Melt the ice queen
February 12, 2012 11:01 AM   Subscribe

I despise my best friend's girlfriend. How do I let go and just be happy for him?

Long story: I'm a woman, my best friend is a man. We've always been scary close, and know each other inside and out. We're an awesome team. I love him to death, and I know he loves me. He's the most interesting, passionate, clever person I know. And I haven't talked to him in over a year because I can't stand the person he's dating.

When his girlfriend was first interested in him, she was probably very threatened by me. She made a point of ignoring me, was extremely rude to me, and did everything she could to isolate him from our group of friends. I have a really low opinion of her because of how she treated me, and what he's told me about how she behaves in their relationship.

I know that I sound like a jealous girlfriend here. I'm not romantically interested in him, and I haven't been jealous of other women he's dated. Usually I'm interested in meeting anyone that he finds interesting, and I've been good friends with his girlfriends. In this particular case though, yes, I am a crazy possessive bitch and have crossed the line from friendship to something bitter and ugly. Ugh!

Anyway. At first I thought I could just wait it out. But it's been three years and I'm just now resigning myself to the idea that I might have to get over my issues because I could be waiting a very long time (and even if it does end, it doesn't mean that I've won, or that he wasn't ever close to her, you know?). I don't want to miss out on this friendship. Whenever I think about it I feel this solid mass of hurt and anger and I can only be charitable for a few seconds before deciding, "Well, fuck it." I don't want to wake up 20 years from now and still feel that same hard lump in my chest. I need your help, Metafilter.

Short version: For various reasons I despise my best friend's girlfriend and I feel betrayed by my friend, and though I know it's none of my goddamn business, I can't seem to get over it.
I've been trying to use CBT techniques, and meditation, but I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. What tools have you used to deal with something like this? What thoughts do you repeat to yourself? How do I change my internal dialogue about this?

Other details: I now live on the other side of the country from him and his girlfriend. We used to talk on the phone and email a lot, but neither of us has initiated in a long time. My friend and I have discussed this, he knows how I feel, and has acknowledged that his girlfriend treated me really poorly. Nothing seems to change after we talk, and I'm tired of having the same conversation. I guess I also don't really know what I want from him, except for his relationship to end. As long as that's not going to happen, and as long as I can't be happy for him, I feel like I should just stay very far away.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I've been through a slightly similar situation.

Some questions here:

What is it about his girlfriend, precisely, that bothers you? Is it that she continues to treat you poorly? Is it that previously, you were always more important to him as a friend than any girlfriends, but now are not?

Also: you mentioned having issues with how she behaves in their relationship. Do you think that she's crossed the line into being either verbally or physically abusive, or is she actually a bad fit for him?

Do you have romantic feelings for your friend at all? Also, what would your ideal friendship situation be, given that you're now at a distance? Let's assume he does break up with her- do you want to talk more often via phone and email? Do you want to be the one he goes to with his issues and concerns? Do you want him to be more available? Do you want him to live on your coast?

Figuring out what you want first is key on solving this.
posted by corb at 11:22 AM on February 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think you may be able to find an opportunity in all of this to feel a great deal of empathy for and with your friend's partner. In love with your friend, faced with the irrationality of new love, she let possessiveness win over the opportunity to connect with another person. So did you.

Look, I know. Your shoes bear the imprints of my feet on the insoles. Regardless of what he has told you about her, about any of it, you cannot see inside of their relationship. You cannot. Then, when it was first bad and painful, remember that he was in love, too. His love, her love, and your hurt cannot make perspective out of the original situation. Not ever. Let that part go and/or think about how she was never so different from you, really, at least in her fear of loss.

No one will stand up and take responsibility for what has happened, here. Not your friend, not his partner, and you don't have to, if you don't want to. But if what you want is his friendship, than your only effort that is required is to be his friend.

If you're letting yourself be worried that he's somehow suffering in love, you'll never be the person he turns to if he could never trust your perspective, anyway. Don't require him to hash through it anymore, just don't. Be his friend. Pick up the phone and talk to him about what's going on in your life, ask him what is going on in his and what is going on in his partner's life. Before you get off the phone, ask him to pass on your love to her and to say hi. Whatever else you think she has done, after all, she has loved your friend.

And if he does need a friend to get his back someday, you may have the chance to be there. As a couple, your efforts may open up their trust so that both of your families are all friends someday. You don't have anything at all to gain from protecting this original hurt. It could also be true that protecting it has weakened trust too severely to repair your friendship.

Friendship is a long game, and a blissfully short memory is the only strategy.
posted by rumposinc at 11:24 AM on February 12, 2012 [32 favorites]

He wasn't that clever of a guy after all.

Basically right? You know how you can spot poor partners by how they treat other people they don't know? They are all lovey dovey about the one they have an interest in and hate and treat poorly everyone else? Superb red-flag.
But... you don't really know, or at least this is behavior only toward you (from what you wrote).

You just have to let go because your clever guy friend doesn't see the hypocrisy of his GF's attitude. Or at least he's willing to let his GF's jealousy slide. It may be much like how rumposinc writes.

