How to respect boundaries between friend and SO.
December 16, 2014 3:11 PM   Subscribe

I have a good female friend whom I have some history with and a girlfriend. My friend is hurting as I prioritize her less and my girlfriend more. I want to respect both of them and their feelings.

I have a friend, A, whom I met a year ago and became close with. Our relationship was a friends with benefits situation, but heavy on the friends part. We went to restaurants, explored the city, hiked, cooked at home, texted frequently, etc. She insisted that we weren't dating and did not want to be in a real relationship. That was fine with me because I didn't think we'd be compatible in a long term relationship anyway (differences over money, family, etc). Over time we became, what I would consider, best friends.

While this was happening, I continued to explore online dating in the hopes of finding a partner for a relationship that had long term potential. All with A's full knowledge and approval. About 6 months ago, I met B. She had the traits I was looking for in a long term partner so I stopped the benefits part of the FWB arrangement with A and started dating B to get to know her. As B and I dated and spent more time together, I had less time to spend with A. I also cut out activities with A that would seem too relationship-y like cooking together.

I currently go to the gym with A a few times a week and get dinner or coffee maybe once or twice a week. A and I still feel like close friends, but any physical and romantic interest is gone from both of us. In the mean time, my relationship with B has grown to the point where we're discussing marriage. B is aware of my history with A and finds the situation a bit uncomfortable but hasn't told me to stop being friends with A. Initially, I tried to get them to meet, but neither one wanted to meet the other.

At one point in the past, I had told A I would take a weekend vacation with her, but I didn't have the time so it kept getting pushed off. Then I started dating B, who is too uncomfortable to let me travel alone with A. I had to tell A that the trip was no longer an option. A refuses any compromises like bringing B or other friends. In fact, A now hates B and never wants to meet her. A is so hurt by my backing out of this trip (and all the cutting back in the friendship we've had to do) that she wants to end our friendship if the trip doesn't happen.

I've talked to both of them about this. A thinks she's made all the sacrifices and that B is controlling, unreasonable, and not concerned with A's feelings at all. B thinks A is a toxic friend who is causing me undue stress and has some growing up to do. I just don't want to hurt either of them, but it seems I've worked myself into a corner and that's not possible.

Now my questions:
(1) Where did I go wrong, and how am I an idiot (because it feels like it's all my fault)?
(2) Is there any way to smooth this specific situation over?
(3) How do you balance the needs of close friends with the needs of an SO?
posted by Durin's Bane to Human Relations (55 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
B is right. A is wrong. B is being super sane here -- slightly uncomfortable, some boundaries, but not telling you who you can and can't be friends with. You are also behaving very well: being honest with everyone, enforcing boundaries. Someone who you call your "best friend" refusing to meet your girlfriend is horrible enough. Demanding that you spend a weekend alone with an ex or your friendship is over is disgusting. A is not your friend, A is sad she lost a good deal for her and being crazy controlling. You did everything right, sometimes being friends with exes (yes yes, friends with benefits not relationship, blah blah blah. By any measure, she is your ex) just doesn't work out, even if you want it to.
posted by brainmouse at 3:18 PM on December 16, 2014 [99 favorites]

A is not being a "best friend" if she hates your girlfriend without even having met her. A is also being selfish by asking you for things (private weekend trip) that would put strain on your relationship (and reasonably so).

B is being supportive in being okay with you seeing A 5 times per week (gym a few times + dinner + coffee every week) when A hates her sight-unseen.

You should stop talking to A.
posted by vienna at 3:18 PM on December 16, 2014 [55 favorites]

Your relationship with A, going to the gym, getting coffee, etc, was perfectly appropriate. Going on a 'just you two' vacation is anything but. She should be able to see this. Instead she's making it a bone of contention with you.

I would tell A, "I'm sorry you're feeling left out of my life as I move forward with my relationship with B. This is a natural part of all friendships, and I'm sure, given our previous relationship, you can see why B might uncomfortable with we two going away alone. Frankly, I'm uncomfortable with it too. I want to keep you as a friend, and right now I'm finding the ultimatums uncool, and I don't appreciate your calling B the names you're calling her. You've been invited to meet her many times, and any friendship between you and me is going to include B, because we are discussing marriage. If you can't deal with that, I totally understand and I wish you well. If you need some time to get used to the idea, that's cool too. I'm going to leave now, and give you time to decide. Call me if you want to stay in touch."

A is the one that's controlling, inappropriate and frankly acting silly. Your relationship changed and she's clearly NOT on board. Even if she were a dude, I'd tell you that if she didn't change her tune pronto, DTMFA.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:19 PM on December 16, 2014 [18 favorites]

A is being unreasonable, and seems determined to pull you away from B. Her behavior is completely selfish, and if I were you, I'd let the friendship go. (She's not much of a friend anyway if she's this manipulative and selfish.)
posted by sarcasticah at 3:20 PM on December 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

Fourthing that A is in the wrong here. It's hard to lose closeness in a friendship because one of the two has a serious partnership, but that's what adults learn to do.
posted by namesarehard at 3:20 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

"A" had a boyfriend without having to do any of the emotional work or sacrifice, and now she doesn't have that. Of course she's mad!

