Misplaced Affection

27 May

Dear LetterBalm: I have an unusual problem, and I don’t quite know what to do. I believe my boyfriend’s closest friend is in love with him. My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. As time has gone by, it’s clear that his friend – a really nice guy – noticeably brightens in my boyfriend’s presence, seeks his approval and goes out of his way to plan events just for the two of them, like camping trips, racquetball games, golf, etc. He also gets mildly annoyed or disappointed when my boyfriend pays attention to me or includes me in something. (He makes a joke about it.) He calls and texts constantly when they are apart. And, he touches my guy a lot – arm around the shoulder, hugs when they win a game or in greeting, etc. All of this is more of a gut feeling, which is why I haven’t said anything to my boyfriend. They’ve been friends for years since college, and my guy has lots of friends of both sexes and had several girlfriends before me, while his friend has been mostly solo. My boyfriend and I are pretty serious in our relationship. I think he doesn’t realize his friend’s feelings for him. I’m not jealous or worried, but what do I do? Should I even broach this sensitive topic?

–Best Boyfriend Friend Forever

You’ve given a good assessment of this delicate, even tragic, situation. You say you have every reason to believe that your boyfriend regards this man as nothing more than a good friend. Presumably, both of you are happy with your sex life and the attention, intimacy and affection you share. Well, here are three possibilities out of many: Your boyfriend hasn’t a clue as to his friend’s feelings. Or, he knows what’s going on and chooses not to deal with it. Or, his friend is asexual and effusive but has no romantic feelings. (This is unlikely.) If someone is in love with someone else, and the other person just wants to be friends, it’s problematic, especially for a third party. Ms. L.B. suggests counseling – you need to understand and accept that your boyfriend’s best friend will be a fixture as long as you and your guy are together and what you can do about it. If you raise the issue, you threaten a long friendship (and, if you marry, there’s the possibility your boyfriend’s friend will try to sabotage your relationship). If you don’t broach the subject, you’ll have to live with it, maybe taking second place. With the advice of your therapist, you might constructively talk to your boyfriend. Some examples:

  • Brian, I’m a little sad that you chose to play a round of golf with Clayton instead of going with me to pick out that new mattress we’ve wanted to get. Both of us haven’t had a good night’s sleep in ages. Can we do this for sure next Saturday?
  • Brian, I’m curious as to why Clayton hasn’t had a girlfriend or doesn’t seem to want to date. Does he have women friends?
  • I think we need to find Clayton a girl. He’s so smart and attractive, that he shouldn’t be alone so much. Let’s talk to him about building an online profile on one of the good sites. We can help him. What do you say?
  • I’ve known Clayton for more than two years now, and he never has introduced me to any of his friends. I can’t believe he doesn’t have any. He’s a great guy and very smart. What do you think the problem is?

If you go for broke, keep it loving and positive:

  • Brian, you know that I love you very much. You’re the best man I’ve ever known. Because I love you, I must tell you that I believe Clayton has feelings for you and has loved you for years. I don’t even know if he acknowledges it, but it breaks my heart to see him trying to hide his feelings toward you. Have you ever thought he might want more from you than just a close friendship? Clayton’s a wonderful guy, and he seems to be running in place, just living a half-life. He should be out there living his life to the fullest. I know this is awkward, but can we talk about it?
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