I'm Lisa Simpson, and I'm dating Barney Gumble's best friend.
June 30, 2009 4:54 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend's best friend from childhood is an exact clone of Barney Gumble (from the Simpsons) in regards to drinking, but fortunately lives out of state. My boyfriend stopped drinking heavily last year, and says he's happier for it. Now "Barney" is coming to spend a week with us, and plans to move to our town/neighborhood in the fall. How do I deal with this situation, and my anxieties that my lovely boyfriend will revert to his old ways?

Background: I've been dating my boyfriend for two years, we moved in together a couple months ago. When we first started going out, his tendency to get wasted every weekend (and some weeknights) made me not take the relationship, or him, very seriously. But when his two drinking buddies moved away last year, he stopped drinking all the time, saving it only for special occasions, and generally just seemed to mature a lot. Our relationship got better and better and we eventually decided to move in together.

Now I've met Barney on numerous occasions, and every time I've met him he's been drunk. When he comes to visit he and the boyfriend always pick up several cases of beer and always drink until they puke, but I let it slide because it's a reunion of sorts, and the visit never lasts more than a few days. My boyfriend himself admits that Barney probably is an alcoholic. To paint a clearer picture:Barney, when I first met him, was urinating on my fence. Then when my boyfriend wasn't looking, he put his hand up my skirt. So I don't have the best impression of this guy, and he's never done much to improve upon it. The scariest part is that I've caught my boyfriend DRIVING drunk when he was with Barney, which is a huge, huge issue for me. My boyfriend is lovely and trustworthy while sober, but makes terrible decisions while drunk-- another reason why I am so happy he hardly ever drinks these days.

Which brings me to my problem: next month Barney and his (sweet but ditzy) girlfriend are coming to our apartment to stay with us for a week. Not something I'm thrilled about, but we are the only people in this city that they know, and Barney and his girlfriend are trying to find jobs here. They plan to move to our neighborhood in the fall. Since my boyfriend is Barney's ONLY social connection here, I just know that Barney is going to be at our apartment, passed out on the couch, every other night. I work long hours and really value my quiet time, and go to bed around 10pm on weeknights. Last time Barney visited he was so loud I had to leave my boyfriend's apartment at 2am on a Wednesday and go to my own apartment to sleep (this is back when we lived separately.)

Most of all I'm worried that my boyfriend will go back to drinking all the time, since he loves Barney and it's the only way Barney knows how to have fun. I don't respect my boyfriend when he's out of control drunk, and I had hoped to never again see drinking play the role in his life that it once did. This is something I could very well see ruining our otherwise awesome relationship.

I communicated all this to my boyfriend and he got very upset, saying that he didn't stop drinking because his buddies moved away, but because he had outgrown it. (Yet in the year since then, whenever Barney shows up, he still gets wasted.) So I can't quite convince myself that he is the model of restraint he pretends to be, and that it wasn't just circumstantial that he stopped drinking because he had no one to drink with.

I feel really helpless in this situation, and have even spoken to friends about staying with them for the week that Barney's here, but I don't know what to do when he MOVES here. I don't want to be a controlling bitch, but I don't want to live with the person my boyfriend becomes when he's drinking all time. Do I say something to Barney? To Barney's girlfriend? If I lay down the law, like saying "no getting wasted in the apartment" how do I know they won't drive home drunk? Any advice would be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
'Barney' is only spending a week, right? And you say when Barney and his friends moved away, your boyfriend became a social drinker what, almost immediately? Because he says he outgrew it?

If so, tell your anxieties that as long as your boyfriend treats you right while he's on the sauce, him going out with his mates and drinking to excess is something you can put up with for a week. Once Barney leaves, he'll probably go back to drinking only on special occassions again. I think you don't give him enough credit for being the model of restraint he appears to actually be, given what you said in your opening paragraph.

If you want to lay down a rule like "no drinking in the apartment", that's fine and acceptable and probably advisable given your fears. If you want to allay your concerns that they'll drive home drunk, offer to pick them up, any time of the night, if you can drive. All your boyfriend needs do is call. If you don't drive, stress that you want him to catch a taxi and tell him if he drives home drunk, there will be consequences.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:07 PM on June 30, 2009


I just know that Barney is going to be at our apartment, passed out on the couch, every other night.

Don't be such a pushover; you don't have to take that crap. Have a talk with your boyfriend and tell him how you feel about this. If it were me, there would be a rock-solid rule: Barney can't come over when he's drunk, and he can't drink at your place, at all, ever. Insisting that lecherous drunks don't occupy your living room does not make you a bitch. As to the drunk driving, it's not your responsibility to save the poor sot.
posted by jon1270 at 5:08 PM on June 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


Maybe now is the time to get Barney started with a local AA group or two. I have family members who go, and they say it's great. It could get Barney on the path to sobriety, or at least addressing his drinking habits, but it could also help him meet new (sober) people. It can be stressful or embarrassing at first, but there's always someone with a worse history at AA meetings, and they're better for being there.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:09 PM on June 30, 2009