Let her end the friendship, if that's what she needs to do. It's sad, but it's life. I think with some distance she will start to understand that she can't have it both ways.
posted by muddgirl at 3:21 PM on December 16, 2014 [13 favorites]

I question A's agenda here, and in particular how on board she is with the "just friends" mantle. At best I think B is right and A is a toxic friend.

I think what is really going on here is that A is a past GF, however you two labeled it, and she is jealous of the woman you are in love with. And you need to make the obvious choice.

Good friends give, they don't take and demand. A is not your friend, my friend.
posted by bearwife at 3:21 PM on December 16, 2014 [24 favorites]

You didn't do anything wrong. Some situations are just hard to handle. I understand why A wants you all to herself, etc., but she is not your girlfriend and she didn't make a play to become your girlfriend when she could have. Now the romantic activities like cooking and weekend trips are the province of your romantic partner, and A is going to have to accept that or hit the road. I'd say prioritize B and if A can't adapt, it is sad, but your friendship will have a short shelf life anyway if she isn't able to make gracious room for you to have a romantic partner. Sorry.
posted by feets at 3:21 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

B has boundaries. If you are happy with B and wish to continue the relationship and move towards marriage, you are going to have to respect her boundaries, because no healthy relationship or marriage can come out of a situation where you prioritize a friend's feelings over your SO's feelings. It sounds like B has been reasonable by allowing you room to continue your friendship with A and even hang out with A several times a week. In my opinion, a weekend vacation seems out of line, and it would make me extremely uncomfortable if my SO were to take a weekend trip with a female friend that hated me and didn't want to meet me.

If A can't deal with your and your SO's boundaries, it's time to drop A from your life.
posted by lettuce dance at 3:22 PM on December 16, 2014 [14 favorites]

In fact, A now hates B and never wants to meet her. A is so hurt by my backing out of this trip (and all the cutting back in the friendship we've had to do) that she wants to end our friendship if the trip doesn't happen.

On the one hand, this is a painful thing that sometimes happens and that's too bad because people are hurting. On the other hand: don't negotiate with terrorists. A should be making the bulk of the "sacrifices" because she is not your life partner, she is a good friend. She is acting like a girlfriend but you do not see her that way. There are ways to balance multiple partners but you've been clear this is not the situation that you have or the one you want. B is right. You and B are in a situation where you are mutually supportive and have lives that are interrelated. A hates your chosen person and is making ultimatums and demands. This is usually not okay and doesn't sound okay in this situation.

The way you balance the needs of a close friend with the needs of a partner is that you create, communicate and enforce appropriate boundaries with them. I'm sure there are some relationships in which going away for a weekend with a previous FWB is totally AOK (I might do this in my life for example) but it's fine if people don't consider this acceptable or if that's not what they want in their relationship. You can let A down easy but basically tell her that she is overeaching, wanting more than you are going to give her, being inappropriate aout your relationship and/or acting like she's jealous, whatever you think will work.

But honestly, you don't have two people here who are of equal importance in your life and you probably shouldn't frame it like you do. It sounds like your partner is trying to be supportive but now it's time for you to be supportive and tell A in no uncertain terms what the boundaries of your new not-FWB relationship with her are going to be.
posted by jessamyn at 3:23 PM on December 16, 2014 [24 favorites]

that she wants to end our friendship if the trip doesn't happen.

So let her end it. Most likely, the real issue here is you aren't putting out anymore and, hey, since you plan to get married, that's not likely to change.

You went wrong by going along with some idealistic sounding thing that, in practical reality, almost never actually works. People who claim they can really just be friends and let the sex part end and all that are usually not ...correct about that when the rubber actually hits the road. That's quite a tough thing to pull off.
posted by Michele in California at 3:25 PM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Genuine friend response to a friend's wonderful relationship and talking marriage is, "I'm so happy for you! I can't wait to meet them! I bet they're wonderful!"

...exactly the opposite of what this A is doing. She is not a friend, and based on this drama, tantruming and level of hatred for someone she refuses to meet, she will continue to stir the shit as often as she is allowed.

Cut her loose now and enjoy B.
posted by kinetic at 3:26 PM on December 16, 2014 [17 favorites]

I think A is second guessing her original stance on being in a relationship with you and is now acting out. You need to let her go and focus on B.
posted by cecic at 3:30 PM on December 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

Unless you left something really significant out it doesn't sound like you did anything wrong here. You maintained appropriate boundaries with A and you're hardly ignoring her. Not going on the trip was the right call, given that you're avoiding doing relationship-y things with her, and you did more than enough to accommodate her by offering to bring B/other friends along.

