romantic gestures. *eyeroll*

        • Or he preferred the fantasy of the pefect unavailable to the presence of the imperfect person who was actually in his life. Leave, and you can be perfected in fantasies and become desirable again.

          • Thanksforallthefish said:

            Yep I think it was Ice and Indigo’s version. He was also sorta permanently emotionally unavailable but I couldn’t see past my own plan to “Love him enough” to counter all the tough things he went through in his life. My greatest satisfaction is seeing him 5 years later and knowing he basically hasn’t changed. I’m seeing the bullet I dodged. One of our mutual friends put it so well, she said “I’m sad for him that you broke up but I’m so glad for you that you’re free”

      • Paulina said:

        My guess is he was better at spinning tales of himself being romantic then he was at actually being romantic. It’s certainly easier to make things up than to have to deal with a real person, with real feelings and real reactions that you can’t script for them.

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          This is also true.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        I am now also recalling this one chick he would bring up periodically who was “Sue” I’m pretty sure I never met her but he told me early and not infrequently that whenever they met up (once every year or so) they inevitably slept together. They just had a connection like that. Then he mentioned casually one day about how she wanted to meet up with him again. I could never quite put my finger on why that was soooo messed up. It was because he was purposefully sh** stirring. Like…you could’ve seen her or not and never said word one to me and I would’ve suspected nothing…why are you saying these things to me?

    • I know; who /does/ that? It reminds me of Anne of Green Gables wondering why people only “feel it is their duty to tell you” unpleasant things other people have said about you. Seriously, nobody needs that kind of “you’re gonna take that? you’re gonna take that?” in their lives.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      The line, “he said he was impressed by how I rise above her, because ‘she sure isn’t kind to you,'” jumped out at me as well. That’s basically, “Hm…you did not give the reaction I was looking for, so let me stir some shit to try to prod you toward it for next time.”

      Alice and Sue are distractions. The real problem is Boyfriend—he’s bringing tons of baggage into the relationship (which is not a crime) and is not handling any of it (which is). Given that everyone involved in this story is over 30, I think it’s safe to assume that this is the way Boyfriend, Alice, and Sue like things and that there is very little the LW can do to change this dynamic. Her choice is to live with it or leave it.

      • thepaintedlady said:

        Oh, that’s exactly what’s happening and it makes me stabby. LW hasn’t reacted, so BF assumes she hasn’t noticed the behavior. So instead of doing what he should have done in the first place and going, hey, you’re being a dick, Alice, not. fucking. cool, he brings it up to LW so that they’re sure to see it now.

        This is a thing I see my students do to each other all the time under the guise of “I’m just being a good friend; I’d want to know if Alice said it about me.” I call that shit out – unless you first call it out to Alice and make sure they know you’re not okay with it, you don’t get to tell your friend what Alice said about them. Repeating shit that will make someone else feel awful without doing your best to stop it from being said isn’t actually a nice thing to do.

        • AndTheRest said:

          Right on! In a situation like the LW’s, asking “What? Alice was being mean to me? Well, then why didn’t you do anything about it?” would be a great way to throw the awkward back to Drama King.

          • BetterInGreen said:

            I love this!

          • thepaintedlady said:

            Oooooh I love this

        • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

          Yep! I am a fan of the “Is it helpful, kind, or true?” rule when it comes to repeating information as well. At least two of these need a yes answer before I repeat it. Telling someone that your friend doesn’t like them might be true but it sure as hell isn’t helpful or kind. It’s drama seeking.

          The one time that I can think of that would be an exception to this is when I overheard a very nasty rumor about a friend of mine in high school. Very nasty rumor. I told her because I knew that if I was in her situation I would want to know. I didn’t call out the people saying it because I was afraid of them retaliating. She cried awful, horrified tears but she was able to go to the office and have all those involved in the spreading of this rumor dealt with. It wasn’t true and it wasn’t kind, but it was helpful for her to know what was being said about her to deal with it. You know, it’s been 30 years since I heard that rumor and it still grosses me out what was being said about her…and I am not easily grossed out when it comes to sex stuff.

          • Joielle said:

            The content of the rumor wasn’t true or kind, but what you said to your friend was true and kind – that there was a horrible rumor going around about her and you wanted her to know so she could do something about it. It’s an awful situation but I think you did the right thing, FWIW.

          • I like that rule, too, but like the situation with the rumor, sometimes it is kind to tell someone about the mean behavior, if you’re doing it with the intention to either warn them off a toxic person (“You may not know it, since she’s kind to your face, but behind your back, she says/does X, Y, and Z, and you should avoid her in future”) or to let them know there is a situation that needs to be dealt with.

            That certainly applied to the rumor.

            It COULD apply to BF and Alice, even if BF didn’t call out Alice in the moment, but only if BF was saying it to explain why he’s not seeing Alice, anymore, or inviting LW to any group activities where he knows Alice will be present. Because he wants to protect LW from Alice. Especially if LW was expressing a desire to be friends with Alice.

            But BF was NOT doing that. He was stirring the latrine, alright.

          • TootsNYC said:

            the “true” thing is weird–why would you repeat ANYthing unless it’s true?

            “True” would have to be No. 1, and ONLY THEN WOULD worry whether it was helpful or kind. I’ve heard people use “necessary” as their third criteria.

        • TinLizzie said:

          I was substitute teaching a kindergarten class and I reminded a student not to talk during silent book time. This was the teacher’s rule and it was the end of the school year, so the kids were familiar. A few minutes later, another student came up to tell me that the chatty student said I was mean. I shrugged, said okay, and went back to preparing the next lesson.

          Boyfriend should not be behaving like a five year old.

      • aebhel said:

        Yeah, even if he’s just really bad at in-the-moment confrontation and that’s why he failed to stand up for the LW, after the fact his response should have been ‘Shit, I’m so sorry she talked to you like that, that was so rude, let me make it right.’ Not ‘LOL, she’s so mean! Thanks for taking the high road!’

        Even if you’re bad at confrontation, you should care if people are obnoxious to your SO.

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          “Even if you’re bad at confrontation, you should care if people are obnoxious to your SO.”
          YES!

      • I heard that line as that parent line where they congratulate child 1 for rising above child 2’s behaviour; whether they deal with child 2 or not it is meant to reinforce child 1’s ‘good polite quiet’ response. In context, it’s also really patronising.

    • Jadelyn said:

      There’s a great scene in Babylon 5, where a character who has 3 wives who all kinda hate him and each other has been granted special permission to divorce two of them (it’s a cultural thing) and tells them that, so they all start arguing over who should get to stay and keep access to his social connections and money.

      So he’s like “Ladies, ladies, please…” then gets a glass of wine and sits down, “…continue!”

      Boyfriend here is exactly like that. He’s getting to enjoy the flirting and the will-we-won’t-we energy without consequences and while still having the support of a loyal partner in the background. He’s not going to stop this, he’s coming out on top of this situation here.

      • Rosie said:

        It was charming when an interstellar diplomat from the Planet of Decadence did it. Is boyfriend an interstellar diplomat from the Planet of Decadence?

        • Aris Merquoni said:

          I think it’s less about whether or not Ambassador Poor Aerodynamics was charming, and more about how a) drama which is entertaining on a television show scripted by Peter David is less so in real life, and b) it tells you a lot more about Sparklevest McDoomPortents than it does about his wives.

          (I love Londo to bits, but I would never want to date anyone like him!)

          • “Sparklevest McDoomPortents” – I literally laughed out loud at this and will be sharing it!

          • kitmharding said:

            He was also significantly less awful when he met a woman he *wanted* to be with– contrast his behavior towards his wives (who he’d been forced to marry for political connections) and his behavior towards Adira (who he actually loved). From which you can draw a different applicable lesson: someone who actually *likes* you won’t put you through this sort of thing, while if they mostly see you as a pawn and a game piece they’ll find it fun and feeding of their ego.

          • Jadelyn said:

            Exactly – it’s funny on-screen, but the fact that OP’s significant other is behaving in a manner similarly to a truly ill-behaved fictional character is a really bad sign.

            (Also, I adore both Ambassador Poor Aerodynamics and Sparklevest McDoomPortents. Gonna have to share both of those with my own SO, he’ll get a kick out of that!)

          • It was a pretty awful thing to do, but then again, he was actually evaluating them, and based on their behavior during this act, as well as the others, he chose wisely.

            Also, that is the best nickname ever!

        • In other words, unless he’s doing something for you that only a wealthy government official from a planet dedicated to pleasure could do… consider dumping him

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        High Decadence, High Drama. Is this long-term good partner material for you? Do you get to have some serious social connections and money to go with your High Drama guy?

  6. 5 Leaf Clover said:

    I really like the Captain’s advice because it is 100% NOT predicated on getting the other people to do anything. It seems like a lot of the things you’ve tried so far are about making your boyfriend and these women do or not do certain things in order for you to feel all right. That is such a painful and difficult way to go, as you have discovered. I’m curious to see what happens when you try this advice and focus on your own needs and boundaries. Good luck!

    • Violet said:

      This!!!!

  7. It bothers me a lot that this guy sees how mean Alice is and won’t do anything to change the situation. That’s a huge red flag that his priority isn’t you, it’s getting attention from Alice. You deserve better, LW, and a partner that stands up for you.

    • It’s not actually unreasonable to expect a lover to say, “I’ll thank you not to talk about my girlfriend that way in front of me.”!

      • Working Hypothesis said:

        It is, in fact, unreasonable of a lover not to say something very like that as a matter of course!

        I’ve had friends who did not like my partner of the time… for their own reasons, plainly not because of anything he was doing to me (I’ve learned to listen when my friends tell me seriously that they’re mad at my partner because of how they see him/her treating me). In most cases, they had the grace to simply tell me, “I’d like to hang out one-on-one with you; can we do that?” and I’ve said, “Sure,” and that was the end of it. But in one case, she told me that and then used the occasion we’d set up to tell me everything she could spill out in about thirty second on the subject of what she disliked about Partner and why she was soooooooo glad that I was willing to leave Partner behind so we could spend time without that painful nuisance who… you get the idea.

        Thirty seconds was all she got. After that, I interrupted and told her, “Look, you don’t have to like Partner. And I’m happy to see you, just the two of us, when I have time. But there are things you don’t get to say *to me*, and you’ve just been saying a lot of them. I’d appreciate you not saying them again; I’m not the right person to dump your frustrations on about the person I love.”

        The response, after a few moments of opening and closing her mouth like a fish, was, “OK, point taken,” and a change of subject. I was grateful for this.

        • Indoor Cat said:

          That’s phenomenal. I am always impressed with people who can be assertive in the moment like that–go you! If it were me I probably would’ve fumbled around for way more than thirty seconds before saying something that’d inevitably be too indirect. I’ve been trying to practice being more straightforward (and to remember that bluntness isn’t always rudeness), so you laying it all out on the table like that with a friend is something I really appreciate.

        • FlyingKal said:

          Just stopped to say I agree with Indoor Cat above (below?) about being impressed with people who can be calmly assertive in the heat of the moment.
          Humming and fumbling while searching for words, and then passive-aggressively get up and leave in frustration is most likely the way I would’ve “handled” a similar situation.

          • Working Hypothesis said:

            Thank you! I am not *often* that good at it, and in all honesty I’m sure that in the moment I wasn’t as smooth in my articulation as I remember myself as being. But I got the words pretty close, because it was the first time I’d done it that well and I remember walking away later thinking, “wow, cool! It really *does* work!” I have tried hard to look for opportunities to use thar skill ever since, if for no other reason than practice!

        • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

          My sister once tried to get me to pick between her and my husband. She doesn’t care for him – mostly because he doesn’t treat her like the spoiled princess the rest of the people in her life have always treated her like – and she was verbally abusing him when I stepped in to stop her. She said “But I’m your sister. We’re blood. That’s more important.” I told her “I stood up in front of god, friends and family and promised to love this man until the day I died. I chose this man to be my partner. He’s the father of my children. I love you but I had no such choice on the matter of you being in my life. If you’re asking me to choose, you are going to be sorely disappointed with my answer because you won’t even make the list.” She’s barely spoken to me since and I’m still happily married. 🙂 Wish I could say I missed her, but I’d be lying.

          • sconn said:

            My husband had this to say to a friend who wanted him to choose between him and another friend: “I pick the one who isn’t trying to make me choose between my friends.” Zing. That friend faded out of his life, the one who didn’t make him choose is still in it.

        • sconn said:

          I was on the receiving end of one of those once. I had a longstanding rivalry with the guy, was used to venting about him to my friend, and then the friend started dating him. The first time I went on a rant about him to her after that, she said something like, “Isn’t it a little weird to vent like that about him to his girlfriend?” She was right so I quit. I wasn’t offended. It was a reasonable ask.

  8. Nanani said:

    TBH “I don’t want to put up with high-school-esque crap in my 30s” sounds like a good reason to breakup REGARDLESS of whether any infidelity is happening or likely to happen.

    LW you deserve so much better

    • rmloro said:

      Yeah. This is another great example of another CA classic, “you don’t have a friends-of-boyfriend problem, you have a boyfriend problem”.

      LW, you deserve better. And being alone IS better than being with someone who is hurting you on purpose. Much love ❤

      • Cyberwulf said:

        If boyfriend hasn’t grown out of girls fighting over him at this point, in his thirties, he never will. It’s up to LW whether she wants to put up with his childishness forever.

        • onamission5 said:

          Dudes who envision themselves some sort of chick whispering puppet master Caesars directing their own personal gladiatorial spectacle are the fucking WORST. They will never stop because they seriously believe this is a natural and normal way for women to relate to each other, to be fighting over a guy for his amusement, and they benefit from it by never having to take responsibility for their actions.

          • ” chick whispering puppet master Caesars directing their own personal gladiatorial spectacle ” is only entertaining when it’s on a screen and when it’s Littlefinger doing it.

