I always knew he looked at me a little too long...
October 19, 2011 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Things got a little murky with a close, but taken, friend when we were drunk. How do I deal with this situation?

I have a very good friend who I have known for many years. He lives with his girlfriend who I'm also friends with but nowhere as close. A few months ago we got quite drunk (not black out by any means, but you know that awesome drunk your just having a fantastic time) and the party drifts away and we end up alone at my house. He starts to give me a massage, him being a touchy person anyway and me being drunk doesn't think much of it. Until it starts to edge into inappropriate waters. I stop him before anything actually happens.

I do something like "whoa whoa danger Will Robinson you have a girlfriend." He apologizes and we start talking. A lot comes out. He's unhappy with the gf. Doesn't feel he can end it right now because she's unemployed and they live in his very nice house, on his salary, in our very expensive city. Even when she's employed he carried most of the financial load and this isn't the first she's lost a job, so she'd be in bad shape. He still cares about her, even though he clearly resents this and says he knows she not the one for him ultimately. He tells me he has always been really attracted to me, etc etc I tell him this can't happen. He asks me if he was single would I feel differently and I give him an evasive answer (I realize I should have just said no, but I was drunk and yeah I do have feelings for him, and after this they were stronger than I realized). We agree this can't happen. We aren't those kind of people. I cant remember the exact context of how he said this, but he basically asked me if I'd still be around in a year, basically implying he might be single by then. He apologizes a bunch and leaves.

We talk a few days later and decide to forget it ever happened because nothing actually happened and we were really drunk.

Life goes on as normal. We hang out with all our mutual friends, I keep some distance. Things finally start to feel normal again.

Then it happens again. We're drunk, end up hanging out alone, late. He starts giving me a massag and we end up cuddling for a couple hours. No real inappropriate touching, but definitely the sort of cuddling you do with your significant other, not your friend.

I don't stop it because well it felt really nice. I eventually sober up a little tell him we should stop. And tell him this can't keep happening. He goes home.

What do I do? I find myself developing feelings for him. I think if we continue down this road it won't just be cuddling for long. Despite this less than awesome picture of him he really is a good guy. He is very much part of my core group of friends. He's always been there for me. I'm not proud of any of this, but I guess it's the type of thing that you never thought that you were that kind of person until suddenly you are. I'm having trouble fighting wanting to be with him against doing the right thing and I'm not even sure what that is exactly (other than stopping with the massages gone wrong and not being alone when we've been drinking). How do I handle this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't drink with him again until he
a.) gets his relationship confusion sorted out
and until you
b.) talk to him while sober about how you need him to give you some breathing room.

No offense, but while he could definitely be hitting on you because he's attracted to you, this could also be BECAUSE he's feeling unsure about his current situation. Honestly, if he's been attracted to you "all this time", he should have made a move when he wasn't drunk and in a relationship.

Seriously, I've no doubt he's an otherwise great guy, but this puts you in a bad position. Keep him at a cautiously sober distance (like I said, just don't get drunk with him first and foremost) and make sure to talk to him about this since he -is- such a close friend.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:32 PM on October 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

Don't get drunk and hang out alone with him.

On the other hand, it sounds like he's unhappy in his relationship and you kinda want to hook up with him, so you could just keep getting drunk and hanging out alone with him. It's all good (except for his girlfriend).

Probably worth a sober heart to heart with him first, and then stick to one or the other of the foregoing approaches.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:33 PM on October 19, 2011

So, you're both drunk and he gets handsy with you, when you point out that he already has a gf he explains that he's unhappy with her but might be able to break up with her within a year and can he prebook your services for then.

Then, you're both drunk again and he gets handsy with you again, and now you're tempted to have an affair with him.

So he can angle for affairs behind his gf's back but he can't break up with her because she's financially dependent on him, which also somehow means he can't just break up with her and arrange some kind of damage limitation, however awkward, like giving her houseroom until she gets a job.