I agree with B's assessment of the situation. A sounds like a drama llama who enjoyed being your girlfriend in everything but name and is now throwing a hissy fit because you are no longer giving her your undivided attention. A's reaction to your cancelling the trip was immature and totally not called for.

By all means, have a come-to-Jesus talk with A but I honestly think you're better off taking her up on her offer to end the friendship over the trip. B sounds like a catch and A sounds unlikely to stop meddling with your relationship.
posted by fox problems at 3:32 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

A is being very inflexible at the expense of your new relationship. That's not how friends act. I think A may have told you that she was fine with pre-B FWB, but really wasn't and is now trying to be inappropriately territorial. You also would do well to face the fact that you had something that was far more close to being a full-blown relationship with A in every way but in name. You were each other's primary relationship with a high amount of emotional intimacy but without the formalized labels and commitment. Now A is mad because her all-but-in-name-boyfriend found someone new and is cutting her off. Both of you share some responsibility here. A wasn't realistic about you being her boyfriend (and her claims that she didn't want one) and is upset you're "breaking up" with her, and you also were happy to treat this as no-strings FWB when it really wasn't except for in name. Regardless, this is a messy breakup. Maybe seeing it through that lens will help.

B sounds like a very patient keeper.
posted by quince at 3:34 PM on December 16, 2014 [18 favorites]

It really doesn't seem you did anything wrong, but if I were you I'd privately ask myself if this:

A and I still feel like close friends, but any physical and romantic interest is gone from both of us

is 100% true for both of you. I mean, you sound totally committed to your relationship with Betty, but I think it was a little naive to think that Amber's feelings would conveniently evaporate once you started dating someone else, you know? Again, I don't think you did anything wrong and you certainly can't control how Amber feels, but just something to chew on in case something like this happens again.

If you end up cutting Amber off, which I think you ought to for a while anyway, it'd be nice if you made sure to be crystal clear that Betty isn't "making" you do it. You're not caught in the middle, you're standing up for your relationship and yourself.
posted by kapers at 3:43 PM on December 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also, this:

I just don't want to hurt either of them,

will lead you astray. Of course you don't want to be the bad guy, nobody does, but if you continue passively, you're actually playing your girlfriend and your ex off each other, which is shitty.
posted by kapers at 3:49 PM on December 16, 2014 [42 favorites]

I think you and your girlfriend are doing okay, and your ex-fwb is being unreasonable and maybe dishonest.

You're giving your ex plenty of friendship time and activities. You're in a serious relationship, thinking marriage, and she has refused to meet your girlfriend. Whatever else, that shows that she's not really a platonic friend of yours.

I would tell her she can get with the program, or else she can walk away from this friendship like she is threatening to do.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:56 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ask yourself whether it's a good idea to have someone in your life who wants you. This is not a rhetorical question; different people have different levels of impulse control. But this person is going to be looking for - or encouraging - you to make a poor decision at some point.
posted by ftm at 4:01 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

In fact, A now hates B and never wants to meet her. A is so hurt by my backing out of this trip (and all the cutting back in the friendship we've had to do) that she wants to end our friendship if the trip doesn't happen.

Yeah, this is the point where your friendship with A became untenable. You can't have a friendship with ultimatums like this. You just can't. No matter what your relationship was like before, or who was "right".

I don't think this is your fault- you took her at her word that she didn't want a relationship, and I disagree that you should have somehow known that she was being untruthful about it (I mean, unless you could tell she was, but I'm gonna take you at your word that you were unaware). Heck, maybe she even believed it, until your new relationship got serious. Human emotions are messy and there's no way to avoid all possible hurt feelings. But at this point, it doesn't matter whose fault it was; it's time to make as clean a break as possible.

There's no way to get out of this situation without hurting people. People are already hurt. The best thing for all concerned is not to try to fix this- just let the friendship go. It's better for A, too- it will allow her time and distance to sort out her own feelings, get over you, and hopefully realize how badly she's acting. (But DO NOT SAY THAT TO HER. She will not appreciate that and there's no way to say it that doesn't sound condescending. Just explain that her behavior is unacceptable to you- you, not B- the end.)
posted by insufficient data at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

When I (female) started dating my (very serious, discussing marriage) boyfriend, I had a best friend who was also an ex. I introduced them almost immediately, because it's enough of a strain to be friends with an ex (-bf/-gf/-fwb, whatever) WITHOUT the drama of the ex demanding a ton of time and attention. From your description, A wants the makings of a relationship without the sex, and that's just not something you can give her. Additionally, she's being petty by threatening to "break up" if you don't take this trip -- that's controlling and intended to stir up drama.

