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Best friends are dating behind my back - how to deal?
November 25, 2012 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I think my best friends are dating behind my back which hurts my feelings. To further complicate matters, I like one of the best friends in a romantic way and I don't know how to deal with the whole situation. Help!!!

I asked this question a week or so ago.

Since then, a lot of things have happened that has made me way more confused than I was before. In fact, confused might not be the right word... bothered might be more appropriate.

He has broken up with his long distance girlfriend. A mutual friend of ours (who is a bit of a gossip but generally not a liar) mentioned that she thinks he and my other best friend are dating because she has seen them out on late night walks and when she goes to visit her boyfriend who is roommates with him, my friend is never there and often gone for the whole night.

Yet, when we all hang out as a group, he is still very touchy with me in ways that I would expect someone with a girlfriend or someone who is dating would not do. He'll lie down with his head on my lap or put his hand on my head when we talk for no reason and so on - little things like that.

I still don't think I want to pursue this. Partially because I think he might already be dating my best friend and if I confess, I'll just look stupid. I also think it's a passing sort of crush. Yet, I need tips on getting over this without alerting them that I like him. I can't just stop hanging out with them because we hang out quite a lot. If I stop suddenly, it seems strange.

I also need to come to terms that he and my other best friend may be dating. I realize they don't have to tell me anything and they might have their reasons for not telling me. I think I would be happy for them, but the fact that they are really secretive about it is really hurting my feelings. I'll feel like we're on uneven ground - all the times I've hung out with them thinking we're all friends when in fact, I'm just some third wheel. It'll feel like everything we did was insignificant and based on lies. I know I am sounding dramatic, but I have trust issues. I need to feel like I am worth telling things and I need to feel that I am valued as a friend or else I feel stupid and used. So how do I deal with this? If they do tell me later on, how do I continue being friends with them without feeling like a big fool?

Also, meanwhile, how should I act? I am already withdrawing and acting weird with them because I feel alone. I'm also insanely paranoid that nothing they tell me is the truth. I should trust them, but I've had a history of having friends stab me in the back and as a result, I'm over-the-top paranoid about things like this.

Sorry - this is a bit of a scattered question. There's so many things going on...
posted by cyml to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why would your best friends be keeping such a secret from you?
posted by cmoj at 5:10 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to comment on this one section, as I'm sure that others will give you great advice for the broader problem. You say:

I realize they don't have to tell me anything and they might have their reasons for not telling me. I think I would be happy for them, but the fact that they are really secretive about it is really hurting my feelings. I'll feel like we're on uneven ground - all the times I've hung out with them thinking we're all friends when in fact, I'm just some third wheel. It'll feel like everything we did was insignificant and based on lies. I know I am sounding dramatic, but I have trust issues. I need to feel like I am worth telling things and I need to feel that I am valued as a friend or else I feel stupid and used. So how do I deal with this?

I am already withdrawing and acting weird with them because I feel alone. I'm also insanely paranoid that nothing they tell me is the truth. I should trust them, but I've had a history of having friends stab me in the back and as a result, I'm over-the-top paranoid about things like this.


I can understand why you're feeling this way, but I think it maybe isn't the most helpful way to approach the situation. If these two friends of yours are dating, and choosing to keep it from you, it most likely is occurring for reasons that have nothing to do with you at all. Maybe they don't want to create drama within the whole group before they are pretty sure it's a relationship that's going to be somewhat long-lasting, maybe they're private people, etc. Them dating is not about you. Really, it's not a comment on you at all. I don't think that you should base your value as a friend in your friends' willingness to share deeply personal information that they may want/need to keep private for totally extraneous reasons. I say this as someone who almost never discloses when she's dating someone, except if I think it's serious - not because I don't trust my family/friends, or because I think less of them in any way, but because I consider it deeply private and personal information that is not yet firm or appropriate public consumption. Lying and backstabbing are very different from privacy, which sounds like it may well be what's going on here.
posted by UniversityNomad at 5:10 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I read the first few paragraphs and had the only answer that will help, as far as I am concerned: distance yourself. This is pointless drama, and you don't benefit from it. Walk away, find people who aren't prone to it, and treat yourself kindly.
posted by ellF at 5:11 PM on November 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


You were hot and cold anyway, and you say it's a passing crush. So there isn't some kind of personal betrayal here. Don't worry about who is dating whom, or when they decide to go public with it, or whatever else. People's private lives are private until and unless they make them public. All of this angst is in response to hearsay repeated by someone you consider "a bit of a gossip." You can choose at any time to not engage in gossip and drama.

