Unsure how to handle this relationship issue
November 17, 2016 9:45 PM   Subscribe

I've been dating another man for about six months. He's had the same roommate for over a decade but they've never dated, though his roommate has a crush on him. My boyfriend and I have been going on a date every Friday and sometimes spending a few hours together on Sunday. He informed me today that he's spending his birthday--Friday--with his roommate, which apparently is something they've been doing for years, and that I am not invited. I'm not sure how to handle this.

I'm feeling pretty miffed, largely because his roommate is fairly needy and I've tried to be accommodating (allowing him to come along on some of our dates--five or six now?) and partly because, while I get it that this is apparently a tradition with them, his roommate has come on some of our dates but I can't come to my boyfriend's birthday dinner. Instead, we will have dinner on Sunday.

My boyfriend didn't think it would be an issue, but I'm feeling really annoyed.

I'm trying to back away from it and think it through, but the thing I keep coming back to is that I feel like his roommate gets the main course and I get the scraps. I'm not sure if I'm being reasonable or insecure.

What's your take on this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
So he's basically going in a date with his roommate who has a crush on him for his birthday. Nopetopus right out of there.
posted by bq at 9:58 PM on November 17, 2016 [56 favorites]

You've been accomodating. I would tell your boyfriend that you are miffed at being excluded and that you want to celebrate his birthday with him. How he reacts will tell you alot.
posted by mossy_george at 10:06 PM on November 17, 2016 [15 favorites]

I think are reading it correctly. The roommate is very close 10 year relationship and apparently takes priority over your dating relationship of six months. Whether or not there are crushes involved, you now know where your boy friend's priorities lie.

If you are feeling generous (this is an otherwise fantastic guy so you are willing to cut him some slack) try to have a (calm) conversation where you can be curious about what their relationship includes and doesn't include. (What does he think the boundaries are? Where do you fit into his life? Does roommate always trump boyfriend? Why couldn't you be included?) Try not to be demanding, just focus on getting a better picture of what he thinks is going on before you decide whether there is something you want to be doing. Step 2, if the answers in step 1 aren't predicting disaster, is to talk about how you feel and what you would wish for in a relationship. If he rejects or belittles your needs, then dump him. If he seems to care about how it makes you feel (even if he doesn't agree) then you might thing about staying around.

So, not a 100% automatic DTMF but a strong warning to survey the road ahead before you go any further.
posted by metahawk at 10:09 PM on November 17, 2016 [21 favorites]

If anyone should be disappointed, it should be his room mate not his partner of 6 months. I'm sorry but I would bail. Whatever is going on with the room mate is not sufficiently sorted out for him to be dating. Coming on your dates??? No.

Being specifically excluded is different to mistakenly thinking it wouldn't matter, then including you when he realised that it hurt your feelings.
posted by stellathon at 10:19 PM on November 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

This is an unhealthy dynamic. I think it says a lot that your partner has been living with a man who has a "crush" on him. And for 10 years? You don't have a "crush" for 10 years. He's in love with your partner. Bringing him on dates? That is sick.
posted by blackzinfandel at 10:24 PM on November 17, 2016 [26 favorites]

Maybe I'm way off base, but I wouldn't be enormously surprised if the "roommate" is actually your boyfriend's partner, and they have a contentiously and confusingly semi-open relationship.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:38 PM on November 17, 2016 [100 favorites]

My take is that he's breaking up with you in the most passive aggressive way possible.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:49 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm with Jon Mitchell. Especially since the roommate spending his birthday with him means that the two of you can't see each other on his birthday at all. In a situation where this was OK and above board but kind of an unusual setup, there would be some potential compromise here, like they have an after work drink and then you guys go on your weekly date slash birthday celebration. Or you guys go on your date and then roommate joins for cake later. He can't, under any circumstances, see you *at all* on his birthday? Something is not right here.
posted by Sara C. at 10:51 PM on November 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

I had an ex with a roommate (both male, I'm female) who would come on our dates fairly often. I ended up getting a major crush on the roommate- nothing happened but it later caused some drama which I think was very unfair since I was kind of also dating him?? Your situation is different I just mention this to say that someone tagging along regularly on dates is a bloody weird dynamic.

I don't think you're overreacting at all. I'd bring it up with your boyfriend and if he tries to make you feel like your concerns are a reflection of your issues and not the reality of his situation I'd think long and hard about the relationship.
posted by hotcoroner at 10:51 PM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

After six months, you only see him Friday nights and sometimes Sunday?

This relationship doesn't sound serious enough for you to warrant ditching a decade long tradition. Until you're talking about cohabitation, let him have the space to celebrate his own private holiday in his own private way.

Maybe your boyfriend is lying to you, maybe he has a weird and not-above-board relationship with his roommate. You're the one in the room and to a degree you have to just trust your own instincts.