Sounds like he's got her right where he wants her. Same with you.
posted by tel3path at 3:57 PM on October 19, 2011 [29 favorites]

This isn't your problem to solve, frankly. This guy is a coward until he proves otherwise. What he's doing is not fair to either of you (and by you, I mean the two women he's involved with...his girlfriend and you). This is not how she wants her relationship to end and it's not how you want yours to start. What's he doing about that?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:57 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there some reason you don't think you deserve to be with an honest person, or a person with enough character to end one relationship before beginning another? Because you do.
posted by headnsouth at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

Remember that you have absolute power over this situation. Despite some peoples' best revisionist history, affairs don't just "happen". The way I see it, you have two choices depending on if you prefer active solutions or passive solutions.

Active: Talk to him when you're sober. Tell him you might be developing feelings for him, but you will absolutely not follow through on them unless and until he figures his shit out with his girlfriend.

Passive: Get the fuck out of the party/bar once things start winding down. Remember, when you "end up hanging out alone, late" that's a situation you can decide to avoid, easily.

This isn't your problem to solve, frankly.

This is absolutely OP's problem to solve. They are an equal participant in the behaviour.
posted by auto-correct at 4:01 PM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

You need to address this with yourself and draw a hard line first. You've already progressed to cuddling - this is headed nowhere good. It's easy to get drawn into this trap. You like him, you care about him as a friend, you're attracted to him, then you get drunk, you're feeling good, and then the dramatic BUT I JUST CAN'T TAKE MY HANDS OFFA YOU starts, and you're like, man, I'm so great, he makes me feel irresistible. Remember this: If this is how he deals with relationship drama, it could, and very well would, happen to you if you were to date him. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, we sometimes do stuff when we've had a few snifters of Brandy that's a little outside the zone of morality where everything is good and white and clean. Don't be alone with him when drunk anymore, unless he's single. Remember that there's a point where you're sober and thinking clearly and you decide to drink more and then "whatever happens, happens!" -- don't take that next step. Set yourself up to be strong so that you won't be tempted.

You aren't in charge of his relationship, but you do know his girlfriend, and it sounds like you are developing feelings for him. Don't worry about him. He's a grown up and in charge of his own life. But remember that so are you in charge of yours, so build a fortress of sober sanity around yourself so that you don't do anything you might regret.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:01 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]



He's going to break up with his girlfriend. He is then going to go find someone wonderful and perfect and right for him.

That person will not be you. Sorry.

If you break up his relationship, or wait until his relationship ends and move in, the new relationship will not last. You'll have fun drama for a little while and then it'll end, because fun drama is nervewracking and will eventually make you hate yourselves. And then later he'll go find someone perfect and wonderful and right for him.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:04 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Despite this less than awesome picture of him he really is a good guy.
I've no doubt he's an otherwise great guy,
I'm not saying he's a bad guy,

Yeah, well, I'M saying this guy is not a good guy. This guy is a bad guy. This guy is a jerk. This guy:

-is willing to cheat
-is too cowardly to break up with someone he's unhappy with
-continues to let her believe he loves her
-talks about her behind her back
-only explains that he's attracted to you and unhappy with gf AFTER he hits on you

We agree this can't happen. We aren't those kind of people.

Nope. YOU told him this couldn't happen, because you aren't that kind of person. He IS that kind of person. I don't care how "friendly" and "always there" this guy has been. (Snort. Yeah, I bet he has...)

You're too good for him.
posted by Nixy at 6:11 PM on October 19, 2011 [13 favorites]

Any time there's a possibility that things might get murky again, ask yourself:

Do you want to start a relationship with someone who has no qualms about behaving unfaithfully to his current SO while still in a relationship with that SO? What he's doing to her, he'd do to you.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:14 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You have a choice. You can do things the right way or the wrong way.

Right way: put REAL boundaries (no heavy petting, no cuddling, no anything else) in place until and unless he actually really totally breaks things off with Other Girl, then proceed with having a healthy and uncomplicated relationship where you are treated with respect, and not as just something hot on the side.

