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How friendly is too friendly with an attached man?
October 30, 2011 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Are you a bad person if your guy friend leaves his girlfriend for you?

I just moved to a new city and enrolled in a grad program, not knowing anyone at this university. I met a guy who happens to be in all of my classes, and we've started sitting next to each other and working on assignments in between classes together. I would text him about homework related questions, and we'd chit chat a little while working together - nothing flirtatious in my opinion. I found out he had a girlfriend about a month into knowing him when I asked an unrelated question, and hadn't heard anything more about her till she started showing up to sit with us while we worked on our assignments. Now she's always hanging around and trying to get him to leave early, which makes me think she has a problem with my guy friend and I spending so much time together. We do see each other every day of the week due to our schedules. I am attracted to him since it's comfortable being together (and okay, he's cute too). Our personalities click really well, with us finishing each other's sentences and having complementary strengths when it comes to completing the homework assignments. I am not actively pursuing anything other than friendship, but I get the sense that he 's attracted to me as well since I catch him staring at me, he's showing up around me more often, and he seems bored talking to his girlfriend.

Should I stop hanging out with him for his sake and her sake... will karma bite me in the a** if he ends up breaking up with her? Is it immoral? Since they're not married, should I not be worrying about this?

I might be making something out of nothing, but my intuition about guys is rarely wrong. I don't have close male friends, so perhaps I just feel conflicted due to not having much experience with men.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
You said you're not pursuing anything other than friendship. So any break-up under those circumstances isn't your fault, and certainly isn't "immoral."
posted by jayder at 9:43 AM on October 30, 2011


"I found out he had a girlfriend about a month into knowing him when I asked an unrelated question."

He likes you, and is a little sleazy and/or unhappy/uncertain in his current relationship. Morality is totally subjective so I can't comment on that. If you enjoy the flirting, say nothing. If you want to know where you stand, raise the issue. If you end up with him, be aware that he's likely to do the same thing to you if things get a bit stale.
posted by dickasso at 9:45 AM on October 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


As long as you aren't messing in their relationship or actively competing for his affections, I see nothing wrong with what you are doing. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior. You are not responsible for his or her feelings. If he does break up with her, I'd advise you to take it slow if you're interested in him but that's not what you're asking. And if she ever asks, you're not interested in him.
posted by amanda at 9:46 AM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


It sounds like he might be interested in you. Who knows what his relationship is like with his girlfriend. I will say, though, that if he leaves his girlfriend for you he may eventually leave YOU for someone else.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:54 AM on October 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


actively competing for his affections

This is fine too. You don't have an obligation to her. Do you want to date him? Tell him that, and see what happens. If you're not interested though, back off, because there's no point in weakening their relationship then.

People break up with other people all the time, especially in college. The issue of "morality" is ridiculous here. And karma doesn't exist.
posted by spaltavian at 9:55 AM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I suspect you're more than a little pleased to know that he's attracted to you. Because of that, I think you should back off for your own sake.

This isn't about moral or immoral, or karmic justice. It's about the likelihood of embarrassing yourself or getting caught up in all sorts of drama. To review: you're spending a lot of exclusive time with a man who has a girlfriend, the girlfriend seems suspicious or jealous (because that's just her nature? because he's cheated on her in the past? who knows?), the guy acts as if he's attracted to you and indicates that he's bored with his girlfriend, you like the attention. If you're already kinda sorta wondering if you should disengage, you should.

In my experience, a guy who spends exclusive time with a woman he is attracted to when he also has a girlfriend, who acts bored with his girlfriend but doesn't break up with her, who acts attracted to his friend and doesn't limit his time with her--that guy is bad news.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:56 AM on October 30, 2011 [69 favorites]


You need to have a talk with him, when she isn't around.

"Hey buddy, we need to talk. I'm picking up on all these vibes between us, both from my end and I sense on your end. That might be interesting, but you do have a girlfriend and I'm not real interested in somehow preparing his side corn while he's still shucking the his main corn, ok? Maybe I'm wrong here, misconstruing something and if so, just say so. Otherwise, this let's knock it off ok. I'm not side corn, interested in upgrading from side corn to main cob or hanging out with someone who would pull that"

"Do you have any questions?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:02 AM on October 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Are you a bad person if your guy friend leaves his girlfriend for you?

This question doesn't seem to match reality, if reality is what you've outlined in the rest of your post after the front page jump. It doesn't seem like he's left her for you, is thinking of leaving her for you, has talked about leaving her for you.

It's your interpretation so far that he's bored with his girlfriend, in my opinion.

No, I don't think it's bad mojo or anything if he were to break up with her to be with you, but right now, like Meg Murry says, you're just setting yourself up for a bunch of drama and embarrassing yourself by trying to work on this guy to be with you and not her.
posted by sweetkid at 10:06 AM on October 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think you can still hang out with him, do homework together, etc. Just don't do anything you wouldn't otherwise do with a friend you weren't attracted to. Like ... imagine that he is your brother. If you're not OK doing something if he was your brother you probably shouldn't be doing it with him if he has a girl friend.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:08 AM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, you're not a bad person. But this guy does sound like bad news. He doesn't respect his current girl to break it off to save her feelings.