            And even then, I wouldn’t date Lord Baelish.

            What a wonderfully evocative description by the way, you clearly have a gift for a turn of phrase.

  9. spookycatlady said:

    My Ex behaved *a lot* like this, the innocent flirt. He was upfront about it, “I’m a flirt and I can’t be with someone who gets jealous.”

    My response was, “Flirting’s fine, but don’t make me insecure, make sure she knows who you’re going home with because if she doesn’t know, then I don’t know. And if I don’t know, I’m insecure.”

    Turns out, two of his women friends that he insisted I spend time with, insisted I become friends with… turns out he was sleeping with both of them on the side and then left all three of us for someone else entirely, which I found out after he was long gone.

    Which is to say– if you don’t think he’s being loyal, he’s probably not being loyal. Insisting you spend time with someone who isn’t kind to you? And he knows it? Phooey.

    • rmloro said:

      I agree with this. If it smells of disloyalty, looks like disloyalty and tastes like disloyalty… well.

      • Goober said:

        To quote Robert DeNiro: “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.”

        • Working Hypothesis said:

          The thing is, it doesn’t really matter in this case whether he is sleeping with them. There’s *disloyalty* even if there is no *infidelity*, because he is not treating his partner with the kind of supportiveness she should be able to expect from a serious boyfriend.

          • grr said:

            Well, emotionally it might not matter, but sleeping with others means STI risks, and while protection is a thing, I won’t trust his selfish disloyal ass with my health, in OP’s case. A reliable poly partner with clear and explicit limits and behaviours I can understand, but if you won’t trust him with your heart, don’t trust him with your health either. As it is unclear who he is sleeping with, consider, for safety’s sake, that he is indeed a cheater.

          • Working Hypothesis said:

            Grrr: okay, yes — it’s best to assume infidelity at least just for purposes of making plans for one’s own protection when dealing with anyone whom there is any grounds for doubting. I don’t dispute that. What I was trying to get at is that the behavior we already know for sure is happening in this story is bad enough that it doesn’t require infidelity to make it warrant seriously considering a breakup.

            I agree with you that *if* the LW chooses to stay involved with him, or to have sex with him while she’s thinking about it, them she should absolutely take precautions for her physical safety. But I’d really rather see her just leave, to be honest. There are evil bees all over that guy.

    • Yikes, that stinks! I like to imagine the three of you bonding over what a heel he was while hanging over your preferred social beverage.

      I don’t think my crummy ex was sleeping with anyone else, but I definitely remember getting some glares and hurt looks when I came up to him at parties. I didn’t think much of at the time, but that painted a vivid picture in retrospect.

    • bad at screen names said:

      Right. A decent person might think, “well, there can’t be anything going on with these women friends because why would he want us all to hang out of there was?” but somebody who gets off on drama is going to all good with creating more.

      • Ohhh yeah, my ex used to use me as the “plausible deniability wife” all the time. “You’ve met Jane! I’m not sleeping with her, why would I introduce you?” and of course he was totally sleeping with Jane. And then it was “well of course I was hanging out with Jane, we’re all friends!” and something “just happened”.

        • Cora said:

          Oh yes, the “just happened”. Okay. So, you both just happened to be walking around the same hotel room stark naked, you know, by coincidence, and then you both tripped and just landed that way? Really?

          • ashbet said:

            My line was always “What, you were vacuuming naked, slipped, and fell on his d*ck?”

            (I don’t have much patience for the “accidental sex/it just happened” excuse.)

            Bonus: “vacuuming naked” is now code in my group of friends 😉

          • I always liked Rachel’s line in ‘Friends’ (in response to “it was an accident”): “What did you mean to put it in? Her purse?”

          • jaynn said:

            For me Will Truman comes to mind. “What, you just tripped and fell in his penis? Over and over and over?”

      • Cassandra said:

        The most avid dramamongering cheaters I’ve known have all LOVED forcing their partners to hang out with the people they were or wanted to be sleeping with. “Look what good FRIENDS we all are!”

        • Another reason why introducing your SO to your friends, and giving them the opportunity to hang out, is a good thing, but PUSHING the relationship is a big red flag.

          Well, pushing anything is a red flag, really.

    • onamission5 said:

      Regardless of whether or not there is infidelity on Boyfriend’s part, which I agree is likely, repeatedly setting up one’s romantic partner so they are in the position of having to compete for your attention with people who are unkind to them is itself a form of disloyalty.

    • thebewilderness said:

      This has been going on for three years if I understand LW correctly.
      It stinks of gas from the lights being fiddled with.

    • Nailed it.

      Flip side: I work in a male-dominated field. So I already have to deal with that bigotry — I am not about to tolerate a love interest who tries to blame me for the bigotry of men in my field by throwing tizzies about how they feel jealous or insecure over all the male company I have to keep in order to do my job.

      Yes, a lot of them are lonely. Yes, a lot of the lonely ones try hinting at something. I expect any partner to be solidly on my side, not a source of more pain and grief because they don’t understand the damn kvetching order. But note that none of that comes from my behavior — it is the behavior of other people.

      Now if I were flirting with these guys, that would be different — then there would be a valid complaint about my behavior and a reason to feel jealous or insecure.

      TL;DR: Dump the boyfriends who like to flirt with other women. They’re being nasty to you on purpose, and no, it is not “just how they are”.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Also, even if he’s not having sex or doing sexual things with these women, he’s still being disloyal. It isn’t loyal to expect your SO to put up with your friend’s rudeness. It isn’t loyal to sit back and not stick up for your SO.

    • Sounds like a “Save the Last Dance For Me,” situation. All well and good, if everyone is up front about it, and he takes you home, and leaves it at that. Like you said, “Flirting is fine, but don’t make me insecure.”

      Your ex was a jerk, but not because he was a flirt. He was a jerk because he was a selfish liar.

  10. Thomas said:

    >> My read is the same as your read: “I think he’s mostly innocent but
    >> likes their attention.” Your boyfriend loves […] to make you feel jealous.

    That’s hardly what I call innocent. Your boyfriend consciously flirts with, hugs and kisses a woman who’s positively awful to you. He also chooses to keep in contact with a woman who sends him flirty text messages. He may not have sex with either of them, but if you ever break up with him, that’ll be only a matter of seconds. Your boyfriend treats you poorly by keeping these women in his life.

    • Thomas said:

      The upshot is that you can get rid of three annoying, disrespectful people by breaking up with one! Sounds like a deal.

      • You know, I admit I’m the type to enjoy third-hand schadenfreude, and I have to say, the side benefit to finally dropping these sorts of ‘friends’ is that the kind of people who treat people like that… deserve each other! There’s been a couple of nasty cheating breakups in my friends circle that aaaaaaalways went the way of “we’re just FRIEEEEENDS, why are you so JEAAAAALOUS?” first. It affected how I thought of the cheaters – I mean not just in the “I’m not okay with you treating my friend(s) the way you did”, but if they’d do that to someone they’re sleeping with, just how little loyalty can *I* expect out of them as friends, right? So generally I tend to let those relationships drift away. But of course that’s the kind of thing where you still hear about the new couple from time to time, just through innocent gossip or friend-of-friend discussion or just mentioning everyday talk. And just by the things said, I know that in both cases, those ‘new’ relationships are as FILLED with drama and jealousy as I called they would be when all that shit went down, because now they’re with someone *exactly like them*, and oh hey look at that, IT’S NOT OKAY FOR SOMEONE TO DO THE SAME THING TO THEM BECAUSE ACTUALLY IT’S REALLY SHITTY BEHAVIOR.

        • This reminds me of Grace and Frankie when Robert throws Sol out for sleeping with Frankie. Dude was just *fine* with Sol being unfaithful for TWENTY YEARS as long as it was Frankie he was cheating on, but once he was the wronged party he lost his mind. AAAAARGH.

        • Paulina said:

          The BF who cheated on me with a then-friend has subsequently been routinely complained about by said then-friend as being an unreliable co-parent to their child. OH MY WHO COULD EVER HAVE THOUGHT HE MIGHT BE UNRELIABLE.

          Said cheating was very much done under the cover of “we’re just flirting like we always do, even right in front of you” with a side of “if you have a problem with it, we’ll get defensive and say you’re overreacting because we’re not sleeping together.” Which, in retrospect, was them essentially volunteering that they were, or were about to.

          If nothing else, it taught me who was worth my time, and warning signs for those who are not.

          • Exactly. Even in a polyamorous relationship, with partners who are “just like that” flirty types, if their partner(s) get jealous of the flirting, they don’t say “You can’t get jealous; you’re overreacting, because we’re not actually sleeping together.” They say, “I love you, and don’t want to make you uncomfortable. How can we solve this?”

            I do believe that some people flirt without meaning anything by it, and may not even be fully aware of it, but when they truly love someone, they make sure that their flirtations do NOT hurt their loved ones. Either they control themselves, taking charge of their nature, and even working to change it, or they choose someone who is not hurt by it, anyway (some people don’t have a jealous bone in their bodies), or they take other steps, such as defining “These people are safe to flirt with and those people are not,” or whatever it takes to make their loved one(s) feel safe and secure.

            And the ones who don’t, are absolutely showing you that they are not worth your time.

            Note – I say this as a person who has always been notoriously bad at even recognizing flirtation directed at me. I always thought it was just having a friendly conversation. Smiling? Laughing? Touching. Nice and friendly, and I do it right back. But because *I* was only being friendly, it never occurred to me that they were being more than friendly, until someone else, someone more experienced with flirtation, pointed it out to me. Once I realized that, I also realized that some people can actually be “flirtatious” without either realizing it or actually meaning anything by it.

            Now, obvious flirtation, sending sexy-texts, grinding against you on the dance floor, and the like – that’s a different matter. That is on purpose. If your partner is OK with it, because they know for a fact you won’t go beyond that without their permission, then whatever works for your relationship. But it’s definitely skirting the line.

            Robert Browning wrote a really horrifying poem, “My Last Duchess” about a man who took jealousy to the extreme. His wife smiled too much. She smiled at everyone. She was just a smiley-type person. But when she smiled at the wrong person, she became “My Last Duchess,” and the next thing you know, he’s planning his wedding to a new duchess, and showing off the portrait of his late wife. He considered it flirtation, and cheating, and she was just being her friendly-to-everybody, charming self.

  11. peregrinations said:

    I think the Captain is giving the most generous possible read here, as I’d expect her to. But I’ve dated someone like this and I had a different experience. I spent three years “rising above”, trying not to notice or be bothered by the flirting with his circle of female friends or the occasional biting remarks one of the women would make to me. I knew he had insecurities and I was so darn understanding (the cool girl!), and told myself that he just liked the attention and wouldn’t do anything about it, that he loved me (which he told me regularly, and I believe did in his way). Even when he told me about having an old “friend” over for a late night pool party when I was out of town, and suddenly was getting “texty-texts” (I love that phrase!) from her all the time and started getting really possessive of his phone. Sure enough, a few months later he broke up with an “it’s not you it’s me”, and suddenly dropped his adamant opposition to living together to move the old flame into his place. He married her a few months later, but the day before the wedding propositioned my best friend and I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s still sleeping around.

    I really truly hope you’re both right and he just innocently likes the attention, but personally – and this is just my own experience talking – I’m seeing blazing red flags here. Take care, and all the best to you!

    • Tea Rocket said:

      Ugh, I’m so sorry. As for your ex, the saying, “When a man marries his mistress, he creates a vacancy,” comes to mind.

      • Amphelise said:

        Or Susan Elliott’s version, “what he does with you, he’ll do to you.”

    • Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend said:

      OP, I’m stealing “texty-texts” because I like it so much. 🙂

      • attica said:

        I know! It’s deliciously evocative! It’s so clear that a ‘texty-text’ is a completely different animal than a ‘text’. And in a particular way, too!

  12. Bobbin Ufgood said:

    I think it’s key that you find out about this drama primarily via BF himself. It’s pretty clear that he doesn’t respect you and he doesn’t deserve you. This reminds me of some of the stuff Chump Lady writes about – “kibbles”, “cake”, and the “pick-me dance” – all classic cheater items. He doesn’t have to be literally having sex with them to be purposely disrespecting you and purposely rupturing the relationship.

  13. Juberberry said:

    As always, excellent advice. He would end this himself if he didn’t like it.

  14. Don't Shoot the Messenger said:

    I just want to ask, what is it about this relationship that makes this crappy behavior worthwhile to you, LW? Because it is crappy behavior, as you and the Captain identified. Why bother trying to parse it out? Why bother sparing it or him a second thought? Isn’t life too short to spend your precious time and energy on some dudebro that wants you to play his drama games? You said these other women are like annoying flies. You know what annoying flies are attracted to? Shit. Flies are drawn to shit. Dump him.

  15. Tepid Tea said:

    Great advice from the Captain. Take away the charge of “Oooh, these women are battling over me!” and maybe BF’s disloyal behavior will stop. At the very least, reframing the situation as Captain suggests should make it less annoying to LW.

    The only thing I would add is that depending on his character and maturity level (for lack of better terms), BF may be interpreting LW’s supposed jealousy of these women as an indication/validation of her interest in him. If she reacts with indifference, he may feel self-righteous hurty feels and use that as an excuse to engage in acts of greater disloyalty, shall we say. Kind of like, “She doesn’t care that I might actually SLEEP with Sue? Fine, I WILL! Or I’ll at least NEXT-LEVEL TEXT Sue!” Inexcusable, but a possibility to prepare for.

    For that reason, I think option (3) above, asking BF what the heck his deal is with this disloyal behavior, should go hand with any other option chosen.

  16. Emma said:

    People often speak of infidelity and mean sexual infidelity. But there is certainly such a thing as emotional infidelity. It can be worse.

