Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “My Friend Never Leaves Her Boyfriend’s Side”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

One of my best friends recently got a new boyfriend. She had always been very attached to and reliant on her previous boyfriend — living with him, expecting him to drive her places because she doesn’t have a license or car, etc. Basically, I never saw her without him after she graduated from college (where I met her, sans boyfriend) which was fine because her boyfriend and I got along well. I never felt like the third wheel and always had fun with the two of them. Fast forward to now, and she has a new boyfriend, with whom she lives and spends all of her time. The problem is that I don’t like him at all. He is very possessive and controlling — something that she once hinted to me that she was upset about — but the rest of the time, she appears to be totally head-over-heels for him.

I want to spend time with her, but once I suggested grabbing dinner with just her, her boyfriend overheard and complained that he would be left alone while we went. I don’t have a lot of free time (I work all day and have theater rehearsals almost every evening), so I’d prefer to spend it with people who are fun to be around — and I love her; she is one of my best friends — but her boyfriend borders on intolerable. I know that I could suck it up and hang out with them every once in awhile, and I plan on it, but she’s not even the same person around him. I’m really at a loss as to how to approach this, and I don’t have too many people that I can talk to about it. If you have any insight that you could provide, I’d greatly appreciate it. — Third Wheel Blues

51 comments… add one
  • avatar

    amber December 7, 2011, 3:21 pm

    first off when approaching your friend if you want her to hear you and not automatically send her in to defense mode, make it about you and not about her/her bf. otherwise, more than likely she won’t hear what you have to say because she’ll just be thinking up excuses/reasons you’re wrong.

    i’m getting the feeling from your letter that you haven’t hung out with just the two of you in quite a few years. did you have girls nights when she was with her ex? do you have other friends you both hang out with. mention you’d like a girls night. be adamant that it’s girls only. and explain to her that you miss her and doing things that you used to.

    really i think you need to re-evaluate this friendship. does she exhibit this same sort of needy/clingy behavior towards her friends when she’s not with a bf? as much as the bf may be controlling/possessive your friend seems to be needy/clingy. as frustrating as it is, most of the time your only option in situations like this is to let the friend know you miss them, that you’d love to hang out, and then back off. but, like i said you need to decide if it’s worth waiting for her at all.

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    • avatar

      AKchic December 7, 2011, 3:23 pm

      Totally agree with you here.

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  • Will.i.am

    Will.i.am December 7, 2011, 3:23 pm

    You are in a pickle here. My advice. Just supoort her as a distant friend. She’s a college gradudate and she’s old enough to make her own decisions, even if those decisions hurt you. Only offer her advice when she comes to you first, otherwise just keep your friendship strictly casual. Friendships generally go through peaks and valleys when a relationship starts anyways.

    Just try and remove yourself from her relationship as much as possible and just focus on the friendship you have with her.

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    • avatar

      GatorGirl December 7, 2011, 3:31 pm

      I second your advice. I have a dear friend from high school who literally won’t go out for one drink or to lunch if her husband doesn’t come. So now we see each other on special occassions, double dates, big group events, thats about it. It’s sad but her and her husband have a healthy but very codependent relationship. It is what it is.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar December 7, 2011, 3:25 pm

    You’ve told your girlfriend that you want some girl time with just her – it’s up to her to make it happen. A night by himself shouldn’t be the end of the world for her boyfriend. Where are his friends by the way? If she doesn’t make a change, there is not much else you can do other than putting up with the boyfriend and seeing both of them together if seeing her is a priority. The fact that he doesn’t want her to leave his sight is not a good sign for your friend. I never really understood men like this – or the women that loved them. It just seems like a recipe for disaster to be so attached to your SO that you essentially drive off all your friends – or allow your partner to drive them off. Abusive partners thrive in this type of atmosphere. I don’t know if that is how your friend’s boyfriend operates but you need to decide where you draw the line. If seeing him is more harmful to you than seeing her is of benefit then change the dynamic of your relationship – maybe you become more email friends. I’d keep the door open for her however – just in case he is the type of person who thrives on controlling her and becomes abusive. The last thing you want is for her to think she couldn’t turn to you when she needed you.

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    • avatar

      plasticepoxy December 7, 2011, 4:45 pm

      I read a much more codependent relationship than abusive. LW’s friend doesn’t have a drivers’ license and it seems like she uses that as an excuse to not make the effort to be with her friend (imo). I have friends that didn’t drive and had their SO drive them everywhere. That kind of behavior is isolating in itself, if her SO is used to spending all his time with her, I can understand a comment like, “what should I do with my night?”. Don’t agree with it, but I can see saying it. Or maybe she wanted her SO to drop her off and pick her up, which could have made him feel resentful.