Or if you do wish to stay in touch. Don't worry about having a conversation. Just let him know you are there. It will be one-sided and lonely.
posted by Bodrik at 11:28 AM on February 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, in terms of what I myself personally found as workable:

Picking up the phone on a schedule. I programmed into my calendar "I will call in X months", and then actually called at that time. I didn't ask about the girlfriend, and he didn't tell me about her. We talked about other things going on in his life, things going on in mine, and it was really great. The friendship feels like it will be there to be picked back up at a normal level, when things level out.

I think also it's important to remind him that he hasn't entirely lost you. He may feel guilty about what, in the flush of excitement or love or what have you, he has allowed his girlfriend to do to you and to your friendship. One of the reasons he may not be calling so often is that guilt-which he may or may not be able to acknowledge.
posted by corb at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think, in a romantic relationship, if it's serious enough, the partner always becomes a priority over friends, even best friends. I don't doubt that she's an awful bitch or whatever, but I think the real issue is that you view yourself as a "scary close" best friend and part of a "team" with this guy. (How could he choose her over you?)

Even if you guys salvage and maintain your friendship, and even if they break up, you're not going to go back to being the most important person in his life. If you can deal with that, then you should think about being friends again, in that new way. Rehashing this shit with him isn't going to help, so don't. If you can't deal with that, then you should not be friends. Either way, the particular friendship you had is in the past. Are you afraid of change? Are you lonely? There's a process of accepting change and letting go that I suspect you need to go through, and for me, it helps just to be aware that's an issue. Have you talked with a therapist?
posted by J. Wilson at 11:56 AM on February 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry to say this but... I don't think you can save this. The fact that he chose her over you even though she was shitty to you, and maybe even to him, and all that... not only will it always sting; but it will always make you doubt his judgment, his integrity, and his (platonic) love for you. This is the reality. He demoted you.

The subtext of your question was "how do I get back what I lost" and the answer is you can't. If it makes you feel any better, the sacrifice of dear and valuable friendships to even "meh" romantic entanglements is a common phenomenon. Heck even without romantic competition, best friends tend to get demoted when romantic relationships get serious. It sucks and it hurts and it's not fair and we've all been there and it's awful, and I'm sorry.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:08 PM on February 12, 2012 [14 favorites]

I'm sorry to say this but... I don't think you can save this. The fact that he chose her over you even though she was shitty to you, and maybe even to him, and all that... not only will it always sting; but it will always make you doubt his judgment, his integrity, and his (platonic) love for you. This is the reality. He demoted you.

I don't know. I kind of feel like, welcome to adulthood. Act in a way that suggests you want your friend to break up with their long term significant other and choose you instead--in fact, act like there has to be an "instead" rather than everyone just getting along like grown-ups--and you'll lose.

I say, if this friendship matters to you, fake it. No more complaining about how horrible she was. No more opening up the old wounds of her rudeness to you. Call him up, say, "I'm sorry I was a bitch about your girl. How the hell have you been?" and start acting like a decent person toward and about her. Even if she's a snot to you. Even if you think he should end it. Don't offer him unsolicited advice or commentary about his relationship. He's already shown you that he won't tolerate that, so if you want to be friends with him, swallow your lumps, and act like his friend.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:15 PM on February 12, 2012 [58 favorites]

So, I had a guy best friend once. We were super-close, talked about everything, including the women he was dating. We were always platonic, there had never even been a hint of anything between us. Then he met the woman who would become his wife.

I've always assumed she felt threatened by me. She was definitely cool towards me the few times we ever interacted. He'd invite me over for dinner or something, and she would always conveniently call his house while I was there with some crisis that he had to solve. I doubt she ever put it to him straight, but he definitely was forced to choose between us, and in the end he chose her.

15 years later, they've been married over a decade, have two kids, etc. I exchange birthday greetings twice a year with my friend on Facebook and that's the extent of our friendship. (Well, except for that stretch of time when he would call me FROM HIS CAR on his commute home, and always had to hang up when he pulled in the driveway. That was fun for me.)

I tell this story to illustrate J. Wilson's point that the serious romantic partner will eventually come first over friends. I think that's just how it works unless your friend's partner is able to see that you pose no threat or that you fulfill a need that they cannot. Many people have trouble with the concept that they might not meet all of their partner's needs, as irrational as that sounds when you write it out.
posted by cabingirl at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

Oh, and of course PhoBWanKenobi is spot on.
posted by cabingirl at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2012

You had a very close friendship. That's gone and you can't get it back.

If you choose to exercise some agency in the matter, you have two plausible futures:
  1. Accept a permanently diminished friendship and try to find something you enjoy about it.
  2. Let him go entirely.
If you can't manage to choose either of these, you'll lose him anyway.
posted by ead at 12:39 PM on February 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Hi, OP here. Thank you SO MUCH for your comments. You are all so helpful and thoughtful and I'm so grateful to feel like I'm not completely alone in this and I'm crying a lot. I just wanted to add one thing because I realized I phrased it badly and PhoBWanKenobi picked up on it and I don't want it to become an issue.

When I said I was tired of having the same conversation, I didn't mean that we talked about the girlfriend. We talked about that once, several years ago, and I haven't brought it up since. I don't complain about her or offer any advice to him, and I don't badmouth her to other people. She and I are polite but distant to each other. The conversation I'm tired of having is where we're sad we've grown apart and want to keep in touch, but don't ever pick up the phone.

This is not to say that your advice isn't spot on, PhoBWanKenobi - I know I have to act like a grownup. But I don't feel like one.

Thank you!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:00 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You said it yourself - you are a "crazy possessive bitch" about him now. I am sorry, but that does not describe the basis for an ongoing opposite-sex friendship with a partnered person, no matter how you got there. Until you accept that you come second and dial back the emotionality, there is not much you can do. I think she sees you as a treat because you are acting like one.
posted by yarly at 1:09 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you ever apologized to him? Not explained your behavior in the context of her bitchyness but just flat-out taken accountability and apologized? I think that's step one. Step two is just to dive in and call him despite your uncomfortable feelings. It's going to take time and it's going to feel awkward. You've missed a year of one another's lives, though, and I think that once you show that you're willing to be the bigger person here, it will go a long way to repairing the hurt and re-establishing the relationship.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:10 PM on February 12, 2012

Lifetime-subscription friendships have to be flexible. I may talk to some of my lifetime-subscription friends less than once a year sometimes, but when we do talk, we pick up right where we left off. I had a best friend like yours, and the frequency of contact waxed and waned over the years, but the way we stayed friends was by being flexible, and by making the effort to stay in touch now and then, even if just to say "I saw x movie and I thought of you because of that time y". If you want to keep this friendship, I think you need to do two things: first, accept that you are going to have to allow the friendship to change; second, pick up the phone. It can be hard to have your standing in someone's life change, but that's just reality. You can either accept it, or call it quits. I would accept it, myself, because friendships like you describe are very few and far between. Be graceful about this.
posted by biscotti at 1:16 PM on February 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

The conversation I'm tired of having is where we're sad we've grown apart and want to keep in touch, but don't ever pick up the phone.

This happens. When both people grow apart it can be a smooth, painless moving on. Often though, it's just one of the two who has moved on, and the other person is left standing there baffled and hurt and trying to figure out what the hell happened. If your friendship has been limping along for three years and he's in a LTR with someone you don't like and all you ever talk about together is how you don't hang out anymore, then he's moved on.

One thing that's probably hard to do but that will help you start to accept that is to stop referring to him as your "best friend." He's not your best friend anymore. You may end up being friends again, but right now you are someone who doesn't respect his choices and doesn't like his SO and "crossed the line from friendship to something bitter and ugly."

It's probably time to find a new best friend.
posted by headnsouth at 1:23 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh man. Can I be honest with you anonymous? Really not trying to hurt you. Let me pull 3 lines here.

We've always been scary close, and know each other inside and out. We're an awesome team. I love him to death, and I know he loves me. He's the most interesting, passionate, clever person I know.

Scary close. Know each other inside and out awesome time. Love each other to death.

I haven't been jealous of other women he's dated. Usually I'm interested in meeting anyone that he finds interesting

Women he finds "interesting."

In this particular case though, yes, I am a crazy possessive bitch

Is it possible, anonymous, that you weren't jealous of the other women as long as you were still the #1 woman in his life? Fuck, as long as you were the #1 through #10 woman in his life, the other half of his awesome team, the one he was scary close to and loved to death? And the "other woman" was just some girl he found "interesting?" Someone who wasn't threatening "your" place in his life? Someone who was okay with you having that #1 spot? Or at least okay with sharing it?

To be perfectly honest, if this could be part of it, behaving that way was inappropriate and unfair of you. Very, very, very few women would be okay with a setup like that. It was pretty much setting up your guy friend for a lot of trouble finding a serious, committed long term relationship.

The relationship you describe just does not sound quite platonic to me. I'm thinking of all the long best friendships I've observed between two guys. None of them would ever imagine using the words "love each other to death," or "awesome team" unless it was specifically in the contest of sports or another activity involving an actual team. Describing yourselves as an "awesome team" in LIFE is what significant others do. I've never heard two guy friends describe each other as "scary close." The way you've describe this is exactly why people are so skeptical of male-female platonic good friendships and people who say they're just exactly like same sex platonic good friendships. It would be really rare to hear two good guy friends using or even thinking in these particular terms about each other.

You said this GF ignored you and was extremely rude to you, but to be perfectly honest, how did you act? Did you do anything, around her, to demonstrate you were #1 in your friend's life, above her? Make sure she knew how scary close you were, how much you love each other to death? I mean, you even describe yourself as a "crazy possessive bitch." Are you sure your own behavior was blameless?

How would you have reacted if the GF hadn't ignored you or been rude to you, but come to you and straight out said, "Hey, it seems like you have been the #1 woman in "Luke's" life until now, but he and I are now in a serious relationship. Your behavior doesn't seem to be entirely respectful of that, and while I'd really like to be friends, I need to know that you won't be threatened by my place in his life and the fact that I'm the one who's his partner now." Would you have respected that or gotten pissed off by it?

To be perfectly honest I think you are the one who needs to apologize to the GF, and I think if you want to be friends with this guy again, you need to go into it NOT angling for that mega-close life-partnership again. Just a normal friendship on the same level that all your other good friendships are on.