    • Emotional infidelity can’t kill anyone. Sexual infidelity can, if the cheater brings home a fatal STD like HIV or hepatitis. Emotional infidelity also can’t get anyone pregnant. Sexual infidelity can.

      • the815 said:

        True, but I think emotional infidelity is more likely to actually kill the relationship than some one night stand fling in another town. Not that either is a good and healthy thing for a relationship.

        • I agree with you. When I said “kill,” I meant causing the literal death of someone. An LW from last week mentioned someone possibly dying of cervical cancer due to her husband’s infidelity.

      • BarlowGirl said:

        *ace waves* Not everyone in a relationship has sex. Sex is not more important than other things.

        • Sex is not more important than other things, true. However, it is more life-threatening than other things, because it can transmit disease in cases of rape or carelessness or misfortune.

          • BarlowGirl said:

            I very much think that depends on the person, honestly. As, again, not everyone has sex.

      • Emotional infidelity tends to come with heavy gaslighting, which is so destructive it has long-term health consequences.

        • Indoor Cat said:

          Exactly. Mainly because emotional infidelity is in the “I know it when I see it,” category. It’s hard to define; many people have close, non-romantic relationships with people of the gender they’re attracted too. After all, if all sex-potential friendships meant emotional infidelity, bisexual people couldn’t have any friends; and anyway that’s just obviously silly.

          But that doesn’t mean that emotional infidelity isn’t *real*. It’s definitely real, and definitely destructive, regardless of whether or not one or both committed partners are cognizant of it. It’s very possible to lie to oneself about one’s true feelings for a friend, but it is often the case that the flirt is fully aware of what they’re doing and only lying to their partner. And, it is destructive in either context.

        • atma said:

          Yes!

        • True. I’m assuming sexual infidelity would also come with heavy gaslighting as well.

          Also, I’m not quite sure what constitutes emotional infidelity, outside of the obvious cases, such as LW’s situation. One definition of emotional infidelity I have heard is telling someone else anything you wouldn’t tell your spouse. According to that definition, I would be committing adultery, for instance, every time I vented to a friend about something annoying my spouse did.

          • Never mind. Indoor Cat’s above comment cleared up the definition for me. Thank you for the clarification, Indoor Cat.

          • whingedrinking said:

            I have a perspective on infidelity which some people have a major problem with – not because I think it’s not a big deal, but because I find that making infidelity The Worst Thing Ever results in all kinds of tortured thinking that doesn’t solve any actual problems. It leads to people trying to work out whether behavior X qualifies as “cheating, of break-up level severity” as defined under Part 3 Subsection 12(a) of the Official Relationships Act. They should be asking the hard questions, like “Does this relationship make me happy?” and “Do I treat my partner with the love and respect they deserve?”

          • @whingedrinking: I agree. A lot of people are genuinely more hurt by infidelity than other transgressions, and their pain is a big deal, not to be dismissed. What I don’t get is the attitude that infidelity is an automatic dealbreaker, divorced from context or how important the actual cheated-on party thinks it is. Your breakdown is a good one.

    • It can be. Even so, I wouldn’t separate the two. I have yet to run across sexual infidelity which was free from emotional infidelity.

      (Ethical non monogamy doesn’t fall into this.)

      • Emma said:

        Of course there is no sexual infidelity without emotional infidelity. My point was that there is plenty of emotional infidelity around that isn’t including sexual infidelity. I’m not trying to say which one is worse.

      • CuttySark said:

        I’d say seeing sex workers would fall under sexual infidelity without emotional infidelity — that’s also often the point. (strings-free sexual release)

        • And I would disagree.

          While the punter partner may not be in love with a specific sex worker, they have chosen to keep intimate matters away from their partner, and to share them with others.

  17. anon said:

    My boyfriend did this and after a bit, with the most in-my-face of these ‘friendships’, I said ‘that’s the last time I want to hear about x, ever. we are done talking about her.’ I didn’t ask for anything more than that. he completely stopped talking about x. he also then found being with me a lot less fun because I wouldn’t cooperate with being wound up, and his treatment of me deteriorated generally, and I left. so another thing saying ‘nope’ does is reveals if he can function in a relationship without the dynamics he’s now setting up. but short answer is, I feel very sure he can’t so you could save yourself time and irritation and leave now.

    • Friday said:

      In a similar scenario, at the beginning of my relationship with now husband I said something similar: ” I don’t want to hear about x. We do not talk about x. And I would prefer you don’t see x because it makes me insecure given your history”.

      And guess what: he didn’t talk about her ever, except to mention briefly that she had contacted him to meet and he is just telling me to not keep a secret but he is not responding.

      I guess I am saying that you don’t know what the outcome will be. But setting the boundary will help clear the air one way or another (and help you see what are boyfriend’s priorities).

    • Indie said:

      That’s perfect.

  18. bostoncandy said:

    “Whatever, Sue’s gonna Sue, who cares, howabout that local weather team that’s playing sports in the subject change bowl this week?”

    This is amazing and I’m stealing it.

    • KS said:

      I would pay money to see a competitive subject change bowl. Seems like a local weather forecasting/announcer team would do well in that, since they can probably turn any subject back to the weather!

      • Drew said:

        TWEEET! Illegal use of shared secrets. Fifteen-yard penalty and loss of friendship!

        • Moggadeet said:

          Mornington Crescent!

          • Amphelise said:

          • Buni said:

            Marry me.

      • Add a colour commentator to make the team unstoppable!

        “It looks like the clock is about to strike midnight on this Cinderella story, turning Average Joe’s into the proverbial pumpkin.”
        “I sure do like pumpkins, Cotton.”

        • This just reminded me of the Father Brown Murder Mystery episode, when Lady Felicia was asked to be the “color commentator” at an automobile race.

          “And Number 3 is pulling up in a blue car. Number 4 is driving, hmm, is that more of a mauve or a plum? And Number 5…”

          Best race commentary EVER.

      • Cora said:

        But what’s the prize?

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          That’s a very good question, Cora! Speaking of prizes, have you seen…

          (I dunno, maybe a 55-gallon barrel of high-quality lube?)

          • rontoad said:

            Same quantity of bean dip, of course.

  19. bostoncandy said:

    Also, based on my own recent past experiences, I suggest you look up triangulation and narcissism. I hope they won’t turn out to be relevant! But some of this seems uncomfortably familiar.

  20. C Lou said:

    Great advice, as usual, from the Captain. If you feel like all of the flirting is innocent, LW, then you should absolutely try the Captain’s approach. You know your BF and you’ve been together for 4 years so I trust that you have a handle on the intensity of the situation (and, as always, you are the expert on your own life).

    That being said, I felt my shoulders going up around my ears as I read your letter, because I think your BF is being a total dick in regard to how he and these other women are treating you. They don’t owe you anything (other than basic respect), but he is your partner and he should back you up. The part where he was “impressed” that you didn’t rise to the taunts by Alice… wtf? Like, is that some kind of test you had to pass? I think it’s incredibly rude of HIM to not tell her to knock it off, and it’s gross that he used the situation to compliment you for being able to put up with her shit.

    Hopefully, by using the Captain’s approach (“what do you get out of this?” + bored + subject change!), you can put an end to the drama your BF is trying to create.

    But I’m not going to lie, I think you deserve better than this. Good luck, LW! Jedi hugs if you want ’em!!

  21. Thanksforallthefish said:

    As someone who does like to flirt…kind of a lot…I would still never do this. I would never subject my partner to another person who flirts with me a lot and treats them like crap and then POINT IT OUT TO MY PARTNER! That is just next level taking joy from everyone else’s pain and confusion.

    Side story: One time while I was single…I suddenly found myself in a room with three different people I slept with at different times….I felt so awkward and weird! I basically hid from all of them. Not that that is the right or wrong approach…just…why rub everyone in eachother’s faces like that?

    • Andrea said:

      I am also a flirt (a married one!) and my husband knows this and (I think) accepts this about me. The difference is that I would never stand for someone disrespecting him the way the LW’s boyfriend is- just not cool, and that would be a major dealbreaker for me.

    • ashbet said:

      I am ALSO also a flirt, *and* non-monogamous (polyamorous), and I do not stand for anyone treating my partner like crap.

      Rudeness to any of my partners is grounds for ending a friendship, and even a potential relationship (kind of depends on what happened, I don’t drop friends/etc. for a single occasion of being rude to ME. It’s more that if there is a pattern of shitty behavior going on, I’ll call it out, and if it isn’t apologized-for AND FIXED, that person isn’t someone I want to stay friends with.)

      It sounds like Boyfriend is getting a charge out of having multiple women interested in him, to the point that he is allowing LW to be treated badly. Very uncool.

  22. Yeah, LW, make his game boring. I would also seriously consider what I was getting out of a relationship with someone who gets his jollies off of orchestrating all this drama (“Did you see how rude Alice was to you? I’m glad you’re so much better than that!” WHAT?????). But that can be a really hard conversation to have with yourself, and, I don’t know, letters like this necessarily hyper-focus on the bad stuff–maybe all this only actually happens once every few months and is really a blip on your otherwise stellar relationship.

    But the way to find out is to make the game boring. After he fails to get any reaction the next few times he throws these women in your face (because that’s what he’s doing), he’s either going to drop it or push harder, and that’s going to give you a lot of information.

    • tinyorc said:

      “Did you see how rude Alice was to you? I’m glad you’re so much better than that!”

      Yup, this is textbook. “I’m so glad you’re a Chill Girl™ who won’t cause any Drama™ over the fact that I flirt with women who are rude to you right in front of your face.”

      • whingedrinking said:

        Any time a dude tells a woman, “You’re not like other girls,” he’s telling you something important: he doesn’t like girls/women, as a category.
        Also, “I love that you’re so chill” = “I love that you don’t inconvenience me”. Everyone on earth can aspire higher in a partner than “doesn’t think I’m a nuisance”.

        • Jadis said:

          “Any time a dude tells a woman, “You’re not like other girls,” he’s telling you something important: he doesn’t like girls/women, as a category.”

          *blinkblink*

          This is amazing in its succinct truthiness.

        • SamKD said:

          BIG +1 on amazed by the succinct truthiness of “you’re not like other girls” = doesn’t like category “girls.” You’ve laid out a really fantastic bit of insight right there.

  23. margeauxdarling said:

    My wife is a Flirt, and she will get her head turned by a pretty girl. And I have never, not once, wondered if there was anything going on with anyone, because she is 100% on Team Me.

    LW, your boyfriend is not on Team You. Maybe everything is innocent with those two women (at least technically?), but he’s not on Team You, and that’s a problem.

  24. twomoogles said:

    Gah! Why would someone stay friends with someone they *know* and admit is being rude to their partner? Usually when I’ve seen this kind of thing it’s been more along the lines of “oh, no, she doesn’t dislike you, you’re just imagining things” and either being legitimately clueless or playing clueless. But this guy flat out stated that he saw this woman being rude and still hangs out with her? Not cool. Yeah, this guy loves drama and attention, and probably implying stuff like “oh, if I just didn’t have a girlfriend!” to the other women. In the similar situation I saw closest to this one, the guy really wasn’t sleeping around, he just enjoyed the attention and played into it while pretending he didn’t understand what was going on (this was early 20 for everyone involved though.)

    • AnonGoodNurse said:

      Someone I was acquainted with once launched into a tirade against my boyfriend in his own house. She wonders why she and I aren’t friends any more. She is not the sharpest, emotional intelligence-wise.

  25. Naptime said:

    LW, Jedi hugs if you want them.

    I have a male partner who has lots of female friends, is a flirt, and admits he would totally sleep with some of these friends if we hadn’t decided to be monogamous/I was okay with it. This works. You know why? Mainly because he does a lot of work to make it work. By work I mean setting boundaries, communicating with me, reassuring me, and cultivating positive relationships between me and his friends.

    I don’t see your boyfriend doing that work. Instead it feels like he’s trying to inflame things.

    Also, how is your boyfriend about you having dude friends or hanging out with ex’s? A double standard here would be a crimson flag for me.

    • Same! If I were in the LW’s shoes, the flirting wouldn’t bother me nearly as much as the other shenanigans.

    • mf said:

      Also, your boyfriend is honest with you about the nature of his relationship with his female friends. The OP’s boyfriend is not.

  26. Serin said:

    This is tedious and annoying even to read, but it’s up to you whether you want to put up with it. I just want to put out there that infidelity is not the only breakup-worthy offense there is. A person can be 100% sexually faithful and still be more trouble than he’s worth to date.

    • Working Hypothesis said:

      “I just want to put out there that infidelity is not the only breakup-worthy offense there is. A person can be 100% sexually faithful and still be more trouble than he’s worth to date.”

      This is one of the best put brief explanations of a fundamental truth of relationships I’ve ever heard, Serin! Thank you. I’ve quoted it to my teenaged kids, just as a general “something to remember” (neither one is dating yet, so it’s nothing they need right now, but I want them to learn without needing to make All The Mistakes!).

  27. bad at screen names said:

    I’m not saying Alice or Sue are behaving okay – although I agree your boyfriend is the actual problem here – but I’d bet a grand your boyfriend has given both of them an earful about how what you have supposedly said about them.

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      Ugh, yes.

      • ashbet said:

        *spit-take* LOVE IT!!

    • totchipanda said:

      I would not be at all surprised if he was giving them a variation of what he is telling LW about them (“she’s just a friend, no I can’t cut her out of my life because reasons…”)

  28. S said:

    What do you think would happen if you dropped all vigilance regarding his contact with Sue and Alice? If you just said “I trust you hon, have fun with your friend” and then stopped worrying about it?

    Because if the answer isn’t “nothing would change, he would be their friend and that is all” then I think that tells you something. If that is IS the answer, then I think you can feel comfortable just letting go of this drama.