This is a bad situation, and I hope I don't sound unsympathetic when I say:

You cannot make him not drink with his friend if that's what he wants to do. He will do what he will do. You can only tell him what the consequences will be if he reverts to his former ways, and hope he takes that to heart. As for the upcoming week, I would refrain from doing anything until you see how it goes. Give the guy the chance to prove himself. Don't go stay anywhere else unless it actually becomes untenable to stay in your apartment with Barney there. If your boyfriend acts irresponsibly, then you can tell him what the consequences will be if he continues to do so once Barney moves there (you'll have to decide what the consequences will be for yourself), and then act on that.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 5:10 PM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Your boyfriend is okay with a guy who put his hand up your shirt? DTMFA.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:12 PM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


You've voiced your concerns. (And also displayed a hurtful lack of faith in your boyfriend's maturity and ability to change.) Your bf is a grown up, only he can control how he acts.

That said, let your bf have his fun with his good buddy. If they want to get drunk, let 'em. I mean, really, what's the problem? So they stay up late, and are hung over the next day... so what? I'm having a hard time seeing the harm. In fact, it seems like you're less worried about the act, and more worried that somehow your boyfriend is going to stay in "party" mode long after Barney is gone. The thing is, it doesn't sound he does that. His buddy comes in to town, they party, he leaves, your bf returns to normal. What really makes you think this will be any different?

In your defense though, you've put him on notice. You've voiced your concern and he knows it's an issue for you. You now just have to sit back and see how things play out.

However, please don't be the Marge to his Barney. No one likes a nag. Be firm, but be realistic. If your bf doesn't behave himself well, then let him know. Allow him to "make it up to you" later (buy you something, take you out to dinner, etc.)

Do I say something to Barney? To Barney's girlfriend?

Only if you want to forever be known as a controlling bitch to your bf's friends. Sorry to drop the "b-word" but all of us guys have one of our group who winds up with a controlling woman who won't let him step out and run with the dogs. It's not a bad thing, but it is annoying and it does betray a lack of trust on the part of the woman. Don't be that girl.
posted by wfrgms at 5:14 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wuzandfuzz has it I think. If your boyfriend hasn't dealt with his own drinking enough to relapse into drunkeness when he friend comes around, you are not going to be able to make him understand without being pretty tough with him.

I honestly don't think having Barney stay at your house for a week is going to be a good thing for you. Are you ok with that? If he put his hand up your skirt, I think that's grounds enough to say that's not cool. I think your boyfriend should be able to understand that.

I think you need to lay out the things you are ok with (your boyfriend being in touch with Barney, I assume) and things you are not ok with (your boyfriend getting drunk, driving drunk, Barney drunk on the couch, Barney peeing on your stuff). And I think your boyfriend needs to know that you won't be around if he can't deal with that.

My guess is this is something you are going to need to make crystal clear.
posted by sully75 at 5:17 PM on June 30, 2009


It sounds like some people are missing the fact that the OP said it's not the visit that's bothering her as much as the fact that "Barney" is moving to their neighborhood soon and she's worried about the long-term effects of his proximity.

Here's the link of ways to help "Barney" stop drinking. The AA idea sounds smart to me, especially if he's going to be a part of your life in the future.
posted by egeanin at 5:20 PM on June 30, 2009


The opposite of what wfrgms said. For the record I'm a dude who is not so smooth with relationship stuff but this is dead obvious to me. You are dealing with someone who had a drinking problem and his relationship with someone who had a drinking problem. If your BF can't figure out how to deal with that, I would say, you are looking at someone who is going to have a drinking problem in the future. Driving drunk=drinking problem, and a big and dangerous one. It's not enough to say "I feel better when I don't drink". It's more like "I have a drinking problem, and I have to deal with it."
posted by sully75 at 5:23 PM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


If they want to get drunk, let 'em. I mean, really, what's the problem?

Did you not see the part about the boyfriend driving drunk or the public urination or the hand up the skirt?

Just as he has can decide how he wants to live his life, you, too can decide how to live yours. If you want to live a life that is free of people acting like this, then either they need to stop acting this way or you need to get out of their lives. It's as simple as that.
posted by The World Famous at 5:26 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Listen to yourself:
his tendency to get wasted every weekend (and some weeknights) made me not take the relationship, or him, very seriously

Yet in the year since then, whenever Barney shows up, he still gets wasted

My boyfriend is lovely and trustworthy while sober, but makes terrible decisions while drunk-- another reason why I am so happy he hardly ever drinks these days

I don't respect my boyfriend when he's out of control drunk, and I had hoped to never again see drinking play the role in his life that it once did.

I don't want to live with the person my boyfriend becomes when he's drinking all time


Barney isn't the problem, your boyfriend and his drinking is the problem. Barney is just the excuse/enabler. At some point, maybe tomorrow, maybe a year from now, you're going to have to sit down and decide just how much more of this shit you're going to put up with. I would suggest you do it now and communicate that to your boyfriend, so it gives him a clear idea of what your limits are. Realize that this may be the first step to the end of the relationship.