You didn't do anything obviously wrong here, you've been honest and up front and set boundaries. Your girlfriend seems reasonable, understanding, and like she's handled this like a champ. Your feelings and your girlfriend's feelings and your relationship are the priority here, not your ex-fwb who is acting like a brat.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:10 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Where did I go wrong?

You listened to A's words, not her actions.
posted by heatherann at 4:11 PM on December 16, 2014 [17 favorites]

I think that A was actually fudging the truth when she said that she "didn't want to date". I have a hunch that she was just kind of saying that in the hopes that maybe one day you'd wake up and realize "wait a minute, this is the girl for me!" and then there'd be this romantic-comedy When Harry Met Sally moment when you fall into each others' arms and live happily ever after. Except then you started dating B and now that couldn't happen.

In other words, exactly the kind of thing that "Nice guys" try to do to girls.

I wouldn't go off on a vacation with A - but I would also make sure that you have a conversation with her where you get to the bottom of "okay, seriously, are you SURE you didn't want to try to date me one day? Because that's seriously not gonna happen and you need to accept that."

You might lose her. But if I'm right, you wouldn't be losing her as a friend - you'd be losing her as "someone who is pretending to be my friend but is secretly in love with me and won't accept friendship alone". I may be wrong, of course, but something tells me that this is at least a LITTLE of what's going on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 PM on December 16, 2014 [18 favorites]

Yes, +1 to "don't negotiate with terrorists." It is not reasonable for A to make this trip a requirement of her friendship with you. You always have the right to change plans, doubly so when the circumstances of your life have changed as dramatically as yours have. This might be her covert way of asking you to choose. Besides continuing to say No, I'd let her know that you are now getting very serious about GF and you are not okay with her badmouthing GF.
posted by salvia at 4:25 PM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think B is being very accommodating and I would suggest that rather than testing B's boundaries, you might consider pushing back on A.'s

That's a lot of time you're spending with A -- hopefully you're spending a greater (or at the very least equal) amount of time with B.

If your priority is B, she should know that by your actions -- well before she stops being accommodating. If you let it go on too long without setting appropriate boundaries with A, you risk being left with a diminished or non-existent relationship with B and the "now-I-want-you-now-I-don't" crap A is offering.
posted by prettypretty at 4:42 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

You've been dating A all along - making up some other name for it doesn't make it not exactly what it is, and you have an amazingly patient second girlfriend putting up with it.

You need to break up with one of them, and B sure seems like a decent, if possibly a little low-self-esteem human being, while A is a manipulative baby.

As an adult in the real world, having a sexual history with someone - particularly with no break of a couple of years or more to let the dust settle - means you need to maintain a distance if you are in a monogamous relationship. It seems awfully tone deaf, or cake-and-eat-it denial, to not realize that.

If you don't care about making your girlfriend uncomfortable, you should break it off with her.

Real friends are happy for you when you fall in love with someone, and they want your relationship to succeed. They do not threaten to break up with you for refusing to go away and "accidentally" have sex with them.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:49 PM on December 16, 2014 [30 favorites]

I think B should have been willing to meet A. It's good form to want to be at least aquainted with your SO's friends. But A is now being a drama-llama, and you are probably going to lose the friendship at some point, as you will eventually have to prioritise your B over her in a way that she won't like, so it may as well be now.
posted by kjs4 at 4:55 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been in the A situation (except in this scenario it was B who hated me without meeting me b/c I was the ex) and the best thing my friend (B's boyfriend) did was invite me over and encourage B to have an open mind and go out for a drink with me. We did, we had a really nice time, and while we're never going to be BFFs, she and I now get along just fine (and we're all married with kids now, so it's been ages since this happened). My point here is that you can try to encourage A to keep an open mind about B but if you are going to keep this friendship, they have to meet each other and be okay with each other, otherwise it's time to drop A.
posted by echo0720 at 5:16 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, this:

I just don't want to hurt either of them,

will lead you astray. Of course you don't want to be the bad guy, nobody does, but if you continue passively, you're actually playing your girlfriend and your ex off each other, which is shitty.

You should also realize, very quickly before a decision is made for you, that if B has more than rocks in her head she's going to decide you are a drama-magnet and overly conflict averse and cut bait.

Honestly, if I was dating a guy in this situation and he laid it out for me like you have here he'd be met with only a very stern look and a brief window to come to a super obvious conclusion. You'll note that there is no one so far siding with A, or even entertaining that A and B are on equal footing. It's a little concerning that's not clear to you.
posted by Dynex at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2014 [62 favorites]

A and I still feel like close friends, but any physical and romantic interest is gone from both of us.

This is where you went wrong. Sounds like A wants something more that friends. I think you need to "break up" with A.
posted by WeekendJen at 5:28 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're going wrong by continuing to assume "any physical and romantic interest is gone from both of us." Nope, homie, just you.
posted by hush at 5:44 PM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Even if you and A had zero history of sexual attraction, this situation would still suck for B.