    It’s not a question of whether you trust Sue or Alice. The only person you need to trust is your boyfriend. There have been multiple times when female friends of my partner have suggested they hang out and he “not tell his girlfriend” and every time he’s been like “BLOCKED.” He doesn’t want people in his life that would try to undermine our relationship, even while he enjoys flirting with girls not me.

    That said, you may want to try to talk to your partner and make sure that you don’t make him feel like you are pulling away. I agree that it seems like his behavior is about the thrill of the non girlfriend, but part of that thrill may also be the thrill of your jealousy and the ensuing drama. My concern if you step back from the drama is that he will escalate into other ways of trying to get your attention. (I doubt he is consciously doing this, most people aren’t that self aware.) So maybe while you step away from the drama you could find other ways to find excitement together and to show him that you value him in a way that doesn’t create insecurity for you.

    (I’m not saying that you aren’t already doing this! I’m just saying that if you step back from his version of it he may react by feeling like you don’t care and that you should try to communicate continuing to care about HIM while not caring about his friend drama.)

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      I think you have some very solid points.

    • LW, you don’t owe your boyfriend anything further at this point. If he gets off on your jealousy, he is not worth one more nanosecond of your time or attention. You can’t “make him feel like you are pulling away.” His dickery is not your fault. Managing said dickery is not your job.

  29. AndTheRest said:

    Captain is 100% on the money about your boyfriend, LW. If this guy didn’t want this sort of drama in his life, he’d shut it down. At best, the fact that he’s in his late 30s and still engages in the high-school-esque crap makes me wonder about his readiness for a mature relationship and his maturity level overall. But I get the feeling that this guy isn’t done being a player yet, or maybe not ever.

    I think employing the Captain’s advice on disengaging from his drama will show you more about his character. If he insists on dragging you into the drama after that, it will be up to you to decide if this guy and his women are worth having in your life or not.

    Side note: I had a guy try to do the triangulation thing on me (did not work), and later, used me (unbeknownst to me at the time) to do the same thing to another woman. I have not seen him since then, nor will I again.

  30. Palliser said:

    Captain, thank you for the link to Gloria! It brought back a thousand memories of singing this with my mom and sister in the car. Such 80s goodness!

    • MIB said:

      Heh, I actually thought that Dar Williams’ “As Cool As I Am” would’ve made a good theme song for this letter

      • Wehaf said:

        I came here to suggest that!

        • Neurite said:

          Seconded! Was scrolling through comments to see if someone had brought it up. The chorus to it started playing in my head not even halfway through the answer. Such a good song!

  31. booknerd said:

    First time commenting, but I could have written a very similar letter. I spent six years with that boyfriend. Six years of constantly thinking that I was going insane. Six years of him hiding his phone screen when I would sit down next to him. Six years of patiently trying to explain why him calling his new coworker “you little hottie” was hurtful to me; why seeing him openly flirt with other women on public Facebook posts was humilating; and of catching him in lies that he would deny until I printed out the emails and presented them to him – but then it was just flirting. He’d never really do anything about it. I finally gave up trying to feel like I was enough for him. Don’t spend six years with this guy. Let him find someone else that enjoys that level of drama.

    • Rocketship said:

      Yep! I too have had that boyfriend. Three years of hearing about this or that coworker’s low-cut shirt and “giant rack” (I’m rather flat-chested and was insecure about it at the time), the hottie he passed on the street, this that and the other attractive friend, with a giant side dollop of “It’s so great you’re bi so you can appreciate other women with me.” (Spoiler: that works a LOT better when I ALSO am appreciated, dingwad.)

      This is a boyfriend that broke up with me for a week so he could sleep with someone else, then didn’t tell me about that little factoid until we’d gotten back together (and had also already slept together). This is a boyfriend that tearfully confessed he “accidentally did some stuff” with HIS FRIEND’S GIRLFRIEND on a camping trip I was specifically not invited to. Every “Hey this thing you do bothers me, could you maybe not do that thing?” conversation I started ended with me consoling him as he sobbed uncontrollably on the floor talking about what a bad boyfriend I was and how I should leave him. Eventually I decided… he was right. He WAS a terrible boyfriend.

      LW, I’m sure there are reasons you like this guy and reasons that your relationship feels worthwhile to stay in. Only you can decide if it’s right for you. But being in my 30s myself, and finally having found a stable relationship with someone who respects me and makes every effort to ensure I feel loved and appreciated in our relationship, I can honestly say I would never, EVER again put up with the kind of bullshit you’re dealing with right now. The thought of getting back into a relationship like the one you describe feels like trying to put on cold, muddy jeans after I’ve just stepped out of a hot shower. Nope nope nope.

      All these women want him so damn bad? Great, they’re welcome to him. You throw on your best badass shades and stroll away from that exploding dumpster fire.I promise there are people out there who are able and more than willing to treat you like a real human woman.

      • booknerd said:

        Yes! I’m in a relationship now that just feels so easy. There isn’t this constant tension, and the weird thing is – if he’s driving, and a text message comes in, I can reply to that message for him! Or use his phone for driving directions, or any of the many things that people use smart phones for when they aren’t hiding things from their partners. I wouldn’t go back – but I’m still in a headspace where I have to actively “change the subject” when my mind goes down the well-worn path of did he cheat or didn’t he? It doesn’t matter now. It isn’t part of my life anymore.

        ((Hugs)) to you Rocketship – I too remember the attempted boundary setting/conflict resolution conversations that somehow ended up with me consoling him for me being upset.

  32. tinyorc said:

    An ex-boyfriend of mine had an Alice. Her favourite topic of conversation was all the hilarious things that had happened before I was on the scene, and how she’s just “so protective” of her male friends. Once we walked into a party together and she literally shoved me aside so she could hug him. After this particular incident, I was like, “Yo Boyfriend, I don’t know if you noticed, but one of your best friends is rude to me to the point of getting physical, what are you going to do about that?”

    Him: “Yeah, she was like that with some of my previous girlfriends as well, but you don’t have to worry, there’s nothing romantic between us.”
    Me: “Ok, but that wasn’t the question? I don’t care why she’s acting like this, I just want it to stop.”
    Him: “Well why don’t you talk to her about it?”
    Me: “She’s made it crystal clear that she doesn’t care about my opinion of her. But she cares very deeply about yours. If you make it clear that you do not approve of her behaviour, she’ll back off.”

    And once I explained like that, my ex was actually great about it – refusing to let her freeze me out of conversations, derailing the Nostalgia Express to Exclusion Town, making a point of loudly saying “Um yeah hi, tinyorc is actually here as well” when she failed to greet me at social events… in general, being super-cold with her at the first sign of rudeness towards me. And lo and behold, it only took a few rounds of this before the relationship was completely reset.

    LW, my point is that your boyfriend actually has a lot of control over the shape and tone of his relationships with his female friends. The fact that he’s choosing not to exercise that control is… telling. “I need your friends to treat me with a basic level of civility” is not an unreasonable request.

    • ashbet said:

      This, this, a thousand times this!!! ❤

    • coffeespoons said:

      Not only is this an excellent example of how a good partner might behave in response to this eminently reasonable requests, but your use of the phrase “derailing the Nostalgia Express to Exclusion Town” caused a minor coffee spit-take chortle.

    • TinLizzie said:

      My story is more an example of how a bad partner behaved. My ex had a female friend, she was married with a child, but as my ex was in college, she was used to having him around to run errands with her, keep her company, and generally feed her drama. She was a perpetual victim type. Once he and I started dating, he had a bit less time for her and she hated me. Once when she stopped by a party at my ex’s place, she refused to acknowledge me even when I addressed her directly. She would walk into my ex’s place and bedroom without knocking. Every year she had a big Halloween party where everyone (but me) was invited.

      I told my ex how much this hurt me that he never stood up for me. If she called when I was over, he would say “I have someone over” instead of saying my name, because hearing my name would upset her. I told him this made me feel like the other woman. He would even try to vent to me about her drama that she had vented to him. I asked him to stop, I asked him to spend Halloween with me (it’s my favorite holiday) and he tried to convince me to go uninvited to her party.

      I finally solved the problem by breaking up with him. So much less drama now!

  33. Lizards80 said:

    As far as cheating goes – just from my own experience, YMMV – it’s always worse than it looks on the surface.

    People leave clues of what they’re doing in secret, like iceberg-tips or dropped pieces of items while walking on a trail or whatever other metaphor could apply here.

    If this is how much you can see of his behavior, I suspect that much more is actually going on that you can’t see (more/racier texts/interactions that you’re not aware of).

    You don’t deserve to be treated this way, no mater what you have invested in the relationship.

    • Working Hypothesis said:

      Honestly, while I think you are probably right about what’s happening, I don’t think it makes the slightest bit of difference in terms of the psychological dynamics. Boyfriend is knowingly and willingly allowing one of his friends to be overtly rude to his partner; is making an explicit point of stirring up drama in the way he talks about TWO of his friends to his partner, and is doing substantially more to make his partner unhappy than EITHER of those friends is doing… despite being the one of the three who owes his partner loyalty, as opposed to simple civility.

      All these are the things that LW is absolutely *certain* are happening. They are plenty to warrant ditching someone who does them, regardless of whether or not he ever even thought about having sex with another woman. So, although it can be useful to assume that Boyfriend is sleeping with at least one person other than her (for purposes of protecting herself from STIs and suchlike), whether he is doing so or not, he’s *still* treating her in ways that she should not have to be treated, and might wanna consider not allowing herself to be treated.

      As Serin says above, “infidelity is not the only breakup-worthy offense there is. A person can be 100% sexually faithful and still be more trouble than he’s worth to date.”

  34. HarleyM said:

    I’m in full agreement with CA’s suggestions, but I would go a bit further.

    For Alice, I would change the second sentence to, “She’s rude to me, you let her be rude to me, and I don’t like her.” The bigger issue than Alice’s behavior is that LW’s boyfriend doesn’t have her back. Obviously he can’t keep Alice from saying mean things about LW, but he can certainly keep her from doing it in his presence.

    For Sue, I would also express my discomfort with *him* having any further contact with her. Generally I’m completely against this sort of advice, because almost all of us have questionable friends or relatives that we wouldn’t choose now but are nonetheless in our lives because… they are. And I think we should all forgive one or two such people on the periphery of our loved ones’ lives without making it a referendum on the loved one. BUT, Sue seems to be actively undermining their relationship and has refused to meet LW on more than one occasion. Presumably, LW wants to moved toward a shared life with her boyfriend. Such a life has no room for a person who refuses to acknowledge, even begrudgingly, the other partner’s existence and status. Boyfriend was not obligated to bring LW and Sue together… until LW asked. Now he needs to cut Sue out of his life, or make it happen (and then probably cut Sue out of his life, if it goes as I’d expect).

    The one thing I don’t quite understand is why everyone is so upset about boyfriend’s comment about LW rising above Alice. To me, in isolation, telling someone that you like and respect them more for being the bigger person/the more mature one/going high when they go low is a perfectly reasonable compliment. Is it only in the context of boyfriend’s ascribed motives that the statement squicks people out, or is it objectionable on its own for some reason?

    • ashbet said:

      If Boyfriend had said “Wow, that was really rude!” to Alice (in the moment or afterward), his comment about “rising above” would be acceptable (“I know Alice has been unkind to you, so I’m impressed that you’re being so nice about her”) . . . but, instead, Boyfriend *allowed* Alice to be rude to LW, and then made the “rise above” comment.

      In this context, it comes across as saying “I’m glad that I don’t have to do anything about Alice’s behavior, because you’re just SO CHILL even when she’s outright nasty to you! Since you’re Being Cool about it, Alice can just keep on being rude to you forever!”

    • Elsajeni said:

      It’s because of what you noted in your proposed script: “you let her be rude to me.” LW says that “I didn’t realize that he sees how rude she is to me” — if he somehow hadn’t noticed that Alice was constantly being a jerk to his girlfriend, or he thought sarcastic banter was just how they got along or something, it would be harder to say that he “let” Alice be rude to her. But by complimenting the LW on rising above Alice’s rudeness, he makes it really clear that he’s noticed the way Alice behaves and recognizes it as rude and unkind… but keeps on inviting Alice to hang out with him and LW and not doing anything to cut off or discourage Alice’s rude behavior.

    • Lizards80 said:

      Here’s my squick about Alice and the BF:

      First, Alice is his friend, not LW’s friend.

      First, Alice is sketchy, because she flirts with LW’s boyfriend

      Second, Alice is rude to LW.

      Third, Boyfriend not only says nothing to stop the rudeness, but also continues to allow/encourage the flirting, AND also makes the statement that shows he is fully aware of this dynamic.

      These actions (and deliberate inactions) make me question Boyfriend’s loyalty to LW.

      So in that context, a comment about how LW rises above Alice’s unkindness:

      1, reveals he knows Alice is unkind to the LW, his girlfriend and (in my mind) the person to whom he should have more loyalty.

      2, makes it more squicky that he would want to continue a relationship with Alice, especially a flirty one. If anyone was rude to my partner, it would naturally turn me off them. Not because I would feel a sense of obligation to do so; because I love my partner and want to see him be respected. The fact that Boyfriend is not only NOT naturally doing that, but also making comments that indicate he’s fully aware of the dynamic, totally freaking squicks me the fuck out.

    • Amtep said:

      What I find objectionable is that “rise above” puts this moral value on quietly accepting Alice’s rudeness. He’s not complimenting LW’s steadfastness in her chosen course, he’s complimenting her actual choice, in a way that communicates disapproval of other choices (which would presumably be “below” in some way). So, while it takes the form of a compliment, that phrasing puts pressure on her to not confront Alice.

      I’m not sure if that’s a difference from your other examples, though. They could all be used that way. Complimenting someone on being “the mature one” might include mature ways of standing up for oneself, so that can be good, but complimenting someone on “being the bigger person” generally does mean praising them for quietly accepting being bullied. I think that one squicks me because it’s so often used on children.