Doing this does not make you a controlling bitch, a party pooper or stick in the mud. It makes you a person who doesn't like wild, out of control drunks and that's ok.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:31 PM on June 30, 2009 [19 favorites]


You need to communicate very clearly with your boyfriend what your concerns and fears are. Try to bring things to a compromise that involves him NOT driving while drunk, but also not getting so hammered that he and his buddy are puking on the lawn at 4 am every night, either. Maybe they can walk to the local bar and drink to their heart's content until the bartender throws them out. Maybe they can get a hotel room in which to drink for the duration. Maybe they can alternate drinking one night with just chillin' the next. Either way, you need to make it clear that your private space needs to be respected - and make no mistake; though you share your new place with your man, it still qualifies as YOUR private space.

-BUT!-

I think you should give your man the benefit of the doubt here and allow him the latitude to either make good on his promises of reformation or dig his own grave. The week his buddy's in town doesn't really count here; Every guy has that 'one friend' that turns him into a goon. But longevity is the name of the game in relationship, yeah? Make it clear to him that you're OK with him blowing off steam now and again, but don't want to see his old 'Frat Guy' behavior return.

Before you have this conversation with him, you need to realistically assess what your own boundaries are. Define your comfort levels, decide how far you're willing to go should your comfort levels be exceeded, then communicate this information cooly and dispassionately to your fella.

(incidentally, if I knew my best friend had stuck his hand up my girl's skirt, that best friend would be missing a tooth or two in short order, and I wouldn't give a fuck how drunk he was at the time.)
posted by Pecinpah at 5:32 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


In regards to the hand-up-skirt issue, which I somehow missed on my initial reading of your question, that's not cool. Barney should definitely not get to stay at your house for that one reason alone. If your boyfriend can't see that having him there would make you uncomfortable because his friend sexually assualted you, then that's an issue, in my books. But since Anon has provided no details about how her boyfriend reacted upon hearing Barney did this, let alone if she ever told him, we should all leave that issue to one side for the moment, I think.

But back to the drinking issue alone, I reiterate, let him have a good time with his friend while they're here. I think given what you've told us he probably will go back to being a social drinker once Barney leaves. You can't and shouldn't control his life and what he does with his friends, just as we would say it was wrong for a man to control a womans life and what she does with her friends. As long as your boyfriend treats you right while he's drunk, whats the harm? Give him the credit he's due. If you don't and continue to treat him as an untrustworthy immature drunk, you could actually drive him to drink or, at the very least, do some harm to your relationship.

If he keeps drinking once Barney leaves though, come back and ask us another question then.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:33 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Barney and his girlfriend are trying to find jobs here.

I think that will take more than a week. Watch out if they try to stay longer, or even indefinitely. You may need to set a very firm limit from the get-go on that, as well as the drinking.
posted by marble at 5:35 PM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


In fact, it seems like you're less worried about the act, and more worried that somehow your boyfriend is going to stay in "party" mode long after Barney is gone.

Read it more carefully- she's worried because Barney is planning to move into their neighborhood permanently.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:44 PM on June 30, 2009


A week is a long time to have anyone stay at your house, much less someone you don't like. Can you talk your boyfriend into getting Barney and his girlfriend to stay at a hotel?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:47 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with everything wuzandfuzz said. If you stay with friends while barney is there, it will embarrass your boyfriend. If it gets to be too much on weekdays, then spend a night or two away if you have to, but just avoiding them completely will say more about you than it does about them, and your boyfriend will probably be upset with you. If you do have to point out heavy drinking, your boyfriend will just chalk it up to barney resentment and not see it as a valid complaint.

Unfortunately, there's no way to determine whether or not your boyfriend will revert back to his ways when Barney moves for good. Hopefully, your boyfriend has grown out of it, and it's fun when barney visits, but not something he'd want to be part of his lifestyle when barney moves.

I have no idea how to keep him from going back to drinking heavily, though I suspect the harder you push against it, the more likely it will be that the outcome will be more drinking not less. So while I have no suggestion about this, I do think your concerns are completely valid and understandable.

I don't know what your social scene is like now, but if you don't have one, if you CAN find some sort of social hobby that you're both into and have been thinking about exploring anyway, and get really into it between now and when barney moves, you two might have less time to spend with barney, and he might have less in common with barney when he moves.

By the way, you can not suggest AA to barney. I don't even think it's your place to suggest that your boyfriend mention it to barney. That's barney's business and between him and his girlfriend or him and his family.
posted by necessitas at 5:48 PM on June 30, 2009


OK, I say the following as someone who is a Bad Person. Also, in the discussion below I specifically avoid details that would be helpful, in an attempt to keep my story sufficiently vague and non-identifiable. Just to get that out of the way. Apologies.

Anyhow: I suggest laying down the law -- no drinking in your apartment, no driving, if they get stuck just call and you'll either pick 'em up or pay for a cab.

...and then when your boyfriend complains about the no-drinking-in-the-apartment rule (which he probably will), mention the hand up your skirt. And then, if your boyfriend is even halfway decent, the Rules Will Change. Permanently. A crowbar may or may not be involved at this point.