Wrong way: get drunk again and eventually have sex, feel insanely guilty but also happy and excited, but then he (1) doesn't actually ever break up with his girlfriend, so you're basically his mistress, or he (2) does break up with her, and eventually cheats on you with someone else, because he probably will. Cheaters are cheaters.

Or option C, run far far away from this guy because he's clearly nothing but trouble.
posted by clockzero at 6:19 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Life's too complicated to give you simple advice like "once a cheater always a cheater." Maybe you two are perfect for each other and his current relationship is really winding down. May be not.

If I had any advice, it would be to tell him this. "Listen Bub, this has been really exciting and fun, but I'm not really interested in this kind of drama. Let me know if you're single again and we can try starting on the right foot." Then tell one of your other friends to never let you go home alone with him. Make it one of your pushiest friends who will make sure to hold you to this.
posted by advicepig at 6:33 PM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

"Ooh, baby, my wife girlfriend doesn't understand me the way you do. I'm going to leave her! Just, not right now... I can't, you see... There's the house/kids/her health/finances. I have to do this gently, on my own timetable. Be patient."

Pretty clichéed. I've heard it. I've fallen for it. And now so have you.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:11 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Maybe it's because I'm a guy who has been down both sides of this path, but I'm not willing to be as hard on the guy (or the asker) as many here are being. Things happen, and sometimes they are imperfect, but that's life. So far you have been a willing participant, and clearly you are both getting something out of this.

"Listen Bub, this has been really exciting and fun, but I'm not really interested in this kind of drama. Let me know if you're single again and we can try starting on the right foot."

But this, I really like. Hooking up is hot, and forbidden hooking up is super hot. But drama is not hot. In fact, drama is the anti-hot, and this situation is on the path from hot to drama, which is bad. Hotness is great, but getting into one of those drawn out situations where maybe he's leaving her and maybe he's not, and you are worried someone will hear about it, and all that nonsense, is totally not hot.

tl;dr: Maximize hotness, minimize drama, and have a chat while sober about how to do exactly that.
posted by Forktine at 7:39 PM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

The heady early days of infatuation can be awfully disorienting. You feel excited, flattered, hopeful, connected to another person whom you really like...and that's a hard combination of feelings to turn your back on. Not to mention that this situation might be making you think, "Hmm, we're not 'those kind of people,' so the fact that we're doing this must mean that it's really a super-deep and meaningful connection!" You want it to stop, b/c you can see clearly that this is a recipe for drama, guilt, and shitty relationships, but you don't really, 100%, want it to stop. Part of you is steering the ship towards more more more.

But I warn you: these intoxicating days are temporary and misleading. You will come out of this, you'll see it for what it is, and you'll feel foolish and guilty if you do much more than you've already done. And you'll probably lose a few friends to boot.

What everyone is saying is true. You're on track for this to happen again; dishonesty and cheating is no way to start (or end) a respectful relationship; this is going to turn into guilt-inducing drama; and even if you end up together, you'll have to worry about him doing this to you. Don't do it.

Your job should be to strip the romance and the flattery and the thrill from this situation as much as possible so that it loses its oh-so-compelling allure and starts to annoy you or disgust you. Recognize that you are getting carried away (understandably!) and try to throw some cold water on your face. Enlist savvy, honest, drama-disliking friends to help you.

Practical steps, as others have said: don't drink with him, don't be alone with him, get your friends to help you police yourself. Also, hang out with his girlfriend more. It'll make you feel more guilty, which will help keep you from talking yourself into thinking this is ok.

Good luck! This is a totally normal and understandable situation to get yourself into, but you need to be honest and tough with yourself. You deserve respectful, honest, relationships, and you deserve to live a life of integrity.

(Sorry for the rambling, but I know whereof I speak.)
posted by aka burlap at 9:17 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

We talk a few days later and decide to forget it ever happened because nothing actually happened and we were really drunk.