(Flashing back to an ex's intense homosocial relationship with his lead guitar player.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:08 PM on December 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

A...wants to end our friendship if the trip doesn't happen

Great; very convenient. Let it end there.

B's assessment of A is spot on. MetaFilter's assessment of A is spot on. She is not your friend, full stop.

I would be surprised if you were not already hurting B, who is being awfully patient with all this nonsense. You are not responsible for A's poor behaviour and not responsible for any hurt she experiences as a result of her choices.
posted by kmennie at 6:19 PM on December 16, 2014 [11 favorites]

You should also realize, very quickly before a decision is made for you, that if B has more than rocks in her head she's going to decide you are a drama-magnet and overly conflict averse and cut bait.


Think about it another way: if B's feeling at all unsure, in herself or in the relationship, this situation is more likely to foster resentment and anxiety that'll doom her trust in you and in the relationship (ask me how I know).
posted by prettypretty at 6:32 PM on December 16, 2014

A isn't right here, but I think it may also be helpful to realize that she might not have been deceitful to you about her feelings on purpose. She may not have known how she felt about you and may not know how to handle or even recognize her internal state. She may very much not have wanted to fall for you, but saying something and wanting something can't make it true.

This does not mean that you should put up with her boundary-less nonsense. She is not treating you well here and you're going to be much better off without her in your life. That doesn't mean what you had wasn't a good thing for both of you, and that doesn't make you an asshole. It just is. There is room here for you to be empathetic towards A without being involved with her any longer. You're not a jerk for closing the door.

Go forth happily with B. She sounds like a real keeper.
posted by sockermom at 6:47 PM on December 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

A is continuing to try to call the shots in your relationship, and you should drop her like a hot potato. Apparently if it is not on her terms she's going to give you ultimatums. Even if you weren't seeing anyone at all that is profoundly manipulative. This has nothing to do with respect- if she respected you, she'd understand why you can't go on the trip and would not be talking smack about your girlfriend to your face.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:10 PM on December 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

You should be telling A that YOU do not want to go away with her for the weekend, because B is the woman you like to go away for weekends with.

Don't put that on B when talking to A. Own it. Something along the lines of "listen, it's awkward. I'm not going to tell my girlfriend that I'm going away for the weekend with someone I was recently having sex with. Call me old-fashioned or whatever. It just doesn't sit right with me, and I'm not doing it."
posted by vitabellosi at 7:24 PM on December 16, 2014 [32 favorites]

I've talked to both of them about this. A thinks she's made all the sacrifices and that B is controlling, unreasonable, and not concerned with A's feelings at all.

This sticks out to me. It's a weird thing to say about someone you've never met or communicated with directly. This makes me think that either A is projecting a lot of blame/anger/etc onto B, or that you've (maybe subtly, even) used B as a shield for why you can't hang out as much anymore. So when you canceled the weekend trip, did you frame it as "hey, it's just not going to work out" or "going on the trip makes ME uncomfortable" or "B isn't OK with us going on the trip?" Because if it was even subtly that last one, then I think you need to set the record straight that this is not about B imposing her will, that YOU are making the decision to respect or set this boundary.

If you're discussing marriage with B, now is a good time to show her that your relationship takes primacy when there seems to be no tenable compromise.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:09 PM on December 16, 2014 [22 favorites]

Maybe I'm old, but a friendship of 1 year does not a best friend make, nor does the relationship run so deep that it ought to be prioritized above a marriage-track relationship.

The "S" in SO stands for significant. That means, while you love and care about many people, your SO features more prominently in your life than other relationships, and you prioritize your decision-making accordingly. You balance your other friendships with your SO by choosing friends who inherently understand and respect this priority.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:11 PM on December 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

You've only known A one year? She's not your best friend. Emotional intensity and drama are not the primary markers of a solid, dependable relationship. Is your platonic ideal of a best friend someone who "hates" your girlfriend without having met her?

From your description, it sounds like you've been continuing to date A even if there's no sex involved. B is being more than understanding and flexible. Don't fall for A's ultimatums. She is not being a good friend to you, and you are not being a friend to her.
posted by stowaway at 9:13 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

A now hates B and never wants to meet her. A ... wants to end our friendship if the trip doesn't happen.

If I were you, I'd end the friendship for her, because I couldn't be friends with anyone who would hate and shun my girlfriend like that. Anyone who has a problem with the people who are closest to me has a problem with me too.
posted by John Cohen at 9:29 PM on December 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

You are talking about marriage. Is A going to boycott your wedding? Maybe that will help you see this from the outside. I know that friendships can be intense and it can seem like replies above don't speak to that. It's how I would have felt, because I value friendships very much. From one hyper intimate introvert to another, though, they're totally right.