Unless, of course, he's flirting subconsciously. Either way I think you need to dial it down a bit. You can be friends with him without flirting. Either he will break up with her because it would have happened anyway or things will go back to normal for him.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 10:16 AM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Their relationship is NOT your problem. If you ask him to leave her for you, yeah, that might be a bit of jerk move in some people's eyes.

I personally think all's fair in love and war and most importantly, that it's his business how he behaves himself. If he needs to spend less time with you, he should. That's not your problem at all because you're not psychic and you can't control him.

Karma in the way you're using it is victim-blaming nonsense, by the way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:25 AM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is it immoral? Since they're not married, should I not be worrying about this?

Well, a couple thoughts come to my mind:

Imagine the girlfriend saw all the things you do when she's not around. Cutesy finishing each other's sentences, him staring at you, etc. How do you think she would feel if she were watching all that? Do you think it would make her feel like shit? Not to mention the bored way he acts towards her when she does show up. I guess to me, someone's marital status isn't a factor at all in whether I feel bad about making them feel like shit. They're still a person with feelings. Why do you think whether a person is married or not is a crucial factor in whether it's okay to hurt them?

Now take that scenario and imagine the roles are reversed. This guy is your boyfriend, and he's being cutesy and staring at another girl. And then when you come around, he's clearly bored to be talking to you instead of her and makes you well aware of it. How would you feel? Welcome to your future if you end up dating this guy. Don't play yourself into thinking there's something special about you, if he does it with you, he'll to it TO you once he gets bored again like he is now with his GF. And it will be one of those situations where you KNOW there is something between them but can't say anything without looking crazy because he insists they are "just friends" and that is technically true. Why would you want a boyfriend who you know acts like this behind the back (and to the face of) of his current girlfriends. Is your self esteem low like you don't think you could get anyone more upstanding?

The other thing here is, how do you know even if he broke up with his gf that he would want to jump into another relationship? Given his actions here I wouldn't be surprised if you guys hooked up a couple times and then he got bored and found someone else to be "friends" with. It kind of sounds to me like he knows that he has you in the bag.

Honestly, I would never date this guy anyway even if they broke up because I would consider his "stare-y, sentence-finishy, spending all your time together" actions to be grossly untrustworthy and sleazy.

But if you don't feel like you have any other options, then back WAY off and be nice to the gf when she comes around. By back way off I mean stop the sentence finishing and anything else that's flirting or getting close to the line of flirting. Find other people to sit next to and study with too instead of just him all the time. THEN if they break up and he asks you out, you can feel 100% good about yourself, instead of the twinge in the back of your mind that is telling you it's not quite on the up and up, which I agree with.
posted by cairdeas at 10:26 AM on October 30, 2011 [60 favorites]


will karma bite me in the a** if he ends up breaking up with her?
And-- I don't really know anything about karma as it is officially defined in religions. I don't know if a phenomenon where you will get personally bitten in the ass if you do something wrong, actually exists or if that is what "karma" is supposed to mean.

But my personal idea of karma is this: everyone does their part to make the world better and more awesome, and a place where people treat each other better. Or people do their part to make the world worse and a place where people act crappier.

If I walk around acting like a dick, being rude and uncaring to people -- if I am uncaring to someone and make their day worse and make them feel bad, then they might act the little bit less caring or ruder to the next person they encounter. And it ripples out from there. And people get more used to treating each other badly, and do it more often. People see it's okay to act like that and become influenced by it.

If I walk around being nice, if I show people kindness, then maybe a few people will be slightly more kind to others then they might otherwise have been. And maybe that will ripple out, and maybe people will also get in the habit of being a little nicer to others, etc. People start getting embarrassed to act badly towards others when they see it's not the norm.

I think little actions add up. In that sense, I do think they way you act here could have more of an wider effect than it might appear to have. Maybe, in your classes, or in your social circle or in your school, it'll become that littlest bit more acceptable to flirt with your friends behind the back of your girlfriend, or treat your girlfriend like crap when you get bored.
posted by cairdeas at 10:41 AM on October 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


> If you're already kinda sorta wondering if you should disengage, you should.

This is what I would say. This is clearly a grey area as evidenced by the differing responses you are getting, but I am also a "least harm" person and if you're making the girlfriend nervous and you know/suspect that and you continue to do what you are doing then I think that's a somewhat uncaring approach to someone else's feelings. And, sure, that person is not even on your feelings-radar and not your responsibility by nearly all definitions of how that sort of thing works. However, I'd balance what you get out of this with what may be transpiring in this guy's relationship [and how if he's unhappy in this relationship he's sort of acting maybe like a jerk and maybe you are assisting in that] and act accordingly.

I think you're letter-of-the-law totally fine, but since you brought up the issue of karma, then yeah the path you are choosing is not the least-suffering path and is definitely creating an attachment/desire situation that you definitely have cause to believe is causing suffering [however mild] in another person. So strictly speaking, yeah it's karmically uncool.
posted by jessamyn at 10:49 AM on October 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Please. Many (most?) relationships that end, end when someone else has come into the picture. If a relationship is solid, it doesn't get un-solid because of a new friend. But a new friend is often the catalyst for ending something that was ready to end. So find out if he's wanting to date you.