In general, if you like someone, ask them out. And if you aren't comfortable with people putting their heads in your lap flirtatiously, you can say so when they lean on you.
posted by headnsouth at 5:16 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


They may be keeping it on the down-low from everyone until they know whether or not they want to continue to date. It may be new for them, so don't think that keeping it from you has anything to do with you personally.
posted by xingcat at 5:18 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"My gossipy friend thinks they are dating" is maybe a little bit better basis for behavior than "I had a dream that they were dating." You've got nothing to go on right now. In fact, you have worse than nothing because you have someone who isn't always lying telling you things about people, and a headful of paranoia because of shitty past experiences in similar situations. Start seeing that as the situation rather than "welp, I guess they're dating and didn't tell me because everyone is a jerk" which is what you have now. That mindset isn't going to solve anything, but it is rather potent fertilizer for self-doubt and drama and it sounds like you've had enough of that in your life.

Also, did you tell him to cut out the physical shit like was suggested in your previous question? Because you need to tell him to cut out the physical shit if you ever intend on figuring out what the hell is going on with you two. And also because it is inappropriate behavior on his part.
posted by griphus at 5:29 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well I didn't tell him to cut it out, but I move away when I sense that he is going to do something... maybe I need to be a bit more explicit.

Also, I'm not hurt that they aren't telling me they're dating... I'm worried that I may be unwanted and that hurts. They still ask me to hang out but I'm paranoid that they might be asking me to be nice or they don't want me to be suspicious that something is going on or whatever. I might be thinking too much into it, but I just don't want to be strung along for the ride. If they want to date, fine, but I don't like being made a third wheel without knowing about it.
posted by cyml at 5:37 PM on November 25, 2012


That previous post was confusing - I am going to clarify.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm hurt they aren't telling me that they're dating because it means that I am not fully aware of the group dynamic. As a result, I don't know how to behave and that makes me feel awkward, weird and uncomfortable. Also, it would make our past gatherings and experiences seem fake somehow.
posted by cyml at 5:43 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, you need to be explicit when someone is making you physically uncomfortable. On a general basis, don't ever expect anyone to pick up signals or body language or subtle hints or any of that nonsense, especially if you're trying to get them to stop doing something they want to do. If you actually intend on getting this dude to stop being handsy, you need to spell it out: "dude, your being this physical is making me uncomfortable and I'd like you to stop." I mean, you can couch it in any language you like, but the point needs to be clear as day that you do not appreciate this behavior.
posted by griphus at 5:45 PM on November 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


I sympathize with you. When a small group of people are friends and then two of them start dating each other, it *does* change things. Suddenly there are new boundaries. Suddenly the two of them are closer to each other in many ways where before you were all equally close. Suddenly there are a lot of private things shared between the two of them when before you all knew each other equally well. Now there will be things they do together and don't invite you, when before it would have been shocking not to have been invited. It can be jarring and suck, at first. And that's when the two of them continue acting normal, rather than doing the lap-sitting smoochyface thing in front of you all the time. So, I sympathize.

I think it is okay for you to start unmeshing yourself from them if you want to. I know you said it'll seem strange if you stop hanging out with them as much. But the dynamic between the three of you has already changed, and you weren't the one who changed it. It is perfectly all right for you to be comfortable being really close friends with two individuals, and not as comfortable being really close friends with those same individuals as a couple. It's not what you "signed up for," so to speak - not that there is anything wrong with them coupling up, just that now it's a totally different group dynamic than when your friendship began.

I don't think you need to feel stupid or lied-to if they are dating and haven't told you, because as everyone said above, there are a million good reasons they could have for not telling you. One of those could very well be that they don't want to make your group dynamic awkward and lose you.

About this: we all hang out as a group, he is still very touchy with me in ways that I would expect someone with a girlfriend or someone who is dating would not do.

I think this guy really likes flirting/attention/creating crushy energy with different girls. It sounds like his behavior (flirting with you even while having a girlfriend/possibly dating your friend/not necessarily interested in you) causes you a certain amount of confusion and distress. I think the best thing to do here if you want to continue being good friends with him is to really firm up those boundaries, to ask him to sit up when he puts his head in your lap, to remove his hand when he touches you, etc. Let people flirt with you when it makes you feel happy and good, rather than confused.
posted by cairdeas at 5:48 PM on November 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is that I'm hurt they aren't telling me that they're dating because it means that I am not fully aware of the group dynamic. As a result, I don't know how to behave and that makes me feel awkward, weird and uncomfortable. Also, it would make our past gatherings and experiences seem fake somehow.
Except you don't know if they are dating or not.

