I'm jealous of my friend's relationship.
May 3, 2010 5:55 PM   Subscribe

My long-time single friend finally has a boyfriend. I'm jealous. How should I deal with that?

I'm a straight guy. My friend, A, is a straight girl. We have been good friends for several years. We're not really attracted to each other--yes, you heard that right, we LIKE being in the "friend zone." We've both been unhappily single for most of that time: I was hopelessly in love with someone else, B; likewise, A was always into various guys who never liked her in return--she was always freaking out about the latest one, but, unlike me, she quickly moved on to liking someone new.

Since we're both very interested in trying to understand "human relations," we talked about both of those situations a lot, and we each made the other feel better about our problems. Knowing that we weren't going to date each other let us be honest, since we didn't have to make ourselves seem better than we were. I think the relationship I have with A is unique, not something I could re-create with someone else even over many years. Maybe I feel a certain attachment to her that I might not feel if we were the same gender, but it's really not real romantic/sexual attraction.

Unlike me, A is very focused on the short term: she gets totally wrapped up in her present situation, thinking it will never change. She can never really take anything seriously when she's happy, and when something bad happens, she's all doom and gloom and thinks nothing will ever be good again. She likes to talk to me more when she's unhappy because I reassure her, but less when she's happy because I can't get wrapped up in it in the same way.

This has been a problem in the past: when I was especially miserable due to B, A became really happy because she got her first boyfriend ever (we're that young; it was really late). She had been making me feel better, but when this happened she started to ignore me, which made it more painful. But when guy quickly dumped her, she was miserable too, and she wanted to be my friend again. I did mention that I had been unhappy about her ignoring me, but of course I had to swallow my resentment, and we went back to how we always were. I realize this is a bad thing about A, but I like her despite that.

Now, finally, A has met a guy who likes her back (and I think he's pretty good too). I want A to be happy, but I'm starting to see a repeat of the situation before--now that she has this guy, she'll have no more use for me in the foreseeable future. We live in different cities now, so drifting apart is easy, but so far we still talk/write.

I know it's unfair for me to be anything less than overjoyed for her. I know this is my problem, and I have to suck it up. So far I've been doing that. But I'll miss her, and I'll be lonely.

What should I do? I could tell her how I feel, but I don't know if it would even sink in, and I'm not sure what purpose that would serve anyway. I could try not communicating with her, at least for a while, but I don't know if that would make me feel better or worse. Of course, I could try dating someone too, but that's not going to happen right away, and I think I would still miss A just as much.

I'd appreciate advice both on what to say (if anything) and on how to deal with it mentally.

In case of anonymous responses: ohnojealousy@gmail.com.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You need other friends so you won't fixate on the loss of one when the life of the others gets in the way. It's okay to miss people, but the problem comes when it gets in the way of you growing and relating to and with others.

Good luck.
posted by inturnaround at 6:03 PM on May 3, 2010

Well, part of it is it's unwise to put all your friendship eggs in one basket. Is this friend the only good friend you have to talk to about stuff? Perhaps this is a good time for you to broaden your own social scene?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:05 PM on May 3, 2010 [6 favorites]

Yeah, this is why you need more than one friend. You're happy that she's in a relationship - and you're sad for yourself because that means she'll have less time for you. It's normal to feel that way - but I don't see how it'd help to say anything to her and rain on her parade - nor do I see why you'd cut her off completely because she has a boyfriend.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:16 PM on May 3, 2010

Still stay friendly with her, call, write etc, but don't get upset if she doesn't reply quite as frequently and often as she used too. She probably doesn't mean to blow you off, but she's naturally excited about having a boyfriend and wants to spend a lot of her time with him. That's normal, and it's likely that after a month or two (if all goes well) the novelty will have worn off a little and she'll probably go back to spending her time more reasonably.

