Iron Love Triangle
February 19, 2008 7:06 PM   Subscribe

I have two best friends. I was about to confess my love to one, when he told me he was dating the other. Coping mechanisms?

I actually can't believe I'm posting one of these.

3 gay men, we'll call them me, Dan, and Tom. Dan and I are both on a full-year study abroad to Tom's home country; Dan and I know each other from the summer before through a mutual friend, Dan and Tom know each other because Tom studied abroad last year at Dan's home university. The three of us do everything together - I can't think of a single night out in the past month that hasn't been the three of us plus some combination of others. They form the foundation of my social life in this country.

When I first met Dan, I developed a minor crush on him. I quickly put it in the drawer, because we were both going to be really the only person we knew in a foreign country, and it didn't seem like a good thing to expose to screw ups. It faded, as it should have.

After coming back from winter break at the end of December, however, my feelings for Dan returned. They've intensified over the past two months, to the point where this past weekend I decided that I needed to come clean and just get a resolution one way or the other. I decided that our friendship was definitely strong enough to survive a rejection, and figured out what I wanted to say.

Tonight, I got up the courage to talk to him, said "Dan, I need to talk to you about something." I went down to his room (we live in a dorm together), and we made smalltalk for a while. Just as I was about to launch into my preplanned statement, he said "I have something to tell you. Tom and I are kinda going out now."

I played the good friend and pretended to be happy for them, even counseling Dan through his fears about screwing up their friendship. All the while I'm freaking out inside. Apparently, the backstory is that last week Monday, they hooked up and decided "Well, we're best friends, so why not?"

(I know it was only a week ago, but I find for various reasons that it is unlikely that they will break up soon.)

This situation is obviously terrible and painful for me. My two best friends, who form the majority of my social universe in a foreign country, are going out - and I have very strong feelings for one of them.

After talking to a lot of friends, I've decided that I'm going to have to let Dan know what's going on, as he will undoubtedly be asking soon why I'm acting weird. I've decided on full disclosure so that they will know where I stand and why I'm having a difficult time with it, and so that they can hopefully take steps to mitigate the effects their relationship will have on me. I am almost certain that is the reaction that they will have - they are reasonable, good friends, who will have my interests at heart.

The more difficult problem, and what I need help with, is how to cope with the situations I will be finding myself in, as no amount of their mitigation will completely eliminate the painful emotions I'll be feeling in their company. I would like to continue hanging out with them, but will also obviously be working on expanding into new friendships. I plan on seeing a professional as soon as possible.

My question boils down to: what advice do you have for me in coping with this situation, and all the future situations that it will create?

I've set up the e-mail address for questions or to contact me on the side. Anonymous because I don't want this drama associated with my name for the rest of the time the internet exists.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Let yourself grieve. Grieving is a healthy mechanism that lets us get past things like this. Once you yourself come to terms with this, everything else you're worrying about coping with will be much easier.
posted by Class Goat at 7:21 PM on February 19, 2008

I know I'm not the only one wondering whether or not they'd welcome a third.

That said, you'll have to decide whether you want to distance yourself, or be the good friend to both. The latter takes some zen to accomplish, and can be totally worth it...if you can do it. It's okay if you can't.
posted by desuetude at 7:44 PM on February 19, 2008

How would I cope? I would talk with them, tell them what's going on with you and that you are going to need a break from spending time with them and then I would take that break -- It's only going to REALLY hurt to spend time with them, especially at the beginning of their relationship when they're wrapped up with each other. They should understand and if they don't, well, what kind of friends are they?

Do what you've said you are going to do: See a professional and seek out new friends. Luckily, you're in a great place (university) to meet people. Also, there can be something unexpected about the raw place you're in -- that kind of pain can lead to questions and questions can lead to being open to ideas and people and things you might not have otherwise seen or done. One way that this might manifest itself is to answer "Yes." Somebody in class asks you if you want to have coffee, say 'yes.' Someone on your floor asks you if you want to go bowling with a group of his friends, do it. Always wanted to learn _____? Do it. Get the idea? Say, "Yes" to everything unless it's dangerous or would take too much time away from your studies. Do this at least for awhile -- it will help.

It's going to be hard, but you seem like a sensitive, thoughtful, intelligent person. You made these friends, you will make more.
posted by nnk at 7:55 PM on February 19, 2008

I'm doubting, desuetude, that a threesome is the answer (and I say that with a smile) anon is, obviously, in love, whatever that might mean, and I doubt there is any lasting attraction for 'Tom'.
This is a messy situation and all kinds of cliches and platitudes spring to mind, but the nitty gritty is, you just have to ride the wave of pain. Not to sound callous, but there are times in life when there is no easy answer.
That said, it seems that the OP is on the right path. Confess to Don, don't make it a drama. Don't lose the friendships. Be open and honest while respecting boundaries.
Do circulate more socially, but don't mess up with some rebound physical fling. Not knocking flings, but when feeling are involved it's a bad choice.
I would recommended suitable music, reading and introspection.
And I wish you the best and a speedy 'heart' recovery.
posted by dawson at 8:23 PM on February 19, 2008

I was about to confess my love to one, when he told me he was dating the other. Coping mechanisms?

