So... what ELSE is new?
March 24, 2011 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I’m very happy for a friend in a new relationship, but I’d rather not hear about it all the time. How can I be a good friend for him, and avoid questioning my own self-worth at the same time?

A male coworker (25) and I (28, female) formed a pretty solid friendship when he started working with me over a year ago. Our department has had its ups and downs, and our work relationship turned out to be pretty intense, as with staff leaving it’s basically come down to the two of us to hold down the fort. We see each other all day, every day, which has been fine, and actually pretty enjoyable, for quite some time.

We also have a great friendship, and see each other for dinner once every two weeks or so, or hang out with other former coworkers in groups every week to two weeks as well. This started when there were more coworkers at the company, but since it’s come down to the two of us, we’ve kept up our non-work friendship. We’ve become quite involved in each others’ social circles, which has been very comfortable. It really is an amazing thing to be able to work with one of your best friends every day, and I don’t want to change that, or our relationship as friends, if at all possible.

However, he’s recently decided that he’d like to start dating again (he was getting over a breakup when we met), and it seems like once he made that decision, he was instantly successful. He dated one girl for a month, and two weeks after they broke up immediately started in on another friend – this is now a successful relationship, and he’s over the moon about it. And now I hear about it at work, after work, and in coffee and lunch breaks.

I’ve been pretty much single for the two years since my own devastating breakup, and am just sort of coming around to the idea of dating again myself. But it’s incredibly important to me that I have an active and full life on my own (which I very much do have, I’m not hunting around for activities to keep busy) – I don’t want to date anyone out of pressure to be in a relationship. If something comes along and it looks good, that would be fine, but I don’t want to just find a schlub to take home so that I can avoid loneliness.

So the problem I think is that I’m lacking happy single friends (my female friends seem to be on the prowl), and I guess I sort of want validation for my lifestyle. He’s now saying how much he wants me to find something as great as he has, which is nice and all, but I can’t just snap my fingers and meet someone. And I don’t want to feel like I have to meet someone! Although I think maybe I should learn how to make myself approachable again. In the past I’ve gotten short with him talking about his new relationships, and felt guilty about that – I want to hear about the things in his life, and be happy for him – I want to avoid this compulsion I have to compare myself with him.

In short: I see my friend all the time, and this cannot be toned down without hurting our working relationship or our friendship. So, how do I either:
a) steer our conversations so that they’re about interesting, non-relationship things in an incredibly subtle way,
b) find a way to make myself available to potential dating partners while not depending on dating as a necessary mark of success or happiness
c) learn how to stop comparing myself to others (that should be simple, eh?)
or d) all of the above?
posted by Curiosity Delay to Human Relations (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Almost all friendships suffer a blow when there's a new love in the picture, but it sounds especially hard because you two are together so much and you envy him.

The obvious answer would be to start dating more proactively yourself (it can be casual, online, whatever), but not settle for anyone less awesome than you. It will help you focus on your own life and needs and desires and excitements, and hopefully will keep you from comparing yourself too much. You sound conflicted about dating - it doesn't mean you have to be on the Prowl, you can just decide that yes, you'd like to be dating, just casually for now, and let him and other friends that might set you up know. It sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself to "succeed" at life - be kind to yourself and make the stakes low.

Lastly, allow him a little time to talk about the fabulousness of new love each day, then either ask about the movie or show or whatever they went to get him to talk about something neutral, or start talking about your own life. You do exciting stuff, talk about it! Or talk about work, or worse comes to worse, wander off to the ladies room for a few to wrap up the conversation. It'll get better with time.
posted by ldthomps at 12:15 PM on March 24, 2011

Best answer: Remind yourself that he is currently in what one of my friends calls the bobLOVESpeas! stage of a relationship. This is where someone says, "Man, I do not like peas," and the other person replies, "But ... Bob LOVES peas!" (Bob being the new boyfriend.)

People in the bobLOVESpeas! stage can't shut up about how everything relates back to their new love AND want everyone else to have something in their life fully as awesome. He will slow down about it as he settles in.

