Dear Breakup Girl,
Deal: seeing boy for six months, not serious (i.e. never really considering future possibilities) although we spent all our time together. All. He met a girl who lives far away, decided he is ‘in love’ and has been conducting a long-distance relationship with a woman he has met once. Of sorts. He still sleeps at my place (though there is no sex) and we eat together, walk the dog together, trying to proclaim to the world and to ourselves how comfortable we are with being … Just Friends.
His girlfriend (somewhat understandably) goes ballistic when my name is even mentioned, and so he no longer mentions my name to her.
He is completely infatuated with her, but is completely completely unwilling to change things between us. He says that because we are no longer actually having sex, he is not being unfaithful to her … though we still sleep in the same bed and I wake with his arms around me … I know that’s terrible, but HE’S the one who has changed things so shouldn’t HE be the one who is responsible for making sure things change?
I tried to tell him that I needed some time and we needed to establish some distance between us so that the relationship could settle and his new one could grow, and he got So Mad and so upset and we cried on the phone every night for days and days and fought and cried and made up and it just seems to me like … well, it seems to me a lot of things are true.
A. He really likes this girl a lot.
B. He is completely unwilling to be alone.
C. I am not going to get over this unless I enforce some time apart.
D. Which makes me feel pretty sad.
E. We are still way too tied into one another emotionally.
I have tried going out on dates with other people — he gets really jealous. It’s hard, too, because he still wants the same privileges in my life while there is another person who is more important to him than me! I am at my wit’s end. What should I do? Do I already know? Do I have to stop seeing him? Boy is that ever hard. It makes me sad and sick and it makes him the same. What on earth is the solution to this?
I think it would be better if his new girlfriend and I got to know each other and I am open to that but she is not and in fact said that if she ever meets me she wants to do physical violence to me (I, however, am a pacifist. And shorter than she). Which also upsets me, because I am worried that she will work it so that I am completely out of his life. I don’t want that. I can’t imagine it. He has told her, and they have had a number of arguments about it, that he refuses to not have me in his life. It’s so hard and strange for all three of us and I know that but … any action seems incredibly permanent.
I would really appreciate any advice you can give on this untriangle.
First of all, his girlfriend needs to chill. You can’t tell her that, unless it just so happens that she’s reading this and knows who she is, in which case you are a very clever girl; and you can’t tell the Boy to tell her that because technically, it’s none of your business. So I’m just saying. Not that Long Distancers don’t have rights, but, well, she has no right to threaten you, even if she’s just talking a big game, which I’m sure she is. Geez, the two of them have met once! Maybe they are”in love” — okay, it could happen — but it seems mighty early for her to be laying down such laws. It’s all a little much. More to the point, if she’s got a problem with his past or present, she’s got to take it up with him, not you.
Breakup Girl, however, IS going to take things up with you. First of all, NOOOOOOOO, I don’t think you and his girlfriend should “get to know each other.” That’s one of those things that sounds noble on paper/the screen but actually causes more problems that it’s worth. It also — even if you don’t mean it to — comes across as a little patronizing on your part. As in, “Hello, dear. Yes, I’m the close friend and ex who’s here to tell you you have absolutely nothing to worry about; I just wanted you to be able to put a face with the person whose saline solution is in his medicine cabinet and whom his dog likes better than you. Enchantee.” Also, she wants to hurt you. It is not the beginning of a beautiful triangle.
So yeah, maybe you do need to step back a bit. Not to nobly give them their space, but because, well, see C., above. Backing off temporarily doesn’t mean he’s out of your life permanently. Au contraire, in fact. Finding a foothold without each other can only help your friendship when you step toward it again. And by the way, if you guys do stay friends — just friends — then Miss Distance will just have to deal. She is not allowed to “work it” so that you’re out of his life. This is going to sound flip, but you wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who would allow that to happen, anyway.
This advice was originally published on August 3, 1998.