If not, don't be a thing on the side; that's humiliating. And it's gross to be that girl who is trained to feel superior when she gets told or showed how bored he is in his relationship, when he's not actually going to leave the relationship. I think that role is more common, and more harmful to the primary relationship than the "homewrecker" role. I see it all the time, and don't understand how women put up with it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:49 AM on October 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you guys were a little older, I'd call him your office husband. I disagree with the folks who say he will obviously cheat on you, because we can't know that. We only know that you guys are crushing on each other and that's making his girlfriend rightfully suspicious.

So, yeah, talk to him! Tell him you want to respect his relationship, but you're also crushing on him, so you might need to take a step back. See if he has questions. You either keep yourself from getting more emotionally entangled with an attached classmate, or he does the right thing and breaks up with her Before the two of you get more emotionally involved.

Timing and honesty will be the things that reduce drama and keep you from being a "bad person".
posted by ldthomps at 10:51 AM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


OP, you can only be judged by your own actions. Act like the kind of person you admire would act in this situation. Respect your friend's relationship, and if you feel like you're the cause of friction between them you should back off a bit.

If he makes the decision to break up with her because he's madly in love with you, power to the both of you. But you should not be doing anything that can remotely be considered to be helping that along.
posted by auto-correct at 10:57 AM on October 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't believe in karma, but I do believe in owning my actions. You say you are attracted to this guy and you believe he is attracted to you. You are not "actively" pursuing anything with him, but I do believe that you are giving him the kind of attention and engaging in a situation which is harmful to his relationship with her - and you know this, thus your question. So, while I think that his relationship is his business to deal with, I also believe that if you suspect that you are doing harm to it and yet continue to hang out with him that you need to be honest with yourself about that. And if that bothers you, stop.
posted by sm1tten at 11:10 AM on October 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Seconding ldthomps. This is the common sense approach

This judgmental stuff is silly. Most people aren't going to throw away a mediocre relationship unless there is some reason to. It's just inertia and the fact that even this seems to make people happier than no relationship at all. If you happen to be the reason he moves on, well that's fine. Go for it with honesty and gusto.
posted by Winnemac at 11:17 AM on October 30, 2011


If you have a sneaking suspicion he likes you, you're probably right. Trust your gut. I'd back off from this friendship for your sake because you're the one who is most likely to get hurt in this situation. This guy gets the security of his long term relationship, not having to risk being alone, while having flattering attention and intellectual fulfillment on the side from you. Who knows if he'll stay with his girlfriend or break up with her? That's out of your hands, so don't pin your hopes on him because you really know nothing about his relationship with his girlfriend. Be civil towards him, but try to keep a healthy distance if you feel you're becoming emotionally invested.

I also don't think it's immoral if you're the girl to show a guy what he's potentially missing in his current relationship. A guy can't be lured away if he's not unhappy to start with. Lots of relationships end because the people aren't right for each other. Let him work that out for himself with his girlfriend on his own time, and stay out of it. If he's in your grad program, he's probably not going anywhere anyways.
posted by sunnychef88 at 11:18 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


From what you say about your relationship with this guy, it sounds like everything is pretty much on the friendly side of things. If it progresses any further than that, you should let him know that you're not interested in being a girl on the side, then let him make his own call. The girlfriend might be reading this right, or she might not, but chances are that she's seeing a threat to her relationship. Full disclosure: I was the guy in a very similar situation. I made a point of only making that leap if I felt I could stick with it. Almost four years later, I have.
posted by Gilbert at 11:18 AM on October 30, 2011


I agree with Meg_Murray that all the drama is the biggest thing here, and yes, you should disengage.

I also want to add that your question is whether you're a bad person if this guy leaves his girlfriend for you. I think this says, contrary to your assertion that you're not encouraging it, that you do want it to happen and that you probably are encouraging it (perhaps in subtle and subconscious ways).

I know there's a substantial contingent here that will basically say "you never owe anyone other than yourself anything" on every type of question, and that's illustrated by saying here, for example, that you're not responsible for their behavior and don't owe either of them anything. Fact is, they're in a relationship. I think it's pretty rotten to pursue people who are taken, whether married or unmarried. And I think, by hanging around when you have this sense and set of circumstances you describe, that even if you're thinking "oh what who me, no I just want to be friends, but yeah I'm daydreaming about you leaving your monogamous partner for me," that counts on a ethical human level about the same as actively pursuing this guy. How do you do the right thing here? Leave this jerk behind and go make some new friends.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:20 AM on October 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


But this guy does sound like bad news. He doesn't respect his current girl to break it off to save her feelings.

I don't agree with this. Your 20s is where you're supposed to figure out stuff like this, moving from Relationships 101 to Relationships 102 where things can be more messy and complex. He sounds less like he's bad news and more like he's, you know, 22.