I've been like your boyfriend. I've sure as hell had friends like Barney, and worse (it can get much much worse). But for all of that, if my S.O. had ever mentioned the skirt thing...
posted by aramaic at 5:50 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


So you've talked to him. Now what? Well, perhaps if you signal gently to Barney and his gf, along with your boyfriend, that there is certain behavior you will not tolerate, this maybe a good solution.

For instance, the first night they are there, make dinner for the four of you. Something that shows that you are invested in making this relationship work with the two of them. Ask your boyfriend to not buy any alcohol, and to tell Barney not to pick any up. Now that you have everyone's sober attention, you can make light conversation about how late you work and how early you go to bed, and set up a sort of plan of action for the rest of the week. Suggest that if they don't wish to follow your bed time, then perhaps you can recommend places for them to hang out "after hours" as you are a very light sleeper and don't want to ruin their fun, as you're sure they don't want to ruin your sleep. Any good guest should know that you do what is most comfortable for your host, as his house is not a hotel. Some people need it spelled out for them. Also, let your boyfriend know that this is in the plan, and he can certainly help explain that your home is a no-party zone.

As for you boyfriend, the only thing left to say is that you love and trust him, but that he needs to understand that you do not want to regress in your relationship. Getting wasted every once in a while, fine. Getting sloppy every night of the week because your buddy is a drunk is not. Simply point out that he has matured, that you like this new non-drinking side of his, and it has only made your anti-alcohol sentiments stronger. Good luck.
posted by anniek at 5:55 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


This situation is a Molotov cocktail waiting to be lit.

First, I'm really hoping you and your boyfriend have agreed on how you'll handle things if Barney and his girlfriend don't find jobs while they're here for the week. Your boyfriend is going to have to be the lead on this one, because Barney is his friend. Is he willing to gently but firmly send them on their way after a week?

Brandon's right - the problem is your boyfriend. You need to negotiate agreements to ensure you're not dealing with obnoxious drunks. Examples would be:

"I know you'll want to have a few drinks. That's fine - but if you want to do it at home, keep it down to a dull roar." Unspoken: If either of you is loud, you'll hear about it.

"If you want to go out to the bar and drink, go ahead. But if you're too drunk to drive, you call me. I'll have my cell. No excuses."

I think it's time for your boyfriend to demonstrate how he's changed. Give him the chance to show that he's learned a few things. This week will tell you everything you need to know about the future of your relationship.
posted by canine epigram at 5:56 PM on June 30, 2009


Now that you have everyone's sober attention, you can make light conversation about how late you work and how early you go to bed, and set up a sort of plan of action for the rest of the week. Suggest that if they don't wish to follow your bed time, then perhaps you can recommend places for them to hang out "after hours" as you are a very light sleeper and don't want to ruin their fun, as you're sure they don't want to ruin your sleep.

I think this is the wrong approach. Don't get me wrong, I agree about ensuring the guests know when you go to bed and respect that, but these are your boyfriend's friends - it's his responsibility to make sure the guests respect your sleep. You and your boyfriend should have that all planned out ahead of time, and he should be presenting options to his drinking buddy -- not you.
posted by canine epigram at 6:03 PM on June 30, 2009


Again, against the grain, I advise (in the alternative of what I suggested regarding your boyfriend's ability to be okay with Barney sticking his hand up your skirt) that you do not enable your boyfriend.

(1) If when you criticize his alcohol consumption, he gets offended and angered by it, that's a red flag. (2) If he gets wasted to the point of puking every time he drinks with Barney, that's a red flag. (3) If he gets wasted and pukes on consecutive nights, that's a red flag. (4) If he has no problem drinking and driving, that's a red flag.

Drinking and having a good time with buddies is one thing. Doing it to the point of immature, selfish irresponsibility is another.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:10 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most of all I'm worried that my boyfriend will go back to drinking all the time, since he loves Barney and it's the only way Barney knows how to have fun.

I suspect this may be the biggest problem, because unless Barney is lacking low animal cunning (as well as manners, class and a sense of self-restraint), it's probably the thing he'll zero in on to maniuplate your boyfriend into being "happy funtime drunk guy".

Assuming, that is, that yoiur boyfriend really is over drinking.

But if he is, he'll probably need a bunch of support to avoid falling prey to an old buddy if said old buddy tries to pressure him back to the bad old days to "prove he's your friend." Your mutual friends who aren't perenially shitfaced may be helpfull here.

Sadly, though, if you've set out that you don't want him to go back to his old ways, you can't do too much more than trust him and give him the chance to reward your trust, or prove himself unworthy of it.

Which brings me to my problem: next month Barney and his (sweet but ditzy) girlfriend are coming to our apartment to stay with us for a week. Not something I'm thrilled about, but we are the only people in this city that they know, and Barney and his girlfriend are trying to find jobs here.

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Is it "a week" or "until they find jobs tey feel like doing and the perfect place"? Because I can easily see a foot in the door for a week turining into, "but they haven't got a job or anywhere to stay yet, honey." Make very sure you're very clear that a week is a week, that your boyfriend agrees and will stay solid if there's an attempt to stretch it.

