Should I say something?
July 12, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I have been seeing my close friend's boyfriend on Grindr a lot lately. Should I say something? There are complicating factors.

Normally I would live and let live -- I don't know if their relationship is open, for example, and people don't just use Grindr for hookups: some people merely use it as a social app, or just chat with people on there, or trade pics, or just like attention from strangers. HOWEVER...

My close friend (Fred) and his boyfriend (Barney, mid-twenties) have been going through some rough times lately. Barney was hospitalized a couple months ago for something I think was drug related (Fred hasn't told me the details; I know Barney attended a treatment program for a while afterward though, but eventually just stopped going).

Barney's been unemployed for quite a while and it sounds like he's very depressed. Doesn't spend time with friends, doesn't go out, let his gym membership lapse. Stays indoors watching TV. I believe he has gone to a few therapists but hasn't really found anyone that suits him. Fred's really worried about the whole thing but has been trying to just be patient and supportive, and claims that the time they spend together is generally pretty good.

One other thing that gives me pause is I know that Fred will be going out of town this weekend, and soon will be going on a weeklong vacation -- both trips Barney has opted out of, claiming that he just doesn't feel like going and doesn't want to ruin Fred's good time. Obviously I will be keeping watch a bit to see if Barney's online more often while Fred's gone.

I've thought about mentioning it to Fred, but I'm worried that he'll instantly assume the worst (really, the Grindr-ing could be totally innocent) and I don't want to rock the already unsteady boat over what could be nothing.

I've thought about nonchalantly writing to Barney when I see him on there ("Hey Barney, it's me Dino. How's it going?") so that he knows he's not being as discreet as he thinks he is -- my current profile pic doesn't show my face so I doubt he has recognized me on there.

Or should I just butt out? There's no evidence really that anything's amiss. Fred's not stupid, he probably knows the situation better than I do. I worry that depression plus possible substance problems might equal lapses in judgment and furtive not-quite-the-safest sex, and I am concerned about my friend's health. I've known Fred for almost a decade, he and Barney have been together over a year and recently moved in together, right before all the trouble started. I care about them both.

Your insight appreciated.

throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't do it over email for sure. I would say to invite Fred out for coffee or if he's long distance call him up.. chat for a bit, ask him if everything is alright and ease into it. I'd say in person tell him because you can better gauge the situation. I'd want to be with my friend if he starts to get emotional.. but also as you say maybe they are in an open relationship and if Fred laughs it off then you at least you don't have to worry about it.
posted by xicana63 at 9:04 AM on July 12, 2012

This is a toughie. These situations are usually refuted with a "not your business." However, you can't un-know what you know; now it is your business. I would say something because of the mitigating factors. Barney seems to need help. Over coffee as suggested. It doesn't have to be a big dramatic confession, just time to say what you saw and ask if everything's alright.
posted by Katine at 9:09 AM on July 12, 2012

So.... what exactly is triggering the response that you need to tell your friend about his partner's online hangout habits?

Absolutely not diagnosing here but everything you described could be the result of Barney suffering from... say depression for example, and nothing to do with infidelity.

I think talking to Fred in-general about how things are going is always good, it sounds like things are in a rough patch right now, but I'd be very very wary of bringing up/planting seeds of infidelity unless you have a heck of a lot more information or certainty about it.
posted by edgeways at 9:19 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or should I just butt out? There's no evidence really that anything's amiss. Fred's not stupid, he probably knows the situation better than I do.

I, frankly, am not sure why you wouldn't bring it up with Fred. Surely you can bring it up in such a way that you aren't accusing Barney of anything specific, since there isn't anything specific to accuse him of. "Hey, I noticed Barney on Grindr the other day," something along those lines. People do use it as a social app, but I don't think predominantly. What's the downside here? Fred says, "I know, I encouraged him to go on"? At worst, Fred says, "Mind your own business." I can't imagine why he would get offended.
posted by OmieWise at 9:29 AM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

How geographically close are you to these guys? I'd go with having coffee or a phone call with BOTH of them (which Fred before he leaves, if possible; with Barney while Fred is gone). Perhaps they both could use the support of a friend.

Otherwise, you really have nothing to go on and might needlessly rile Fred up or push Barney into being more discreet, neither of which they will thank you for. And since you don't know whether they are in an open or closed relationship (and there's really no good way to ask that doesn't sound like you know something), or what he's using it for, I'd wait and see if something more definitive comes up.
posted by sm1tten at 9:30 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he's using his face on his profile, I would assume that random hookups or whatever are part of what's OK in their relationship. Nothing seems shifty here to me.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:42 AM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Let's analyze this logically using Win Points (positive) and Fail Points (negative). This is a thing I do that generally helps me makes good decisions in life

Option 1) You tell Fred that his boyfriend is checking out hookup sites.
Best case scenario: Fred didn't know and is shocked. He breaks up with the cheating scumbag and you have saved him years of regret (and possibly an STD). Let us value this at, say, +8 points?
Worst scenario: Fred is in an open relationship and OK with what Barney is doing, and when he explains this to you there is some momentary social awkwardness. I can't see this as worse than a -2.
Average value of Option 1 = +3

Option 2) You don't tell Fred his boyfriend is checking out hookup sites.
Best case scenario: Social awkwardness averted! Everything is fine, and you didn't rock the boat. Take +2 points.
Worst case scenario: Fred gets an STD from his cheating boyfriend! Years later, when you are comforting him over the breakup, you accidentally happen to mention "Yeah, I knew Barney was a scumbag when I saw him on grinder all the time while you were dating." And when Fred responds "WHAT?!? Why didn't you tell me?!? I got HIV from him because I thought he was being faithful!" you respond "Well, I thought maybe you were in an open relationship, and I didn't want things to get awkward. Whoops!" I'd call that a -9 total.
Average value of Option 2 = -3.5