OP, the predictable path of this relationship is:

1/ You continue to hang out together, each suspecting but not being sure the other is attracted to you.
2/ You kiss. You both freak out.
3a/ He breaks up with his girlfriend and the two of you date.
3b/ He does not break up with his girlfriend and you are no longer friends.

If 3a does not happen very, very quickly after 2, or if we end up at 3c (He does not break up with his girlfriend while whining about how much he likes you), that is the point at which you decide he's a douche and bolt.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:24 AM on October 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Let's look at all the options:

1) He's flirting subconsciously, thinks you're just good friends, actually really likes his current girlfriend. Having a conversation with him in this case will be awkward.

2) He's flirting deliberately, but wants to know that he has a sure thing before he leaves his current girlfriend. If you tell him you like him then you'll get him, but this would also confirm him as an asshole (or, at a minimum, a coward).

3) He's flirting deliberately but also likes his current girlfriend, would be happy to get something on the side though... See number 2.

4) He knows he likes you and he knows things are going south with his current girlfriend, but is also something of a decent guy. If you talk to him, he'll have to say no since he has a girlfriend. All you can do in this case is wait until things naturally come to an end between him and his girlfriend, and then approach him when he's free and clear.
posted by anaelith at 11:26 AM on October 30, 2011


Yeah, I second DarlingBri so hard. I don't agree that the ethical thing here is for you to cut this guy off because otherwise he might decide to break up with his girlfriend for you. If he feels like his relationship with his girlfriend is the most important thing in his life, then he'll back off. And if he doesn't love his girlfriend anymore and breaks up with her, that's his call too. Either way you need to respect his feelings, but those are choices he gets to make. People in relationships sometimes face temptations, they're the ones who get to decide how to handle those temptations. There are things you should do to not be a dick about this --- like say, not going out drinking with him --- but ultimately his relationship with his girlfriend is on him.
posted by Diablevert at 11:30 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


This guy is letting you in on something key about himself that you are either ignoring or not registering because you are distracted by the fact that like him: he is not respectful of his girlfriend's feelings. That is how he treats the woman in his life--both to her face (behaves as though he is bored) and behind her back (stares at another woman/you; flirts with other women/you). For this reason, he is not much of a catch. Your own questioning your position in this is good because if you listen to that part of yourself (and the great advice here), you will see that this isn't worth it. Other fish in the sea. Lots (without drama. Which, btw, I think is what this guy is really after--sexual/romantic drama centered around him).
posted by marimeko at 11:35 AM on October 30, 2011 [34 favorites]


OP, the predictable path of this relationship is:
1/ You continue to hang out together, each suspecting but not being sure the other is attracted to you.
2/ You kiss. You both freak out.
3a/ He breaks up with his girlfriend and the two of you date.
3b/ He does not break up with his girlfriend and you are no longer friends.


You forgot 3c: he doesn't break up with his girlfriend and the two of you cheat. I think it's heading in this direction.

With regards to karma: I would recommend that you stop spending any time with him beyond the bare minimum that you have to do daily for grad school. No recreational study hangouts, nothing like that. Your gut is on the money for this behavior and while TECHNICALLY nothing has happened, if you keep this up, some day it will.

Don't tell him you likey-like him. I'm sure he knows. And telling a guy, "I really want to date you, break up with her for me," is bad karma. Not to mention obnoxious. A polite person would wait for the guy to break up with the girlfriend on his own and THEN make a move or pick up on his move. Going there with someone who is taken is where things get ugly. Right now you're walking the borderline of TECHNICALLY, but given how this dude is acting in front of you and her, I think he'd be just fine with cheating and then telling her she's being a jealous bitch for suspecting RIGHTLY that something is going on here.

And I'm sorry, but when people have boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses, YOU FIND THIS OUT EARLY ON just in casual conversation with them. If someone loves and respects their SO (or lives with them), they will mention them in conversation because the SO is in their daily life. The part where you didn't find out he had an SO for a month is not a good sign either.

Also, this guy is in your grad program. Whether or not you end up dating or not or he boinks you once and dumps you or you have a nasty incident of cheating, you'll be seeing him every day for years. This is a big giant "don't shit where you eat" situation that has high possibility for ugly. Please don't go there with this, I just don't see it ending well, even if his finishing your sentences is adorable.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:46 AM on October 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Last thought from me: a few comments have said things along the lines that if the guy is flirting with you, his relationship must not be all that great to begin with/he must be unhappy/his relationship must be mediocre, etc.

Even if that were always true -- and I don't agree at all that it is -- when your relationship is not that great the adult thing to do is to communicate about it and to do your best work it out. To be honest and forthright with your partner about the way you are feeling. To still respect your partner and do your best to be careful with their feelings and not to hurt them. And to leave your partner if it gets to the point where you realize it will not be working out,and you might end up really hurting them. Because hurting your partner is an outcome that you are still doing your best to avoid no matter how mediocre the relationship is.