I communicated all this to my boyfriend and he got very upset, saying that he didn't stop drinking because his buddies moved away, but because he had outgrown it.

Which makes it a bit easier for you to follow up with, "Well, that's great. So you won't be getting shitfaced just because your old drinking buddy comes back!"

I mean, really, what's the problem?

The drunk driving? The pissing on the fence? The sexual asault? The puking all over the place? None of that strikes you as problematic?

Doing this does not make you a controlling bitch, a party pooper or stick in the mud.

Amen.
posted by rodgerd at 6:15 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Barney isn't the problem, your boyfriend and his drinking is the problem.

This. You've had a year without Barney and you say that your boyfriend has matured. He says he's matured. If I were him, I'd be annoyed that you're already assuming the worst before Barney even arrives. That said, if he does revert to his old ways, you really can't blame Barney. Adults who don't have drinking problems can manage a normal relationship with alcohol whether they're surrounded by drunks or not.

If Barney and his girlfriend stay, there should definitely be some sensible rules in place. If you haven't told your boyfriend about the hand-up-the-skirt incident, now is a good time. This is your home and your guests need to either act respectfully, or they need to find a hotel where they can act whatever way they'd like.

I think you should ease back on your boyfriend. Don't shoot and ask questions later. He deserves your faith until he proves otherwise.
posted by contrariwise at 6:18 PM on June 30, 2009


Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Is it "a week" or "until they find jobs tey feel like doing and the perfect place"? Because I can easily see a foot in the door for a week turining into, "but they haven't got a job or anywhere to stay yet, honey." Make very sure you're very clear that a week is a week, that your boyfriend agrees and will stay solid if there's an attempt to stretch it.

I don't think that will be a problem, since she said:

They plan to move to our neighborhood in the fall.

I might be misreading it, but it seems like they probably have jobs wherever it is they are living, and are trying to search for opportunities and scout locations while they're on vacation. Unless they have super-unique skills or it's a job-seekers market, it really isn't practical to expect that they're going to find jobs on this vacation, and they'll be able to get the employer to hold the opening till they are ready in the fall (unless they are teachers). In all likelihood, they won't find jobs for the fall in the one week they're there. Which does bring up another problem:

Are they moving in the fall come hell or high water? If so, then they might expect to be able to return and live at your place till they find work. I don't know whether it's best to have this conversation with your boyfriend before they come or after they get there, but you need to tell him that he's not to suggest that they camp out at your place post-move pre-job/rental. I suspect it's better to do this beforehand, like "hey, barney and ditz are trying to find work while they're visiting, right? What will happen if they don't find jobs? If they plan to move whether or not they find work, I think it'll be best for all involved if we avoid offering our place as a crash pad till they find something, what do you think?"

Good luck!!
posted by necessitas at 6:39 PM on June 30, 2009


Put your foot down and do it early. The person you have to draw the line in the sand with is your boyfriend, not Barney.
posted by heather-b at 7:00 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


First, whatever you do, do not fall into the trap of trying steer alcoholics. I can see you trying to do this already. It's a natural response of a rational person. But the bottom line, the absolute bottom line, which I don't think you have quite perceived, is that you cannot reason with an alcoholic. By definition alcoholics are irrational. You cannot reason with them. Let that sink in. They are irrational. What does that mean? It means threats, consequences, rewards, guilt, love, intimacy, and all the wonderful aspects of positive human relationships, are ultimately second to alcoholics. Sure they can be wonderful, loving people, but their relationship with alcohol is always number one, and no amount of consequences, love, or threats will change that until they decide to break this relationship with alcohol. Alcoholics are irrational, but highly manipulative in their pursuit to protect their habit. They will use love and camaraderie to justify their drinking. They will use threats an excuse to withdraw into their abuse. There is nothing you can do or say that an alcoholic can't use in their own mind to justify the continuation of their alcoholism.

You have two concerns that I think are being conflated. First, there is your concern about how the week will go, and second there is your concern about Barney's influence in the longer term. The first one is only a week and should not be blown out of proportion. The week visit will provide some insight into the effects Barney will have on your boyfriend, and you should approach it as a trial run. You've already spoken your mind generally to your boyfriend. Don't try to control the week any more that that as it will show you what to expect. You might lose sleep but at least you'll have a clear picture of what to expect.

If your boyfriend has truly changed, you'll see it. It will be obvious, you will be relieved and have some idea of how to continue. If your boyfriend exhibits behavior that makes you question how deeply he has changed, then the situation is likely out of your hands because it appears your boyfriend is struggling with alcohol abuse.

What's my point? My point is that if after Barney moves there, you see your boyfriend begin to abuse alcohol again, do yourself the favor and leave him. Personally, I highly doubt his relationship to alcohol has changed, as he sounds like he's at the stage that still believes it is manageable under the right circumstances. However, if your boyfriend has truly changed his relationship to alcohol, then the rest of the problems can be worked out as they arise.
posted by milarepa at 7:46 PM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I see two issues: your relationship with/feelings about Barney and your relationship with your boyfriend when he's around Barney.