      I wonder if she was this reliant on friends before the different SOs came into the picture. It’s easy not to see dependence in college, with friends, especially if the LW was viewing this as a Best Friend friendship. I think at this point the LW can meet with her friend on her friend’s terms and she needs to find other ways to connect with her friend (maybe phone calls or email exchanges could carry some of the connection?) that don’t require her friend to be self reliant or inconvenience her SO because she doesn’t want to take the bus. Of course, my whole statement is moot if LW is willing to take on transportation.

      I do agree with your statement of “there is not much else you can do other than putting up with the boyfriend and seeing both of them together if seeing her is a priority”. Maybe they’ll warm up to each other after spending more time together.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar December 7, 2011, 7:06 pm

        I tend to agree with you about the co-dependence – but was speaking to the possessiveness and controlling behaviour the LW says the friend already hinted at to her. The boyfriend is an isolating factor in the girls’ friendship – if that is his intent and the LW wants to step back from the relationship that’s okay – and her right – but I think that she should at least leave the door open to her friend in case the friend needs support to leave in the future.

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      • avatar

        Shamawa December 8, 2011, 11:40 am

        Agree. It seems the friend and her bf are in a codependent relationship, and the best thing the LW can do right now is let the friend know she’s there for her and then go and do her own thing.

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  • avatar

    Kristen December 7, 2011, 3:27 pm

    If I were in your situation, I would talk with your friend and tell her how much you love her and your friendship. Then say that you’d love to get together for a girls night to catch up one-on-one. That way, it doesn’t sound like you’re leaving the boyfriend out because you don’t like him; instead, it’s about how much you value her. If that doesn’t work, you could always make plans with her on a night when her boyfriend already has his own plans (assuming they don’t do *everything* together).

    Once you’re able to spend some time with her alone, you can decide if you want to express your concerns about the nature of her relationship. She should at least get her driver’s license so she has some amount of independence. Just tell her you love her for who she is and don’t want her to lose herself in this relationship. If she’s already wondering in the back of her mind if he’s too controlling or she’s too dependent, she’ll hopefully take what you say to heart and make a change.

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  • Budj

    Budj December 7, 2011, 3:28 pm

    Her bf sounds like a wanker….

    I was going to say what Will.i.am said (second time today) but he put it more eloquently and less emotionally charged than I would have.

    “But I’ll be alll awwwoooooneee waaaah”

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest December 7, 2011, 3:36 pm

      Points for using wanker!

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    • avatar

      John Rohan December 7, 2011, 3:44 pm

      I get the impression that the gf likely also acts the same way if the bf wants to do something alone or with his friends. Not a healthy relationship all around, but maybe they deserve each other.

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      • Budj

        Budj December 7, 2011, 4:04 pm

        If that’s the case then they are a perfect match and the LW should just move on and see her when she can see her.

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  • avatar

    Flake December 7, 2011, 3:30 pm

    Take her to a male strip club. Most of the guys I know would not be caught dead in there…

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    • avatar

      Kristen December 7, 2011, 3:40 pm

      Hahaha… too bad he probably wouldn’t let her anywhere near one of those. She can’t even get dinner with a friend on her own!

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        Flake December 7, 2011, 3:47 pm

        He doesn’t have to know in advance where they are going. Just say that you and some friends are going to the club. If he tags along, you go to the male strip club , and if he disagrees, just tell him that this is where you hang out all the time, because the drinks are cheap and the show is not bad either.

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      • avatar

        Kristen December 7, 2011, 3:48 pm

        Even better if it’s not obvious from the outside what it is, and he insists on coming in. Priceless.

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      • avatar

        savannah December 7, 2011, 5:53 pm

        because surely his eyes would burn up and just fall out.

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  • avatar

    Ktfran December 7, 2011, 3:53 pm

    LW, I sympathize with you. I’m sure almost all of us have had friends like the one you describe. I know I have.

    People are offering really good advice. I would not approach her about her boyfriend being controlling. Frankly, as others have said, she sounds a little needy too. You don’t want to put her on the defense. Instead, as others have said, focus on your friendship with her. Tell her you miss hanging out with her and try to plan a girls night out.