Based on what you've written, your boyfriend wanting to spend his birthday-day without you sounds to me like a reasonable boundary, not a huge red flag. But that doesn't mean you have to stick around if you're finding the relationship unfulfilling.
posted by itesser at 11:04 PM on November 17, 2016 [36 favorites]

If you were only dating 6 weeks, this might be OK. That's what I thought at first, that it was only 6 weeks you knew this guy and that it was a borderline situation.

At 6 months? You should dump this guy for ditching you on his birthday and donate his gift (if you bought one) to a charity. The holidays are coming, someone who appreciates nice things will love it, whatever it is.

The roommate tags along on your dates, but he gets Friday and Saturday exclusively with "your" boyfriend on the boyfriend's birthday weekend? They are some kind of committed couple. The man you call your "boyfriend" doesn't have the decency to tell you the truth about his longstanding primary relationship. Worse, the "roommate" is also in the know.

Even if I am wrong, at 6 months you should be spending birthdays together! RUN.
posted by jbenben at 11:42 PM on November 17, 2016 [11 favorites]

Tell him he can spend as much time with his room mate as he wants, now that he's single.
posted by Jubey at 2:37 AM on November 18, 2016 [18 favorites]

This person is not available for the kind of relationship you want, and either isn't aware of that fact or is lying to you about it. Even if it's the former, they've been in a fucked up, codependent, manipulative relationship for ten years without knowing it, and likely wouldn't be ready for something unfucked up for a while -- assuming they got out of the situation and did a lot of personal work on it afterwards.

I don't see a way this becomes the sort of healthy, committed relationship you seem to want. I'm sorry. It might help to try to get some explanation out of your boyfriend, but truthfully that's dangerous territory, since either situation suggests he'd be really good at manipulating / convincing you that everything is fine. I would suggest really thinking through all the possibilities before you talk to him.

I'm sorry you're in this situation. How did you feel when the roommate tagged along on dates? I ask because I imagine it wasn't good, and it might be worth exploring why you pursued this relationship anyway.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:43 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think people have given you some pretty decent advice so far, but as someone who has a best friend that I lived with for a very long time, it might help with your jealousy (assuming that you're positive the crush is not reciprocated) to think of the roommate as more like your boyfriend's brother, because after 10 years, that's quite likely how he thinks of him. Would you be as annoyed if your boyfriend had chosen to continue his birthday tradition with his brother or family?

I can understand being jealous, on the by. Both my BFF and I have dated folks who were super jealous of our closeness. The fact of the matter is, you've known him for 6 months, weekends only. 10 years and living together is just a deeper relationship, and assuming they really aren't fucking behind your back (it's possible! I've never even kissed my BFF of 25 years), I think it's pretty normal to want to spend time together, especially if they have traditional plans. The real red flag that I see is that they are excluding you from this -- that'd be the thing I'd want to pick apart here and find out the real reasons why.
posted by possibilityleft at 4:47 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

A relationship of 6 months, particularly one in which you see each other once maybe twice a week, does not trump a chosen family friendship of 10 years.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:56 AM on November 18, 2016 [17 favorites]

I have long standing traditions with my best friend/cousin. Every 2 months or so I drive to her city and spend the weekend with her, watching scary movies, sewing clothes, playing video games, etc. They are super important to me. And on top of that, the weekend before Hallowe'en we always spend together. We call it "Cuztoberfest". No, my husband is not invited, no I will not reschedule or throw away this very long and important tradition. The inclusion of someone else would literally ruin our tradition. I love my husband but no effing way is he coming on my special weekend. My husband knows this, he knows that my cousin weekends are deeply important to me and my cousin/bestie and he would never expect to be involved or invited, nor would he ever expect me to toss out this tradition for him, just because. He would never try to make plans with me during cuztoberfest weekend. He knew this from the moment we started dating, and now that we're married he STILL knows it. I still go on my cousin weekends, despite being married and being a mom and all that stuff.

I get that it is different because the room mate has a crush, etc, but still... c'mon.... it is a thing they have done for years...

that said, I do question the fact that after 6 months you only see him fridays and some sundays. This does not sound like you are his main/only relationship.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:08 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think if you want to be Cool Boyfriend I would drop it this year and take it up NEXT year, because at that point a relationship of 1.5 years and not doing a birthday thing together would not be cool with me.

But it definitely seems about more than just the birthday. I think the bigger issue is that BF and roommate's "date time" is more protected than your date time. It's hard to tell from this whether BF is simply unaware that you'd rather not have Roommate on your dates and thinks you're all having fun (ie you need to be more assertive), or if BF is afraid to hurt roommate's feelings and/or set clearer boundaries.