Regarding the first issue: why are they staying with you? If you're so uncomfortable with this plan (and I would be, too) that you're considering leaving your own home while they stay in it for the week, that's bad news. Sure, you're the only people they know in town, but that doesn't give them first dibs on your couch--particularly if you're not comfortable with them staying at your home, where you have the right to be safe and comfortable. A houseguest who urinates on your fence and gropes you when your boyfriend's back is turned is not someone you need to accommodate, and it doesn't make you a bitch or a bad girlfriend to stand up for yourself on this. Frankly, I don't know what kind of boyfriend would ask his partner to put up with that type of guest--what did he say, "Sure he groped you that one time, but he's got nowhere else to stay, so just keep your door locked while he's here"? There is absolutely nothing wrong with phoning Barney or his girlfriend and saying, "I'm very sorry, but we can no longer accommodate you as we'd originally planned, but there's a Motel 6 down the road from us and a Hilton downtown." For your safety and peace of mind, I'd strongly encourage you to do this.

Regarding the second issue, I'm not sure what you can do besides tell your boyfriend how it makes you feel to see him drink until his vomiting and how it makes you feel to know that he has driven drunk and might do so again. It's not controlling or bitchy to say "I don't like the way you act or the choices you make around Barney. I'm very concerned with how you might act once he moves to town. I worry that you'll start drinking heavily again and making the bad decisions that go with your heavy drinking, and I don't want to be with someone who acts that way." You can't tell him what to do, but you can tell him what you want from your partner and what you're unwilling to put up with.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:59 PM on June 30, 2009


Maybe there's a bit of a cultural disconnect here, but when I hear someone use the term "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to describe their relationship my brain says "not yet in a committed relationship".

You have the right to lay down ground rules about what happens in your living space, without doubt. But if those ground rules are only now being laid down, and only because Barney is coming to visit, then it is going to come across in a "everything was fine until we moved into together and now she wants to rule my life" kind of way.

This may well be the point at which you discover your relationship has no long-term future. Your boyfriend can certainly find other Barney's with whom to get wasted, no matter where you live and whether or not he has contact with old friends - and he'll do just that if he hasn't really outgrown his partying years yet.

Barney might be a bit of a litmus test, but he's not really the central issue here. It sounds like maybe you haven't had some of the conversations people really need to have before they move in together - especially if moving in together is a step towards a long-term, committed future together.
posted by Lolie at 9:16 PM on June 30, 2009


Personally, I highly doubt his relationship to alcohol has changed, as he sounds like he's at the stage that still believes it is manageable under the right circumstances.

For many people this is the truth - they have partying years in their early adulthood and then alcohol becomes an occasional indulgence. I guess the OP is going to get some idea very soon whether this is true of her boyfriend.
posted by Lolie at 9:42 PM on June 30, 2009


Maybe there's a bit of a cultural disconnect here, but when I hear someone use the term "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to describe their relationship my brain says "not yet in a committed relationship".

What does an unmarried person call the significant other with whom they live and share a serious relationship, in order to signify that they are in a committed relationship? I'm assuming that you're not trying to imply that spouse or fiance are the only terms that imply a committed relationship. It's common for people to live together for a while to determine whether or not they are compatible before getting engaged. So, what term should one use to imply serious commitment that is not connected to marriage. This isn't a call-out, there was nothing wrong with what you said. I'm just genuinely curious about which terms don't minimize the relationship.

sorry for the derail
posted by necessitas at 10:12 PM on June 30, 2009


Maybe there's a bit of a cultural disconnect here, but when I hear someone use the term "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to describe their relationship my brain says "not yet in a committed relationship".

Yes, it's a cultural disconnect. Not everyone is interested in the religious baggage attached to a marriage ceremony, and the piece of paper doesn't make anyone's relationship more or less valid.
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:24 PM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Certainly we can safely observe that the way in which you handle this, and even moreso the way your boyfriend handles this, will have very major ramifications on your relationship into the future. This will be a real deal-breaker if badly handled.

I think you've got to let them have a bit of fun, but be very clear to your boy what you like about him, and how he acts as a grown-up. It may come ultimately down to you versus Barney, but you should never make that ultimatum directly, let him work out the consequences of his choices, with very clear signals from you.
posted by wilful at 11:02 PM on June 30, 2009


What does an unmarried person call the significant other with whom they live and share a serious relationship, in order to signify that they are in a committed relationship? I'm assuming that you're not trying to imply that spouse or fiance are the only terms that imply a committed relationship. It's common for people to live together for a while to determine whether or not they are compatible before getting engaged. So, what term should one use to imply serious commitment that is not connected to marriage. This isn't a call-out, there was nothing wrong with what you said. I'm just genuinely curious about which terms don't minimize the relationship.

Partner or significant other are two terms I'd use to denote that the relationship is committed and long-term. Not all people in a relationship who cohabit are in a committed relationship - it's often an arrangement of convenience or a preliminary step towards seeing whether or not the relationship is durable on a 24/7 basis.