Suggest crying until you don't feel like it anymore. Acceptance is the only way to deal with it.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:13 PM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

For the love of God, don't tell Dan.

That will just make things uncomfortable; it will very possibly destroy your friendship and ruin the little social circle you have going. You don't want that to happen in a foreign country.

I know it is tempting to confess to Dan, but resist the urge. You will regret it if you tell him.
posted by jayder at 9:29 PM on February 19, 2008

Save it for sometime months or years later when you can say, "You know, I always had a bit of a crush on you."
posted by dhartung at 10:47 PM on February 19, 2008

I agree with jayder - don't tell Dan. You want to tell him, and it's tempting, but your reasons for telling him are because you want to lessen your own pain. He doesn't deserve this sprung upon him at the start of a new relationship.

It will only make things awkward between all three of you, as Dan might be made to feel sort of guilty (for never noticing before, for dating Tom, etc), which will indirectly impacttheir relationship. They don't deserve that. Not to mention Tom gets thrown right in the middle through no fault of his own.

You're going to have to deal with this with the help of those other friends you mentioned. It's going to be incredibly difficult, but you can get through it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:22 PM on February 19, 2008

I was about to confess my love to one, when he told me he was dating the other.

Here's a thought that might be an upper or a downer, depending on how you choose to take it: if you had started the 3rd before the one you are in love with did, then the 3rd likely would have dropped that bombshell on him instead of him dropping it on you.

And so what would you have wanted him to do? How would it have made you feel? If you give it some thought, you might realize that you wouldn't have wanted him to interfere, and you instead would have wanted him to accept the fact that he'd missed his opportunity and needs to move on.

More importantly, there are a lot of people in the world, all around you, and if you're convinced that you just missed the *only* one for you...well, you're not casting your emotional net wide enough. Hang up that crush as one you might pursue someday if his current relationship doesn't work out, and once you're dating someone else you'll likely be very happy for the two of them.

Then you can start worrying about who's side you'll be on if/when they break up.

Good luck.
posted by davejay at 12:20 AM on February 20, 2008

argh. "if you had started the 3rd before the " should have been "if you had started dating the 3rd before the ".
posted by davejay at 12:21 AM on February 20, 2008

I'm a straight man, so maybe I'm coming from a completely different perspective to you, but I agree with the posters above me. Keep your mouth shut. Every time I've been in your position, and spoken up, it's had negative consequences. Talking about this sort of thing makes future relationships between you and them really weird.

Maybe Dan and Tom will take it differently, but all my life experience says don't tell. Instead: grieve, try to make new friends. Eventually, this will pass. It really will. Like cmgonzalez says, you can get through it.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:23 AM on February 20, 2008

I just imagined you at your future wedding, toasting Dan & Tom, long-since broken up, but whose fling caused you to meet the new love of your life, Sam.

Or, Dan at your wedding to Tom, saying he appreciates you letting him date Tom first, since now he knows he just cannot put up with Tom's teeth-brushing quirks, but he's happy that Tom has found someone who will.

All to say, life is really long, and strange things will happen. In the meantime, try books and music and old friends (Skype?) for the pain, and new activities and new friends for the healing.
posted by salvia at 12:32 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I agree... telling them is not going to go anywhere good. You'd be put in the position of them walking on eggshells around you, feeling guilty, Tom worrying that you wanted to steal his boyfriend... a bunch of ouch.

Trick your mind by looking at being with Dan as a long-term goal. You want to win the war, not the battle. Setting yourself up as someone Dan feels guilty about will damage your long-term chances with him way more than him having a relationship with someone else.

Be cool, be classy, be a good friend, be as busy and happy as you can be. Maybe you'll meet someone even more fabulous in the process. At the very least, you'll keep the dynamic between you and Dan as one where romance could bloom later.

It sounds like you and Dan are from the same country and Tom is from another, and that your time in Tom's country will be over at the end of the year. Dan/Tom may end up being a totally temporary thing.

You've managed to find two really awesome friends. Prioritize keeping that. You can take care of yourself and limit your exposure to them while the pain is the worst by using the situation itself. Chuckle that you'd just be the third wheel, drop a wink and say "I'm sure you guys want to be alone".

It sucks and it hurts, but doing anything else would be worse, I think.
posted by Gianna at 5:24 AM on February 20, 2008

This is a temporary situation and, by its very nature, your suffering is temporary. You're there on a year-long study, so even if you arrived yesterday, it's only 364 days left. That's really a short time in the grand scheme of things. Don't tell Dan (or Tom). You'll survive the heartbreak, and you're better served by being non-awkward friends for the next year.
posted by desjardins at 7:15 AM on February 20, 2008

Maybe it's my lack of morals, but my first thought was the same as Desuetude's—threesome.

Barring that, though, since they're your guy pals, they should now be OK with being wingmen. It'll take some emotional fortitude from you, but getting laid again is often the best way to get over a crush. There's gotta be some other dude who was into one of them who's now gotten the brush-off. Rebound, dude, rebound.
posted by klangklangston at 1:20 PM on February 20, 2008

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