    If this doesn’t work, reassess your friendship. If it’s no longer working for you, that’s ok. And who knows, maybe one day she’ll realize that her boyfriends don’t need to be everything all the time and ask for forgiveness. If you want, forgive her and pick up where you left off. This too has happened to me and the girl was and is again my best friend.

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  • avatar

    bethany December 7, 2011, 3:57 pm

    As others have mentioned, tell her you need a girls night out and you really want it to be just the two of you. Is she asks why her BF can’t come, tell her you miss being with just her, and there are certain things you want to talk about that you don’t feel comfortable saying around the bf (girly/fun/personal stuff, not like a serious, heavy conversation).

    If she can’t handle being away from him for like 4 hours, then it sounds like your one on one friendship with her is over. She’s a grown up and you can’t change her.

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    • avatar

      Kristen December 7, 2011, 4:01 pm

      I like the suggestion about saying you want to see her alone to chat about personal stuff. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.

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  • avatar

    ReginaRey December 7, 2011, 4:02 pm

    Gosh, I hate when this happens to friends. My brother’s girlfriend was sharing some similar issues she was having with her roommate lately. Basically, the roommate is the kind of girl who bounces from relationship to relationship, is head over heels for every single guy she dates, shuts herself away from the world whenever her boyfriend is around, and cuts off communication with friends.

    She asked me what to do and I told her that, really unfortunately, some people are just like this. Sometimes it takes a big breakup to shake them out of this kind of mindset, and other times, this is just how they’re going to be forever and ever. There’s not much you can really DO – because the friend is usually SO defensive of her relationship that whatever you say will be interpreted as an attack.

    Your best course of action? Be the best friend you can be at a distance. Make it known that you’re always there for her. Because one day, this relationship will probably end. She may have an awakening, and redeem herself in the eyes of her friends. She may be going through a breakup and really wish she still had someone to rely on…and it’d be nice if you were that friend.

    Ultimately, I advise against confrontation. That is, of course, unless you note that her boyfriend’s behavior is bordering on or IS abusive. In that case, I’d certainly reach out to her to let her know that you’re always there to talk and to support her.

    I get how frustrating this is for you. But you can’t change people’s minds about their relationships. You just…can’t. Not while they’re up to their eyeballs in it. Wait it out. I think you’ll be glad that you did.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray December 7, 2011, 10:01 pm

      Your advice is always so good. I sometimes just scroll down to ReginaRey. Is that weird? Nahhhh.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 7, 2011, 10:11 pm

        Aside: Okay, how did you settle on the handle, Addie Pray. The name seems so familiar to me. Is it a character from a book or something? I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while, as I keep trying to place it.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray December 7, 2011, 10:32 pm

        Addie Pray is the name of the little girl in the movie Paper Moon (1973, I think), played by Tatum O’Neal. She won an oscar at the ripe old age of 10 (or there about). Addie Pray is only the coolest (fictional) girl you will ever meet. You mean you didn’t memoraize my Reader of the Week answers? Gee wiz.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray December 7, 2011, 10:41 pm

        Also, there’s a scene where Addie Pray is smoking a cigarette in bed and I’m pretty sure Tatum O’Neal is actually smoking, even though she’s like 9 or 10 in the movie. Definitely wouldn’t be able to get away with that anymore.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 8, 2011, 5:00 am

        THANK YOU!! I have seen that flick twice, I think, but NEVER in even a million years would I have ever put your moniker with it… Seriously, it’s been driving bonkers for weeks now.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 8, 2011, 5:01 am

        PS — I often miss readers of the weeks as fridays are crazy in my world.

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  • avatar

    eelizg23 December 7, 2011, 4:16 pm

    Maybe the next time you talk to her, tell her that you’d like to be able to spend some time with just her because you want to be able to talk to her about stuff you don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing with him. Ya know, the ol’ “girl talk” excuse. That way you’re making it about you and not how much you dislike her boyfriend. If she still doesn’t come through for you, then you’ve done what you can do, and you’ll just have to deal with the reality of the situation as it is. Unfortunately, sometimes you’ve got to be able to just let it go.

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  • avatar

    ladiejoy December 7, 2011, 4:17 pm

    Yes, I think we’ve all been there. The best solution I found was to plan girlie shopping trips… like going to shop for bras and stuff, or I “needed” her help with picking out an outfit for a special occasion. It was almost a surefire way to get her out of the house while effectively generating NO interest on the guy’s part. With this particular friend, it went on for years… finally on one of our girlie shopping trips I just point blank told her how nice it was to occasionally have some time together, just the two of us. Where we could gossip and act like silly girls. This didn’t mean we never hung out with her guy, but I think a light went off there and while the scale was still heavily tipped in favor of always having him around, she seemed to set aside more time for me and some of her other girlfriends after that.

