Morning Quickie: “My Boyfriend Caressed His Best Friend’s Knee!”

I am a gay Irish man and have been dating my Mexican boyfriend for the last five months. He is twentyyears my junior at 31 and it is going really really well — the age difference isn’t a problem, the intimacy is perfect, and we are so comfortable in each other’s company. He even told me recently that he is falling in love with me. But a couple of days ago I went to the cinema with him and his female best friend. He was sitting in the middle seat with her sitting to the left and me to the right. During the film he started rubbing my knee which he usually does in the cinema and then I glanced to his left and saw that he was doing the exact same thing to her knee, too. I immediately froze and pulled away slightly. He asked me what was wrong, and I just said I was watching the movie.

He brought the subject up the following day and said she was like a sister to him and he isn’t attracted to women. I said I didn’t feel comfortable with his touching other people in the same way he shows affection for me. He said it was normal for him to do that with some of his female friends and I had nothing to worry about. I trust him implicitly, but maybe she harbors feelings for him. She has a boyfriend, but they are having problems in the bedroom because he is not fulfilling her sexually. Do I have anything to worry about or is it just a cultural thing? — Irish-Mexican

The only thing inappropriate here is that you know what’s going on (or not going on, as the case may be) in your boyfriend’s best friend’s intimate relationship with her boyfriend. But, no, I don’t think your boyfriend rubbing his friend’s knee at the movies means you have anything to worry about. And it certainly isn’t a cultural thing — at least not in terms of national culture. More likely, the affection between your boyfriend and his female friends is a generational thing. Gay men and straight women have always shared a kind of alliance with each other in a way two groups who are marginalized, oppressed, and victimized might. But they also share a safety with each other precisely because there isn’t generally a risk of romantic or sexual feelings developing among them. They are free to express their intimacy through casual physical affection without it “meaning something.” There’s no meaning attached to the affection beyond close friendship because there aren’t sexual or romantic feelings attached to the gestures. So, while your boyfriend might be touching you and touching his friend the same way at the movies, the meaning is different because the feelings attached to the touch are different.

Your boyfriend’s best friend may be having problems with her boyfriend — which, frankly, are none of your business — but that doesn’t mean she’s suddenly vying for sexual attention from your boyfriend. It may mean she’s leaning on him more as any friend would who is having relationship issues. But it doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with him or steal him away from you. You don’t have anything to worry about. And if you’re looking for something to worry about, I’d think maybe your twenty-year age difference might actually carry more significance, after all, than your boyfriend rubbing his friend’s knee at the movies.


Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at


  1. Sounds like he’s looking for problems. Probably due to personal insecurities.


    1. Yes, I think he feels insecure because of the age difference. He mentions it, then explains that it means nothing, but that claim rings hollow, given his reaction at the cinema.

      1. dinoceros says:

        Yeah. I was also curious about why he brought up the nationalities.

  2. MissAnneThrope says:

    Ehh, I don’t know if I agree. I mean how many readers on here rub their friends knees in a dark movie theater? If this were texting, hanging out, hugging, etc. then I’d say chill out.

    As a woman, I can’t think of a situation where I would take it as anything other than a little sexual if an adult started rubbing my knee in a movie theater, but maybe that’s just me.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      I totally had a relationship like that with my best male friend in high school (I always suspected he was gay, later confirmed). We were very physically affectionate, and there was ZERO romantic interest on both sides. It was years ago but I would bet I had my hand on his leg in many movies very similar to how I now sit with my husband in movies. Different people and even different relationships have a different idea of physical boundaries.

    2. I have definitely had this sort of relationship with my best friend who is a gay men. Cuddling on the sofa watching tv, sleeping in the same bed, walking around the apartment in underwear… Sure, I was single back when it started, but I we didn’t change our habits even when I started my current relationship. That’s the whole point: intimacy without sexual attraction. It’s great!

  3. dinoceros says:

    So, your boyfriend isn’t attracted to women, but you are concerned that … he’s interested in a female friend? I think you’re grasping at straws here. Like Wendy said, I know quite a few friendships between women and gay men where they are much more affectionate with each other than they would be if both people were straight. The reason is that they know that nothing is going to be mistaken for romantic interest. Though I’d argue that it’s not necessarily just straight women, but women in general.

    Regardless of sexual orientation, it’s not a good look to assume that because a friend is having relationship problems that they are clearly after your boyfriend. It reminds me of that stereotype that some couples have that single people are a danger to their relationship. If your relationship is really that good, then go enjoy it rather than stewing and being paranoid.

  4. I am encouraged that The BF brought up the topic and that you were able to express your discomfort, that’s a great start. The two pieces that brought up red flags for me were that BF did not take your concern seriously, putting it off by shrugging it off as normal behavior for him rather than considering changing that behavior because he’s in a new relationship. The other red flag is that he gave you an answer and you didn’t accept it and trust it, rather you reached out to strangers with what must needs-be a partial story to get reinforcement that you can’t trust it.
    This is a great wake-up call for you both to finish the conversation.

    1. I think having to change the behaviour is pretty silly. The BF is gay, confirmed he’s not attracted to women and was just being affectionate with a friend. Asking that it be stopped under those circumstances is the red flag. Agree with your second part though.

  5. I mostly agree with Wendy, but i dunno is it really that big of a deal for the bf to stop touching his friend’s knee? The LW told his boyfriend that this behavior made him feel uncomfortable and why, he communicated his problem in an adult way (which is what we’re always telling the LW’s to do when they have an issue). I don’t see why the bf couldn’t have explained that the touch didn’t mean anything but that he understood where the LW was coming from and would stop.
    And this is really only because the action IS a reasonable one to stop. It’s weird to be caressing your bf’s knee and your bff’s knee at the same time while sitting between them.

    1. Haha. YES! (aside from providing advice)… I felt really uncomfortable reading this post and then imagining someone caressing two different knees. One doesn’t bother me, but the idea that both his hands are occupied, just seems super AWKWARD!

  6. I’m just wondering what Wendy means about the real significance of the age gap

  7. bittergaymark says:

    Honestly? It IS weird. Coupled with massive age difference, I would hazard a guess that the LW is loaded and the BF is NOT (but brilliant!) I dunno. Gay for Pay anyone? I’ve got an AWFULLY lot of close girlfriends, but I am not massaging their knees in the movie theatre of anywhere else…

  8. Some people are more touchy, feely than others.

  9. The scene is grotesque. I wouldn’t invest too much emotionally in this relationship. He seems a bit dumb. A cultural thing? No. A self-centered thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *