Overcoming constant accusations and insinuations of infidelity?
December 16, 2006 8:24 AM   Subscribe

What to do about accusations / insinuations that one can't be trusted hanging out with other people's girlfriends and/or they can't be trusted hanging out with you?

I have great difficulty having friendships with women who are in relationships with others. Though nothing sexual ever happens--and I don't want anything to happen as I do not want to be party to that kind of betrayal--pressure is constantly put onto myself and the women in question for our friendship to cease.

It's pretty infuriating and lately is threatening a friendship with someone whose absence from my life would be felt quite heavily. That said, I've offered to scatter but the friend feels (rightly so, imo) that her partner should not be dictating who she hangs out with.

In your experience, is it better to maintain friendship or break it off? And, how can one ease the imagination of the third party?

Note that to my knowledge, in every case, the insinuations are not called for (ie, the female friends have never cheated on their mate in the past).
posted by dobbs to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Your allegiances lie with your friends, and not (necessarily) with your friends' mates. Your friends' mates are not being very good to your friends. Be the best friend that you can be, and your relationship will both outlast and be more important than that of the mates'.

In short, fuck 'em. They're stupid.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2006

Can you invite the SO out with you? If not, at least be as transparent as you can about what you and your friend do.

Also, make an effort to get to know your friend's SO. I have a bunch of guy friends and I've found that getting to know their girlfriends pays off in two ways: first, any suspicions they might have are quelled; second, they're usually cool and we frequently become friends too (or are at least able to hang out together).

Also, since this happens to you frequently, try to examine as objectively you can the nature of your friendships. Do you do anything that might be perceived as flirting? I can think of a couple people in my social circle who seem incapable of doing anything but flirting with the opposite sex, even if they really are just friends and it will never escalate beyond that.

In the situation you mention, I think you've handled it well so far; and since your friend doesn't want to let your friendship go, try to include her SO in the things you do. If that doesn't work, then you'll just have to agree to disagree about each other -- but at least you can say you tried.
posted by AV at 9:14 AM on December 16, 2006

Yeah, invite the SO along on outings. Make sure you talk to the SO as an individual person, not as your friend's SO. For example, if you call your friend and the boyfriend picks up the phone, spend a few minutes talking to him about his job, or school, or what-have-you. When buying Christmas presents for the friend, make sure to get the boyfriend a little something, too. Just acknowledge his existence and his place in your friend's life whenever possible.
posted by Anonymous at 9:17 AM on December 16, 2006

...that's objectively *as* you can, sorry...

(I'm not illiterate, really)
posted by AV at 9:17 AM on December 16, 2006

It sounds as if your female friends have terrible taste when it comes to romantic relationships.

I'd tell them that while they are amazing and their significant others have every right to be protective, they have no right to be controlling. Tell them you think they are great friends, but you don't want to come between them and love, even if you don't agree with their choice, and you don't want to put them in a situation where they have to choose betwixt love and friendship.

Don't "break it off", but tell them you're going to back off for awhile and that they are free to call you once the boyfriend calms down/learns to trust her. Don't say "until you dump the bastard".

If the guys aren't just a little controlling, but emotionally/physically abusive (as is probably the case), leverage the hell out of your friendship and get her out of that relationship.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I guess I should be a bit more clear:

It's *me* the mates have a problem with. My friends have plenty of relationships with other males without issue. It's also not just men--my lesbian friends also have mates that are suspicious of our relationships.

Also, in 9/10 cases, I know the SO and know them quite well. Often I've even been friends with them prior to meeting their mate. The SO is more than welcome to come along any time they wish. They usually refuse, however, and in the recent instance are just plain infuriated at the mention of my name.

I guess the question would be better phrased as "As someone whose dating life is rather transparent, public, and active, how can I ease the minds of the significant others that my relationships with their girlfriends are platonic?"
posted by dobbs at 9:52 AM on December 16, 2006

Pretend to be gay and let the bf's be happy with that scenario. Sorry, no, in all seriousness you've done the right thing (in offering to scatter) and if the friend doesn't feel like that then that's her call. If the bf is so controlling to an extent where they can't understand your friend's wish to continue to be friends with people that don't share her genetalia then it's her call if she wants to take a break from seeing you.

The advice above to be friendly to the bf's is good, if you can pull it off without seeming to be ingratiating/over-friendly. Treat them as they are- possibly good friends that share a common interest (your friend's well-being as a start) and likely to be alright as if your friend likes them and you.

Your happiness will not be improved if you stop seeing them, their's obviously not as you have offered to get out of town, so to speak, and been rebuffed. It's her call and until you hear otherwise then it is the same as a male friend saying that 'Hey my girlfriend doesn't like you' and you saying 'Guess I better scram out your life'. Nice to make the offer but when told by the friend that they will decide that then accept that you should be there for your friend and let them deal with (if any) the complications.

On preview... given your clarification then why is it 'you' they have a problem with? Are you so good looking/ empathetic yadda yadda that you cause a rumpus? Or is your behaviour and relationship with friends so close that your, even lesbian friend's partners, find you a threat? When out in company refrain from making private in-jokes that may exclude the partner, treat everyone in the group as being equally hilarious, profound, whatever.

Continue to be you, but ask your friends why they think it is you (as opposed to anyone else) that is the cause of disharmony (and take the reasons as a compliment but act on them all the same if there is a pattern).
posted by Gratishades at 10:03 AM on December 16, 2006

Also, in 9/10 cases, I know the SO and know them quite well. Often I've even been friends with them prior to meeting their mate. The SO is more than welcome to come along any time they wish. They usually refuse, however, and in the recent instance are just plain infuriated at the mention of my name.

Do you think if forced to pick, your friend would chose this SO over you if it really came down to the wire?

From what you described, their relationship is on the decline. You can probably just wait it out.
posted by delmoi at 11:34 AM on December 16, 2006

You could just be the third wheel. Or maybe you're making the significant other feel like the third wheel when you hang out with his/her girlfriend? Either way, it's no way to ingratiate yourself with the SO. And it's a short walk from resenting you to not trusting you.

A trustworthy girlfriend is only half of the story,"You trust your girlfriend, right? Why do you need to trust me?" Well, maybe they need to trust you're not undermining their relationship in ways other than infidelity.

And as much as you're affronted by these accusations, it may help to consider that your friend may be having a harder time balancing the relationship and the friendship - offering to lay low just comes off as a weak ultimatum. Ultimatums suck.

As for easing their minds, you probably need to earn the SO's friendship. A tacit invite won't cut it, i.e. a casual drinks-after-work email sent to her and not her and him can be rought with warranted interpretations. If you're genuine in your effort and are still rebuffed, it may be time for a one on one with the SO. "I get the sense you don't care for me," is a pretty honest start.
posted by Loser at 11:47 AM on December 16, 2006

Er, unwarranted interpretations.
posted by Loser at 11:56 AM on December 16, 2006

I've been on the other end of something like this, dobbs (the jealous BF). I was always suspicious of the friendship my best friend in college had with my girlfriend at the time. When you say these guys are "infuriated at the mention of my name," I understand exactly where they are coming from.

Without going into a lot of unnecessary backstory, let me tell how it is: this is their problem, not yours, and nothing you can do can cure them of their fears and jealousies. You could try and distance yourself from the girlfriends, but the ugly feelings of insecurity will always linger. And that's the real source of the problems: insecurity on their part. You just happen to be the most ready-source for inspiring their insecurities. If it weren't you, it'd be someone else, trust me.

The only thing that can be done is for the ladies to confront their beaus with this, and ultimately either the guy will change his ways, or the girlfriends will get sick of dealing with it and will leave them. Notice how big your role in this is: that's right, zero. Just behave as you always do, because you're not doing anything wrong. In my own experience, any actions you take will only exacerbate the problem (e.g., you stop hanging out with the girl, guy thinks you're trying to get her angry at him; you invite him along, he feels like a third wheel, etc., etc.)

There's no amount of reassurance you can give to someone that feels this way to assuage their fears. This is something they need to work out for themselves. Hopefully they'll still have a friend and GF at the end of it, but it doesn't always work out that way.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:01 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

23skidoo is spot on with this: The whole "I don't trust you around him" is really just code for "Your friend is clearly way more awesome than I am, and I am totally jealous."

This is very much the attitude of someone who is very insecure in themselves.