Basically I think your anger comes from the fact that she kind of knocked you out of that spot you had in a really abrupt way, and that really hurt and made you feel rejected. That's why I'm thinking maybe if you start to see that spot as not rightfully yours anymore, you'll be able to accept this.
posted by cairdeas at 1:37 PM on February 12, 2012 [54 favorites]

The conversation I'm tired of having is where we're sad we've grown apart and want to keep in touch, but don't ever pick up the phone.

Just want to chime in here - maybe I'm an outlier but I don't think so - that as you get older, and you live a long way away from your friends, even your best friends, this is inescapable. I know because I live in different cities and states from all three of my best friends, and we none of us see or talk as much as we used to.

People have serious jobs now, serious partners, serious mortgages, hobbies, serious children and other responsibilities. There are many things competing for attention and a very small window for phone calls etc. Additionally, once you get out of the habit of calling someone all the time, I personally find in a weird way that it can make the conversation harder, having so many different things to say and updates to give. The free-wheeling nature of those calls can take 20 or 30 minutes to come in - and these days some of my friends need to hang up after that time.

I think - especially with close friendships, there's a tendency to want to keep them preserved in amber at the zenith of their intensity. But just as you and your friend have changed, so too has the friendship. Forever grasping for that receding shore will leave you feeling resentment and sadness - especially if you don't have any other friendships that are currently as rich or rewarding. Do you have other relationships like that now?

Accepting this change, embracing the new model of friendship and being appreciative of what you have rather than what you don't may help. And if you want to talk more, pick up the phone yourself, or make a trip.

And get over his partner. She is his partner now, and if you want a friendship with him you need to cultivate something positive with her; that's just how it goes with partners.
posted by smoke at 1:55 PM on February 12, 2012 [15 favorites]

I have to agree with cairdeas here. I am opposed to the trope "men and women can't be friends" or that close opposite-sex friendships constitute some kind of "emotional infidelity".

But you are talking about him like he's the love of your life. That's exactly how it reads to me. Three years later you describe yourself as possessive and bitter. It wouldn't be enough for him to break up with her, you want him never to have been close to her.

And if she ignored you and was rude to you, that's not good, but I also know that the word "rude" is often used to describe behaviours that are simply not liked. I get the feeling that there's two sides to this story.

You say you don't know what you want from him. I think it's possible you know you want something you can't have and before this woman, it was easier not to think about that.

Maybe I have you all wrong, and either way it sucks, but I think you need a new best friend and maybe more. You have to let this guy go.
posted by tel3path at 2:29 PM on February 12, 2012 [9 favorites]

I think the first step toward feeling better about this would be accepting the fact that he is not your best friend anymore. I don't know if someone you haven't spoken to in over a year could be considered any kind of friend at all.

The next step is figuring out whether or not you could be happy rekindling the friendship on completely new terms, terms which will certainly demand your acknowledgment of the despised girlfriend as an important (possibly the *most* important, and possibly permanent) fixture in your friend's life, and which will no longer allow you to be as close with him. If you choose this, you're going to have to be the one to extend the olive branch. And if you want to have a role of any significance in his life, you're going to have to work to win the girlfriend's approval. Yeah, that's going to feel really crappy.

You'll never, ever get this friendship back the way it was, even if he and his girlfriend don't last.

But it seems to me that maybe you already know this. I agree with the above comments that it sounds like you were far too enmeshed in this friendship, in a way that may not have been healthy for either of you. I can understand why it might hurt too much to try to pick up the pieces. That's okay too, friendships grow apart. Maybe it's better for you to move on and find some new best friends.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:12 PM on February 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

How good of a friend are you, if you are unwilling to accept the terms of someone's life as presented - especially when those terms are not only normal and predictable, if not inevitable? I agree with cairdeas that it seems you were (perhaps unconsciously) holding out hope for a situation in which he would eventually squeeze a partner and a family into the small paddock you two had created for yourselves, that one condition of loving him would be loving you as well. That's simply not the way love and friendship work.

Frankly I'm surprised that you bowed out. That's better than sticking around and quietly sabotaging everything for him, but it also strikes me as an especially extreme reaction to a pretty pedestrian problem. If you'd like to see if there's something there left to salvage, I think that's a fine idea. You'll probably discover ways in which he seems different now. Try to remember -- those aren't ways in which she's changed him, that's the person he was trying to grow into all along. If you truly like and admire THIS version of him, then maybe you still have a friendship in your future.
posted by hermitosis at 3:21 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Great food for thought from everyone. I'm thinking you'll have to take a while to mull over what everyone's said, ask yourself some questions, see how good the fit is.

I have one thing to add: if you should decide that - for whatever reason - you can't maintain this friendship, that's a valid decision. I have and have had close friendships that have ebbed and flowed with major life changes. Some weather this well, some don't and become card-exchange relationships. Still important, but no longer really current. And some peter out naturally, and some blow up with a bang. But the ones that are truly unrecoverable are those tainted with betrayal.