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  • courtney89

    .... December 7, 2011, 4:40 pm

    Oh wow, what girl hasnt had a friend who decided to leave all their girl friends once they got into a relationship?!! I have one in particular that this makes me think of, lol. We were best friends for like two years, got to be pretttyy close, then she started dating her current bf and we have drifted alot after an issue within our group of girl friends, but we are finally starting to talk again, I just went out for Starbucks with her last month and she was telling me how she and her boyfriend don’t ever go out without each other. Uhm? Seriously? She says she does miss girls nights and I’m like, we’ll you made the choice to shut your girl friends out to the point where you don’t have any! Now’s she saying how she and her boyfriend might get married next year. Oui.

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  • avatar

    lemongrass December 7, 2011, 5:20 pm

    Something that is a painful and difficult thing to come to grips with is that you can’t help who people date. Doesn’t matter what kind of a douchebag they are, it is their choice. It is also their choice how they conduct themselves within their relationship. It is your choice whether or not you want to be close to this friend right now. Backing off for awhile and hanging out with other people until she breaks up with/ marries and needs to get away from him is not a bad thing to do.

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  • avatar

    the other guy December 7, 2011, 7:49 pm

    Very common, some people like to control and some like to be controlled, when the two are together its a match made in heaven. To everyone else its as a creepy as hell, but its what both want.

    My Sister-in-law is exactly like this friend, even to the point a couple of months ago at her annual ‘girls weekend’ away which she has been doing for 25yrs her new boy friend of a few weeks turned up and took her for a show and dinner, just the two of them. Leaving the other women behind, after wards he goes back to the hotel where they were staying and inserts himself into the group.

    The Sister-in-law said all her friends really liked him and thought it was great him turning up! Seriously she couldn’t believe that anyone would be annoyed at a male coming to the girls only weekend. Everyone finds him creepy but he is a clone of her previously husband (the controlling part) so she is happy.

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  • avatar

    Kerrycontrary December 7, 2011, 8:24 pm

    It’s hard to believe, but some people are happy when they can spend 100 percent of their time with their SO. and their SO feels the same way about them. Just because you don’t think it’s particularly normal or healthy, if they are happy and emotionally fulfilled in their lives then I think that’s what is important. If your friend wanted to spend alone time with you then she would speak up or make it happen. Unless you think that this is an abusive situation (and situations can be abusive without being physical), it’s not really your place to step in. Sometimes friends drift away, and this will become even more prevalent when your friends start getting married.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark December 7, 2011, 8:54 pm

    All you can do is be nice to him, I guess. Kill him with kindness and try to win him over. Not an appealing offer, but if you want to see your friend your options are limited. You are between a rock and a hard place. In fantasy land, you would express to her your concerns (which I am sure are valid) and she would break up with this guy who does indeed sound text book controlling in waiting… But fools in love rarely listen to reason, let alone their best girlfriends… Why this is? I don’t know… But you sure have my sympathy as I have dealt with this numerous times and its always frustrating… Sometimes you have to let your friends make their own mistakes. Not everybody can be rescued…

    PS — Ladiejoy’s “girlie” shopping trips are worth a shot. Actually, any “boring” shopping trip might offer some relief. Note: I love shopping, so the trick here is to make it sound really boring and dreary… Announce that you are going to hit an endless series of stores, multiple malls… The other trick is — forget dinner. Try lunch — during the week. If you can schedule this, it’s a great way of avoiding the loser boyfriends…

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  • avatar

    mBookish December 7, 2011, 9:47 pm

    Seriously… and I might be alone here… but I kind of thought this was the status quo? It seems like all my girl friends get like this when they’re in a relationship. I just take it with a grain of salt and find someone else to hang out with. Or luckily, in the case of my three closest friends, all the dudes they’re married to or dating are really cool guys so I don’t mind hanging out with them.

    But.. I sort of thought this type of thing was normal? I don’t get like this, but only because I’m a fan of space in a relationship and having seperate things. That’s just what works for me.

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark December 7, 2011, 9:51 pm

      Yeah, you’re on to something here… What’s really annoying is that while suddenly they are too busy to see you for months — the very minute the relationship crumbles, you are branded a “bad friend” if you don’t up and drop everything then rush on over. Yes, I do get tired of being the guy everybody calls in crisis.