The adult thing to do is NOT to just go start a flirtation with someone else and flagrantly rub in your partner's face how bored you clearly are with them. *Especially* when your partner is still clearly trying to keep the relationship going -- like the girlfriend in your situation showing up all the time and trying to get him to leave. Even assuming their relatioship is mediocre or has problems, if they're still trying to work it out, or he's letting her believe they're still trying to work it out, it's a really bad sign for what he's like that he's doing this on the side.

It is a sign of how he will act in relationships if there are problems, which there always are.
posted by cairdeas at 12:00 PM on October 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


"A polite person would wait for the guy to break up with the girlfriend on his own and THEN make a move or pick up on his move."

That's technically the answer to your question, but I think you're asking the wrong question.

You were supposedly friends for this guy for a month before you found out he even had a girlfriend, which means he was lying about her by omission in front of you.

Then she starts spending time with him in your presence, but you haven't become friends with her. Instead, a piece of jealousy theatre is being enacted with you as the audience.

On top of this, he starts displaying his boredom with her and contrasting it to his fascination with you.

Maybe you aren't a bad person if you continue to go along with this, but you are certainly gullible. You are being used as a pawn in a game you're only partially aware of. He may have any number of other goals besides replacing his current girlfriend with you. Perhaps he just wants to get her to appreciate what she has in him and work harder to please him so that she may one day earn the level of commitment and assurance from him that she craves. Come on, baby, try just a little harder.

Whatever the endgame, though, it's intended to benefit him and not you and not her.

Are there never any scenarios where it's okay for a guy to break up with one woman to pursue another woman he likes more? Of course there are, but I think this is not one and I think you know it.

To reassure you, I don't think you're guilty of anything up until now, but having ferreted the situation enough to ask this question, if you go along with it any more, you will be complicit in your own manipulation.

I definitely do not suggest that you raise the question with him. That's almost certainly what he wants. Instead, cool off, back off, be polite and distant and limit your interactions to what's strictly necessary.

Who knows, that might even cause him to wake up and smell the coffee, in which case he'll appropriately break up with his gf and appropriately set his cap at you. But I think if he does, you should consider him to have already blown his chances by the way he's behaved already. Since he's 22 and not 32, though, maybe you would be nice enough to explain that to him: "I think you were trying to play GF and me off against each other and I could never get involved with anyone who manipulates people like that. That's why I took a step back on our friendship, too, to be honest - it's not really the kind of behaviour I admire in a friend." Then he'll have a chance to wise up and mend his evil ways. But you don't say this unless he asks, which I'm betting he won't.
posted by tel3path at 12:25 PM on October 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


It is a sign of how he will act in relationships if there are problems

No, it isn't. We don't know the relationship with his current girlfriend at all, nor do we know where this guy is in his life. We have absolutely no reason to think this is a pattern of behavior for him, or if he's ever encountered this situation before. Maybe he's never been in this situation before and hasn't figured out what to do yet. Maybe he's not sure you like him. There could be a lot of factors here.

For all we know, he's getting the same silly advice that you're getting: he has to stay in a relationship he doesn't like because it's somehow wrong to break up with his girlfriend for someone he likes better.

Tell you're interested, if you are. If he tries to keep you on the side, then you know what kind of person he is.
posted by spaltavian at 12:28 PM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


"For all we know, he's getting the same silly advice that you're getting: he has to stay in a relationship he doesn't like because it's somehow wrong to break up with his girlfriend for someone he likes better."

To be clear, I'm explicitly not giving that advice. The advice I'm giving is that it's okay for him to break up with his girlfriend for the OP, but not OK for him to manipulate both of them to compete for his affections, which is what he seems to be doing.
posted by tel3path at 12:33 PM on October 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


The adult thing to do is NOT to just go start a flirtation with someone else and flagrantly rub in your partner's face how bored you clearly are with them. *Especially* when your partner is still clearly trying to keep the relationship going -- like the girlfriend in your situation showing up all the time and trying to get him to leave.

This is very true.

I spent a year in his girlfriend's shoes. It's hard to explain how much it hurts to be a third wheel in your own relationship. How painful it is to keep trying to keep things together while the person you love gets angry with you for wanting to spend time together while lighting up around their new crush. There's no question that the relationship was on its way out. The flirting my ex was doing on the side was a symptom of the problem. I don't think the other girl caused the end of my relationship at all. Similarly, I don't think you're doing anything wrong here.

But personally, I'd never want to be a party to the kind of pain and humiliation he's inflicting on her right now. It would make me sick. If I were in your shoes, I would cut things, way, way back. Be friendly, but not so flirty. There's a lot of hurting going on right now between them. Do you really want to be involved in that? Can you really respect someone who is doing what he is doing to his girlfriend?

Just something to consider.
posted by millions of peaches at 12:41 PM on October 30, 2011 [21 favorites]


I don't think you have done anything wrong to this guy or the girl who is already in his life, but I do think that you have seen a window into his character that is making you uncomfortable and damn well should. There is absolutely nothing wrong with clicking or being cutsey with the girl who is in all of your class even though you have a girlfriend, and there is nothing wrong with having a crush on that girl. However there are a lot of things wrong with doing these things despite them making ones girlfriend feel awful. This guy cares more about limerence then he does about how he makes the women in his life feel.