Whatever you do, try not to get bitter and angry about it if you want to keep your friendship alive. One of my good friends started dating someone around half a year ago, and now my good friend and her best friend aren't talking anymore because of the resentment that was created from the relationships. Just let it be, and enjoy the time you do get to spend with A. If you try and force her to spend time with you she's just gonna get pissed off and spend more time with her boyfriend.

I also think that it would be good for you to try and make some new friends, it's never good to fully depend on one person for most of your emotional needs. There's a wealth of information on askme about how to go around meeting people if you need it.
posted by kylej at 6:16 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

now that she has this guy, she'll have no more use for me in the foreseeable future

This stood out for me. This makes it sound like the relationship was based upon mutual support, rather than any (platonic) affection for each other.

If she's a true friend, then she will still have time for you (and would never consider her friends in terms of their 'use'). If it turns out she doesn't have time for you, then it looks like the friendship is over, since its main purpose (to make each of you feel better about singledom) is now unneccessary.

That's sad. It's also okay. You'll make other friends.
posted by twirlypen at 6:22 PM on May 3, 2010

I think you should be happy for her and carry on with your life and make more friends.

Great friends can be out of contact for 35+ years then meet at random or suddenly be in the area and carry on where they left off. The whole pressure to constantly keep in contact thing is a recent invention.
posted by meepmeow at 6:25 PM on May 3, 2010

From the original poster:
I have other friends. I don't have other friends of that type. Sure, it would be great to have another friendship like that, but it's not something one can expect to create just by meeting more people and making more friends. Frankly, I think it's is a special snowflake; I wouldn't expect something like it to happen again. If you have advice for creating such a friendship, I would love to hear it. But I doubt you do, and besides, a replacement could take a few years to develop.

I'm more interested in what to do right now, in the short term.
posted by mathowie at 6:35 PM on May 3, 2010

Anytime a good friend meets a new significant other of any real... well, significance, you have to expect them to drop out of sight for a while. It's not being a bad friend. It's just realistically what happens.

I doubt the pattern you two are stuck in has much to do with either of you using each other or relying too much on each other. It's really just what happens, and I agree with people saying that you need to broaden your pool of friends.
posted by hermitosis at 6:40 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you have advice for creating such a friendship, I would love to hear it.

The first step is simply increasing your awareness of other people around you, and being open to having experiences with them that fall slightly outside of the way you normally interact.
posted by hermitosis at 6:43 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds like she was using you as emotional safety blanket while she was single, then when she found the man of her dreams, you got dumped. I know you feel like you have a unique and special relationship, but notice that she doesn't seem to think so based on how she treats you.

She's taking advantage of you, and you deserve better. You should let her go.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:43 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Soon: "A, I'm really happy for you, you know that from our chat yesterday. But I wanted to tell you something else: I'm really worried that we're not going to stay as close as we have been. You know back when you were with Sal? I was bummed at how quickly we lost touch. Is there a way that we can prevent that from happening now? I know that when you're really happy, we are in different moods; maybe there's something I can do? Maybe there's a way to keep some time set aside for us to hang out?"

In two months: "A, can we talk about something? Since you got together with Bob, we've gone from talking or emailing five times a day to only once a week. It sucks! I miss you as my every day friend! I know its really natural to focus on a new relationship, so I'm not blaming you, and I'm really happy that you've found Bob, and I like him and think he's a great guy for you. But I do want to let you know that this is really hard for me, as your friend. My goal is not to make you feel guilty, just to let you know that I'm struggling with this and with how to feel like we're still close friends."

Beyond that, there's not much else you can do. Create as much space and freedom for her in your heart as you can. How much can your friendship ebb and flow before the bough breaks (to mix metaphors)? Give her information about how you're feeling, and work with her as much as possible to get help staying within a zone that works for you. Relationships do ebb and flow, so I'd do what you can to avoid cutting her off entirely.
posted by salvia at 7:15 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, I agree that it is incredibly common for people to let friendships sag during new relationships -and- for friends to be jealous or mad about it, or to try to keep the friendship strong. Cf. "bros before hos" and "girls' night out." So while your friendship is a special snowflake, this situation unfortunately is not.