It seems to me that, rightly or wrongly, you feel he betrayed you. By not standing up for you, insisting on politeness, addressing the rudeness, redressing the wrongs. It can be done without ending the relationship or the friendship, and he didn't manage it. So, every contact, you are reminded of this betrayal. I don't think that's something you can easily recover from. It can be done; as others have said, you'll have to forgive, forget, be inclusive and redefine the friendship. But it's up to you.
posted by likeso at 3:40 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I too wonder if what you feel for him isn't romantic love. If so, you need to move on, because he is with someone else. (And if that's what is going on, I am pretty sure no one he was with would be on your favorite person list.)

If you really love him only as a friend or brother, then there's no need to discuss whether or why you two aren't in touch. Pick up the phone, drop him an email, send him a text . . . and understand that the fact that he is far away and in a serious relationship means he isn't as accessible as he used to be. Would you stop getting in touch with a close female friend just because she moved away or was involved with someone? Nthing that the one subject you should not be chatting about is your negative views of his girlfriend, of course.

As for your feelings, if you want to be a friend, you need to do some work on those. I am going to suggest something I myself find hard but which is very cleansing. Try to think of the things that make her a special person, that show the love/life/godliness/buddha/spirit -- whatever makes you see the merit of another. As your own personal exercise, focus on those things about her and let your anger and dislike go. If you deal with her in person again, be nice -- though not a doormat.

I have a story for you. My very best friend from college, still a dear friend today, married a man I had only heard about before the wedding. I could not stand him when I met him there. I figured I was going to have a hard time remaining her friend. But I reluctantly, grudgingly gave him a chance because I was so close to her, and our friendship meant and means so much to me. And you know what? He is a really good guy. We might not have gotten along as well as we do if we did not both love my friend in our different ways, but he is a good man. I gained a second friend eventually by remaining open to him and the (as it turns out) many good points he has.

If you care about him, really, as a friend, give her a chance. More than one. I suspect there is a lot more to her than you've been willing to see so far.
posted by bearwife at 4:00 PM on February 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, just wanted to say, I don't necessarily think you wanted anything romantic and physical from him. In fact, right now I'm watching a very similar situation play out in real life. A quote from my real life:

Girl: "His new "girlfriend" was there when he had the seizure. She did CPR on him and brought him to the hospital. She was still there when I show up, and I told her, "thanks, but I'm here now, you can go. But she didn't leave!"

That is a real quote!!! This girl in question doesn't want anything physical with the guy, she's rebuffed him on numerous occasions. All she wants is that exclusive emotional relationship. What she ended up doing in the hospital was making the new girlfriend so uncomfortable that she left, and a few weeks later broke up with the guy.

The guy is now extremely angry. I feel like most guys are not going to want an intimate emotional relationship with no physical component, if having it means they're not ever going to be able to have an intimate emotional AND physical relationship with anyone else.
posted by cairdeas at 4:05 PM on February 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

Seconding cairdeas. There are some kinds of opposite-sex friendships that are legitimately platonic (in that you don't have sex) but that nevertheless fill the role of a romantic relationship. This can be great sometimes - if you and he are in a place where you are content with having that need for intimacy filled by somebody who offers most of the benefits of a partner, but fewer of the compromises. But at some point, one or both will move on.

I wonder about your own relationships - do you have a boyfriend?
posted by yarly at 4:32 PM on February 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have a very close male friend that's like a brother. We call each other siblings sometimes. When I started dating someone, my male friend gave me some friendly shit like "we better stay best friends" and "you better not totally drop me for this guy", and then he calmly stepped aside. In fact, he made a HUGE effort to become friends with the "new guy", and now we're all friends, and I have both my best friend AND my soon-to-be-husband.

I'm sorry to sound harsh, because it's very painful to feel like you're losing your best friend, but I'm not sure you were as supportive as you could have been. See cairdeas' earlier comments. As a friend, you shouldn't take crap, and if his girlfriend was a jerk to you and he didn't stand up to it that really sucks. At the same time, you describe yourself as a possessive jealous bitch, so I have to ask: what was your attitude towards her?

I'm mostly repeating what others have said, but wanted to give some perspective from the other side: neither my best friend nor my significant other made me choose. Even if his girlfriend wanted to "make him choose", it sounds like you may have been giving close to the same ultimatum -- you helped put him in a bad place.

But luckily you're all adults! As others have said: you can reach out, apologize, and make your best effort. Even if that still doesn't work, in ten years' time wouldn't you rather feel like you had made the best possible effort as your best possible self? It's super-cheesy, but sometimes when I'm tangled up in really angry/resentful drama, I ask myself: if I'm looking back ten years from now, what behavior would make me proud?

This is definitely sounds like a hurtful situation for you, so I hope everything works out.
posted by lillygog at 4:39 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

It sounds like he depended on you like a "girlfriend" until he, like, actually got a real one.

Not being harsh to be mean, I'm worried that you've waited 3 years to get the message that his romantic partner IS his best friend, not you. Not you.

I'm sorry.

It's good that you're crying. Go ahead and grieve this relationship, whatever it was. It's over. Please please find away after you've grieved enough to move on.

Do you have a partner?

If you had a stable romantic relationship going on, you would hardly still care a about this 3 years after the friendship took the turn it did.

