My friend lied to his girlfriend about us.
I don't want to give him space because I miss him, what's the right thing to do?
A GEM OF A FRIEND:
So, I've been close with a guy friend from high school for more than a decade. We've been through a lot together. In high school, I had a huge crush on him, and it completely tore me up to watch him date a few of my friends before I finally told him about my feelings during one of the (rare) time windows where he was single. He wanted to stay friends, and we actually managed to do so successfully without ever crossing the line — until years and years later, when we'd both graduated college and were both home for a weekend. We went out and got drunk and hooked up. And it was fun! But it was just that one time, five years ago, and we've never veered off the platonic path since then.
Over the last few years, we've kept in touch through intermittent texts and the occasional overlapped holiday visits home. When we last hung out over Thanksgiving, he told me his parents are planning to move out of the state — which means we won't get these built-in opportunities to catch up every year. Since he's the only person from my hometown who I'm still close with, it was pretty sad news, but we promised each other we'd find a way to still be in each others' lives.
For the past three years, he's been living with his current girlfriend, who I've never met and thought it was weird how he never brought her home for the holidays. Over Thanksgiving, he told me that his girlfriend saw an (innocuous) text I once sent him when they first were dating, and she thought I was some former flame she didn't know about. Unbeknownst to me, he started hiding my texts and not telling her that he and I would hang out over the holidays—which confuses me because they were purely platonic hangouts—and now three years later, this dishonesty has apparently all come out, and she is furious.
So furious, in fact, that she found me on social media and sent me a long message that basically said: my boyfriend has been hiding this "friendship" from me this whole time, you fucked up our relationship, there's clearly something going on here, fuck you.
I didn't respond, but I did call up my guy friend to talk. He apologized over and over for dragging me into this and for his girlfriend's behavior, and I felt so awful for him—he was so upset because she had threatened to break up with him—that I was like, listen, if it helps, I'll give you space and just not reach out to you for a while. He seemed relieved, and I thought this is what a good friend should do.
But now that I've thought about it, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I told him that I would give him space "out of respect for his relationship," but I definitely don't respect it now. I think it's batshit! So I guess I'm doing this out of respect for him, but I also resent that he would choose yet another girlfriend over me. (Is that the crux of it? Fuck, that might be the crux of it). My most dramatic self also wonders: what if his girlfriend pulls a Jessica Biel-Justin-Timberlake-Cameron-Diaz-type situation and gives him an ultimatum to cut me out of his life. I'm afraid he might be too invested in this relationship to not do that.
And I know I would be deeply hurt if that happened. While I care about him deeply and still harbor that old wound from high school of never being the one he "chose," this also isn't a situation where I'm trying to win him back as a potential lover (We would be horrible together if we actually dated!). I just want to be able to go home for Christmas (a stressful event itself) and know that I can have a night where I'm out of the house, smoking weed in his parents' basement or catching up at the hometown bar or watching dumb movies together, and generally just being myself around someone who's known me forever.
I thought it was the good friend move to just hold my tongue and give him the space, but now I'm not so sure if I'm just being a pushover. Should I at least tell him why I'm hurt/that I'm worried about our friendship/the fact that I think his relationship does not sound healthy, or do I stand by and let him make these decisions for himself?
I just miss my friend.
There is one major, major thing that you’re ignoring in all of this. Actually, there are two major things, one which you’re kind of starting to get might be a problem and the other which you are full-on ignoring (through no fault of your own, you’re an angel!!!!). So here’s the big, juicy one:
This is all his fault.
I’m going to go ahead and re-write this emphasizing every single word in the sentence so that I make sure you hear it. We used to do this in drama class in high school to memorize lines; maybe it will work for you!
This is all his fault.
This is all his fault.
This is all his fault.
This is all his fault.
This is all his fault.
I’m going to address some things you said now because I’m riled up to a full on TEN!
“He apologized over and over for dragging me into this and for his girlfriend's behavior.”
“I told him that I would give him space ‘out of respect for his relationship,’ but I definitely don't respect it now. I think it's batshit!”
WHAT. The guy hid a full conversation with a (yes, you both insist it’s “platonic;” I get it!!!) friend in his phone. What the fuck is his girlfriend supposed to think?!?!?!?!
“Oh yes, here is this totally normal friendship that he’s been hiding from me with a girl who a) has a crush on him and b) has slept with him before. Totally normal, nothing to see there.” WHATTT~!!!!!! I MEAN WHAT. She doesn’t have all the information, yes, but I’m not even sure that having all the information would help that much!