    • Indie said:

      He’s doing the typical ‘cool girl’ hoax: “All women/my exes are all bitches, but not you, you’re speshul! You’ll put up with anything!”

  35. ames said:

    Man. Boyfriend is not on Team You, letter writer. If he were, he would have shut Alice down in Year One (Month One, Week One), and he would WANT his friends to meet you including Sue. He’s on Team His Ego.

  36. Thistledown said:

    I’m curious about the boyfriends other relationships. Does he treat work like a popularity contest? Does he form cliques? Does he generally act like a particularly eye-roll-inducing high school student? Do his friends act like this too? Or does he just save this side of his personality for his romantic relationships?

    • TootsNYC said:

      I think it’s not uncommon for men to like the drama when it’s women fighting over them, and for them to think of drama and jealousy as “something girls do.” But to not have that among men.

  37. Jaybeetee said:

    I have a friend that used to behave this way…*in high school*. She had a pretty awful home life, was a very attractive girl, gravitated towards nerdier/introverted guys who didn’t get a lot of female attention, flirted like crazy (and insisted she wasn’t)…and kind of basked in it, even though she had a boyfriend. It lead to some issues at times with a couple of her adorers taking things too far, trying to interfere in her relationship, etc.

    These many years later, she is now married to aforementioned HS boyfriend, but they did split up for a period of time, partially over that, and partially over some of his own jerkish tendencies. When they got back together, she told him he MUST rein in said jerkish tendencies, and he told her she MUST watch her behaviour around guys – even if she saw herself as “just being friendly”, it was being taken as something different, and it had happened enough times by then to be a recurring issue.

    Mind you, this all happened in our late teens/early 20s. OP’s bf is in his late 30s and still enjoying the attention…ugh.

  38. palomar said:

    Letter writer, I’m curious — did you ask your boyfriend why he never stands up for you when he pointed out that he sees the poor treatment from Alice? If not, why not? Because I think you should. I think you should lay it out plain. “Boyfriend, you pointed out that Alice treats me poorly — but instead of standing up for me, you cuddle with her and flirt and give her kisses. What’s up with that?”

    Actually, reading that back… F a whole bunch of that, letter writer. Why should you have to beg your boyfriend to have your back? A good partner wouldn’t have to be begged. I think you should dump this chump and find someone who actually treats you well.

    • Working Hypothesis said:

      F*ck begging — I’d still ask that question, because I’d want to put Boyfriend on the spot about his bad behavior, and make him deal with the awkwardness of either trying to justify it, or admitting that it’s unjustifiable.

  39. Rhoda said:

    I think that Boyfriend gets his ego stroked from having these women buzzing around in addition to having a girlfriend. The LW will just have to decide if she really wants a man in her life who is seemingly so insecure that he has to have this constant affirmation of his manly pulchritude.

    • Cora said:

      “Manly Pulchritude”. Magazine? Scent? Rock band? Madonna song? (It would work despite the vocabulary since she’s British now). Line of yoga pants?

      I’ve *got* it: manscaping salon chain.

  40. Minister of Smartassery said:

    LW: I said something kind about “Alice” (I can’t remember what it was) and he said he was impressed by how I rise above her, because “she sure isn’t kind to you.”

    Ugh that’s so gross. He could also “rise above” Alice by not spending time with people who are openly rude to his partner. And to compliment the way you “lie flat” in order to try to get you to lie flatter next time? No, LW. just no.

    • Planegirl said:

      And to compliment the way you “lie flat” in order to try to get you to lie flatter next time? No, LW. just no.

      I’m with you, Minister. That “compliment” really isn’t a compliment – it’s more of a pre-emptive order. I read the whole “rise above it” thing and heard the implicit demand “… and see that you keep it that way.” So, as CA and others have noticed, the OP is trapped on her high, lonely pedestal, having to “be the bigger person” while being treated as if she is not a person at all.

  41. Swistle said:

    Favorite parts: “this living Taylor Swift song” and “howabout that local weather team that’s playing sports in the subject change bowl this week?”

  42. notadoctor said:

    Straight lady with a bunch of close male friends dropping in to share how I make it work…
    – I’m extra nice to my guy friends’ new girlfriends when I first meet them. I’m happy that they are making my friends happy! And I want us all to get along.
    – I care that my guy friends get along with my boyfriend. They don’t have to be BFFs, but everyone needs to be decent and play fair.
    – It’s important that my guy friends want me to meet their girlfriends. I would feel weird if someone was trying to hide me away.

    This is what works for me, my partner, and my friends. Chiming in to show it is very possible (and way less stressful, for me at least!).

  43. My spidey senses tingled and said there’s at least a 90% chance he’s sleeping with one or both of his female ‘friends’ and if he’s not, then there’s about a 99% chance he’s fixing to. I’ll echo other commenters and wonder, What’s so great about this guy that he’s worth this kind of irritation?

  44. Allie said:

    This guy finds your frustration and discomfort amusing. He’s playing immature games. I’d dump him. Maybe he’ll shape up and grow up eventually, but from experience odds are slim, and you aren’t obligated to stick around for that anyway.

    Also, I know it’s not fun but please get tested for STIs if you have been having any sort of sex with this guy.

    • And don’t sleep with him without a condom if you’re having sex with this guy!

  45. Mir said:

    You’ve been with this guy for four years, so no doubt there are some good things about this guy. But some good things doesn’t always mean good enough.

    Ever wonder what it’d be like to be with someone who didn’t manufacture/encourage juvenile drama, silently tolerate his friends being jerks to you, and make you feel unsure of the relationship?

    Hint: it’d be better.

  46. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sue and the boyfriend were doing more than flirty texting. Sue’s behavior sounds like that of a mistress who is not anxious to confront the girlfriend/wife.

    • CarpeFelis said:

      That was my take, too. I almost wonder if he’s triple-timing, with Sue and Alice both thinking they’re the girlfriend and LW is “just a friend”.

    • SamKD said:

      I drew that conclusion also. Without the “mistress not wanting to look partner in the eye” component the intensity of “not meet” is just too weird and not in any recognizable way like social anxiety. I hate to cast aspersions on total strangers and don’t like to think the worst of anyone but Sue’s behavior is a -huge- scarlet letter for me.

  47. isabeausuro said:

    “howabout that local weather team that’s playing sports in the subject change bowl this week”

    I love this.

    LW: jedi hugs for the situation you’re in. Your boyfriend’s behavior is 110% asshole.

  48. thecheapshot said:

    A story LW – my ex husband and I were shooting a film a few years ago. For some reason, the lead actress (who we had worked with before) decided that it would be appropriate to sit on my ex’s lap, stroke his neck and stand with her arm around him during shooting, at lunch, whenever she felt like it. My ex did not discourage this behaviour.

    100% they were not sleeping with each other and 100% he did not have any feelings for her.

    However, it did make me feel uncomfortable at times and it was picked up on by other members of the crew who were good friends of mine and his. So I Used My Words and told him. And he said he understood but the relationship between a director and an actress was quite precarious and he didn’t want to make her feel strange and upset the dynamic they had so he could get a good performance out of her. Which, you know, is Logical and Reasonable.

    And I was a Chill Wife. We had been together for a long time at that point and he had never given me any reason to think he would be less than completely faithful. So I sucked it up.

    Fast forward to now and reading this letter and a year of being away from him and his Logic and Reason. With 20/20 hindsight I can now see that it didn’t matter whether he was cheating on me or not or even if it was inappropriate or not. What mattered was that I expressed discomfort with something and he did not even do the barest minimum to make me feel any better. That in a choice between his wife feeling unnerved and an actress not being allowed to sit on his lap, he chose the former. And that was a pattern that repeated itself over and over again in our relationship.

    In a choice between his wife having panic attacks and PTSD meltdowns because of a producer who belittled and bullied me or finding a different producer, he chose the former. In a choice between me sobbing and begging or him doing any chores at all, he chose the former. In a choice between leaving me to fight sexism in our kickboxing class by myself or standing by me and having my back, he chose the former. And in a choice between me supporting his career to the detriment of my own or letting me follow my dreams, he chose the former. Obviously, all of these choices were for Logical Reasons and my objections to them were Illogical, Unreasonable and (the kicker) Emotional.

    All this is to say, LW, that you do not have a Alice and Sue problem, you have a Boyfriend problem. Take a look, just for a moment, and try to see if there are other times where he could make a small adjustment to make your life easier and he hasn’t done it. See if there are places where his Logic and Reasons outweigh your comfort. Because I have the feeling this is not the only place where it happens.

    I wish you all the best and I hope you can find a place where your comfort is not squashed in favour of someone else’s desires.

    • the815 said:

      I broke up with The Worst Guy I Ever Dated because we went to a party and he was chatting with a friend of mine. They kept talking about OKCupid and all the weirdos you meet there, and he said, “What’s your username on OKCupid?” He was basically giving off the impression that he was single.

      I said, “Why are you looking her up on OKCupid if we’re dating?” He EXPLODED in anger and spent the rest of the party trailing my friend, who avoided him because he was acting so angry and rude. He INSISTED he was just on OKCupid looking for friends. Um, right. If you wanna be her friend, you can find her on Facebook. He didn’t consider my point of view for even a second, I was just Terrible and Wrong and Neurotic. He also prioritized someone he talked to for 5 minutes over me. He was seriously screaming at me like I stabbed his mother in the face.

      Thank God it was a short relationship, anyway. Made me realize being alone is FAR from the worst fate.

      • Tyche said:

        Yes! I hate when men belittle women accusing them to be too emotional, or too sensitive and even hysterical.
        I think it is one thing that I noticed in LW’s letter: how her boyfriend dismissed her concerns. It’s one method to subdue women making them think they are “crazy”, so their ideas, or problems or questions are erased and their voices are silenced.

    • roramich said:

      I honor your words and your survival.

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      Fist bump of solidarity fort literal drama exes. My “rival” used the tactic of trying to convince everyone that they actually WERE sleeping together (I am quite certain that they weren’t, as certain as I am that IT WAS STILL NOT OKAY THAT HE TOLERATED AND ENCOURAGED THAT BULLSHIT), referring to group outings as “dates” between the two of them on social media, putting her finger in her lipstick and drawing on his neck so a casual observer might, pouting in an “okay, if that’s how you want to play it in public, lover,” way when he refused to let her sit on his lap repeatedly.

      I’m actually kind of pissed that her tactics didn’t work, in retrospect. I will never get the time I put into the Amazing Human Sinkhole back, and he will never not have memories of two beautiful fucked-up women pick-me dancing for his amusement…

      And everyone here is so right: it wouldn’t be worrisome if it were happening in a vacuum.

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        *so that a casual observer might think she’d been kissing his neck. Or maybe there was a different motivation? Because I really can’t come up with something contextually appropriate to that sort of behavior.

        • CarpeFelis said:

          Nope, there is no other explanation that makes any sense. She was pretty blatantly trying to mark him and make you think he was cheating with her.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        ” he will never not have memories of two beautiful fucked-up women pick-me dancing for his amusement…” Thiiiss the two women pick-me dancing is pefrect

  49. Dear LW,

    Many years ago my then boyfriend had a friend who had a crush on him and wasn’t very nice to me.

    I did two things:
    – I told my boyfriend that I resented his pretense that no flirting was going on, and no I didn’t think giving her cute hand silkscreened sweatshirt was a good idea.
    – I took his friend out for coffee and told her I was tired of the flirting and to cut it out or go away. I also told her some icky stuff about me, and said that she could now use this ammo.

    She left me alone and he left her alone for the year or so more he and I stayed together. But she was 20, I was 21, and boyfriend was 24.

    I had another boyfriend who had a friend who somehow I wasn’t supposed to meet. Years later he fessed up that they had dated (and if my calculations are correct, they might’ve been banging when he and I started seeing each other).

    I think Alice is like the first woman I described, and Sue is like the second.

    Additionally, I think Sue and your boyfriend are sleeping together.

    Mostly though, I think your boyfriend is acting like a jackass.

    I think it would be informative to ask him “so, what’s the point? Why don’t you have my back with Alice or Sue?”

    I expect he’ll either accuse you of jealousy, or double down on the sadness of their lives (there’s a silent “sad because they are not with him” appended).

    I don’t expect he’d apologize for his part (troublemaker) and volunteer to shoot down his friends’ rudeness.

    Good luck.

    • Cyberwulf said:

      I think Boyfriend sees Sue as “the one that got away”, since according to what he’s told LW he wanted to have a relationship with her but she’s flaky. Well now he’s all coupled up and Sue *wishes* she could have him now (in his mind). Drama kiiiiiiiiiiing.

    • You gave her ammo and permission to use it?

      I can only assume this was a gambit, so that if she *did* use it, you could say to your boyfriend, “This is the sort of woman you’re seeing? The kind would would say such nasty stuff about your girlfriend?” Although she was already being mean to you, you were setting up a clear line for her to cross, and him to see that he needed to stand up for you?

      And see if he/she crossed it?

      That’s quite the test. I’m glad that she just backed off. Seems she had some good sense, after all.

      • You assume wrong. No gambit. No test.

        I judged her to be a basically decent person.

        I opened up to her, because I figured once she knew me as something other than “That Woman” she’d be kinder.

        I was right.

        • I’m so glad of that! It’s really nice when things go right, and people show themselves to be awesome. In this case, you both were awesome! And when you pointed out the situation to your boyfriend, he was awesome, too! And in your early twenties, yet.

          Yeah, age is not an excuse or reason to be not-awesome. Lack of experience, perhaps, and a lack of ethical education, but not age.

          Also, you are very brave!

          • Thank you!

  50. John said:

    OP: maybe this doesn’t need to be said, but you can totally break up with him even if he’s not cheating on you. You can break up with him even if he doesn’t have any red flags, or violating one of your personal dealbreakers. You can break up with him even if the only problem is that things would just be better without him.