It's okay to have different boundaries for this kind of thing. If it turns out that your BF thinks you're too clingy, and you think he's third-wheeling Roommate too much, neither of you is necessarily "right". It might just mean you need to date people with the same boundary lines.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:23 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah my take on this is similar to yours and I get why you feel this way. This reads to me like your boyfriend is signalling that his relationship with you is not his top priority or even that he wants it to progress further or become more intimate than whatever he has with his roommate--so yeah, you're getting the scraps. It's 6 months in and his birthday is on a Friday. Choosing to break your date night to spend his birthday alone with his roommate looks to me like he's setting some pretty clear boundaries in terms of your relationship.

Also, his roommate can come on your dates and be part of that, but you can't be part of their thing. I'm also guessing his Saturdays are reserved for his roommate? And on this weekend, when he isn't seeing you on Friday, he has rescheduled to Sunday rather than Saturday? He doesn't see the problem with any of this because he's clearly happy with the status quo of having his roommate as his primary emotional relationship and you filling a secondary role of boyfriend. But where does that leave you? You're being totally reasonable in wanting your relationship to be the primary emotional one for both of you, that is usually how it works. If your boyfriend thinks this is unreasonable it's because he has different expectations or desires for your relationship.
posted by Polychrome at 5:33 AM on November 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Honestly, the thing that tips this into red flag territory for me is the roommate coming along on dates. That is deeply weird to me, like your boyfriend doesn't get to have a relationship that doesn't involve the roommate. Obviously everyone has their own comfort level, but you don't seem ok with it, or with the boundaries your boyfriend has implicitly set. And I'd say the implicit part is a problem too -- people have different negotiated relationships, but this isn't negotiated. It would be one thing if your boyfriend was like oh hey, these are the contours of my life and here is how they differ from what you might be expecting, and this is how I'm available and not available. From your post, he didn't do any of that. He just set up some unusual practices and expected you to accept it. Which you have, so far, but clearly not happily, because your feelings weren't considered or respected at all.

The combination of all of these things would have me running.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:52 AM on November 18, 2016 [11 favorites]

A relationship of 6 months, particularly one in which you see each other once maybe twice a week, does not trump a chosen family friendship of 10 years.

I disagree with this if this roommate has been going on with you on your dates.

posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:55 AM on November 18, 2016 [11 favorites]

Roommate coming along for 5-6 dates out of 24 may or may not be a big deal for most, depending. (I feel that e.g. letting roommate tag along to see a movie on a night he had nothing better to do might be different than having him sit between you at a lovely restaurant.) But it is a big deal for you, and that's something to talk about.

Exclusive traditional birthday with best friend/roommate of 10 yrs seems a little intense to me, tbh. Not necessarily because it's invested with anything beyond friendship, although it might be, it's just that it strikes me as a little ungenerous and rigid; to me, why wouldn't you just invite close people, like your ongoing date of 6 months, who want to celebrate you? But tradition matters to some. Or maybe, roommate invited him first and insisted on it being special-bonding-time... There is a special dinner planned with you, as well, sounds like your BF's trying to make everyone happy (but not succeeding).

Obviously, that is a strongly bonded relationship that's important for your BF. If the roommate is needy (lonely, dependent, possibly has some issues), maybe part of it is that BF is caving in to demands, to be kind. But it sounds like your preferences and needs aren't being heard, and that your BF is struggling to negotiate both relationships. Either way, it does seem that something's up with this dynamic, definitely worth a talk. Although unless he moves, and even if he doesn't, the roommate is going to be around, and will probably continue to at least try to insert himself into plans where he can. Worth thinking through whether that's too much for you to deal with.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:09 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't mean to be alarmist, but this sounds familiar to me. I was dating a man who had a "roommate", female (he was straight), and he explained several times that they were good friends and she needed a place to live (despite them both being in their 40s and middle-upper middle class income). She had been his friend for several years. He and I also only saw each other at limited times.

Now, my situation is different because he never wanted me to meet his roommate, a huge red flag- but I later found out that yes, they were in a relationship and probably had been most of the time I was dating him.

So, this doesn't seem right to me- even if they are not in a relationship, I agree with what others are saying.
posted by bearette at 6:37 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Is there anything going on related to different ideas about how to celebrate birthdays, and tradition around which day you go on dates? Are you angry that they're taking up your habitual Friday night, or is it more that you're not invited on this? If there's any of the former involved, I'd try to root that out. Switching to a different day one week isn't that big of a deal. Celebrating birthdays on the exact day doesn't matter to me at all. I think there are things to sort out here, like how he responds to your discomfort and your clear communication of it, but figuring out what issues are not universally right or wrong--like sticking with one day or another--might help with clarity on this.
posted by ramenopres at 6:41 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're being totally reasonable, and not insecure at all. This is like an advanced level of gaslighting, where he's trying to convince you there's nothing there ... despite telling you with his actions that there is clearly something there. He may not want to break up, exactly, but he sure doesn't want you to be his primary partner.