He has already shown you how he treats the women in his life, how he would treat you, and its not pretty. Even if he never cheats on you you already know that he is bad news. Rather than be upset, I would recommend thanking him for showing you who he is, even if you never say anything out loud to him, and leaving it all at that.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:48 PM on October 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think it's ok to be friends with guys - heck, my closest friends are all guys, and most of them aren't exes either. My best guy friend is great at being just my friend, and an awesome husband to his wife. I met him during grad studies, we had similar projects. When we hang out we're a couple of big-kid engineer music/movie/tv show nerd types.

It's normal to experience a bit of crushing early on. It goes away with time, especially when you both maintain some boundaries. If one/both parties are in a relationship, then you're both obligated to maintain some boundaries, such as no physical contact or intentional flirting, and dissuading any behaviour that could be construed as temptation. You're just friends and nothing more, able to talk schoolwork and other mutual interests.

If you want to hang out with him, under the condition you just keep things as friends (and maintain above boundaries), then go right ahead. Let him make his own choices, but if he's going to give you the impression he's interested in you romantically, you need to tell him you're not interested in anything more than friendship while he's still dating her. Don't be a cheater.

It's his and his girlfriend's responsibility to manage their own relationship, yours is just to accept however that impacts your friendship with him. If he wants to stay with her, she will get priority.
posted by lizbunny at 12:57 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you a bad person if your guy friend leaves his girlfriend for you?

No, you are not a bad person...but you have to ask yourself what is preventing this dude from doing the same to you that he did to another girl.

The answer is "nothing".
posted by hal_c_on at 1:25 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also think that if you don't play along, he will find someone else who will, and restart the game with them. Possibly right in front of you.

You see, this is probably not about you. It's not you he fancies, it's himself. You aren't that important.
posted by tel3path at 1:26 PM on October 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


You're not a bad person for doing this. And I wouldn't even say you shouldn't - there are some people who just need to be in a relationship all the time, and don't leave one until someone else comes along, and this guy may be that kind of person.

But. You seem to be assuming that he's going to leave his girlfriend for you. This is possible. But it's equally possible that he's going to sleep with you and then stay with his girlfriend. So, if something physical happens, don't assume that he's going to end his relationship.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:51 PM on October 30, 2011


I was both you, and then the girlfriend; that's how this plays out. I was an asshole for doing it. So was the next girl who came along.

Run.
posted by lhall at 1:54 PM on October 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you end up with him, be aware that he's likely to do the same thing to you if things get a bit stale.

I just want to throw out there - despite inviting much vehement disagreement - that this is definitely not always the case, especially in your early twenties. I've not been either party in a relationship where this has happened, but one of my best friends has, and he's getting married next year.

We're all perfect strangers on the internet; we don't know you, and we don't know this guy. Whilst, in a perfect world, we might all be some kind of platonic askme ideal, executing all our emotions with utmost sensitivity, thought, and empathy, this is the real world. Shit gets complicated; we can't always control our emotions or who we are attracted to; we don't always handle that attraction well, especially when we're young and just figuring stuff out.

This guy could be a manipulative shit. He could be an unhappy dude who is crushing on you. He could be someone who's very flirtatious by nature and wants/expects nothing more from his friendship with you than that. We don't know, we can't know, especially if you don't even know.

So I would just say that it's on you to make a judgment call on his character, and what you'd like to do with it, despite the gleeful rush to convict him in absentia here. But don't think, just because he's attracted to someone in addition to his girlfriend, he's by necessity some kind of serial cheating bastard. There's a lot more shades of grey here and you get to decide what's right, for you.
posted by smoke at 2:19 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have been in your position. I met A, who was dating B, and we (A and I) got along really well off the bat. A started lavishing attention on me, suddenly A and B broke up, and--after I voiced my concerns about what led to what (A denied it was anything more than a coincidence and said that their relationship was already on the ropes)--we started dating.

(Note that at this point, B and I had a couple of mutual friends who were displeased with this development, but while I had my qualms, I didn't feel I had done anything wrong. This was probably the trickiest part of the situation.)

Fast forward a couple of months: it became clear to me that A was manipulative and overbearing. We broke up, and it was ugly. Like, "I don't want to be in this person's presence again" ugly. I questioned my ability to read people at all for a while after that and am still pretty sensitive to it. I had some repairwork to do on the mutual-friend side (who continued to call me on it for a while afterward), and it only then became obvious that things looked shady from the outside.

I share this anecdote not because it'll clearly happen to you (I have other friends who were in a similar situation and the boyfriend and "other woman" are now happily married), but as an example of a worst-case scenario. Getting attention from someone charismatic is delightful, but it can also blind you to red flags (e.g., he may end up as disdainful of you as of his current girlfriend, which may come to you secondhand or even smack you in the face). It doesn't necessarily make you a bad person, but reciprocating any romantic attention might mark you as anything from naive to ill-intentioned.