Don't focus on him and her from now on. Just focus on YOU.
posted by jbenben at 5:22 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rather than obscuring this with notions of you being in love with him, I think it just stands to reason that we don't like it when our friends are being treated poorly.

The only thing you can do is this:

I guess I also don't really know what I want from him, except for his relationship to end. As long as that's not going to happen, and as long as I can't be happy for him, I feel like I should just stay very far away.
posted by mleigh at 5:51 PM on February 12, 2012

I don't believe in dropping friends because you don't like their partners. Yes, you might cut back on things like vacationing together or whatever, if you and the partner don't get along, but email and chat and Facebook and what-not are great ways to stay in touch with people you don't see frequently but still think the world of. Talk with him over those lower-intensity media about stuff other than his relationship; stay connected rather than going distant.

I'm really lucky because the Largely Mythological Husband and I really like all of each other's friends, and we are at worst neutral (and there's really only two "neutral") about our friends' partners and spouses at the moment. But some of my best friends have dated and married people I really didn't like in the past, and I'm glad I worked to keep the friendships going throughout the relationships with the buzzkilling jerks and on to the other side.

Did your friendship with this guy change? Yeah, because he doesn't have the time for long heart-to-heart phone calls anymore. (He wouldn't have even if he were dating someone who thought you were the cat's pajamas.) So that's a loss for you, and a change you have every reason to lament.

But is this really the first time in your entire life that you've had a close friend who was in a relationship that you didn't like the looks of? Managing that is actually a pretty useful life skill. (Managing it when your adored sibling[s] are in relationships you don't like the looks of is even more challenging...I have Been There, too!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:03 PM on February 12, 2012

The conversation I'm tired of having is where we're sad we've grown apart and want to keep in touch, but don't ever pick up the phone.

Make a plan. Schedule standing telephone dates and periodic visits. If you two want to keep your relationship, it'll require you to both put some energy into it.

People with significant others certainly can also have a best friend, it's really not some impossible scenario. The opposite-sex thing is a red herring that's always going to derail advice, though.
posted by desuetude at 6:04 PM on February 12, 2012

I'm a male and I was in a very, very similar situation with my best friend who is female, except her SO was actually a total general douchebag (not clear on the general douchebag level of the girl you speak of). She knew my feelings also. I ended up staying away until she eventually dumped him and moved back to the area we're from on her own.
posted by cmoj at 6:04 PM on February 12, 2012

I think I have some empathy for both sides of this situation. I had a very very dear friend (female) just lose all interest in me when she met her SO. I went from the most important person in her life to distant acquaintance in the passage of a month. It was incredibly painful, because I felt it to be unnecessary--but she didn't. The part I only got to understand later was that her SO met needs I had been filling, PLUS sex, and that's powerful.

I also know that if, in my relationship with Mr. Uans, there had been a woman in his life hinting to me that *they* were a team, loved each other, knew each other perfectly, were scary close, etc., etc., I would have behaved in a manner that might well be called rude. Because I'm immature and insecure? Sure.

I feel for you and it hurts me to see you using the present tense about a relationship whose back was broken THREE years ago. That's why I'm going to suggest that maybe you ought to stay away. Whatever your feelings are for this man they are not being reciprocated and haven't been for three years and even if they broke up and he returned to using you as his Best Friend until the next serious relationship came along for him--that's all it would be, really. Move on, give up on this, seek this closeness with someone who is actually available to you.
posted by uans at 6:30 PM on February 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

An illustrative story:

I have a very close friend whose partner I did not like. I met him several times, and, each time, I continued not liking him. I went to their wedding and cried in the bathroom: I still did not like him, and I thought that, by marrying him, she was settling for a smaller life, full of sadness and conformity to norms with which I disagree. But, at each stage, I made a strong effort to be friendly to him, as I knew if I did not, I would lose my friend. I also assumed that, because my friend is awesome, he had hidden qualities I just had not yet uncovered. Several years later, I've found those hidden qualities. For a variety of understandable reasons, he was uncomfortable showing them the first, second, third, etc. times we met, even over a series of years. Now, when I visit my friend, I look forward to the chance to see her husband as well. We are not, and probably never will be, close friends, but because I always maintained a pleasant relationship with him, we can now be friends enough for my old friend and I to stay friends.

If you can, you should do this. Your friend picked this woman. She surely has stellar qualities you just do not see. You may well have to work harder to see them and, if so, you so should that. You don't have to be best friends with her. Just find enough to like that you don't cringe or cry when she comes in the room.
posted by Nx at 8:01 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a friend start dating a woman who I really didn't like. She would do stuff like have (from my perspective) temper tantrums and he would have to go home early to appease her. She would appear at our "boy's nights out", not talk to anyone and sometimes literally turn her back to us mid-sentence.

Turns out, she is a super person, who suffers from anxiety. It was just a vicious circle.

Over the years of seeing my friends get paired up, I've learned that true friends don't go away. The mechanics and logistics of the relationship might change, even to the point that you rarely speak. But the affection is there.

