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May 17, 1999 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


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Dear Breakup Girl,

I've recently gone through a turbulent experience and would like your perspective on what sort of boundaries exist among a person (me), one of my closest friends, and my ex. This is a rather turbulent tale, so please fasten your safety belts. I broke up with Ross about 10 months ago, after dating for about 4 months, for a variety of semi-neurotic reasons (primarily, I wanted to be single again, felt claustrophobic, we were better off as pals, etc). So Ross and I remain close friends, both of us knowing that Ross is still carrying a wee torch for me and would happily rekindle if the opportunity ever arose.

Ross and I are excellent friends with Beatrice, who is one of my best girl pals, my confidante, the Cagney to my Lacey. Beatrice, although smart and attractive, doesn't date much and is -- like the most of us-- a bit insecure about finding someone, what lurks in the future, etc.

Recently, I ran into Ross at a restaraunt on a date with another woman, which, of course, he's entitled to do. At first I felt, OK, my ex is with someone new. I can handle this, no big deal. But 24 hours later I was on Beatrice's living room floor sobbing my confused little heart out. Seeing Ross with someone new really shook me into re-evaluating my feelings with Ross. I realized that Ross had grown up a lot since we'd broken up, and that I wanted to be with him.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Beatrice, apparently, thinks I'm just upset that Ross is moving on, does not realize I'm rediscovering feelings for Ross. I hear the words that will alter my universe come from Beatrice's mouth,"Honey, we have to talk."

It turns out that Ross and Beatrice had been clandestinely messing around for the past two months. It wasn't an exclusive relationship, Beatrice says, but now Beatrice is crying and upset because I've just told her that Ross is out with another woman and she, too, now has intense feelings for Ross. I can't believe one of my closest friends has been lusting after my ex behind my back. This is where it gets sticky: The relationship between exes, I think, establishes certain boundaries of privacy, as in, I don't and he shouldn't feel accountable to share every romantic news flash that occurs. But, my girlfriends are a different story. Am I wrong to feel completely betrayed that one of my best friends has been hiding this from me, even though Ross and I were broken up?

BG, it only gets muckier. Knowing how Beatrice felt, knowing how I felt, I called Ross and told him we needed to talk. I presented him with three options: you can date Beatrice, you can date me, or you can go out into the brave world and chart new territory. After some discussion about how he didn't want to hurt anyone or lose our friendships, Ross told me that he wanted to be with me, that he had tried to get over me (obviously!) but to no avail. I am ecstatic, except, now how do we deal with Beatrice?

Again, I have to stress that when I was agonizing on Beatrice's floor, I thought it was clear that I was not over Ross. Apparently, in her own tear-filled universe, Beatrice though I was just having post-breakup trauma. She didn't know the depth of my affections for Ross. So when Ross sat her down (we agreed it would be too intense if we told her together) and explained that he wanted to be her friend but he was back with me, Beatrice immediately thinks that I just wanted Ross so she wouldn't have him. She doesn't realize I had these feelings before she disclosed all and probably thinks that I'm just being possessive over my ex. She now thinks I'm a backstabber and doesn't acknowledge at all that what she did may have been a little suspect.

BG, I don't want to throw away a friendship over a guy. Ross and I are HAPPY but we know that Beatrice is hurting right now. I'd like to sit down with her and hash things out, since I think there is a certain degree of fault among all parties involved, but I don't know if I can do that if she's not prepared to admit that sneaking behind my back was not OK. Can this friendship be salvaged? Will yet another set of gal-pals be driven apart by that thing called love?

-- Vicki

PS In her latest book, Judge Judy writes that if one hundred women were stranded on an island they would set up a democratic system of rule, divide labor equally, and form a near-perfect society. But if you put one hundred women and one man on that island, the women will eventually kill one another off until the one living victor ends up with the guy. I'd like to think this is not true. Please restore my faith in the fairer sex.

Dear Vicki,

Of course you're not wrong to feel betrayed. How are you supposed to feel, psyched?

But. I can also see why she didn't rush to give you the news flash. They were basically "messing around." Nothing exclusive. Not like they had a formal announcement to make about a more formal arrangement. I'm not saying her hookupage was a supercool How to Make an American Quilt thing to do-- and I know her feelings did become more significant -- but I can see why she'd think it was worth sparing you full disclosure.

So: can this friendship be saved? I think so. But your willingness to sit down and hash things out absolutely may not depend on her willingness to admit anything. Forgiveness is not a contingency, Vicki. By definition. Hey, if Mrs. Buttafuoco can do it, so can you.

Breakup Girl

PS Your faith in the "fairer" (?!) sex? How about Judge Judy's? (Good thing she's impartial, being a judge and all.) I'm not even going to dignify that with further response, because the Smurfiest society of all would be the one where no one uses insulting allegories.



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