You control how you behave, and if you choose to behave awkwardly because you suspect they may be dating, that's your choice. If they are your best friends and you don't want to date this guy, I don't know why your behavior would change if the two of them are dating.

One option is to say "Hey, are you and my other best friend dating?"
posted by Sal and Richard at 5:50 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you are making a LOT of assumptions about people's motivations here, especially since all those assumptions are based on something that may or may not be true!

They still ask me to hang out but I'm paranoid that they might be asking me to be nice or they don't want me to be suspicious that something is going on or whatever.

Most people really don't have the energy to go this far. If they ask you to hang out, 99% of the time, it's because they want to hang out with you. If they ARE dating (a big if) and they haven't told you, it honestly probably has way more to do with them than it does you. People generally don't undertake a long con in the hopes of convincing someone they don't actually like that they like them for some weird reason.

I mean this as kindly as possible, but: their relationship, if it even exists, is not a referendum on you and your friendship with either of them. It has nothing to do with you! I truly do understand where you are going with this, because it can be weird when two of your friends start dating (especially if you liked one of them) but I think you are spiraling for no reason vis a vis your friendships. Plenty of times, people who are dating hang out with a third party because....they like hanging out with that person. They can be dating, not telling you, and still hanging out with you and that does not AT ALL mean you are the third wheel, or there's some weird patronizing agenda. IF they are dating, they probably just don't want to make a big deal about it with anyone. I totally get why you'd be hurt if they are dating, and didn't mention it at this early stage, but it is not about you, specifically. AND all of this might just be fictional, anyways!

Why don't you ask one of them what's going on?
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:57 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would be SUPER weirded out if my friends was dating or possibly dating a guy who wouldn't make it a public committed relationship and was also flirting with me. That is a recipe for Teh Mad Dramaz. If this inded what's happening, and it sounds like you suspect it is, then you are 200% right to be weirded out. This guy needs to shit or get off the pot, he doesn't get to flirt with you and sleep your best friend. That's controlling and weird and not cool at all and probably the best thing to do is withdraw and set new boundaries.

But f your friend isn't dating him then he's either being harmlessly friendly or is clumsily trying to get your interest. Either way he's not doing the bad things you currently suspect him of, he's not trying to play you and your friend and it's OK to stay friends or pursue a romantic thing.

So... ask her. Say "are you going out/ hooking up with z?" If she says yes then start treating him as the dude your friend is seeing. You can keep it light and friendly in tone, make a bit of a joke of it and also make it crystal clear to all involved that you are not getting drawn into some Dawson's Creek threeway bullshit.
posted by fshgrl at 6:09 PM on November 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


If it really makes you feel as unsettled as it sounds like it does, cut through it and just ask "hey Joe.. are you and Kate seeing each other? And by the way lay off the constant touching, it make me feel uncomfortable."

No one can read your mind, the only effective counter to paranoia and uncertainty is to seek out the truth directly. It may create other problems but at least those are different. Someone not telling you something personal is not a lie, no matter what it may feel like, and fundamentally two people negotiating a new relationship is personal and could well have nothing to do with how you feel or your value as a friend.
posted by edgeways at 6:25 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hmm, firstly you don't really have any idea if they're going out. Gossipy friend is gossipy.

Secondly, re: the physical contact, I think you should say - next time he tries this shit on - "Englebert, I only feel comfortable doing that with a boyfriend. Head up, Laddie-o." In doing so you are saying you don't feel comfortable, and also saying shit or get off the pot.

Thirdly, all the times I've hung out with them thinking we're all friends when in fact, I'm just some third wheel. This is a super-dooper false dichotomy. It is more than possible for people to go out with other people, and still really enjoy someone else's company. That's basically what most friends have. You're not a third wheel, you're a mutual friend.
posted by smoke at 6:45 PM on November 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was in this exact same situation once.

Assuming your hunch is true: get out get out get out.

Whether anyone did anything wrong or not, the easiest way to take care of your own emotional well-being is just to not hang out with these two for a little while. Give yourself some air.

Now, that could mean two weeks, or it could mean two months, or it could mean that you have to stop being friends with these folks entirely. That's up to you and depends on how seriously this is affecting you. Also the ramifications of what is actually going on.

I'd be tempted to completely drop someone who was openly being all touchy-flirty with me while "secretly" dating a close friend of mine. Also maybe someone who started dating someone they knew I had a crush on/history with and kept it a secret from me deliberately. (Worse if everyone else knows except you!)