One friend married into a big, gregarious, drama-filled family. One time, I asked him point blank: how do you tolerate these people? His answer was basically "I love her, she loves them, they are my family now. I had to figure out a way to like them because doing anything else would make me miserable."
posted by gjc at 7:22 AM on February 13, 2012

I am really curious about what she did that you count as her treating him poorly. That said, I don't see a way to call your side of the story healthy.

Your questions reads as though this is an extreme - maybe you should think about why his is so hard for you. Retrospection and insight and all that.

Feels like you are saying "but I tried CBT and that didn't work, therefore he world has to change, not me."

I think CBT is amazing, but you need to go at it from a reasonable perspective.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:06 AM on February 13, 2012

Returning to this, I think I just want to point out one or two things, especially in response to the OP's comment and further responses.

First, some other things that may be playing into this are American social mores, especially ones about who is "supposed to be important".

If the OP was the man's sister and confidant, instead of his best friend, I feel like there'd be a lot less controversy, but because we are used to thinking of family as blood first, then romantic partner, it's viewed as natural and normal that she should not be able to expect to come first anymore once her best friend is in a relationship.

That may in fact be the case for many people, but it might also not have been the case for them. They may have in fact been each other's #1 emotional confidant. This might be unusual, but that doesn't mean that it was wrong. If they were genuinely close, then I think it's absolutely fair to have feelings of betrayal at suddenly placing someone else first.

People here are going with happy success stories to point out that when you meet the love of your life, you often leave people behind. This may be true, but it is /also/ true that when you are involved in an abusive relationship, you /also/ leave people behind, and it's /not/ healthy. Sometimes, "the squeaky wheel gets the most grease", and so the person who is physically present most of the time and complaining the most is the one who will get heeded.

The conversation I'm tired of having is where we're sad we've grown apart and want to keep in touch, but don't ever pick up the phone.

Now, this, this is fixable. Do you have Facebook? Prioritize him on your friends list. Make sure to comment on things. Set a schedule of how often you'll call-and /don't/ talk about how much you miss him. Talk about what's going on. He may be grateful. He may also be taking flak at home for the interactions, it's quite possible, if she was jealous of your connections, and so he may call less because she may be around more frequently and not thrilled about him calling.
Do you have gmail? Gchat is useful for keeping in touch on a smaller level, and also can work via your phone. Send random postcards if you need to. There are easy ways to keep in touch if you want to keep in touch, and don't mention the woman if you don't need to.

Ultimately, if you are super close, your friendship will outlast this, though I second that it will never be the same. You will never forget that you were not as important to him as you thought you were and wanted to be.
posted by corb at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
Hi, I know this is off the front page and maybe dead, but I wanted to reiterate my question for anyone who still wants to respond because I feel it's getting a little lost in the details:

"What tools have you used to deal with something like this? What thoughts do you repeat to yourself? How do I change my internal dialogue about this?"

I'm not trying to justify my feelings, I know they're not justifiable, and I'm trying to change them. They're unhealthy and making me unhappy - you don't need to tell me that. Specific things I'm looking for that would be really helpful: articles, books, guided meditations, podcasts, cbt guides specifically for these sorts of isues, personal stories (etc.) that I can use to work through this and change my perspective.

It's been really helpful to read accounts of people who have gone through something similar and let go. And the idea that we would be having this same problem of growing apart and losing contact even if the gf weren't in the picture is something I hadn't given much thought to before and really helps to reframe this in my mind.

Thanks, guys.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:26 AM on February 13, 2012

Hmmm. I can't think of any specific meditations, etc, to utilize. I don't think they make a lot of tools specifically for this. However, what I would maybe suggest, weird as it may sound, is actually to look into stuff tailored around adjusting to a divorce, or adjusting to the remarriage of a spouse. From what I've seen, the feelings have a lot of similarities-feeling like the person who was your primary emotional partner is no longer around for you, even though they're /right there/. Feeling like they've betrayed you by allowing the new partner to run you down. There's a lot of crossover.

I did go through a somewhat similar situation, which is maybe why I have a lot of empathy for yours. For me, it wasn't that I was jealous of my friend's girlfriend, but his girlfriend was jealous of me, and asked him to spend a lot less time with me. Actually, she asked him not to ever see me again. He wound up canceling on some important plans we had, and calling me a lot less, and I was really deeply hurt. Cabingirls' statement about "except for that stretch of time when he would call me FROM HIS CAR on his commute home, and always had to hang up when he pulled in the driveway" rings really true for me-that was how we worked for a while. And the problem of communication was also a bit similar. When we'd talk, he'd say he missed being friends with me, he wanted to talk to me more, he was sorry it was such a crazy situation. But when I asked what tangible actions he was willing to take, he always kind of expressed a hope that everything would work out, but he didn't know when things would get better.

For a while, I kept rinsing and repeating, talking when we talked, accepting being called only when his significant other had no idea, and hoping it would get better.

The situation didn't improve, but I did. I mentioned some of this above, but a more full explanation: I set a reminder in my phone to call him in six months, and that I would not initiate contact in that six months. That when I called, it would only be to talk, see how he was doing, and ask if things were better enough that we could be normal friends again.