My relationship came loaded with A's on both sides - friendships which had, well, wandered a bit and where the other person was secretly carrying a torch (sometimes in a backwards way - like they probably didn't want to date us, but we were declared platonic soulmates and had a standing lunch date in one example). It totally blind sided me when my friends got territorial! More so to be treated like an interloper by my now husband's friends.

Advice you must follow. See A's antics and B's distress as separate problems. A is a friend who you need to discontinue talking with. Honestly, I think it's probably best to ghost her. She's not in good faith in your interactions - she doesn't mean it when she threatens you, she isn't telling the truth about her feelings, &c. There's nothing good to come of telling her why you can't be friends. Do that (or fade) when you feel ready. Attend to B's hurt now. Tell her that you know you've been inappropriate continuing to see A and trying to pretend things were hunky dory, trying to make things work. Tell her that you learned a lesson in prioritizing friends and her as a SO and that you recognize A's behavior was out of line. It sounds like you have been denying B's feelings a bit (easy to do when defending a friend but poisonous to intimacy), so you've got to validate her.

And, yes, absolutely, tell A that you are ending your friendship because of her shitty behavior. But realize that she's untrustworthy and that it'll get back to you and B that you ended your friendship because B is mean, mean, mean. You have no control over that. Happily, she'll just sound burned by everything and you taking the high road with a strong relationship will convey much more than "telling your side" ever could.

I'm glad you found somebody. A sounds like a real piece of work.
posted by sweltering at 9:52 PM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Guess what: A changed her mind and wants you to be her boyfriend after all. Too late.

The friendship is over at this point. Time to break up.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:09 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

B sounds like an amazing, emotionally balanced and intelligent woman and you're very lucky to have found her. A sounds like the opposite and I don't think you should see her or stay in touch with her anymore. This is actually better for all parties, including A - she'll be able to move on with her life as well instead of staying fixated on you. And you and B will be able to move on together - something that's quite unlikely if you decide to stay best friends with a woman who hates and won't meet her.
posted by hazyjane at 10:28 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If I were B, I would've already dumped you- you need to set some boundaries, stat.
posted by emd3737 at 2:56 AM on December 17, 2014 [10 favorites]

A refuses any compromises like bringing B or other friends. In fact, A now hates B and never wants to meet her. A is so hurt by my backing out of this trip (and all the cutting back in the friendship we've had to do) that she wants to end our friendship if the trip doesn't happen.....B thinks A is a toxic friend who is causing me undue stress and has some growing up to do.

B is correct.

But it seems you also have some growing up to do yourself. You've discussed marriage with this woman. You need to tell A that her putting you in this position of having to choose between your possible FUTURE WIFE and her is unacceptable. And that if she continues to act this way there cannot be any room for her as a friend in your life. A is controlling and she wants to be your #1 girl. She knows that B does not want you going on this trip and B has good reasons for that and yet A is more than happy to risk your relationship with the woman you have a real future with to fulfill her own egoic needs. Nonsense.

I just don't want to hurt either of them, but it seems I've worked myself into a corner and that's not possible.

No... from what you've written it is A that has worked you into a corner. She's the one causing this problem and you may have to man up and tell A that she is being unfair to you. If she cannot accept that.... If your friendship is not as important to her as possibly ruining your relationship seems to be, then let her go. Maybe after a while of being away she will realize what a child she's been.

If you truly see yourself marrying the woman you are with do not mess that up over some "friend" who wants you all to herself. Someone is going to get hurt here no matter what you do. Accept that.
posted by rancher at 5:39 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

To answer your #3: You can't. Those needs aren't equal. When your close friend states a need or wish that conflicts with your partner's boundaries, you need to make a choice. Do you want to keep your relationship and respect your partner's feelings, and tell your friend no? Or do you want to prioritize the friendship, cross your partner's boundary, and potentially lose the relationship? Friendships should be able to weather one person saying to the other, "I can't do the thing you're asking of me." Relationships are generally in serious trouble when one person says to (or shows) the other, "I know you have a boundary about this, but I'm going to cross it because my friend asked me to."

Obviously I don't know A, but it sounds like she wants the same emotional arrangement the two of you had from the beginning--that is, not explicitly calling it a committed relationship but more or less play-acting one. Thus, it might genuinely feel to her that she's making sacrifices when you spend time with B or put limits on the activities you'll do with A. I don't think what's happening for A is a logical or consciously manipulative thing (necessarily). It sounds like maybe she doesn't know how to communicate about what she wants. And that sucks for her, and it's probably very painful, AND it's not up to you to fix it or up to B to accommodate A's demands.

It sounds like B is great at communicating about her feelings and boundaries, has a healthy sense of what's fair to ask of her partner in terms of his social life, and is also skilled at communicating with her partner to accommodate them. You are fortunate to have a partner like that.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:55 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have been (in terms of relationship dynamics) both A and B, with different people in both situations.