If his girlfriend wrote to me and said, “Hey, so my boyfriend has this friend that he swears is platonic that he’s been friends with for years and years (they hooked up once) and he hid all her messages, I’m suspicious, should I be? Also, he won’t bring me home for the holidays even though we’ve been dating for three years and he sees her during the holidays.” DO YOU KNOW WHAT I WOULD WRITE??!!? I would write, “DUDE THEY ARE FUCKING.”
Now, I know you two are not fucking. And your friend also knows you guys aren’t fucking. Which is why this is ALL his FAULT. He took a situation which was innocuous and created suspicion around it. He did that. He made it bad. His girlfriend did not do any of that.
Now, would I have recommended to his girlfriend that she message you? GOD NO!!!! But do I also get how she got there? YES. Literally all of us with any experience ever in a relationship can figure out why she feels how she feels.
And now you’re saying you don’t respect their relationship because of her?!?!/! WHAT!! Where is his blame? She did nothing other than go a bit overboard when she found out EVERY SINGLE FUCKING SIGN pointed to her boyfriend cheating and lying about it for three years.
Now, here is where you may be wanting to say to me, “Sophia! You don’t get it!!!! She’s a jealous person! This is why he has to hide our relationship!” to which I will say: Oooooook. No. There is no such thing as “having” to hide your friendship with someone in a healthy relationship.
Here are the four options when you’re in a relationship (and these are the four possibilities of your guy friend’s relationship):
Your partner has reasonable boundaries and requests and you respect them (healthy!).
Your partner has reasonable boundaries and requests and you don’t respect them (unhealthy!).
Your partner has unreasonable boundaries and requests and you respect them (unhealthy!).
Your partner has unreasonable boundaries and requests and you don’t respect them (unhealthy on everyone’s part!).
Right now your precious guy friend is either a #2 or a #4, depending on your position vis-a-vis his girlfriend. This means that this dude on purpose has a super unhealthy bad relationship that is in large part his fault. He is not required to be in this relationship at all because he’s an adult!!!
(I will hold space for the off chance that maybe—maybe!—his girlfriend is super abusive and has been isolating him from friends and family for years. I highly doubt that, but in that case, yes, he’s more trapped than what I’m saying and has a lot less choice in how his relationship unfolds).
The second thing that you’re ignoring: His girlfriend is… sort of right. I mean it seems like you two do have more than a friendship in certain ways. I does seem like you might not be over him if you still are framing parts of him dating someone as “picking them” over you. I’m sure this is fueled by our rom-com narratives, but it might feel to you like there is a long-arc story here that leads you two finally getting together. Please stop reading that story. Close that book. Be with someone who likes you early on and is single.
Ultimately, what just happened is not that your guy friend chose yet another girlfriend over you. What happened is that you found out that the guy you’ve always had a crush on sucks shit, and you don’t want that to be the case, and conveniently, if you focus on his girlfriend sucking shit instead you don’t have to deal with this harsh truth. Because, frankly, yes, I think you still do want him, so much that you may also be feeling—consciously or subconsciously, I don’t know—that if you can convince him of the fact that his girlfriend sucks and is unfair he might leave her for a chill girl like you. That is not the case, sadly, and ultimately, I don’t think you’d like it all that much should it actually happen. I think he’d be shitty and unappreciative of you, because he already has shown you that that’s how he treats you and his current girlfriend. I don’t think he’s maliciously bad per se (maybe?!) but his actions certainly align strongly with dipshittery.
So, my advice is this: cut him out of your life, completely. Now is the perfect time! Mourn what you lost with him, which was a guy friend with low expectations and low effort. You can find that again, I swear. I swear, I swear, I swear!!!! I know my letter was harsh, but that’s because this dude sucks. Please remember that you do not suck. You do NOT want a guy like this to “choose you.” Feeling this type of loss and rejection is going to hurt, and you’re going to have to go through it. There is no cheat code. Be sad, wallow, moan to your mom or therapist or dog. Then pick yourself up and start building up more blocks of self-love so that guys like this don’t seem so shiny and cool. You’re worth a whole lot more than a hidden text message thread and some weed-fueled inside jokes.
❤️❤️❤️NOTE: because so many sweetie pies have been asking questions, it can take up to a month or two to answer them. I’M SORRY. I try to answer “urgent” / timely letters ASAP and more general questions later.
IF I HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO YOUR LETTER, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO RESEND!!! I DON’T MIND AT ALL!!!❤️❤️❤️
Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter; she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tweets about everything else at @1followernodad, is a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. You can reach her or yell at her at email@example.com.