Again, I suspect this is something of a cultural difference. "Girlfriend" and "seeing someone" are terms I associate with teenage relationships, and I guess I tend to see them as denoting starry eyed romanticism. Then again, I'm female and I cringe at hearing the word "girl" used in reference to any female over the age of 16. She might be your lover, your mate, your life partner or your occasional fuck buddy but she's not a "girl". Heck, I don't even like hearing the term used to describe friendships between grown women. To me, it implies a certain superficiality and immaturity about the relationship.
posted by Lolie at 12:12 AM on July 1, 2009


Yes, it's a cultural disconnect. Not everyone is interested in the religious baggage attached to a marriage ceremony, and the piece of paper doesn't make anyone's relationship more or less valid.

An interesting assumption on your part. For the record, I'm a militant atheist.
posted by Lolie at 12:21 AM on July 1, 2009


FWIW, until a few months ago, the law here treated unmarried, co-habiting couples as "married" after 12 months. That's recently been changed to two years precisely because that legal presumption caused a lot of problems regarding the distribution of property and assets when couples who were co-habiting broke up because the default presumption was that the relationship was a committed one and few couples "opted out" of that legal presumption by drawing up cohabitation agreements.
posted by Lolie at 12:36 AM on July 1, 2009


First, lets side step the derail about boyfriend vs partner. It's not terribly helpful to diminish someone else's relationship because you don't like their word choice. That's your issue.

On to the OP, there are a few ways this can go. There's a reasonably good chance that Barney and your boyfriend will not hang out constantly after the move. Friendships change and they might figure out that they have different interests now. Barney will find another booze buddy; your boyfriend will still tie one on with Barney occasionally.

It's not about Barney. It's about you and your boyfriend. You've told your boyfriend that you're concerned and he gave you an answer. At some point, you need to take it on faith. Give your boyfriend the chance to show he's not going back to daily binge drinking. (One bout of boozing when Barney shows up isn't necessarily a huge deal.) That said, decide what's unacceptable to you and communicate that directly to your boyfriend. For instance, it might be you won't stay with someone who drinks and drives.

You can't change someone else. You can communicate your needs, but if your boyfriend isn't a fit you'll need to make a decision.
posted by 26.2 at 1:18 AM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not terribly helpful to diminish someone else's relationship because you don't like their word choice.

I was actually trying to clarify the nature of the relationship, because I think that the expectations which are reasonable in a committed, long-term relationship are very different than what would be reasonable in a "for now" relationship. The OP stated that she has not always regarded this relationship "seriously" - how seriously she regards it now is extremely relevant to her expectations of her boyfriend's social behaviour now and in the future.
posted by Lolie at 1:29 AM on July 1, 2009


he put his hand up my skirt.

The drinking stuff is all very worrying, to be sure, but why the blue blistering fuck is this arsehole being permitted into your home? If I were you, I would put my foot down. Barney can sleep in the park, for all you care. You don't need to put up with event the threat of of that in your own home. I can only assume boyfriend doesn't know about that incident. If he knows and still invites Barney over to stay in your home, then I think you should look for someone who cares about you more than he cares about his drunk loser "friends".
posted by idiomatika at 1:55 AM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


...even the threat of that...

I can't type.
posted by idiomatika at 1:57 AM on July 1, 2009


Does your boyfriend refer to him as Barney Gumble? Because if so, I wouldn't worry about it--I think that image is pretty persuasive on its own, and comes from viewing Barney's behavior as sad and revolting. And that's what you want.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:02 AM on July 1, 2009


Bottom line: Your boyfriend is a grown-ass man, and trying to browbeat him into behaving as you would like him to behave will sour your relationship with mutual resentment. He knows his drinking so much troubles you, and he knows that he likes his new sober life better than his old drunk-ass one. If he is the man he says he is, the man you would want him to be, and the kind of man you ought to stay with, then Barney being back in town will not cause him to go back to his old ways. And if he is not those things --- if Barney being back in town means it's party time 24-7 --- well, then you have your answer. It's a sucky answer, but there it is.

As for the more practical stuff --- I'd ask if they'd mind going to a bar on the weeknights. When an old friend comes to visit whom you don't see as much as you'd like, anybody would be inclined to stay up a bit late, shooting the shit and having a few beers. At the same time, you have your own job and responsibilities, and if you need to crash at 10, then you shouldn't have to play hostess till two just to accommodate Barney et al. I assume your boyfriend knows how you feel about drunk driving --- you can and ought to say how much that upsets you. I don't know if it's easy where you live to walk to a nearby bar or call a taxi for a ride home if you're smashed --- even suburban areas usually have some form of car service, check out your options.