When I was A, I was heartbroken when the fellow involved found B. I had assumed he was not the committing kind, and when he committed to B, it crushed me. I cried it out with him, he was honest with me that he wanted to be in a relationship with B, and although he loved me, it was not as a life-partner. I met B, I liked the way he & B were together, I became friendly and then friends with B. I loved the fellow so much that I dealt with my heartbreak and became truly "best" friends with him and good friends with his B. I always make efforts to show him and B that I am prioritizing their partnership. If he & I do something together and she can't come, I make sure we text her a photo or pick up a small gift for her (or I simply text her a "missing you, he's doing [silly thing he does that makes him who he is and about which we smile] again").

When I was B, A refused to meet me, and then when she did meet me she flirted with the guy in front of me, making obvious power plays to demonstrate that she had been there first. At our wedding reception she went so far as to stand next to him greeting departing guests while I was handling our bar tab. I was with him for 6 years and I never felt "safe" when he was out with her because I knew that she hated me. And because he never took a stand to side with me and show me that I was his priority, I believed her show of dominance. He is now my ex.

Your questions:
(1) Where did I go wrong, and how am I an idiot (because it feels like it's all my fault)?
You have to demonstrate who is your priority. If A truly loves you, she will cede to B.
(2) Is there any way to smooth this specific situation over?
Yes. See above.
(3) How do you balance the needs of close friends with the needs of an SO?
See above - A must cede. If she doesn't, you must demonstrate that B is your priority. Some feelings will be hurt - B's feelings have been hurt more than they should have, and A is unfairly trying to mark you as her territory (so far she has succeeded).
posted by pammeke at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

You met A, your former friend-with-benefits, a split second before you started dating B.

She is not your best friend. She is your former friend-with-benefits who isn't quite getting why that's not still happening. You'd blurred the lines from the get go with her on the boundaries between friendship and something more. She sounds like she's just playing by the same rules.

You don't need to balance A's needs with B's. You need to have a long, possibly relationship-ending, talk with A about boundaries. FWB is a relationship, and it's different than friendship, or dating.
posted by RainyJay at 8:19 AM on December 17, 2014

I read this last night and took a bit to respond, because I'd been in this situation as B.

My now-husband ("Mike") had really loved a woman the two years before he met me. She made it clear that she did not want him as a boyfriend, so he took her at face value and transitioned their relationship to friendship. Now, if she had changed her mind, he certainly would have taken her up on it, but she'd made her wishes clear and he respected that.

She started dating someone, but hung out with Mike almost as much as she had before she met her guy. She and her boyfriend got engaged, but she kept up the same amount of time with Mike.

Enter me.

Suddenly, Mike didn't have so much time for her. Suddenly, if we had a date, and she called, he would say "Sorry I have a date". She reacted poorly. REALLY poorly. It culminated in her calling him, crying and screaming shortly after we moved in together, because I had "stolen" Mike from her. He reminded her that she had a fiancee. Her response was, "The only reason I can be with him is because you give me everything I need emotionally! If you were more attractive we could have been together, but I NEED you to be there when I NEED YOU." Mike responded, drily, "So ... you were using me for emotional support, but f*cking him because he's more attractive than me?" She said, "YES! And it was all fine UNTIL SHE SHOWED UP!" (meaning me).

Yeah, that went over well. He said thank you for being honest, and please never call again. He never spoke to her again.

And it made me feel secure knowing he prioritized me over her. It made me feel like he valued me, someone he knew he wanted to marry, over someone who was using him for convenient support on her terms. He'd already suspected for awhile that she was using him in that way - he wasn't surprised when it came out. Hurt, yes. Surprised, no. And he did miss her at first, but after a month or so, realized how much better he felt without all her demands.

Look, not all people go for the "us against the world" motto of marriage. Marriage is a lot of things to a lot of people. But I would say for me, I need to know he's going to have my back. I need to know that he will always choose me over another. I need to know that us, our marriage, me, etc. all come before all others. And this was the first big example of him showing me that.

A isn't dealing well with the changing dynamics, and that's sad. It's causing big problems in your friendship when you priortize B, your relationship with B, and yourself and your needs over A. But if you're serious that you want to marry B, this is good practice for the future. There are going to be times when someone close to you demands something that isn't theirs to demand, where you have to priortize B and her needs over theirs. (I'm thinking of the 3 friends whose husbands had to tell their mothers, NO YOU WILL NOT BE IN THE DELIVERY ROOM KTHX.) This is good practice for how you're going to deal with things like this in the future.
posted by RogueTech at 8:21 AM on December 17, 2014 [16 favorites]

B is so very right here, A is SO SO wrong. Your "friend" has come up with this "her or me" ultimatum (either we go on this trip or we're not friends anymore) which is buckets of crazy right there. Your "friend" refuses to meet your partner with whom you see a future.