(And finally: it's sort of a miraculous twist, but B and I are now sort-of friends, which is really the only positive outcome to the situation.)
posted by psoas at 3:11 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the people who are saying that even if you did start dating, he would definitely do this to you are being presumptuous. Some people stay in their relationships too long and don't finish those relationships until someone else comes along. This isn't optimal, but it doesn't make them sleazy or an awful person.

Of course, if you two start something more than flirtation while he's still with her, then we're talking something different. And then especially if he didn't break up with her soon after on top of that.
posted by pollex at 3:36 PM on October 30, 2011


Listen, if I dumped my boyfriend to spare his feelings every time I met another guy I totally hit it off with and got along with and could possibly see myself doin' it with, I would be switching dudes every two weeks. But I don't.

This guy isn't a total scumball because you guys get along and are attracted to each other. That sounds like me and a huge chunk of my male friends.

However, I'm also careful with my dude friends-I mention the boyfriend the first time we ever hang out,* I make it no secret that I'm really into him, I try to get all of us to hang out. It I'm close to the friend I acknowledge the mutual attraction in a "well duh I think you're hot but we're both dating people and it's nice to have a platonic broseph every once in a while" kind of way.

I mean, we're twenty-something heterosexual horn dogs of the opposite sex who are fairly attractive and have shit in common. Fuck yeah, I would fuck my best dude friends-if I was single, if there wasn't this huge chain reaction of crazy friend group drama that would happen afterward, if it wouldn't ruin our relationship. So I deal with the fact my boy friends are hot and like the same things I do because I am an adult, damn it.

I'm just learning this shit now (I'm 24), but you don't have to fuck everyone, and everyone you get along with isn't meant to be or whatever.


*unless I'm trying to get them to do me a favor, and admitting that in type make me feel so dirty I'm going to go ahead and stop doing that because it's shady
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:37 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not bad, but definitely foolish. As others have mentioned, if he's doing this now to his girlfriend, there's a good chance he'd turn around & do it to you if you got together. Plus there's still a big difference between crushing/flirting on a friend when you're attached and having both the basis for a relationship and the motivation. Sometimes people who behave that way are just crying wolf.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 3:44 PM on October 30, 2011


Well, I'm reading this a bit differently than others.

I think you have a crush on him and you're reading way too much into some pretty normal conversations. There is a world of difference between someone who's a good study partner and someone who's a good romantic partner. There's really nothing in your questions that says he sees you as anything more than a study partner.

His girlfriend may hang around because - hey, they are a couple. Or he may have asked her to run a bit of interference with you. You really have no way of knowing.

Why not make a few more friends at your school and look for someone who's unattached?
posted by 26.2 at 3:44 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hi, I have been in your situation, only there were more issues that would have made it to clear to a third-grader that taking up with the guy was A Bad Idea. I don't really know what's going on with your sitch, but I will tell you this: A clear conscience, knowing that you have done your best to be a good person? To me, perhaps because I do not have a clear conscience, it is more important than just about anything.

Is this the guy with whom you will be sharing a big portion of your life going forward? Who knows, although there are things in your tale that certainly would make me very wary of dating him. What you CAN do though, is make sure that his current girlfriend? Whether she be the sweetest thing on earth or be she hellspawn -- you can not act in a way that will lead her to being hurt. Being true to that obligation earns you a clean conscience, and does not mean that you and this guy can't achieve whatever X you're seeking, intimacy wise.

Unless the guy is no good. If so, this might lead to him trying to fuck with your mind by flirting with somebody in front of you, as he is currently doing with you and his girlfriend. But, win-win, right? If he does do this, if he miraculously acquires the ability to finish somebody else's sentences in a study group, then what do you do? You shake your head and think, "Thank FUCKING GOD I did not get caught up in this mess." Then you can rightfully congratulate yourself on being wise and good, buy yourself a cookie, and find a great guy who does not have caveat emptor writ large on him.
posted by angrycat at 4:19 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, I'm reading this a bit differently than others.

I think you have a crush on him and you're reading way too much into some pretty normal conversations. There is a world of difference between someone who's a good study partner and someone who's a good romantic partner. There's really nothing in your questions that says he sees you as anything more than a study partner.


I'm reading it this way, too. Unless we really are missing some key information, like if he's said anything to you about interest, or said something really overt, or if you've made out/had a lot of physical flirting, it sounds to me like you've created this situation in your head. That's an understandable thing to do if you're attracted to this guy, but it just might be that you're on the wrong track here.
posted by sweetkid at 4:29 PM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


But it's equally possible that he's going to sleep with you and then stay with his girlfriend.


Another common possibility, not yet mentioned a lot, is that a guy in this situation might leave his girlfriend but NOT date you. He might hook up with you once or twice, but what might be more important to him than you is the rediscovered sense of himself as an attractive guy with options, and rather than jump from one intense relationship right into the other, he might feel that the confidence you help give him helps form a 'stepping stone' he can use to step over you and out into an exciting new single life where he's not committed to dating anyone.

All these things are possibilities. Everything mentioned here so far is a possibility. The outcome can't be controlled, not by you alone. So best advice is to manage yourself as a class act, and let the chips fall where they may. Don't do anything you don't want to do, don't be part of damaging others by being involved in cheating or obliquely influencing, and don't get involved with anyone romantically unless you're getting the kind of relationship you actually want.
posted by Miko at 8:09 PM on October 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Are you a bad person if your guy friend leaves his girlfriend for you?