Now, me? I would break up with him now over this. You can wait it out, but I would not expect his attitude toward his roommate, or his general consideration level toward you, to change.
posted by tooloudinhere at 6:43 AM on November 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

I can't imagine having a roommate for 10 years who I knew had a crush on me without either (a) letting the roommate know in no uncertain terms a relationship wasn't happening, thus ending the crush; or (b) entering a relationship with said roommate.

TEN YEARS. Yeah, this doesn't pass the sniff test.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:19 AM on November 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

I was all for letting the birthday dinner thing slide a little, as the 'family' dynamic came to mind here for me too. But then upon revisiting the roommate coming-along-on dates thing, and seemingly being needy, and you palpably recognizing, as you say, him having a crush on your boyfriend – well, that tipped the scales in the other direction. Personally, my advice is putting out some feelers to get some clarity on how this works in your boyfriend's mind, and where he puts his emphasis and his foot down.

(I'm not sure how you've tolerated the roommate coming along on dates thing so far? That seems really too nice to ask of you.)

Feel free to speak up: make your full-desires position here known to him, so you can digest whether this is unhealthy or not. Now's your time to make the case for yourself – now, more than ever, I should say. Make note of our concern on this, I'd think.
posted by a good beginning at 7:58 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

The part about bringing the roommate along on the dates didn't bother me by itself. Like, "Hey, we're going to the pub. Want to come?" After six months it seems normal to me that you would be socializing with each other's circles. But six months in you still only see each other once a week? Now he'd rather spend his birthday with someone other than you? Yeah, you are more invested in this relationship than he is. Time to move on.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:32 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

His roommate is more than just a roommate. You deserve better. Say goodbye.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:14 PM on November 18, 2016

If roommate is invited to your dates, but you're not invited to his with your boyfriend (and that's what it is, a date), then yeah, dump this guy now. They deserve each other. Get out of their way.
posted by inturnaround at 12:52 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think the whole "only see each other on specific days" thing is that odd at six months in.

But (and I know this wording is clumsy but bear with me) as you've described it, the roommate is part of your relationship with your boyfriend, yet you are not part of the relationship with the roommate. That would not be acceptable to me.
posted by sm1tten at 2:50 PM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think it is telling that the people who said your boyfriends behavior is reasonabe because they found themselves in a similar situation had a not insignificant twist in their stories, that the other person involved was a member of a sex they were not attracted to or a cousin.
posted by mossy_george at 3:16 PM on November 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think it's also telling that he decided to inform you the day before your usual standing date that he'd be spending that particular Friday, his birthday, with the roommate. Bf's conflict-avoidant or the roommate threw a last-minute tantrum and Bf gave in, neither of which bodes well for your relationship.
posted by furtive_jackanapes at 6:53 PM on November 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've actually been on the other side of a situation a lot like this recent-ish-ly, albeit a het one -- had a housemate/friend that was interested in me (and vice versa), but neither of us ever made a move as long as I was in a relationship. Housemate ended up being the person I celebrated my birthday with a few years back, platonically and innocuously, instead of the SO at the time.*

I bring this up to point out that I think it's quite possible that nothing cheat-y is going on here.

But... that's not the issue, is it? The issue is that you feel annoyed. And that's tricky, because it's a special occasion that you justifiably want to share with your SO, but it's arguably *their* special occasion, and the convention is often that people should be able to do what they want with it. And it's not as if they've shut you out entirely; you got a different spot in the celebration schedule. And it's not as if you're a secret from the roommate or vice versa, since you've met.

I think this is one of those situations where the best thing to do is claim your right to speak your mind/feelings, but accept the other person's right to make a decision different from the one you might prefer. Don't go into the conversation with "you need to change!", just go into it "this is how I feel, this is what I'd like, but if not, is there anything we could do things differently?"

Hopefully this will at least elicit some concern over your feelings, even if it doesn't change his mind, and maybe it'll be the start of a negotiation that can change things. And if not, you can decide if that's a dealbreaker for you or just something momentarily unpleasant.

* in retrospect, the SO's non-attachment to participating in *any* birthday celebration, albeit supported by a number of plausibly practical considerations, was one of a raft of warning signs that she'd already been done with the relationship for a while and was just looking for the most convenient time to get out, so I don't blame you for treating this as a flag, I'm just not convinced it's a signal of a problem on its own.
posted by wildblueyonder at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2016

This situation is fishy. It seems that you are a guy on the side thing, and that they're probably in a quasi open relationship. Why for TEN YEARS would you be having your birthday with one person you're not even related to if not in a serious relationship? Also, he's treating you a little like garbage - you can only see him at certain times and he told you about his birthday plans only the day before.
posted by xammerboy at 7:58 PM on November 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older YANMD, but any insight as to what might be going...   |   Help me remember the name of this break up related... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.