I'm pretty sure you answered your own question...and what everyone else was going to say.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:02 AM on October 20, 2011

I don't agree with the above posters that your friend is necessarily a dick. I'm a very nice person (at least, I like to think so), and I've ended up in his situation twice... dating someone much longer than I wanted to because I cared about them enough as a friend to want to wait until "a better time" to break up with them.

I've also experienced this from your side. Hung out with a male friend who had decided to break up with his girlfriend, but hadn't actually done the deed yet. We were goofing around play-fighting, things got a little heated, we had that are-we-about-to-kiss moment, and we both screeched to a halt in an awkward scramble of apologies and a somewhat similar can-we-revisit-this-when-I'm-single conversation.

That happened thirteen years ago (holy crap, I am old) and I can still say with confidence that my friend is not only not a dick, he's one of the most stand-up guys I ever knew.

That aside, I think other folks have the right idea about the no-more-drunken-aloneness (and possibly even no more aloneness; now that you both know that the other one is interested, you probably don't even need Booze Lube to start down the slippery slope) policy until he's available (and if his girlfriend is going to continue to be in your friend group, probably a decent waiting period even after they've broken up). Just make sure you tell him why instead of just starting to avoid him, or he'll get the wrong idea.

One more thing: if you're only a little interested in this guy, don't see it lasting long-term, whatever... it's probably best to just walk away. Even if you do everything in your power to be decent about how this is handled, you're probably in for drama with the ex-girlfriend. My group of friends is still half its former size over an incident like this, and the new couple did everything right... no fooling around while girl was still with guy #1, waited many months after the breakup to become a couple, etc. It's been years, the new couple is married now, and guy #1 is still pissed about guy #2 "fishing in his fish tank". Totally worth dealing with the bullshit in their case, possibly not in yours... up to you.
posted by Gianna at 5:31 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nice people can feel trapped because they're so conflict averse that they can't back out of relationships and NEED some sort of drama to break a bad relationship. Nice people cheat on their partners, too. Nice people do plenty of naughty things. I don't think any of this means he's a bad person.

That said, you're becoming a casualty of his weaknesses. He needs to break up with his girlfriend on his own terms and you don't want to be his excuse because that will be dramatastic.
posted by pjaust at 1:07 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

You know, I've known people who were never ever single and always stepping-stoned from one relationship straight into the next. When they talked about their partners' financial inadequacies as a reason for staying in the relationship they supposedly wanted to leave, I've sometimes wondered if they were projecting.

Like, the poorer partner was actually contributing more than perhaps even they were aware of - sometimes in a passive way; maybe because despite not having much income, the partner's parent helped out with a deposit on the house and the cheater had to stick around long enough after that to look acceptable and/or build up equity; or else the cheater needed them for a car (having lost their licence) or their social connections (had gotten a job through the partner) or on one occasion, I suspect, because the cheater was holding out for the partner to get an inheritance. A person could be unemployed or minimally employed and still be providing in substantial ways.

That particular relationship, I noticed, was definitely losing its appeal once the grim financial reality of the partner's career had seriously begun to register with the cheater; I can say that much with very little fear of overinterpreting. I tend to be persuaded that there was some financial motive in at least one case because the cheater would almost always transition straight into living with someone else.

So... if he's blaming his partner for keeping him in the relationship for financial reasons, I'd at least question that it's the partner that's the more dependent one.
posted by tel3path at 2:34 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you end up dating this guy, you do realize you will become the girlfriend he cheats on, right? You will become her and another woman will be cuddling with your boyfriend.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:44 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for everyone's responses. I've been trying to get some clarity on it all. I Told him that i felt like we should probably talk and we agreed to soon. It's a bit hard for me to see him as a letch. Even though I suppose he is acting a bit like one. I have known him for years and he hasn't been hitting on me for years and he certainly doesn't have a reputation for that type of thing. I always thought there was some level of chemistry between us but never did I think it was anything more than that and he certainly never crossed any lines before this. I vaguely remember him hitting on me and maybe casually asking me out (?) when we first met and were both single, but that was when I barely knew him and I think I politely blew him off. We didn't become good friends until a bit later and by the I'm fairly sure he was dating his girlfriend.