  51. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, you deserve better than a partner who is not only okay with his friends’ rudeness to you, but appears to actively encourage it. I would not give bear hugs to and hang out with friends who were awful to my romantic partner. So that’s the first thing.

    The second thing is: If your assessment of your BF is true, if he’s truly just in it for the attention, that’s pretty freaking awful. He’s happy to string along at least one woman and allow another one to get flirty with him (even though she backed away when she realized he had feeling for her). He’s fine with people disrespecting your relationship and disrespecting you. Again, I’d side-eye the hell out of any guy I was friends with who sneered about prudes or Catholics (WTF) or whatever if my romantic partner wanted to meet him. (TBH, I’d also keep my distance from someone I had feelings for shortly before I started dating someone else.)

    I don’t think it matters if your BF is being faithful. I think it matters that he’s okay with his friends treating you terribly and that he’s okay with knocking you off balance.

  52. the815 said:

    Since the boyfriend is an Unreliable Narrator, it’s possible the drama with Sue is completely manufactured. Like, how does LW know that Sue went on an angry rant? Straight from the horse’s mouth or because the boyfriend told her about Sue’s rant? Sue could certainly be shady, but it’s possible she had a completely innocent reason to cancel and the boyfriend made it into some Big Dramatic Thing to make himself look important.

    I guess my point is, you can’t know Sue’s motivations, but you know the BF’s behavior (which is – dumpable like yesterday).

  53. The Awe Ritual said:

    It feels like Sue is in love with Boyf. Having been an Alice (and having spent a dozen years in LW’s shoes, holy crumbs of divine crackers am I glad to see people discussing this, even ten years later the comments of the Awkward Army are soothing, salt-washing balm), it’s pretty cruel of Boyf not to set boundaries— you can still be friends with someone who is pining, but . I’d say, “perhaps innocently cruel,” but this really looks like pattern cruelty. Also, who cares if it’s innocent? Cruelty is irritating.

    LW, I hope he makes up for this in ALL THE WAYS FOREVER.

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      Ugh, I meant to delete all of the the “it is possible to still be friends with someone who is pining, but you have to be firm about calling them out when PANTSFEELS insist on jumping up on them and humping their legs/ begging at the table.” Didn’t add to the conversation, and possibly untrue. C’mon, afternoon coffee, kick in, baby.

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        Also I meant to say,, I’ve been a Sue, flitting about a person I pine for like a gnat around someone’s nostrils. It was a dark time for the rebellion. Never been an Alice.The world is too weird to be intentionally rude to people who are on Team Person You Care About without serious reasons.

  54. Snow said:

    This reminds me vividly of my first relationship, my senior year of high school. My (ex)boyfriend was a huge flirt and enjoyed playing girls off of each other to feed his ego. At the time, I thought maybe this was normal? And that I could rise above it all by being the Most Chill Girl? After about a year of it, I was exhausted from performing Most Chill Girl, and I dumped him shortly thereafter, only to learn that he had definitely been having inappropriate sexy times with at least one of the other girls. Ugh.

    LW, your boyfriend might not be cheating, but he is definitely behaving very badly. You deserve much better than this.

  55. Cora said:

    I can’t find it on YouTube, but in the movie Tootsie, there’s a scene where Dabney Coleman is explaining to Tootsie why his cheating on Jessica Lange with Geena Davis is all their own fault, and she replies, “That’s very convenient.” Such a statement may work for you.

  56. SW said:

    I can’t imagine a person less on Team You than this guy. And I think that the problem lies with your partner and not with his friends.

    So my partner and I are polyamorous so sexual fidelity is not important to us. But he is definitely on Team Me and he takes my feelings seriously.

    An example: he knew I didn’t like a woman he was sleeping with. I deliberately didn’t make him stop seeing her because I’m not into controlling him and his behavior. But he finally got me to tell him exactly why I didn’t like her (I named a few concrete instances of her being rude to me when he wasn’t around). Right then and there he decided to stop seeing her.

    He didn’t demand that I be the bigger person and ignore it, or make excuses for her behavior. And he definitely stopped mentioning her to me at all after that point. If she said bad things about me to him, I definitely never heard about it, because why on earth would he hurt me by telling me something like that?

    I bring this example up because I think that there is a lot of poor behavior on his part above and beyond the possibility of this man cheating on you. And that poor behavior alone (even if he was completely faithful/monogamous with you) is enough reason to not have him in your life anymore.

    I know it’s super easy to focus on the other women, to blame them and to minimize your partner’s involvement in the whole thing, but I think he is helping the process along *on purpose* because it provides a perfect screen for his bad behavior. He isn’t a bad boyfriend, it’s these women who are bad people! They make him do it!

    But he’s the one who keeps mentioning things to you. He’s the one who tells you about the texts from other women. He’s the one orchestrating the conflict. And if you follow the cap’n’s advice, you will make the game boring for him. You can choose to not be in the same space as these women. You don’t need to insist on meeting them as meeting them won’t assuage your jealousy.

    • skirabbit said:

      Yo, SW, can I just emphasize this awesome thing you’ve just said up here? Because you hit that shit on the head. If she said bad things about me to him, I definitely never heard about it, because why on earth would he hurt me by telling me something like that? Yes. He’s the one who tells you about the texts from other women. He’s the one orchestrating the conflict. Delicious. This narrative is one bad partners create by perpetuating it. It’s a conscious decision they make. At the bare minimum, it’s mean and unnecessary. And the fact that he’s made it into a pattern is just telling.

      Quite frankly, whenever somebody in my life has said to me, “X said Y about you,” my first question is always, “What did you say?” Because I am done with folks who have a conversation with X about me (“You know how Skirabbit is!”) and then roll back into my situation and tell me it like it was just an X event and not an X And Partner event.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      Yes to this!!!

  57. Audrey said:

    I don’t think this is just about how he doesn’t stick up for her. One of the LW’s first sentences contains “I keep getting inklings that my boyfriend isn’t as loyal as I would like…”
    This is really different from “I feel like my boyfriend isn’t sticking up for me” or “All these girls like my boyfriend and he’s great but I’m feeling jealous.” It sounds like the LW’s gut is saying there’s a loyalty issue here, and inklings of a breach of loyalty sounds a lot like intuition.

    • HarleyM said:

      I agree that it isn’t *just* about how he doesn’t stick up for her… but he doesn’t stick up for her. She knows this with certainty, while she is unsure about the loyalty issue, so it provides a concrete and unassailable basis for her to confront her boyfriend and ask for a change.

      To be clear, her suspicion that her boyfriend isn’t being as loyal as she would like is justification enough to end the relationship (not that any justification is ever required). However, if she isn’t ready to take that step, her chances of improving the relationship are better if she can point to the specific issues that underlie her feelings, rather than her gut feelings and intuition alone.

  58. thathat said:

    Ok, so my perspective here. My best friend is a guy. We have lived together for seven, eight years now. In that time I’ve only gotten along with two of his girlfriends. Some of his girlfriends I haven’t gotten along with, one of them I’ve actively despised (emotionally abusive). And I know some of his girlfriends didn’t like me because I was a girl who was really close friends with the guy they were dating, regardless of how platonic our relationship is.

    Everything about what you’re describing sounds horrible. It sounds completely unreasonable for him to expect you to put up with. Four years and you’ve never even been able to *meet* his really close friend? That’s just bizarre. And weird.

    My buddy has gotten himself into some trouble before, and it’s almost always because he hates conflict and tries to avoid it even when things need to be addressed. It sounds like your guy has the opposite problem–he loves the conflict. He loves having these trysts that honestly may very well be platonic. But he’s treating them like some kind of torrid little thing, and THAT makes it creepy.

    I know it can be a little weird to date someone with close friends of whichever gender(s) they’re attracted to, but this isn’t that. This isn’t an overreaction on your part. This is your guy behaving unreasonably, like someone who should maybe not be your guy all that much longer if he can’t shape the heck up. Which…don’t know how likely it is.

    Also, Cap? “howabout that local weather team that’s playing sports in the subject change bowl this week?”–best line, stealing, using, loving.

  59. Temperance said:

    LW, I have dealt with a similar situation in my relationship, although our Alice was fake friendly to me just because she wanted to get closer to Booth. I’m female and have a lot of interests that stereotypically are considered more male. I have a ton of male friends and mutual friends. Alice is the type of woman who just “doesn’t like girls” and “doesn’t ‘get’ girls”, even though her interests were stereotypically feminine. Whatevs.

    She would totally hit on my now-husband, and all of our male friends, and they would come back with OH, SHE’S JUST A NERD! SHE DOESN’T REALIZE THAT SHE’S BEING INAPPROPRIATE! SHE’S SUCHHHHH A NERD. (She wasn’t a nerd. Not even a little.) IT’S JUST LIKE HANGING OUT WITH YOU! (except she doesn’t know anything about Star Trek, comics, video games, or soccer … and she rubs her hands all over us all the time).

    It came to a head when she ripped off all her clothes and jumped into our friend’s bed. Said friend was in a LTR with his live-in girlfriend, BTW. After that, said friend cheated on his girlfriend with Alice, and we summarily exiled both of them from our friend group. It was sad to lose our friend, but cheating on your gf is always a shit thing to do, and she was also our friend … and he made a hard-line stance that Alice was a part of the group and “a really good person”, and said it was both of them, or neither, so it was neither.

    Booth later apologized, BTW.

  60. Great job on getting rid of the missing stairs!

  61. Cornchip said:

    I had a boyfriend like this (a real Darth). He was always flirting with women at the gym and at his work and in his friend group and kind of goading me about it then gaslighting me when I got jealous. Often young, pretty women. I eventually slid into a kind of indifference about it (along with a lot of other big red flag things) thinking oh well, he comes home to me. Our relationship really went south after I started counselling and learned about boundaries and started calling him out on his stuff. I found out that he was cheating on me with a 21 yr old blonde from his work.

    I saw their their texty-texts and found out about her being all over him at a club after a few weeks of really shady behaviour and him guarding his phone with his life. He gaslit me about it, said it was basically all on her side and said he only wanted me. Then he went back for more, I hacked into his tablet and saw the messages had gone WAY more inappropriate, and we broke up. All within the course of 6 weeks or so. God only knows how far it went – like another commenter said, I think the messages I saw the second time around was only the tip of the iceberg. He refused to tell me what else had happened but hinted there was more. Yes, I got an STI check.

    I wasted 5 years on this guy, feeling insecure, then completely numbed out, in my own relationship. It’s was 100% not worth it.

  62. Sasha said:

    Um, I would 100% dump a guy over what you just wrote in your letter. Even though he didn’t do anything (that you know of), I find it extremely disrespectful and I wouldn’t be with someone who engaged in these behaviors with other women. Even if they are friends. It’s not respectful of your guys relationship. That’s just me tho

  63. queenbeemimi said:

    I notice, LW, that you’ve never met Sue and yet have been made privy to all these unkind things she has said about you and to her flirtatious behavior with your boyfriend. Has he, perchance, been keeping you updated on these developments? Because he should stop.

    • EchoFlower said:

      THIS^^ Also, am I the only one who wonders if Sue is real? LW, Boyfriend, and Sue all live in the same city, yet Boyfriend and LW have never once bumped into Sue, while out and about together, in the four years they’ve been dating? Even in a city the size of New York that sounds unlikely. Where do y’all live? Beijing?

      Sue sounds like Boyfriend’s fictional creation, designed tomake LW jealous. At best, she’s a casual friend who checks in much less frequently than Biyfriend claims and leaves generic messages like, “Haven’t spoken in awhile. I miss you. How’s life?”

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        Another alternative is that ‘Sue’ is someone the LW knows by another name. That’s a very dramatic reading of the situation, which I wish were false, but there seems to be a very high level of artificial drama in the air here. It also seems to originate/circle around Boyfriend; the LW does not give off a ‘I enjoy juicy gossip and high drama’ vibe.

      • tinyorc said:

        I live in a city of one million, and there are definitely people I’ve never just randomly bumped into when I’m out and about. And in somewhere the size of London, if you live on opposite ends of the city, you may as well be in different countries.

        Not to say that the BF doesn’t enjoy drama (clearly he does), but inventing a fictional woman to make LW jealous puts this situation on an entirely different plane of wtf.

        • That is actually possible. I have known people who were actually that weird – a whole slew of them, in fact.

          • tinyorc said:

            Not saying it’s not possible, I’m saying I would not jump to that conclusion in the absence of evidence beyond “we’ve never bumped into her”.

        • Ginger said:

          Just chiming in that I know a TON of people in NYC and have VERY rarely randomly run into any of them while out and about – and I’ve lived here for over twenty years. In fact, that Accidental Running Across [Person] is so rare that I could likely retell each story here, include the ones that involved my kids but not me ([friend] saw kids on train and waved!] and STILL be at less-than-a-dozen. It’s a big damn city…

  64. Rosie said:

    Ugh. Sue is not a friend, she is a prospective suitor.

    I have male friends who I text when I haven’t seen them – sometimes those texts sound a lot like “I miss you and I want to see you.” Because I miss them, and I want to see them, because they are my friends.

    But here’s the difference: even if I used to have a crush on them? Even if I still kinda do? I want to meet their partners. Because hello, important person in their life who hopefully makes them happy. Because the reality of their lives is more important to me than my fantasy of them.

    Your close friends want to meet your partners. Your close. Friends. Want. To meet. Your partners. If they don’t want to meet your partners, they aren’t exactly friends.

    And lw’s boyfriend knows this.

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      Right? I have an ex that I’m friends with. I moved far away for several years, and he got married during that time. I moved back, and I was super excited to meet his wife, who clearly made him very happy and sounded like an awesome person.

    • I’ve been Sue. More accurately, I’ve had on again, off again sexual partners.