I have the converse problem, as a woman with a number of male friends. Usually I end up on the recieving end of some sort of jealous and snippy behavior. I'm sure I could get rid of that sort of thing by being less fabulous, but I prefer to just go on with my life. Most people I want as friends don't care to have a pathologically jealous partner, and the problem eventually takes care of itself.
posted by yohko at 2:07 PM on December 16, 2006

Interesting question; I'm assuming you're single? People makes assumption about singletons IMO aside from the "third wheel" thing. Not a lot you can do. I've been happily single for a long time but have often had difficulty maintaining friendships with people of either sex once they've pair-bonded. Mind you I have the social skills of a retarded llama. Sometimes the friend's partner either appears jealous or, more rarely, gets horny, and then I drop them both. (Some friend, eh?) I'm hoping this effect will diminish as I get older and uglier! But seriously, do you think they feel excluded in some way when you're with your old friend? Is it possible to be more of a friend to the jealous party as well, do you have anything in common? Do they find you rude? Boring? Do you need more feedback from the subjects of your inquiry? If the cause is some problem in your friends' relationships there is nothing you can do except maybe back off.

Interesting to compare the responses to this related question: Dodging a nice person, where there's some discussion as to whether such attempts at platonic friendship are basically misguided. But there the friendship attempt postdates the partnership.

Platonic friendship is rare; jealousy is common. Go figure.
posted by Coaticass at 3:05 PM on December 16, 2006

you cannot do anything to correct other people's insecurities, the more you concede the more they'll ask -- they are the problem, not you, they project their insecurities on to you. hence you cannot do anything.

wish I had happier advice, I don't. hugs d.
posted by matteo at 4:42 PM on December 16, 2006

dobbs, if even lesbians fear your girlfriend-stealing powers, you may want to examine your behavior. I've had similar problems because I tend to be physically demonstrative and lavishly affectionate with people I care about, male or female. That can easily be misinterpreted as attempts at seduction or simple disrespect of the SO.

If you are a hugger, toucher, cooer, complimenter, playful teaser -- what have you -- you may need to dial it down a bit with your attached friends, especially in the early stages of getting to know their SOs. As others have mentioned, warm friendliness toward the SO always helps (though it sounds like that ship has sailed with this particular friend).

Last: not to induce a case of ego poisoning, but you seem to belong to that class of dudes who are attractive, charismatic, and really love women in a way that's difficult to fake, and so are generally loved by lots of women in return. Even if you are not the jealous type that's hard to take just in a general unfairness of life kind of way, much less to see your particular very own girlfriend smiling and laughing all bright-eyed around one of said dudes. If you were committed to someone else that'd be one thing, but if you were hanging out with my (hypothetical, nonexistent) girlfriend and I didn't already have a lot of confidence in myself you might make me nervous, too. If you were in a serious and obviously happy relationship this might not be such a problem for you, but until you are -- well, don't stop being you, but try to be a little less -- oh I don't know -- everyone's favorite hmm-what-if-we-both-were-single-at-the-same-time-hoo-boy friend. No taking her places better than he can afford, no buying her gifts nicer than he could dream up, no complimenting her the way he would if he only had your words. He still might not like you, but at least you won't be so easily mistaken for competition. Good luck!
posted by melissa may at 6:34 PM on December 16, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers. Much appreciated.
posted by dobbs at 8:09 AM on December 17, 2006

It might also be worth looking at how you describe your romantic partners, or encounters, in conversation with your friends. If you present yourself as someone who doesn't value women for anything other than sex, or as someone who can't control himself around women -- even if you explicitly place your friends in some sort of "other" category -- then I would think it might be reasonable that SOs are worried about how you're viewing their partners. Maybe because they think you don't respect women enough to keep the friends boundary clear, or because descriptions of how you can't control yourself (especially if there are stories involving getting drunk and hitting on women) leave them worried about whether you'll always be able to control yourself around your friends, or maybe even because they think that any self-respecting woman wouldn't be friends with a guy who seems to be using women, and so the only reason their partners are friends with you is because they secretly want you.

I realize it's very possible that none of this applies, I'm not basing this on anything other than speculation about what problems *might* be in people's heads. But if you do have a strong, madonna-whore split between "How I view women I sleep with" and "How I view women I'm friends with," then you need to at least realize that for your friends' SOs, your friends are in their Category #1 and so they may not really believe in your Category #2.
posted by occhiblu at 6:22 PM on December 17, 2006

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