People on both sides handle this tension all different ways. Not all of them are still friends ten years later, but not all of them necessarily even really wanted to be.
posted by salvia at 7:26 PM on May 3, 2010

In this situation, it's unreasonable to expect her to spend just as much time on you as she did when she was single. There's a new, important thing in her life that's sucking up a bunch of her spare time - you'd probably also hear from her less if she joined an intensive sports team, or got an additional part time job. However, it is reasonable to expect that she still put some degree of effort into your friendship. Think hard about what she will need to do for you to feel OK - not to feel like nothing's changed, but to be reassured that she still cares about you. Does she need to call you once a week? Email you every few days? Reply within X amount of time when you contact her? Once you've considered this, tell her what you need. Not in an angry, jealous way, but in an, "I understand you're busy with your new boyfriend, which is great, but I miss you, and it would make me feel a lot better if you did Y" kind of way. Then, do NOT think of this as a firm contract where if she misses one call or email you get to be mad at her. Friendship isn't like that. But I do think you should give her a chance to make things right with you, by letting her know how you feel in a kind, understanding way, since she might not know (even though you did mention it last time - she's preoccupied with something else, can can't read your mind).
posted by unsub at 7:28 PM on May 3, 2010

Frankly, I think it's is a special snowflake; I wouldn't expect something like it to happen again.

You have to talk to her. Hell, show her this ask.me question. If she's is really that important to you, there is nothing to lose by letting her know how you feel. Once she knows where you stand, you'll be in a better position to figure how you two want to go forward with this relationship. Good Luck!
posted by Brent Parker at 7:28 PM on May 3, 2010

When anyone finds a new love, it is perfectly normal for them to become *very* focussed on that person in the early stages, and NOT a sign that he or she was just using you. I hope that sooner rather than later you yourself will be in a requited relationship, and realize that there is no ill will involved in "ignoring" friends for those first few months.

The way you feel is very understandable, but guilting her is wrong and is going to get you nothing at all. Acting needy and begging for your daily phone calls emails to be reinstated is going to get you less than that. (I've been there, I've done that, and believe me, it really is the wrong way to go.) You're telling yourself you would behave differently if you were the one in a romantic relationship: I bet you wouldn't. Keep that in mind when you get upset.

As for this being a once-in-a-lifetime friendship, you have already said you are young. In any case, you are allowing one person to be all-in-all to you, and that is a position you should never be in. Even your spouse shouldn't be the only person in the whole world you can really talk to.

Tell her you're happy for her, and you hope to meet the guy some day. Then use those three months you probably won't hear a word from her (unless it falls apart sooner) to start building up your own life, in every possible way.
posted by uans at 7:48 PM on May 3, 2010

I didn't read the whole thread.

I don't think you have to be happy for her. But you should respect her decision. Many of my guy friends feel I ignore them when I am busy with my life. I think it's because they, like you, are jealous of my (A's) time spent with the significant other. When they tell me this, it only creates more tension and aggravates me an incredible amount. I end up purposely ignoring them for the most part.

I'd say give her all the space she needs and, as others have said, make new friends. Eventually you will develop close, though not identical, relationships with these friends, and no longer have these negative feelings for A. In time the friendships will lead to new connections and possibly new girlfriends. Then everything will seem to be much easier with A.

Though it takes time and effort, these steps may help your friendship with her. In the mean time I suggest trying to keep an open mind. Talk with her when she wants to talk with you, otherwise suppress the emotions and they will eventually subside.
posted by mentionblue at 9:10 PM on May 3, 2010

You two kind of seem like foul weather friends to me. I have a couple of those. When I was single, they heartily commiserated with the bad and the ugly dates I went on (and didn't comment much about the good). I admit, I sometimes enjoyed hearing about the drama of their disastrous dating situations too, mainly when my dating life was the pits. But man, hearing enough of those stories gets depressing. I want my single friends to find someone special (if that's what *they* want, of course). Don't you want that for your friend? Or did you expect to be misery-loves-company buddies with her forever?