      From my perspective every now and then they’d come by, we’d have sex, or a drink, or both. I don’t know if they had partners. I certainly don’t know what (if anything) they said about me to their partners. It’s possible they painted me as a home wrecking hussy. Maybe the partners think I’m Sue.

      I probably wouldn’t have wanted to meet their partners. They (both the people I occasionally had sex with, and their partners) aren’t important in my life.

      FWIW, when I’ve known that an occasional had a partner, I’ve ditched them, at least temporarily.

      And maybe that’s true of Sue. In her life, bf could be one of the occasional lovers she has sex with. Someone she’s known forever, is fond of, and who she considers peripheral.

      None of that has to matter to the LW of course.

      • Cora said:

        The thing is, from your description, you’re not sending these partners little texty-texts and specifically bitching at them not to disclose to partners. I don’t see anything unethical about what you’re doing, because you’re not responsible for your sex partners’ actions with anyone else. You’re also not deliberately treating their partners rudely. The Sue of the LW, though, IS treating LW rudely and Boyfriend is being a total dick.

        • I certainly have sent texty-texts to people I slept with occasionally! Why wouldn’t I? From my perspective, they were my lovers, and I wanted to flirt. Or get laid. Or whatever. I didn’t meet their partners either. Of course, that’s because I thought they were single, and didn’t have partners. (As I said, if I realized someone was taken, I’d end things.)

          For all I know, if they had partners, they painted me as BF paints Sue. He says she’s rude and won’t meet up and is not respecting boundaries.

          Maybe she is all those bad things. Maybe she’s like me. Understanding Sue’s character and motivation won’t help the LW

          My opinion on this is that the boyfriend is carrying a torch for Sue. Who and what she really is – impossible to know.

          • apricity said:

            I think texty-texts are only when you’re cheating. Not generalised flirting. (In this context.)

      • Rosie said:

        I would argue that if these partners were not important in your life to the point where you’d be interested in meeting their partner, you were not in the category of relationship I’d call *friends*. Certainly not close friends.

        Not that they have to be. But my point still stands.

  65. johann7 said:

    Is Boyfriend checking in about spending time with his friends of his own volition? That would certainly fit with a drama/attention seeking pattern. If you’re the one monitoring who he’s hanging out with, LW, it might serve you to back off from that, but given everything else, I suspect he’s the one bringing it up.

  66. Madison said:

    LW, what I’m getting from your letter is that when there is a conflict where somebody’s going to be upset no matter what, BF is choosing – consciously or unconsciously – the path of least resistance. It’s possible that he’s just avoiding conflict to a detriment, not thinking about which woman’s feelings actually matter more to him, only about protecting his own. By dating the ‘chill girl’ (which is by no means anything you’ve done wrong – you shouldn’t have to throw a fit or threaten to leave just to convince a person to realize that you matter and act like it) it makes decisions easier for him, and I think that’s why he praises you on “rising above it.” He’s saying, “I’m so glad this choice was a frictionless one that requires nothing of me.”

    When Sue doesn’t want to do something, the message she sends to your BF with her behavior is, “If you push this, I will ghost on you until you drop it.” He has therefore decided not to bring it up. From hanging out with Alice, he already knows that she can be snide and nasty to people she doesn’t like, so the message he gets is not to cross her. By continually demonstrating what she’s capable of on you, BF has decided that he doesn’t want to make himself a target of Alice’s mean and dismissive side. So he decides to hurt your feelings instead of Sue’s or Alice’s, because upsetting either one of them comes with unpleasant consequences that upsetting you doesn’t.

    I want to be clear that *none of this is ok*! He’s ostensibly saying “don’t make me choose between you and my friends,” but he is already making choices. So, what he’s really asking is that you don’t expect him to make *different* choices – ones that require him to stand up for you to his friends. In that, he’s tacitly presuming your presence, secure that you’re going to stick around, making his life easier, without support, and he’s instead prioritizing protection of more tenuous relationships with people who could easily abandon him (and have demonstrated that they will). This is what attention-seekers do – they chase crumbs and take the cake for granted.

    So, if you want to give him the benefit of doubt, then I think it’s time to clue BF in to him the message his behavior is sending to everyone involved: I’d rather upset LW than Alice or Sue; which leads to the reasonable conclusion: LW matters to me less than Alice and Sue do. Also, let him know that what he is teaching *you* is: She who pitches the biggest tantrum and issues the biggest threat wins; “rising above” all this has no benefits and significant drawbacks, such as being stepped on by a muppet boyfriend who doesn’t have enough backbone to stand up for you. I know plenty of “path of least resistance” men who would rather have someone else make the decision for them. But he needs to own it if that is the case, and he needs to decide if those are really the messages he wants everyone involved to receive – because trust that Sue and Alice got this message loud and clear and are already acting on it – or if he’d like to change it.

    Maybe it’s time to shatter BF’s certitude of you being the one who is going to just quietly “rise above”, and never expect him to make you a priority if it’s ever inconvenient for him, and always be there for him anyway, while he chases after attention-scraps and ego-kibbles from other women. It’s time to let him know 1) what he’s doing is unacceptable 2) how it makes you feel 3) what it’s telling you about him and 4) exactly what you expect, in word and in deed, going forward. And if he won’t acknowledge the problem or demonstrate that he can give you respect, even when it’s unpleasant for him, or if he tries to gaslight you out of it with his magical intention that conveniently invalidates all your perception of the messages he’s sending, then you know where you stand and can at least make an informed decision going forward. Best Wishes.

    • L. said:

      I really like how you laid this out and also this is priceless:

      “while he chases after attention-scraps and ego-kibbles”

      • Madison said:

        Thanks. I mean, I could be completely off base here, but unlike everyone else, I’m just not seeing a drama-llama playboy. What I’m seeing is almost the exact opposite: someone who is very insecure, who craves additional validation, who fears abandonment, and possibly confrontation too.

        I’ve been that person before. I unwittingly sent similar messages to my husband when we were dating. I was taking it for granted that since we are in this place together, it must be obvious to everyone that he is important to me! Also, for *years* I held on to a ‘friend’ who was snide to everyone I dated. I’m conflict-averse, so I really appreciated them being nice to her anyway, not forcing me to choose differently. This friend wasn’t more important to me, and my husband wasn’t less, but my choices and actions certainly projected that.

        Not everyone realizes that intentions can’t magically make your actions unimpeachable, or your thoughts readable, or your motives transparent, and sometimes we just send the wrong messages to people we care about because our criteria for making decisions is a different one than they’d use, and they can’t see what’s going on in our head. It was a gift for my husband to let me know what I was actually communicating. I’ve since learned there are less harmful methods to shore up insecurities. Maybe BF can too.

  67. CarpeFelis said:

    This situation reminds me a bit of an ex-boyfriend… whenever we were around any of his female friends at parties, they acted like he was Everybody’s Default Dance Partner/Surrogate Boyfriend, as if he’d shown up alone. One (a married coworker of his) came barreling across the room at a wedding reception and grabbed his wrist to try to drag him to the dance floor like it was “their song”. Didn’t even say anything, just grabbed. I happened to be sitting in his lap at the time, thought this was obnoxious of her, and did not cooperate by getting up. Somehow I was the bad person here because I “upset her”. To this day I can not stand the song “Celebration”. At any rate, I don’t think anything was going on between him and any of the female friends, but he did really seem to enjoy the attention, and he definitely did not have my back.

    This same woman made a really bad impression on me the first time I met her. She and her husband and the boyfriend and I all worked for the same very large company, and I was in IT. She spent an entire dinner making snide comments about what “bloodsuckers” we were in IT because of computing costs, and kept at it long enough that as the only IT person present, I started feeling very picked on. As a software developer I wasn’t even in the part of IT (Infrastructure) that was billing her organization.

    • skirabbit said:

      It’s really just heartbreaking that so many smart, strong folks get stuck dating these Apathy Vampires who happily chill while their partners are being belittled. Glad you’re out of there, CarpeFelis.

    • Off-topic: I always hated that song! It’s the corniest song ever.

  68. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived said:

    Your boyfriend sounds like a real jerk.

    • like an angry apple tree said:

      Off-topic: amazing username!

  69. Anisoptera said:

    LW what would you do if a friend of yours was mean and rude to someone you cared about? I know I would ask them to knock it off, I would probably stop being friends with that person if it was a lasting thing that they refused to change. Maybe I would be interested to know if there was a good reason, but assuming I still wanted to be close to both people knowing what was causing it, I would still expect them to be civil. Or I would make sure I’m not bringing them together. I would certainly not creepily point it out when it didn’t cause enough drama.

    It’s OK to expect your boyfriend to be as considerate to you as you would be to him. You can’t even say he’s being oblivious, now that he’s mentioned it himself. He knows. He’s choosing this. It’s pretty awful behaviour.

  70. Allya said:

    I have a story from high school I’d like to share. If I’m being honest, back then I did enjoy the heightened emotions and turmoil of drama just a little bit. I was a hormonal teenager, what can I say? In any case, back then I had this on-again off-again romance with a girl my parents disapproved of (in a large part because she /was/ a girl) which spanned several years. There was History there and a whole lot of baggage, and drama that was exhilarating and exhausting by turns. During one of our “off-again” phases, I started dating a Very Nice Guy who made me laugh and had a lot in common with me and who I could take home to meet my parents. Though I liked him a lot, I still had a lot of complicated feelings about Dashing Bad Influence Girl*. Our long history of ~forbidden romance meant we were /experts/ on toeing the line of plausible deniability, and I admit that while I was never explicitly unfaithful (whatever that means for a virgin adolescent who barely understands kissing), it was very much the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it I was following.

    Eventually, there came a day when – I’d like to say I realised that things couldn’t go on as they were and I intended to tell Dashing Bad Influence Girl that though I did have feelings for her, I was with Very Nice Guy and nothing could happen between us, but the truth is that while I did very much intend to say all that, the “nothing can happen” part felt insignificant next to the drama-fueled thrill of confessing my feelings. I mean, maybe I could have just said “hey, I realised we’ve kind of been slipping back into our old dynamic and I need us to cool that off now,” right? Nah, don’t be ridiculous! In any case, before I could speak to her, I ran into Very Nice Guy who had just shared a class with her. He told me – oh, I don’t remember the specifics any more, but she had been behaving very rudely towards him for some time and had just escalated with some new unkindness. I was taken aback, and promised to speak to her about it. When I did pull her aside for my much anticipated talk, what I actually ended up saying was less thinly-veiled-confession-of-feelings and more, “What the fuck? Stuff has been complicated between us but you can’t be mean to my boyfriend!”

    The point of this story being: 1. I was a total twit in high school, but at least I had the excuse of, you know, being in high school, but mostly 2. Even a selfish, emotionally immature, drama-loving CHILD can tell better than to let a supposed friend treat their partner badly.

    *Who was not actually any worse of an influence on me than any of my other teenage friends or romantic interests – I was perfectly capable of making bad decisions on my own – but go ahead and picture the motorbike and black leather jacket anyway.

  71. skirabbit said:

    Jesus christ, what is it with this guy, LW? Does he have, like, a diamond-encrusted butt or something? Is he made of solid gold? Does he have an automatic pizza oven in his face? I’ve never understood all these situations where a dude has three women circling him. Of course he loves it. He loves having his sure thing and his two maybe-if-things-were-differents. He loves it. Because if he didn’t like it, he wouldn’t put up with it. If your boyfriend, LW, did not enjoy this drama, he would not put up with it.

    A person who cares about you, cares about your comfort. If I were dating you, I’d care if you felt comfortable or not. I just asked my mom, and she said that if she were dating you, she’d care about if you felt comfortable or not. Your boyfriend doesn’t give a shit that you’re feeling uncomfortable. In fact, it sort of adds to the intrigue a little bit, doesn’t it? He’s got the three of you skipping around him like a maypole. Stop doing it. Do not play his game. Think of this as a narrative he’s weaving, and what the most sexually interesting thing would be for the Girlfriend character to do is, and the do the opposite of that.

    You don’t deserve to wonder if your boyfriend is cheating on you. It’s not normal to wonder if your partner is cheating on you. It’s not. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s “only natural” to wonder. If he was wholly committed to you, you wouldn’t wonder. You wouldn’t have to. Because folks that are committed to their partners always know who they’re going home to, and they make sure everybody else does, too.

    I don’t mean to discount folks who had infidelity scares in their relationships and moved past it as a couple. More power to you. But the crucial part of moving past this, is that both of you have to move past it together. Your boyfriend doesn’t see this as something to move past. It’s just a game he plays in his free time.

    The game is called The Just This Side Of Plausible Deniability Game. Your boyfriend likes to skirt the limits of what “counts.” Your boyfriend likes to dismiss your legitimate concerns. I’m not going to be your chorus of friends who tell you “dump him! dump him! yas queen!” because you already have that, here in the comments, and up there in your head. What I am going to be is the reminder that someday you’re going to be in a committed relationship, and you’ll see Sue or somebody in your suggested friends on Facebook. And you’ll laugh to yourself as you realize you’ve never once wondered if your new partner was cheating on you. You might have had your ups and downs. Maybe you even had a huge fight and thought you might break up. But you’ll realize that you never had to write to an advice blog to figure out how to get your boyfriend to stop having intense emotional affairs at you. Think about that future, LW. Do you think you can have a future like that with your dude?

    Hope you’re doing all right, LW.

    • AnonBee said:

      ‘I’ve never understood all these situations where a dude has three women circling him.’

      They like the idea of “If he spends time with me instead of her, that means he likes me more and therefore I’m better than her.” It’s all about making sure other women are ‘lesser than’ since said women don’t have healthy ways to build their self esteem. Unhealthy need for attention is a two way street here.