They weren't, but it really helped-because we had a great conversation, and I know that we're still okay in terms of each other. But I also know that things aren't to the point where I can keep diving into that situation every day-and that's /also/ okay.

My partner was also really supportive through this, which really helped. I don't know if you have one, but if you don't, I'd recommend making a buddy who can help you stick to your resolutions about staying clear until the situation is something you can walk back to.
posted by corb at 10:45 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, another thing that helped: having a really honest, full conversation with my friend, so that he knew everything that I was thinking and feeling about the situation, really helped me feel like I had given things my best shot, tried my hardest, and so whatever happened, I couldn't feel like if I had only done things better, it would have worked out.
posted by corb at 10:46 AM on February 13, 2012

My partner's best friend is his former partner of 17 years. I've been with my partner for almost 2 years. They used to talk on the phone basically daily, we'd hang out with her about every other weekend... but only a few months ago did she and I really started feeling comfortable with each other.

It happened because I asked her for some insight into certain aspects of his personality, and she and I had dinner - without him - and talked honestly about everything. She understands where I stand, I understand where she stands, I realize she is trustworthy and an important part of my partner's life. Things are much easier for everyone now, she and I have even forged a bit of friendship independent of him.

My suggestion from experience would be to have an honest discussion with them, and when it's comfortable, with her. Everyone needs to set boundaries - she's the girlfriend, you need to respect her boundaries and accept her as a part of his life, if you want them to accept you as a part of theirs (not his, THEIRS.) The distance makes it a different dynamic for the three of you, so YMMV.
posted by thrasher at 11:45 AM on February 13, 2012

OP, none of your updates have changed the picture for me.

If you can't identify the problem (more specifically than not wanting to feel bad and wanting to be close again) there are no exercises that will help.

I don't know if you are in love with the Best F, you simply have wildly wrong ideas about how friendship works, or if the gf is actually a monster (an outside possibility and something you can't do a dang thing about). In any case you need to think about friendship and boundaries and how these things work and set goals based on that framework.

It's also possible your friend has just drifted and you have to accept that.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:23 PM on February 13, 2012

Sounds like he was a quality source of intimacy for you, and for whatever reason you have not replaced that intimacy source, so you crave it and are confusing that general need for intimacy for a specific need for your friend. Of course it's natural to miss a lost friendship, but probably not quite with as much intensity as you are feeling. I'm guessing if you were feeling taken care of emotionally, this intense nostalgia and want would not be playing over and over in your head. The hangup with the girlfriend who may or may not be good for him doesn't help, because you can write your obsessive ruminations off as caring for your friend's well being.

I'd work on cultivating other sources of intimacy in your life. It's possible you've built up this friendship into something larger than it was, something sacred. This makes it harder for you to seek other friends because you are already thinking their friendship won't be as good as his.

After you've strengthened the friendships you've got and you aren't feeling so needy, get in touch with your friend. Tell him you wish him the best and mean it. Let him decide what "the best" means for himself - if it's building a life with this girl and/or being friends with you. Always trust that he's doing right by himself, even if you think what's-her-face is a complete twit and can't he see she's a troll. Let him live his life. Nicest thing you can do for a friend, sometimes.

You may find if you see him as a capable human being in charge of himself that some of the shine will rub off, and he won't be a saint but a mortal, with dumb flaws and passive tenancies and maybe even a bad habit of being twitterpated by clearly flawed women. But if that's so, let him learn his own lesson, and don't trick yourself into playing the heroine you think he needs to save him. He can handle it. If he can't, he isn't the person you thought he was.

posted by griselda at 6:02 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

"What tools have you used to deal with something like this? What thoughts do you repeat to yourself? How do I change my internal dialogue about this?"

I'm not trying to justify my feelings, I know they're not justifiable, and I'm trying to change them. They're unhealthy and making me unhappy - you don't need to tell me that.

Just want to start by saying, I know my reply above was critical and I hope it wasn't hurtful, because it is obvious you are seriously in pain about this issue and I find it understandable.

You were offering some very valuable things to your friend. It seems like you were offering a very strong degree of loyalty. And a very high priority in your life. Maybe a higher priority than you would give most other people in your life. It seems you would never imagine tolerating another person treating him badly.

So of course it would really hurt a lot, when you believe, or have been led to believe, that is mutual. And then the person does not display the loyalty to you that you would have to them. This person makes someone else their priority. They tolerate someone treating you in a way, that you would not in a million years tolerate someone treating them. Far from not tolerating it, they even prioritize the person who did not treat you nicely. It is very understandable that someone would feel a lot of hurt and anger in response to that. In getting that treatment in return for the very serious things they were offering.

I think one way to get past the anger is to withdraw what you're offering, back down to the level of what you have found out the other person is actually offering.

It sounds like you are built to be loyal, you WANT to be loyal, you wouldn't want to be someone's best friend and yet ignore it if someone is being not nice to them. But, I think to offer that loyalty in a situation where you're not receiving it is a good way to become ultra resentful.

For thoughts to repeat to yourself, one that comes to mind is, "never make someone your priority when they're making you their option." Not to say you're just your friend's "option," the point is just that it should be balanced and equivalent.
posted by cairdeas at 9:49 PM on February 16, 2012

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