November 1, 2010 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Is it even possible to be helpful in this situation? As expected, special snowflake details inside.

I am friends with a male/female cohabiting couple. The female half of this couple has confided in me that she thinks of her boyfriend as her "dad" and that they have not had sex in over a year.

I had a relationship very much like this. My now ex, live in boyfriend even told me (at the end) that he loved me the way he loved his mother. I strongly empathize with my male friend's plight and would like to extend to him the offer of a sympathetic ear.

But I am female, and heterosexual male/female friendships are often fraught affairs. Is there a way to this that isn't super creepy?
posted by Leta to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Whoa. No. Stop right there. The female half of the couple told you this; you have no idea if she's discussed this with her SO or if he would want to talk to you. Don't get in the middle of this.
posted by amro at 7:38 PM on November 1, 2010 [14 favorites]

Stay the hell out of it. Getting involved is like whizzing on an electric fence. Do not do.
posted by inturnaround at 7:43 PM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

posted by emilyd22222 at 7:58 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it even possible to be helpful in this situation?

Sometimes people confide things in their friends without needing (or wanting) their friends to do anything helpful. This is one of those situations.
posted by amyms at 7:58 PM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yeah. Another way to put it is, by letting your friend voice her concerns and feelings to you, you are probably being about as helpful as you can and should be.
posted by dubitable at 8:04 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do not do this, and not just because "heterosexual male/female friendships are often fraught affairs." If a guy friend had confided in you about his girlfriend, this would be the same situation. Let your friends work their relationship out themselves. If you are really concerned, and you're close enough to do so, you could talk with her about it and share your experience from your past relationship, but don't bring this up with him.
posted by you zombitch at 8:14 PM on November 1, 2010

I'd say no to all of this. Bad idea.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:26 PM on November 1, 2010

Say nothing to him, but you could discuss it further with her, if you feel compelled.
posted by annsunny at 8:33 PM on November 1, 2010

Don't get involved. If they haven't had sex in a year, the partner knows that something is up. They can do their own research/discussion. Also, if it makes you uncomfortable to know something so intimate about your friends' relationship, you can ask your friend to refrain from giving you this type of information in the future. There is nothing wrong with that type of request.
posted by studioaudience at 8:47 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sometimes people confide in their friends because they want a confidante, not a problem solver. Your role is to listen if your friend needs you. If she wants your assistance with her relationship she will have to be the one to decide how and when.
posted by contessa at 8:57 PM on November 1, 2010

Woah. I'd be really pissed at her for telling you this, actually, because it sounds like you're closer/more loyal to the male half of the couple (right?) and you can't support two people at once in this situation. Can't do it. And now if he finds out you know, he's going to feel humiliated, betrayed, talked about behind his back, or just generally annoyed that you know his personal business that he didn't see fit to tell you.

I'd ask her not to tell me anything else like it because it puts you in a weird place. It doesn't sound like an emotional emergency (after a year!) so I think she'll be fine without you.

Being involved in another couples' sex life from both sides (unless it's sexy fun) is likely to make them both so awkward around you at some point that you lose both friendships. It's not fair.

If there's any kind of romantic/sexual tension (be honest with yourself) between yourself and the guy, yeah, being a shoulder to cry on just SCREAMS "hey I heard you're not getting". Whether or not it's true, it sorta seems like you want him to know that you're a viable alternative.

If you are a viable alternative, great, stay on their radar and when they break up be like "oh hey there". But again, tell her to stop telling you things so you don't end up inadvertently being perceived as taking sides in the breakup.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:09 PM on November 1, 2010

I would favorite the first comment in this thread a hundred times if I could. If you're going to help, you're going to help the one who confided in you; otherwise stay out of it.
posted by davejay at 9:21 PM on November 1, 2010

(and only by listening, not through action)
posted by davejay at 9:22 PM on November 1, 2010

heterosexual male/female friendships are often fraught affairs.

This is not the problem. The problem is that, on the basis of the perspective of the woman, you wish to reach out to the man, which is a betrayal of the confidence of the woman.

Also, the situation of you being regarded as the "mother" role versus this dude being thought of as "dad" role is a straight relationship is waaaaaay different, culturally. If this is your main justification for seeking a way for greater emotional intimacy with the guy, well, I think that's possibly a bit of a reach.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 PM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh hell no. There is no way that bringing this up ends well.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:49 AM on November 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, guys.

We've all been friends since high school, and I saw them over the summer, now I'm going to see them later this month, so things have been marinating since then.

I am not closer or more loyal to the male half of this couple, but I do feel a lot more empathy toward the man in this particular situation, because, well, I was him. I know what that rejection -after years of acceptance and trust- does to a person's self esteem and sense of reality.

After my breakup with the "mom" lover, a friend of mine (who was mutually friends with me and the ex boyfriend) told me that he thought my ex boyfriend had confused his feelings of love and loyalty for his deceased mom with his feelings for me, that I was well shot of him, and that he was doing nothing but weighing me down. Because he knew both of us, it was intensely meaningful for him to say that stuff to me. It helped me get over things and move on. And, at the time, I said, "Why didn't you say this to me six months ago?!" Which, I know that this is Monday morning quarterbacking, but that is was I felt at the time.

I have never discussed the parent/lover dynamic with anyone IRL on any kind of personal basis. It's not that uncommon, and I felt like the grossest, frumpiest woman ever. I would have been relieved to hear from someone I knew well that this isn't all that uncommon.

And NO, I am NOT a viable alternative. I certainly don't want anyone to think that's what's going on here.

I guess I'll just prepare notes for how to be his friend after the inevitable break up...
posted by Leta at 7:09 AM on November 2, 2010

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