If you do chose to "lay down the law" I'd do it on those two issues --- a) I need to be able to get to bed at a reasonable hour on the weeknights, and b) I will be very upset and angry if you drive drunk. Don't make it about, "when you hang out with Barney I don't want you to do this, that, and thus-and-such." His relationship with his friend is his relationship with his friend. Just ask that he do these two things for you. You certainly deserve that much respect. And if he can't manage that --- well, then, see above.
posted by Diablevert at 4:40 AM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe there's a bit of a cultural disconnect here, but when I hear someone use the term "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to describe their relationship my brain says "not yet in a committed relationship"

My 30 year old friend who lived in Sydney, Australia until 3 years ago completely disagrees with that line thought. According to her, boyfriend and girlfriend meant the two were in an exclusive, committed relationship.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:16 AM on July 1, 2009


It sounds like the only thing your boyfriend and Barney have in common is drinking. If I were you, I'd definitely set up some ground rules for when Barney moves to town.

1. No booze in the house.
2. No Barney in the house.
3. No social outings with me (the girlfriend) and Barney at the same time.

If your boyfriend has outgrown drinking for the most part, then it sounds like he's outgrown Barney too. I don't know if your boyfriend knows how much stress this is putting you through, and that should be communicated.

Barney is a loser, and you gotta wonder why your boyfriend would still want to hang around a loser except for some mistaken sense of loyalty.
posted by fantasticninety at 8:23 AM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I understand all the comments that are suggesting establishing rules and laying down the law about Barney. It makes sense from a logical standpoint, but human nature doesn't subscribe to logical rules. I really believe that result of employing the logical suggestions will be the exact opposite of the intended results.

Have you ever had a friend who was in a relationship with a total jerk/sleaze/loser/[fill in the blank]? Ever try to offer your opinion or share concerns about their partner? In my experience, no matter how horrible the story is, the loser could be cheating (and caught), taking advantage of your friend, doing illegal stuff, you name it, if I offer my negative opinion of my friend's choice in partner, it's always met with defensiveness. This always happens, they always dig in their heels and defend their partner to the core, or they get angry about my opinion. This only brings them closer to their partner. If I stop offering opinions and just listen, they usually come around on their own.

The OP's boyfriend probably does not see that Barney is a loser, and he doesn't have a mistaken sense of loyalty, Barney has been his best friend since childhood. If the OP lays down the law about Barney or makes negative comments about Barney, the boyfriend is just going to react defensively and he'll never process any of the negative things about barney that he observes on his own, because he'll be consumed by his need to defend Barney. Not only will he want to protect/defend his friend, it'll also become a personal thing. If he doesn't see this behavior in Barney, he'll take the comments as an insult to his ability to judge character. If he defends himself, and then discovers that OP is correct about barney, he might feel too sheepish to admit it, because that just adds insult to injury when it comes to his ability to judge character. Since a lot of these processes go on subconsciously, it's not like he can easily intellectualize what's going on and decide to be a man about his error in judgment. After all, it's usually much easier to see what's going on with someone else than it is to see what's going on with ourselves.

If OP pushes the Barney issue before he even gets there, it's going to push her boyfriend away. It's going to create stress between them when Barney and ditzy arrive for their visit, and the boyfriend will probably go out of his way to ignore the issues about Barney that are causing conflict between boyfriend and OP.

If the boyfriend really has grown and changed, none of this will be a problem. There's no way to find out if he's changed unless he is able to look at Barney objectively through the eyes of someone who has moved past a frat boy lifestyle. That's got to happen naturally without anything going on in the background, like a need to defend barney or a need to prove he can still be friends with Barney even though he's no longer into the same lifestyle.

That said, the hand up the skirt IS really uncool. That's not an issue of subjective judgment, like thinking barney drinks too much, that's an actual fact, something Barney DID do. I don't think there's anything wrong with telling the boyfriend that story, or reiterating it if he already knows, and attach some actionable request so it's not just complaining. For instance, explain that you've never been able to excuse or forget that behavior, it's incredibly demeaning, disrespectful and threatening, explain that an acknowledgment and apology is vital for you to move forward and accept Barney, have your boyfriend tell Barney it was uncool, and why, and request (demand? ask? i don't know the proper protocol here) that Barney apologize to you and make it right. It's not the kind of thing that should be passed off as "drunken behavior, he didn't know what he was doing, forget about it" because it's inexcusable behavior whether the person is drunk or not!
posted by necessitas at 10:31 AM on July 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I highly doubt the OP told her boyfriend about the groping. I am kinda thinking maybe she should tell him if Barney's going to be sleeping in the house. If he's still a pervy ass he'll try again even with a girlfriend, and that's not safe for her.

Of course, if boyfriend KNOWS about this and is still okay with Barney, uh....this does not say anything good about boyfriend.

I generally agree with necessitas on this. "Bros before hos" and all that means that she really can't throw a fit or say much about Barney before he arrives and have it go well. Mostly I just suspect this is out of the OP's control. Boyfriend will choose to drink and party or not as he chooses. It will be a test of the relationship to see if boyfriend has really "grown out of it" or if he just stopped drinking due to girlfriend being around/his drinking buddies NOT being around. If boyfriend goes back to his old ways, maybe that's a dealbreaker. But boyfriend has to choose these things for himself, not because of ultimatums or "well, I don't drink because I have nobody to drink with."
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:24 AM on July 1, 2009


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