Then again, maybe they are just two people who are falling into this Thing that neither of them can control, and they're not sure themselves what's going on, and they're handling it in an immature and socially clueless way. In that case, yeah, two month vacation from your friends while they figure this shit out and you gain some perspective.
posted by Sara C. at 7:11 PM on November 25, 2012


Sometimes, it is possible for a man to be very attracted to a woman while at the same time recognizing that she is not girlfriend material (for reasons that may not have any reflection on her worth at all, simply their compatibility). If he's a mature person, he might say something like "Hey, would you be offended by me asking you on a date, if I stipulated that it would have to be casual and non-exclusive?" If he's immature, he does the weird ambivalent flirty touching that your friend-crush is doing. And if he's incredibly immature, he does that while also dating your friend.

I believe you need to ask him whether he's dating your friend. My guess is that he will say no (or that they're seeing each other but not exclusive), at which point you should either ask him out or not, depending on what you want. Then, if he turns you down, tell him that you'll respect that decision but in that case he really needs to cut out all the touching, since it makes other guys you might be interested in think you two are dating, and you have better things to do than feed his ego by making the rest of the world think he's popular.

This guy may be your friend, but I think he's certainly abusing your infatuation with him, and you need to define the relationship and then draw appropriate boundaries.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:19 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


As someone with a long history of worrying that friends are backstabbing me (occasionally true, more often false) and with a somewhat shorter history with this exact situation: this is Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Wayward Crush: when you have a crush on someone (and yeah, sorry, this ain't "passing" anymore, it is a legit crush), and when the crush process starts to clog up your entire brain CPU (so to speak), you probably want to figure things out, to get a handle of it so it can shrink. So you go into detective overdrive mode. You look for signs: signs he's into you, signs he's not into you, signs he's dating someone else, signs pointing to who. The world around you starts to look like one of those cheap whodunit novels with CLUES! planted everywhere, because the thing about looking for signs is that anything can look like one. I had a crush on this guy in college, and in the span of a month I was so sure he was dating at least six separate people. (He ended up dating a seventh person whom I never even suspected. She wasn't even on my radar.) I mean, it was so obvious in all six cases! The signs were there! It made perfect sense! It was so obvious, the Grand Crush Narrative I suddenly saw in this epiphany that explained everything (and just so coincidentally confirmed my fears at the time, but never mind that)! It's doubly stressful when this crush paranoia gets mixed up with "Do My Friends Secretly Hate Me?!?!?!" paranoia. Like, for instance, I spent weeks recently convinced my friends secretly thought I was a slut because of the aforementioned same exact situation, and I'm pretty sure they had absolutely no idea I was even worried about that. (uh I hope so at least). Because that's the thing about all this: it's stuff your brain manufactures, generally. What you're seeing is only a tiny fraction of everything that goes on in this guy's world, or in your friend's world. It's like wracking your brain to put together a puzzle with a couple stray pieces, then beating yourself up when nothing seems to fit.

Now. The issue of him being overly touchy-feely is separate. He's sending mixed messages, basically. Either his brain is made of tissue paper and he genuinely has no clue that he's flirting with you, or (more likely) he is deliberately toying with you because he enjoys the attention, or having power, or confirmation that he's attractive -- whatever. It doesn't have to be malicious on his part, necessarily, but it's unfair to you. At some point, and that point is probably going to have to come fairly soon, he's got to shit or get off the pot, and you'll probably have to tell him so. This might not go well! But status quo isn't exactly going well either! It'll probably be easier to do this alone, or at least without your mutual friend around, but that'll also make it easier for him to choose shit (uh, so to speak), so be prepared to field that. Be sure you're prepared for all possible consequences. Be honest with yourself about whether you're really prepared, too.

Or, of course, you could wait it out and hope you date someone else or he dates someone else and this all resolves itself with maybe minor ego bruising on one or the other parties. But that's a gamble. And what if you're banking on it being you dating someone else, then it turns out to be him?
posted by dekathelon at 7:35 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I just posted a question a few hours ago asking for suggestions on how to deal with what felt like overwhelming prying and pressure from my friends regarding a new person in my life and I how I wish I hadn't told them I was dating someone new. Check it out; it might give you some insight on the reasons why people would not want to discuss this with you/the group. Drama is probably exactly what they want to avoid if they are secretly dating.

As for your cuddly friend- some people are just more cuddly than others. If you've never told him to stop, he might be thinking that you're one of the few people that understands this about him, who he can safely snuggle without it being misunderstood or unwelcome. If that's not the case, you need to tell him so. When he does something you don't want, tell him to stop.
posted by windykites at 7:51 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's up with you and your best friend?