      • Allya said:

        I don’t think this is fair. It may be true in some cases, but just like abusers are experts at manipulating people, people like this who like the drama and excitement of having a bunch of people into them tend to be experts at stringing people along. Often they deliberately break down the self esteem of their targets to keep them invested – so to call it a “two way street” doesn’t accurately represent the situation at all.

        I mean, look at the very relationship the LW wrote in about. She says something nice about another woman and her boyfriend deliberately pits them against each other!

    • Ask Me About The Seventies said:

      I love everything about this comment, especially the conclusion. I’m old, and out of the dating scene for a long time, but the list of ” nonsense which I put up with back in the day but would never again” is a long one! I could not stand wondering in any way or to any degree if my partner were being truthful and faithful to me. That is so anxiety producing and a great consumer of emotional energy. Never again!

      Your last paragraph reminds me of something that happened to my cousin. For many years, she’d Bern in this horribly dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship with The King Of All Darth Boyfriends. She finally ended it, and within a few years, met this awesome guy whom she went on to marry. She became very ill, and her ex found out through the grapevine about it. He called her just as a caring human being, to offer his support and see how she was doing. No big deal; she told me about the call, and it was all but forgotten as life went on.

      Well. A couple weeks later, she gets this phone call from an irate woman, asking why her boyfriend was calling my cousin. Irate Woman told my cousin she’d been going through Dude’s phone and had seen Cousin’s number in his list of calls. Cousin told her, “You know what? I’m happily married. And, I never feel the need to go through my husband’s phone, nor he through mine, because we don’t worry about infidelity. Trust is a beautiful thing. You ought to find a guy you can have that with, and meanwhile, please don’t call me again!” I loved that response, and I think that’s exactly what you describe in your post.

    • QoB said:

      Props both for your excellent insight and also props for the 10 Things I Hate About You reference in there.

      (if it wasn’t deliberate, even better!)

    • So much this. Especially the point that he is having these emotional affairs AT YOU, dear LW.

  72. This sounds like a game where you are being set up to lose; either by being baited as jealous (jealousy a natural response to being in a weird competition for someone whose commitment ought to be clear) OR being the Chill Cool girlfriend who accepts being cheated on. No wonder you feel irritated. It’s not conducive to romance or love, you are at risk if STDs and you have a life that deserves your full attention. You cannot win by besting these women. If the way to please him is to care less and tolerate this, what kind of prize is that?

    The only person here with much dignity is you, you can take your integrity and leave this dude. Everyone else here needs immature manipulation to get their thrills, so leave them to it. You deserve a person who finds you fascinating and who wants to build a social circle that brings you both happiness. That may include exes, I spent all yesterday with my best who is my fellas ex girlfriend. But it doesn’t involve playing games.

  73. There’s something to flag up that is, one one level, obvious, but is also informative: there are TWO of these women. (At the moment, that you know about.)

    One might be a case of badly-handled baggage. Two is starting to look like a lifestyle choice.

    I think there’s a good chance that if Alice and Sue somehow left your orbit, other women would take their places.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      “I think there’s a good chance that if Alice and Sue somehow left your orbit, other women would take their places.”

      THIS.

  74. Inky said:

    My intuition is telling me this: That he is telling SUE (if she exists) that he is going to break up with you/you two aren’t serious/you’re a “Sue”. I also think he is indeed seeing her and not telling you. Then he tells Sue, “Hey, I want you to meet my GF/this crazy girl/I think you two would be best friends!/we’re polyamorous/whatever and Sue is (wisely) going “NOPE! You want a relationship with me, I’m not going to meet your GF!” He is TOTALLY leading her on and telling her little stories.

    Is he so awesome that that explains why some random girl is all aggressive? Sorry! But probably not!! Is she… REAL?

    What you can do is simply show up with BF without telling her. Yes, she’ll be put on the spot, but then you’ll know what/who you’re dealing with. If she even exists at all. If he’ll allow it.

    Or, simply drop this guy!

    Or, tell him you doubt she actually exists and that he’s making up little stories. That’ll drive him crazy!

  75. that piano lady said:

    In addition to what everyone else said, I think it’s important to reframe this problem correctly: you have a boyfriend problem, not a girls-around-boyfriend problem.

  76. goddessoftransitory said:

    Ugh, the Virtual Harem Guy. The one who’s never taken a PUA course but reads all about them on reddit. Who doesn’t have the stamina for being either a playboy millionaire or devoted relationship man but wants to skim the cream off both possibilities.

    You aren’t his girlfriend, LW. You’re his security code into the vault where he keeps his ego preening supplies. It’s not like he cares about Alice and Sue, either as people or as potential girlfriends: Alice is a rude bitch, and Sue, if she even exists, apparently spends all her time sighing in a window seat while scribbling poetry in a black notebook covered with Pusheen stickers that’s she’s hand-sharpied Goth eyeliner onto. What he cares about is how much they apparently want his attention.

    For guys like this, quantity beats quality every time, both in what he’s giving and what he’s getting.

    • roramich said:

      *snerk*!!! love your comment!!

  77. emmych said:

    You sound like you might be ready to hear this, but even if you’re not, I’m gonna say it anyway because someone said it to me when I wasn’t ready to hear it and it stuck anyway: dump this duuuude. You have been so, so clear about your needs here and he is not respecting those needs. I’d bet money that this is indicative of a million other little problems in your relationship that, in aggregate, add up to “buddy is self-centred and super doesn’t deserve a cool partner until he gets his shit together.”

    I say DTMFA and let yourself meet someone who is going to treat you with the respect you deserve, who will hear your extremely valid concerns and respect what you need. Since, hey, tbh I think I am hearing the pressure of being a ~cool girlfriend~ who doesn’t get jealous, but guess what? Jealousy is actually super valid, and if your WHOLE REASON for being uncomfortable with Alice, at least, was “you two flirt in front of me and it feels Gross”, boyfriend should stop fucking flirting with her and shut that shit down BECAUSE IT MAKES HIS GIRLFRIEND UNCOMFORTABLE. Are you forbidding him from hanging with his friend? No. You are having a valid reaction to very real flirting and it is 10000% okay to not be okay with that. There is a difference between friendly play flirting and ACTUAL flirting, but the only time the former can be cool, even, is if you can trust that both your partner and the flirter/flirtee respect your relationship and it actually is just a goof. Source: am a big flirt and would hella tone it down if my partner said it was making them uncomfortable, and in fact have toned it down/respected their insecurities around my exes when asked to.

  78. Nix said:

    This is going to sound harsh but, when I read this letter I immediately thought: “This guy is cheating on you, or really enjoys being in a situation where he easily could”. Rather than feeling uncomfortable with his friends hitting on him whilst he’s in a committed relationship, or caring because his gf is feeling uncomfortable, he’s encouraging this behavior. He sounds like a master in plausible deniability with the way that he’s skirting around these issues and you deserve better than that.

  79. NaoNao said:

    One of the reasons it’s so hard to explain why “just friends” makes a partner uncomfortable is it has plausible deniability. After all, you yourself have friends of the opposite sex/friends of your sexual preference gender you’re not doin’, right? I broke it down for an ex like this:

    There’s a line. The clear and bright line is you shouldn’t be doing *or saying* anything you wouldn’t do with me in the room, right next to you. If you cross that line, you’re now on the wrong side of the law.

    Secondly, you shouldn’t be spending time, energy, attention, or emotion that is more properly focused on me with them. So for example, if you’re frustrated with me, I need to hear about it first. If you’re feeling scared or upset by work stuff, talk to me primarily. If you’re excited about something, I’m the first person who gets a text.

    Under no circumstances should I be cut out of the loop of your life.

    Could there be times where it’s not like that? Sure. But the majority of your time, attention, affection, emotion, and focus needs to be on your life partner (me).

    That goes for type of energy too. Sexual energy is reserved for me, like 90% of it. Flirty energy, same. Connection, intense emotions, etc. Same.

    Could other couples have other set ups? Of course! But if we’re talking monogamy, that helps the errant party understand it’s not “just sex” that feels like cheating. It’s the time, energy, affection, and confidences that you took away from the partner and improperly focused on the other party.

    If you need something from a woman (sexual energy, approval, ego-boosting, sex, affection, whatever), I’m your first choice. If for some reason you need a same-sex ear to cry on, we don’t have an issue, now do we?

    But honestly, the fact that I needed to spell this out was a red flag.

    • toniprufrock said:

      I get what you’re saying, but this description put my shoulders up around my ears. If I heard that deacribed like that I may well consider walking.
      I think the important thing, though, is that a couple you define what’s right FOR YOU, LW.
      For NaoNao it’s the above, for others it’s even MORE exclusive. For others it’s less. But if both people aren’t on board than it’s not happening, and it sounds like you boyfriend is not on board LW.

      The question you need to ask is can he change without your trying to smoosh him into a different person? If the latter then you need to walk away because he is certainly not respecting you with the emotional intelligence you deserve.

    • Another reason “just friends” is annoying is that it’s (often) false.

      A zillion years ago, there was a movie Cousin, Cousine

      A man and a woman, cousins by marriage, meet at a family do. They start hanging out. They like each other. Their respective friends and immediate families don’t understaaaaaaand. Their spouses are horrible. But they’re “just friends!” Eventually they are driven into each other’s arms by the mistrust and ickiness all around them.

      When I first saw it, I bought that. (I was a teen.) When I saw it again, a few years later, I realized that no, they’d been looking for an out. “Just friends” was plausible deniability until they could each work out if the other was a romantic partner they wanted.

      I’m long winded and I apologize for that. What I’m getting at, I think, is that when a partner really is friends with someone (even someone who fits into their romantic demographic), they don’t say “just friends” (or the like). They say “A, B I’m so happy to introduce you. A, B is the person I met at the subject switching games last week. B, A is my partner I told you about.”

      • I read the Wikipedia article on that movie. Their spouses were having an affair with each other, so their running off with each other can be seen as OK in many people’s eyes.

        • I think you’ve misunderstood me (or I’ve done a lousy job of conveying my point).

          My point was that their claim to platonic affection was disingenuous at best. That’s often the case.

          • I understood your point. I was just going off on a tangent as to why people might think that was justified in the movie. I’ve never seen it, so I have no opinion.

          • Ah, ok. Got it
            🙂

  80. lalouve said:

    I am currently in a position where I could be a Sue or an Alice. I’m happily married and in an open marriage. My lover of the last few years, with whom I’m very close, just met a girlfriend and is probably going to be in a monogamous relationship. He was very clear that I am his closest friend and that insisting he drop me as a friend is a deal breaker.
    So, when I meet her, she will be nervous, hoping she can like me, really hoping I’ll like her. The kind thing to do here is for me to be friendly, try to make her comfortable with talking to me, and drop absolutely no hints about my past with her boyfriend or do anything flirtatious with him. And if I don’t act like that, I fully expect him to call me on it. He gets to have her back and I’ll be less than impressed if he prioritises me.
    I’ll miss him, and I’ll be sad for a bit, even though I knew this was likely to happen, but it’s more important to me that he acts in a way I can respect than that I get all the attention. I want him to act in such a way that I can be proud of having had him for a lover.

  81. Indie said:

    You know you’re the next collectable for his walking black book art installation right?

    I wouldn’t be able to resist having some fun with this guy (if not ready to break up) by dropping anti ego grenades before walking away.

    “Oh, probably lady friend is the same with all her exes. I’m sure you’re not special so nothing to worry about!”

    “I couldn’t be that sort of friend if we broke up. I find men with other priorities to be distinctly lacking in sex appeal I think”

    “Jealous? What of?” *oblivious face*

    • Survivor said:

      What your boyfriend is doing is called triangulation, and it’s a ploy used by narcissists. Do yourself a favor and run away from this relationship! It will only get worse over time. Trust me, I’m a survivor,

  82. @NaoNao:

    There are some things my ex-husband and I could not share and did not want to share. He was a professional chef and I could barely boil an egg. He could not discuss cooking with me in depth without going over my head. That topic would bore me to death, since I knew nothing about it. Likewise, he loathed Elfquest, which I adored, so I saved Elfquest talk for a friend of mine.

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      Elfquest! ❤ Uh, sorry, I actually did have a point, too.

      I believe I got what NaoNao was describing earlier but for me that would not have worked, either. I am asexual – or demisexual; there have only been two or three people I have ever been interested in a sexual manner, but I have always wanted to form deep relationships with other people. While being deeply interested in people on emotional level and none whatsoever in a physical level has brought my life some really unpleasant experiences I am also really privileged for the deep, emotional friendships I have experienced.

      A person like me could probably never be happy in a relationship which would divert all their communications to their partner. My interests are very diverse and so far none of my partners have shared all of them, so I have been (and still am) in the same situation as jennylinskyb above – and then, me and my spouse have some longtime friends with whom we have shared almost everything for decades. I believe that friendships like these are a sort of treasure, no matter what the friend's gender or sexual preferences may be.

      Each relationship is different and people have different needs and preferences. Even though it might seem stupid or not necessary, I nowadays like it when the "rules" of a relationship are clear, ranging from agreeing with a pen pal how often letters are exchanged to constantly discussing with a spouse to create a safe and supportive environment.

  83. FlyingKal said:

    @NaoNao
    “Secondly, you shouldn’t be spending time, energy, attention, or emotion that is more properly focused on me with them. So for example, if you’re frustrated with me, I need to hear about it first. If you’re feeling scared or upset by work stuff, talk to me primarily. If you’re excited about something, I’m the first person who gets a text.

    Under no circumstances should I be cut out of the loop of your life. ” (My emphasize).

    Yes, that’s how it should be. But if “I” am upset or frustrated with “you”, and already tried telling you, 5 times, or 10, or more, and you’re just “Yeah, whatev’s. That is your problem, not mine.”
    I am not in any way advocating for anyone cheating on their spouse. But sometimes we find a platonic someone who will hear us out.
    (Not saying that You, or the LW, is in this situation. But I’ve been there at it straight up sucked.)

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