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        mBookish December 8, 2011, 2:22 pm

        Truth. I have a relative who I don’t hear from for months, but I know the second her number comes up on the caller ID, it means she’s having relationship troubles and I’m supposed to drop everything to listen to them.

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      Bethany December 7, 2011, 10:14 pm

      Maybe I’m the exception to the rule, but I never assume my husband is invited out with my girlfriends unless I’m specifically told. Example- I’m having brunch with my friend this weekend and she asked if “we” had to be home by any certain time (meaning me and the husband), and my response was “oh– was I supposed to invite him?”

      I can’t stand when people automatically assume their bf/husband/whatever is always invited!!

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      • avatar

        Meredith December 8, 2011, 1:49 pm

        I so agree with you. My fiance and I are like that and it’s one of the reasons that I love him so. He actually appreciates when I go out with the girls without him because it gives him a chance to be alone in the house and do whatever it is that guys do when they’re alone (I don’t ask because I’m not sure I want to know! lol). I can’t imagine being with someone that HAS to be with me ALL the time. That would get annoying.

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        bethany December 8, 2011, 2:14 pm

        Thanks for sharing that- It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who likes some time away from my spouse!! Not that I don’t love spending time with him- I do. I just love spending time other ways too.

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    • avatar

      cporoski December 8, 2011, 7:30 am

      So, I agree to a certain extent. i have found my single friends are very judgemental of relationships of other people. They take one complaint and assume your relationship is totally flawed. Is it that she can’t find time for just you or is it everyone? I feel like this happens in relationships, and just wait when you friends have kids, you will never see them.

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        mBookish December 8, 2011, 2:32 pm

        Well, to an extent I agree with you, but you can’t blame the single friends for thinking your relationship is awful if they only hear from you when things are bad.

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        cporoski December 9, 2011, 5:40 am

        True, but the LW says that her friend made one comment. It just doesn’t seem like the friend has a problem with the situation. She is happy and would rather hang with her guy.

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  • avatar

    Red_Lady December 7, 2011, 9:53 pm

    Wow, the dude actually complained that he’d be left alone? I think I’d take a shaming route there, use a baby voice and say something along the lines of “awwww, poor baby doesn’t wanna be all by hisself? Is it too scawy?” And if he comes back with something about how you’re being rude or something, tell him to stop acting like a baby, and then you won’t have to treat him like one. Seriously – a grown ass man can figure out something to on his own.

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark December 7, 2011, 10:03 pm

      Um… As tempting as that might be, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s amusing to think about, sure. But that actually would only give the guy ammo… (you are needlessly bitchy towards him!) That there is a notion he hill pounce on and then use against you….

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      cporoski December 8, 2011, 7:33 am

      Maybe it is that he was left alone last minute. Honestly, it bugs me when my husband bails on me last minute and I don’t have time to make other plans. So he gets to party it up and I am left with frozen dinner and laundry. It isn’t him going out, it is him not telling me so I am not able to go out.

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      Meredith December 8, 2011, 1:51 pm

      I agree with bittergaymark, that is only going to drive a wedge between the LW and the friend as the friend will correctly interpret that as an attack on her bf and rise to his defense. Don’t we all wish we could do that in these situations though!!

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  • avatar

    Visharoo December 8, 2011, 2:26 am

    LW, I was in the same role as your friend in one of my past relationships. It took me finally maturing and realizing that the relationship was unhealthy for so many reasons to realize that I was shutting out friends and changing who I was to be with this guy (I was a college grad at the time with a successful career too… having those two things does not necessarily mean that you are relationship-mature yet.) I can’t say that your friend feels the same way that I did, but when I was with this guy I shut out my friends while longing to hang out with them at the same time. Though I knew I would say no, the invites to shopping, lunch, etc meant a whole lot. I guess my advice would be to hang in there… she probably appreciates you trying more than you think. Who knows, maybe one day she will wake up and realize that hanging out with a needy SO all the time isn’t what she really wants out of life!

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      Visharoo December 8, 2011, 2:27 am

      oops… sorry… bad grammar!!! I meant to say “do not necessarily mean” instead of “does not necessarily mean”

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    Meredith December 8, 2011, 1:53 pm

    Unfortunately there is not a whole lot that you can do if she refuses to go anywhere without him. I did like the suggestions of doing a “girls” night or a shopping trip, though and think you should definitely try those. In the end though, she’s a grown woman who can make her own choices whether or not they are healthy for her or whether you agree with them. You may just have to take a step back from this friendship and let her come to you.

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