I get the impression that he's really in denial about it and feels he's sort of skirting the line of acceptability. As in nothing has actually happened so it's fine. Then again probably so am I. I do get the impression he might be subconsciously trying to explode his relationship because he wants out but can't really pull the trigger. But I agree there can be no more alone and certainly not drunken alone. I had been good about not letting that happen, but let my guard down I guess because things had stopped seeming awkward and I thought we were ok just being friends, but then again the booze probably didn't help my judgment on many fronts. I just want none of this drama. I need to keep him at an arms length for the foreseeable future, which sucks because I love hanging out with him, but that is how it needs to be.

I guess in response to him having me where he wants me. I don't know it isn't really his personality and he would have to actually be getting something. I don't think cuddling and back massages quite qualifies. I don't really know whether he's angling for an affair or not. Maybe I'm naive to think he isn't, but honestly I feel like he's purposely trying not to think about it all. His actions definitely don't strike me as premeditated.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:04 PM on October 20, 2011

OP, I don't know if he does this all the time or not, has a master plan or not, iis guaranteed to cheat on you or not, is trying to cause his relationship to end or not.

What I do know is that the way a man approaches me is always the most accurate thin-slice of his character that I ever get. This has never been inaccurate no matter how good an explanation there seemed to be for it and no matter what my previous experience with him has been. The moment of his hitting on me was always the watershed. So please believe me when I tell you that this has started as it will go on, and will end as it began. It may seem to go well for a time, but that will be an illusion.

Now, it looks like you've fallen very hard for him, I believe you when you say your experience so far is that he's a good guy, and I see that you're profoundly tempted. Sometimes you just have to pee on the electric fence yourself. If it weren't for one thing, I'd tell you to go for it. That thing is: you'd be stabbing his gf in the back. That is all you need to know here and the question of whether he is good is beside the point. The question is whether you are good.
posted by tel3path at 12:40 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I guess in response to him having me where he wants me. I don't know it isn't really his personality and he would have to actually be getting something. I don't think cuddling and back massages quite qualifies.

Of course it does. He's got you on the hook. Lots of positive attention, lots of drama, lots of fodder for fantasy, and the ego boost that comes from knowing two women have the hots for him. Cuddling and back massages with you are more than enough when he's going home to f*ck someone else! Being with you and *not* having sex probably makes sex with his girlfriend that much better in his mind!

I don't really know whether he's angling for an affair or not. Maybe I'm naive to think he isn't, but honestly I feel like he's purposely trying not to think about it all. His actions definitely don't strike me as premeditated.

He's already having an affair. It just doesn't include the actual sex act.
posted by headnsouth at 4:23 AM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

He's already having an affair.

That's right. You don't get to have one, though, because no part of this arrangement has ever been intended to benefit you in any way. You will get all the pain and the frustration, and he will get the actual relationship, the excitement, the romance, and the ego boost.
posted by tel3path at 4:42 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think that everyone is being a little harsh on him but I agree that for all of your sakes, avoid being alone with him for now, treat him just like any other platonic friend, and if it was really meant to be, he will break up with his gf and find you. He does not need any extra encouragement from you, you as you are will be enough, if he is really interested.

And if this happens, then your ensuing relationship will be more the healthier.

People can make mistakes from time to time, but you can limit the damage.
posted by moiraine at 6:35 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think you really need an all-or-nothing attitude here. I would tell him that if he breaks up with his girlfriend (a real breakup, so that they're no longer living together), he can feel free to call you to see if you're still single and interested. Otherwise, you can't hang out with him alone right now because it's going to lead you both down a bad road. Murkiness in these situations is always bad. He's either single and available to cuddle with you, or he isn't - it needs to be one or the other. Unfortunately for you, that choice is his, so in the meantime, you should go about enjoying life, meeting other people, etc.
posted by whitelily at 2:50 PM on October 22, 2011

« Older My mom's sister, the snow bunny   |   Did people believe their hair would catch on fire... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.