Ultimately, it's your call how you want to value each of these choices. If you think my valuations are wrong, plug in your own numbers. Either way though, you need to evaluate both the best-case and worst-case scenario for each option. (You can modify the numbers based on the estimated probability of them happening if you think one particular scenario is farfetched.) Once you start using logic and value to analyze problems, I've both a lot of these vague moral scenarios become very clearcut.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:51 AM on July 12, 2012 [12 favorites]

(apologies for the grammar error in the last line, BTW - I didn't proofread) :-(
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:53 AM on July 12, 2012

Can you talk to Barney about it? I mean, it could be that he's depressed and feels alone and likes the attention. Maybe they're looking to have a threesome. Or it could be that he's looking to sleep around. Only Barney knows the answer, so why not ask him? And maybe lend him some support if he's feeling blue.
posted by Garm at 10:15 AM on July 12, 2012

I pretty regularly see gay friends from my (admittedly) pretty small town on grindr. It's definitely not a discrete way to cheat, particularly if you're showing your face, and for what it's worth, I pretty much just use it to chat.

That said, I don't see a major downside of bringing it up. If your friend's boyfriend is just using it because he's lonely and seeking validation, that's still probably still a topic worth broaching.
posted by kylej at 10:35 AM on July 12, 2012

When you see Fred the next time: "Oh, I've seen someone on Grindr who looks just like Barney!"
No accusations, no personal questions about their relationship (problems) but a clear hint.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really don't think this is any of your business.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I worry that depression plus possible substance problems might equal lapses in judgment and furtive not-quite-the-safest sex, and I am concerned about my friend's health. I've known Fred for almost a decade, he and Barney have been together over a year and recently moved in together, right before all the trouble started. I care about them both.

I really don't think this is any of your business.

Your being concerned about your good friend's potential future health and the potential for risk is, I believe, your business. You have concerns about bringing this up/invading privacy and hence you're posting your question here, but something has your red flag up else we all wouldn't be here talking about this. Now what do you do?

My former roommate S and I went through something similar. His ex J and he always had issues and yes, I spoke up to J one day when he was walking me home very late after a party as he was thinking of leaving S. The next morning S called me up and told me we'd never be friends again yada yada since I should be on S's side etc and I think we didn't talk for 6 months. Then we sheepishly made up. He's been with K now for more than a year and they're still so happy even after moving into a 21sq m studio together. I just met with them a couple of weeks ago when visiting my former city.

Why am I bringing this up?

S received news while I was there that J had contracted the worst form of the virus ever.

Go with your gut, if after letting things be still and silent within, you still feel that red flag of concern tugging at you. If you are true friends, you'll still be there after the awkwardness is over and you'll feel foolish. While I didn't have the same concerns you did, I can now see the difference in his relationship with K and that he had with J. If I'd kept quiet.....
posted by infini at 11:28 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding wolfdream01. I know someone whose boyfriend was acting in bareback gay porn films without telling his boyfriend. It messed him up terribly to find out by accident, instead of someone telling him. TELL HIM.
posted by 3491again at 12:18 PM on July 12, 2012

Gay dude here! Stop making drama. There's nothing here and you're all worried about it. Knock it off. Everybody is on Grindr. Furthermore you recognized him on there, so he has a photo of his face up? Not exactly subtle. There's nothing wrong with messaging him on there and saying hi. But, that's it, just say hi. Unlock your dirty pics and have a laugh with him. You say he's been basically a shut in for a while, it's probably just a social outlet, if he's there hooking up they could well have an open relationship, but even if he's cheating it is not your business at all. Leave him be.

The actual problem here is that your friend is feeling down. It happens. Maybe as his friend you should take him out for a few beers (if he's drinking right now) or lunch or something and talk to him about it. Get him out of the house. If you can't then go sit and watch some stupid tv with him. That'd be a great thing for a friend to do. You could chide him about seeing him on Grindr a lot. But, don't judge, you have no idea at all what the situation is. But, just joking around is fine, tease him. He might tell you more, might not. None of your business. Your business is to be supportive and helpful to your buddies when they're down. That's your only responsibility here as a good friend. Give him a hug and talk to him about going to the gym with you or something, try to draw him out a little. Maybe he just feels like no one cares about him?

If he confesses to being a big giant cheater then you should tell him that's probably not a good idea and encourage him to talk to his partner about making an open relationship deal and safety stuff. Or not. Don't judge, don't gossip, just put your arm around him and give the dude some love.
posted by Craig at 1:36 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

Obviously I will be keeping watch a bit to see if Barney's online more often while Fred's gone.

I'm not sure this will help you, or them. While Fred is out of town, why not use it as a chance to hang out with Barney some? Bring over some movies, or get him out to dinner, or have a bunch of friends over and get him to help you prep, or ask if he wants to be your wingman for the night. It sounds like he could use a real friend, and you'll have many more natural opportunities to mention that you've seen him on Grindr (or to tell Fred that after spending time with Barney, you're especially concerned about him) if you've had the chance to have some of long, natural conversations with Barney.
posted by argonauta at 2:03 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Barney, I see that you're on Grindr. What is that about?"
posted by tel3path at 2:10 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you can recognize him on Grindr, then Fred certainly can, in which case Barney clearly doesn't care about keeping it on the down-low. And I don't think I have a single gay friend who isn't on Grindr. Sounds like much ado about nothing. I'd say that it isn't your business.
posted by fso at 6:07 PM on July 12, 2012

If Barney is out there doing something in public, it's as much your business as it is the business of any member of the public who might want to interact with Barney because of his Grindr profile. There is therefore no boundary crossed if you ask him about it.
posted by tel3path at 1:25 AM on July 13, 2012

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