No. Really! We need to know.

This could turn out very amicable and benign if only they would stop being so weirdy weird.

I'm sorry about all of the mixed singnals and weirdness. Here's how I would play it:

"Best Friend, gossipy person told me Guy is never home at night. Are you guys dating? If so, I would be Very Happy for you both!"

Then to Guy next time you see him, whether, he's dating your friend or not...

(The next time he goes in for a cuddle)

*Laughing, with a pleasant expression on your face, push him away* " HEY! Y'know, you're just a little more into being close and cuddly than I am. Quit it!" *Keep smiling*

That's it.

But I agree with others that if this doesn't work, just go on and find other friends to see moe often.

This dynamic is too weird. You have conflicting feelings. 99% of the time I advise that you run in those situations, because if it isn't doing you good, why bother at all?

Best!
posted by jbenben at 9:26 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


He has broken up with his long distance girlfriend. A mutual friend of ours (who is a bit of a gossip but generally not a liar) mentioned that she thinks he and my other best friend are dating because she has seen them out on late night walks and when she goes to visit her boyfriend who is roommates with him, my friend is never there and often gone for the whole night.

Is this all the evidence you and your gossipy friend have to suggest they're dating? If so, it's pretty sparse. If he's only just broken up with a long distance girlfriend, perhaps those late night walks could equally well be an opportunity for the two of them to talk about the long-distance relationship he's just gotten out of, because maybe he's broken up about it and needs someone to talk to while he gets over it. And if I had a roommate who was bringing his girlfriend over, I'd make myself scarce too, because I wouldn't want to be the third wheel whilst roommate and girlfriend are kissing on the couch. If I thought the kissing on the couch was likely to turn into all-night bedroom olympics complete with offputting noise from the room next door, I might well stay out all night as well.
posted by talitha_kumi at 4:22 AM on November 26, 2012


Someone not telling you something is not a slight. It is not about you, it's about them and their privacy.

You guys sound young (college age?).

There are many many reasons, especially in the fish bowl that is college, why your friends might be dating and not telling you. Sometimes people keep secrets, it's not a cruel thing to do. They are not keeping a secret from you they are keeping a secret from everyone. That's how real secrets work.

Or they are not dating and a gossipy friend made a supposition.

The evidence here is:
Exhibit A People known to spend a lot of time together spend time together.
Exhibit B Young man sometimes not home at night.
posted by French Fry at 5:42 AM on November 26, 2012


When buddy-boy gets all flirty, I'd say, while shoving off of me, "Dude, that kind of stuff gives people the wrong impression. Knock it off unless you mean it." THAT will cool his jets, but quick. Also, if he's dating your other friend, it must make her insane!

As for whether their dating or not, if you want to know, ask. "Hey, it seems that you and Dude are getting closer, anything going on there?"

You'll get one of three answers:

1. Yes

2. No

3. It's complicated

Do you want to be the shoulder to cry on, for both of them?

The holidays are coming up, it's an AWESOME time to broaden your horizons. Don't cut people off, but be busier, with other, new people. Work parties, brunch, cocktails with folks from the office, distract yourself with lots of activity.

Call your sister or brother and spend a Saturday window shopping, or real shopping. Visit with married friends you haven't seen for a while. Go skiing with people from the office.

You need to get over your crush and give these people time to sort it all out.

Frankly, I'd want to be as far away from this situation as possible.

Make it so.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:34 AM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since you asked for tips on getting over him...

He broke up with his girlfriend and in about a week he is already dating someone else. In fact, in your previous question, you said you thought he was looking for someone to "substitute his girlfriend" when he flirts with other girls. He sounds like a boatload of drama with some neediness and low self-esteem thrown in.

Set boundaries. He sounds like the kind of guy who jerks people around emotionally.
posted by inertia at 11:21 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I didn't get the impression he was dating her at all. It instead sounds like he just broke up with his long term girlfriend and is seeking solace in someone. Assuming he's aware that you have a crush on him, he might want to rely on someone who is more impartial or he might want to distance himself until he sorts out his feelings. You have absolutely no evidence of anything other than he's hanging out with a friend.

Focus on what you do see and can ask of him. If his physical closeness makes you uncomfortable (all of a sudden, now that he might be dating someone who you respect/have to acknowledge exists), ask him to back off. If you really really need to know, ask them. "Assuming makes an ass out of u and me."
posted by buteo at 2:22 PM on November 26, 2012


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