In terms of (A), I would honestly just politely say, when he starts saying how much he wants you to have what he has: "I don’t want to date anyone out of pressure to be in a relationship. If something comes along and it looks good, that would be fine, but I don’t want to just find a schlub to take home so that I can avoid loneliness." I mean, I literally could not put it in better words myself. Said in a friendly and confiding tone to a friend, I see nothing wrong with that. You can add, "I see how great your relationship is and I don't want to settle for something not-great," as a subtle way of complimenting and reinforcing him. And add, "I'm letting it happen in its own time, I'm in no rush. Now, about that [other awesome thing we like to discuss]."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:17 PM on March 24, 2011 [14 favorites]

This is awful, but usually proves true...

When folks gush this much, it usually ends just as quickly. Makes me so squicky on their behalf! WHY? Because I've been them, of course!! I've gushed and gushed only to have it fall apart in five minutes flat.

So. There's that.

The real answer to this is YOU.

Especially when the other person's happiness or success is genuine, cultivate an inner demaenor of being truly happy for the other person. Know why? Because you MUST hold the belief that if they can achieve XYZ, you can achieve it, too. Every time someone near you gets what they (or you) always wanted, you've got to see that as proof positive that XYZ exists and is just around the corner for you, too.

It's actually pretty easy to re-train your thinking in this direction and you gain everything by putting this perspective into action within yourself.

All that said... A lovely friend of mine is (again!) gushing about yet another new romance. Like the others, this one probably won't last... I got him to shut up about it recently by telling him his best bet for success this time was to keep the details of the relationship to himself. I used myself as an example. I'm THRILLED to be in my marriage, but I only talk about that here on MF and never ever IRL unless someone else brings it up. Most people don't have the inner perspective I outlined above and I try hard to keep my Good Life to myself.

If you think it might help him and you are sure he'd understand, you could always employ this technique.

This first time someone older told me this, it concerned my demeanor at work. They said I always looked happy and to be careful because that made me a bit of a target for others that were inclined towards the opposite. I didn't listen then, but looking back now, I totally get it.

posted by jbenben at 12:49 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need to explain all of this to him. Tell him that you are totes happy and excited for him, and that you think it's great that dating is working out so well for him, but that you just don't want to keep hearing about it because of the issues you are having with dating. Here's why: If you don't talk to him honestly about it and you continue to get upset and snippy with him when he talks about girlfriends, eventually he may get the impression that you don't like talking about his relationships because you want to be in a relationship with him and that you are jealous of his girlfriend(s). This will do massive damage to your friendship. If he's such a good friend, you owe it to him to be honest.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:49 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I could be completely off-base here, and if so I apologize. But the realities of opposite-gender friendships between straight people lead me to wonder:

Is there any possibility that he's talking about his girlfriend so much out of a misguided desire to broadcast to you that he's off the market? Might his new girlfriend be uncomfortable with how much time he spends with you, and he's trying to do right by her in making sure he's not sending mixed signals?

If there's a performative/boundary-drawing aspect to this, then talking to him may very well help, but you'd want to be extra careful how you bring it up. Emphasize that you're just trying to be comfortable with being single right now, and want his help in staying in a good headspace. Try not to say anything that might set off "She's jealous of my girlfriend" alarm bells in his head.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:57 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: He’s now saying how much he wants me to find something as great as he has

I can totally understand your annoyance with this. It sort of smacks of smugness, but I'm guessing he really and truly enjoys your company so much that he's thinking that if you too had a SO, you could double date with no third-wheel awkwardness.
posted by iconomy at 1:17 PM on March 24, 2011

If something comes along and it looks good, that would be fine, but I don’t want to just find a schlub to take home so that I can avoid loneliness.

Well, you've always had the fall-back of dinner with CoWorker, which was probably a fairly decent substitute for male attention, even if it wasn't romantic. You're best pals at work, and socialize together, and he's gone and found someone else. Of course, you don't want to hear about it.

I don't think you want validation for your singlehood, I think you want things to be the way they were before he met Ms. Right. Rather than complain about listening to him rhapsodize about her, you might want to have be less available to listen. Meet new people, do new things, etc.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:16 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks every one for the responses. He and I have already talked a bit about my reluctance to start dating again, and I think he's already tried to tone down the new girlfriend talk around me. I think what I'm missing is a good perspective on how to deal with the changes, so I marked best answer on the ones that would help steer me in that direction.
posted by Curiosity Delay at 6:21 AM on March 25, 2011

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