In what was is A your friend? Seriously. Write down the traits that you consider to be important in a friend. For me it would be stuff like:
- loyalty
- caring
- kindness
- supportiveness
- understanding
- a welcome addition to my life/makes my life better.

Traits that are in direct opposition of friendship are:
- manipulation and blaming
- verbal attacks
- brings more stress and drama/has a net negative impact on my life
- unsupportive of the normal, appropriate, and exciting things in my life

Make your own list, but seriously.... do you really think A is a friend? Because I do not. I think she is the dead opposite of a friend. She is acting like a jilted ex girlfriend. She is acting like she has some claim on you, simply because she was there first. I strongly suspect your FWB arrangement with her was rather more than that for her, despite what she said.

You need to call it quits with A. Phrase it however you like, but I would say something like "I am really disappointed you are choosing to behave in this way and I think it is very unfortunately that this is what we have come to. That you would threaten to end our friendship over my going on a solo vacation with you even though I am uncomfortable with it and even though it could have a negative impact on my relationship with B is really hurtful and manipulative, and not at all the type of behavior I ever believed you capable of. I will not be going on that trip, and frankly I agree that it is best if we part ways for now. I love B, this is an important relationship for me, and I am not willing to jeopardize it in order to satisfy someone who is behaving like anything but a friend. You aren't acting like a friend, you aren't acting like someone who cares about me like a friend, and I won't accept your continued badmouthing and disrespect against her, me, or our relationship. Based upon your behaviour up until this point I suspect you will put the blame on A for my choice to step back from our friendship, but you should remember that in this situation it is not B that set ultimatums and conditions, it isn't B that has been disrespectful, and it isn't B who has tried to control me or control who I spend my time with. "

I would also be really clear with A that you are 100% supporting her, that you feel B's behaviour has been unacceptable and manipulative, you're sorry that she (A) had to go through all of that, and that you're severing ties with B. Show A clear support because damn, that woman put up with a lot and was extremely patient while her boyfriend's "friend" was laying down some major manipulation and disrespect.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:56 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

I had an A and B situation, and I will say this: when B told me he was a little unsure of my relationship with A but not to end my friendship with A, I looked at the fact that I liked B so much and that we had been discussing marriage and I didn't want him to be uncomfortable in any way. I ended my relationship with A in deference to my relationship with B. I've been married to B for 13 years now, and while I will admit that I occasionally miss A's friendship, it was worth it for me. I have other friends now.

If you feel that strongly about B, her feelings should be your guide. If you are unwilling to let her feelings be your guide, you should cut her loose and let her move on with her life.
posted by vignettist at 9:11 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another thought -

It's possible that if you try to keep things going with both A and B, you could piss off both of them and lose them both.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

If I were you, I'd be direct with A about your need to prioritize B. That's a completely normal and acceptable stance to take with even a "best friend" and makes clear what your priorities are going forward. Tell her that you want to be friends with her and that if she can't accept the parameters of the friendship going forward, tough nuts.

Then I'd go tell B what I did and tell her "you're the best and awesome and your understanding of this situation is why I want to marry you."
posted by benbenson at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2014

I'm in kind of a similar situation at the moment. I'm A, and I just discovered--today, in fact--that B has recently expressed some discomfort regarding my friendship with the guy in question (although we don't see each other anywhere near as often as you and your A, we do have a pretty ongoing daily texting habit). Unfortunately, as Guy acknowledges, he did not handle her expression of this discomfort well, which of course just made things worse.

She and I had an extended Facebook/email exchange, parts of which were less than pleasant, but I told her that I think it's perfectly valid for her to want clarification of my friendship with Guy, and that if there are specific behaviors that make her uncomfortable, to let me know. (So, for example, I am no longer to refer to him as my BFF or "personal stylist" on social media. Fine. I'm sure more things will come up. Hopefully they'll be just as trivial.) Then I virtually smacked Guy upside the head for not making it crystal clear to her up front that her concerns were valid, and that he was willing to listen to them even if he thought they were unreasonable or unfounded. That he had her back, first and foremost, as his SO. Instead, he had a meltdown because he thought she was being controlling. Oy.

I'm not sure how this will ultimately turn out. I would be very upset to lose my friendship with Guy, who is important to me, but I think it only makes sense that the person with whom he's planning a future should take priority. If your A really is your best friend, she wants you to be happy. If B is your long-haul partner, then her needs should come first. It's unfair of A to play power games with you that require you to make a choice. Her role is to let you and B figure out your relationship and its boundaries, and if and when there is room for A, then she should be grateful that you value her enough to make space for her, and that B is understanding enough to be okay with that.
posted by Superplin at 11:26 PM on December 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

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