No.

will karma bite me in the a** if he ends up breaking up with her?

Not necessarily. People in their early twenties often stay in relationships long after their expiration date out of guilt and/or a sense that they have no other options. Waking up to this fact does not indicate lack of character or integrity.

If he does profess interest in/love for you, and you wish to reciprocate, you must insist that you will not do anything that will compromise their relationship and that you will not get involved with him unless he is single. If he breaks it off with her as a result, he has a backbone. And it does not mean that he will leave you for someone else later on.

Since they're not married, should I not be worrying about this?

No, you should not be worrying about this. This is the kind of thing that should happen before marriage, if it's going to--before a couple goes through with something they shouldn't, has children, etc. You're not throwing yourself at him. You're not directly intruding on their relationship in any way. As someone said earlier, all you are at this point is a catalyst. Continue to behave well (as you apparently are) and you will have nothing to regret.

I speak from personal experience. All turned out for the best.
posted by tully_monster at 8:33 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I started dating someone who was waffling about breaking up with his girlfriend. He broke up with her the day after we finally did something decisive. It hung over us for quite a while because we both felt like assholes. Moreover, because we had hurt someone to get into the relationship, we got sort of overinvested in it and it dragged on for 4 years when - in retrospect - it had a natural shelf life of maybe 6-12 months. And I am pretty sure he started his next relationship before we were done - definitely in heart, if not in body. He was a really great guy, but we made a series of bad mistakes together.
I wouldn't do it again. I don't believe in karma - too numinous for me - but I think there is such a thing as starting off on a bad footing and this is one way to do it. (I have been happily married to someone else for over 10 years.)
posted by gingerest at 8:47 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. I think a lot of respondents are reading way more into this question than I would.

First of all, from the way OP wrote the question it seems to me that the guy is engaging in subtle flirting, nothing overt. If this is the case, we can hardly fault him. You can't really control attraction, chemistry, and the like. It's not a crime to get along really well and be attracted to someone. They spend so much time together because of school stuff, it sounds like, not because they are meeting up at the ice cream parlor after school to share a milkshake or whatever.

Maybe I am being presumptuous but it sounds like this question touched a nerve for a lot of people. But the reality is we can't control anyone, even if we love them and even if we are in a relationship with them. We don't own people. And furthermore, I don't see anything in the behavior as written in the question that is wrong; I just see respondents to the question making lots of assumptions.

Maybe I live in some kind of alternate universe but to be honest I have several male friends who have girlfriends, and they flirt subtly but do not cross a line. I don't think they are consciously flirting and I don't think that they should be blamed for being attracted to women.

And, most relationships don't last forever, and end of some kind of reason. It's just reality.
posted by bearette at 9:00 PM on October 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, this kind of question invites a lot of transference - but we don't know enough to make any solid judgements about anyone.
If you end up with him, be aware that he's likely to do the same thing to you if things get a bit stale.
I just want to throw out there - despite inviting much vehement disagreement - that this is definitely not always the case, especially in your early twenties. I've not been either party in a relationship where this has happened, but one of my best friends has, and he's getting married next year.
Not always the case, of course, but it's a fairly good indicator. Not saying anything about your friend, but most people I've known who are like this have continued to be like this after marriage. Divorce rate in the US, something like 25% - right?
posted by dickasso at 3:13 AM on October 31, 2011


Not always the case, of course, but it's a fairly good indicator.

This is unknowable, especially in the context of the question.
posted by smoke at 3:42 AM on October 31, 2011


but I get the sense that he 's attracted to me as well since I catch him staring at me...

Upon rereading, yuck. Stay away. My Creep-o-Meter just went off the charts.
posted by kinetic at 6:10 AM on October 31, 2011


[folks, comments need to be answers to the OP and not a debate about the situation please, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 AM on October 31, 2011


Dude, I usually am not swimming against the tide, but the consensus here is way off. I don't think it's great to actively try to steal someone out of a relationship, but I don't think you have any ethical duty to stay away from this guy, nor do I think that the cheater rule applies. What if his current relationship is boring? Not a guarantee that your relationship with him would also be boring.

Story from my life: I was friends with this guy and totally attracted to him. Sadly for me, he was in a (terrible) relationship. I never made any moves on him, whether explicit or subtle, but I didn't avoid him either. About a month after his terrible relationship ended, he started dating again and I told him I was interested. He was super surprised. Then we had the best relationship for my life for a few years until circumstances pulled us apart. His relationship with me wasn't the same as his previous relationship because his ex and I are different people.

No, you should not stop hanging out with him. I'm not saying sleep with him, but you have no duty to "help" his relationship by removing your friendship. If his relationship sucks, it sucks for reasons that have nothing to do with you.
posted by prefpara at 3:58 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


The fact you are asking these questions when he apparently isn't makes me think you can find someone with the better sensitivity; e.g., someone who has values more like you.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:53 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


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