In my case (I have definitely been on both sides of this), time and distance helped a lot. Sounds like she is in that beginning stage of dating someone where you spend a lot of time together, so you just have to allow for that. Also, she will most likely want to hang out with you if she hasn't heard from you in awhile. It's a lot more appealing than someone who is guilt tripping her or otherwise giving her a tough time about spending time with a potential partner. And yeah, spending time with other friends, making new friends, and ultimately finding someone special of your own does wonders too.
posted by medeine at 9:44 PM on May 3, 2010

Well your ups and downs sound more extreme, but I have a similar-ish friend. He's the guy and I'm the girl, and while I've been single for approximately ever at this point, he hasn't. Am I happy for him? Yes. Am I jealous? Yes. Because I used to be #1 on his list and now I'm #2. Stupid maybe, but it hurt.

I think you should just talk to her, like salvia suggested. If you're good friends she'll make some time for you, and you'll get over feeling jealous. It just takes some time.
posted by grapesaresour at 10:19 PM on May 3, 2010

I've been through this a few times (my two best friends started dating at one point, great for them, sucked for me) and I think you'll find the 'new relationship buzz' is temporary. She's focused on making a new relationship work out and that's normal; once things have stabilized a bit she'll have the energy to look around and think of other things (and people) again.
posted by Lady Li at 11:17 PM on May 3, 2010

I'm not sure how this situation can be interpreted as a problem of time management. It seems obvious that OP is in a pseudo-relationship where he gets satisfaction out of feeling responsible for A's emotional state. He's the guy she went to for support, encouragement, advice, to commiserate about things, and he loves feeling like he can do that for her, loves to feel like he's needed. That's gone now, because there's another guy doing that stuff for her now.

It's irresponsible for her to encourage that, because him doing those things requires him to bond with her in a deep way that's inevitably going to cause him pain and loss when she doesn't need him any more. So she's been putting her immediate needs above his long term well-being, and that's not something a caring friend does. But, they're young, she's probably not aware of this and he bears some responsibility for allowing it, etc. There are many mitigating factors, but still.

She might even call him after a few months to chat. But it won't be the same thing for him, because he won't feel needed. In fact, that's likely to make him to feel worse. She will want to keep him in her life because they were friends for so long, but she can only do that in a way that implicitly denies the true depth of his feeling. The new relationship will have to be predicated on a censoring of the old one, which would make it a fraud.

The only way forward is for him to mentally break-up with her. He needs to let go of what he has lost, and that can't happen by denying that it happened.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:12 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

This may have been said already, but there is also the possibility that her new boyfriend may not dig the fact that her best friend is a man. There are people of both genders that have a difficult time with that. I've remained friendly with my ex-husband, and a couple of men I was in LTR with, and have dated/been in romantic relationships with men who were unable to accept the fact that I was not attracted to/sleeping with the exes. This showed more of their insecurity than anything.

My current SO has no such issues, and it makes everything easier because there is an incredible amount of honesty in our relationship.

I also have a girlfriend who hates it when I am in a relationship, because she thinks I spend all my time with "my man". While that's not true, I end up defending myself a lot (which is MY problem to resolve). Her problem is that she is unable to find a good relationship and this makes her sad. She also has abandonment issues from early life that she has held on to, even though she has admitted them and acknowledges that they are debilitating to her relationships.

There are a lot of reasons why friends react to their friends new relationships. Fear of abandonment is a big one. Jealousy and feeling "not good enough" for someone's time are others. You have received very good advice here about broadening your scope of friends. Not suggesting you find new bestbestbest friends, just have folks in your life that you can enjoy.
posted by mnb64 at 6:14 AM on May 4, 2010

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