I know 18 months doesn’t seem very long in the big picture, but we have been through a lot together. About eight months ago, Charles started dating someone. He asked me not to text him when he was out with her, and of course I understood…or, I thought I understood. I figured that he needed some space to get to know this young woman without his female bestie scaring her away. Charles began dividing his time between his ladies, and it worked for a little while.
Then, two months ago, he called me up and told me he was going to ask her to marry him. I was ecstatic for him, but I told him that I had concerns that the timing wasn’t right. Let me explain – his girlfriend has a 3-year-old son, and a few days prior he was venting to me after staying the weekend with them that “the kid” had driven him crazy all weekend. When he told me he was going to ask her to marry him, I congratulated him and then reminded him that he was not only committing to his girl but to her son as well. He became accusatory and told me that I didn’t want him to get married. After I let him cool down for a few days, I asked him why he thinks that, and he said I was jealous. I explained I was not jealous but that I was just concerned, and I asked him to please stop projecting onto me how he thinks I should feel.
One night as we were brainstorming how he was going to pop the question, I suggested to Charles that we could all go out to lunch the following week so his girlfriend and I could finally meet. I literally fell out of my chair when he replied, “That’s crazy – you two will never meet! I’m sorry, it’s just not going to happen.” I asked if I was invited to his wedding, and he said no. I warned him that if he wants to spend the rest of his life with his new mate and have me in his life too, he had better find a way to bring me up to her in conversation sooner rather than later. I asked him how our friendship would proceed once he is married and he said we will figure it out, not to worry, everything will work out. That made me start to consider that he may not plan to continue our friendship.
His birthday is coming up, and yesterday on the phone I told him that once this pandemic has gone into remission I would like to take him to get another tattoo as a birthday gift. He said that no, he couldn’t accept it, because tattoos are expensive and he doesn’t want to lie to his fiancée about where he got the money, which is a statement I am so proud to hear come out of his mouth. I asked if he had changed his mind about introducing us, but he replied no. My mind spun off into space. I didn’t want to approach this the wrong way, so I did not say anything after that. All I can think is, okay, where does that leave us? If he is unwilling to combine his two worlds, then I know it’s my responsibility to myself and my friend to gracefully bow out.
I should probably mention that Charles is 10 years younger than I am, and as an only child, I really think of him more like a little brother and not just a friend. Regardless, I am not okay continuing our friendship if his fiancée does not know about it. What could be causing him to want to keep me his little secret? How does he not see that as lying? What should I do now? — The Unintentional Other Woman
This is another example, like the letter I replied to earlier this week, where fixating on the WHY is clouding the WHAT. In this case, the what is that your close friend, whom you consider a brother, is keeping you a secret from the woman he’s going to marry, he has told you that you won’t be invited to the wedding, and you suspect – reasonably so – that he doesn’t plan to continue your friendship after he marries. Even if he does intend to keep you in his life, you are rightfully concerned with how he could do that without his partner even knowing about you. In this case, the how is important, too. The WHY though? While important for Charles as he navigates relationships in his life going forward, it is not as meaningful for YOU.
Let me remind you again of the WHAT in this case: You have a close friend who isn’t going to invite you to his wedding because he doesn’t want the woman he’s marrying to know you exist. If that’s not a very clear and unambiguous statement on the value he places on your friendship, I don’t know what is. Whatever the reason might be here – the WHY – doesn’t change the WHAT. Your friendship is not of high value to Charles. If it were, he would risk whatever discomfort and disruption in peace he thinks telling his fiancée about you might entail. I know it’s painful to think that someone you value so much doesn’t seem to hold you in the same regard. I know that focusing on the WHY dilutes that pain a little, which is why it’s always so tempting to bypass the WHAT and analyze the WHY, to search for some explanation for the WHAT that doesn’t devalue the relationship you share with this person. If only you could find some reasonable justification for Charles’ refusal to introduce you to the woman he plans to marry – something fixable, preferably – the value of your friendship could be restored. But it doesn’t work that way.
Whatever the reasons are for Charles keeping you a secret, they are not for you to figure out or address or to heal and fix. As long as Charles avoids these issues — the WHY — just like he’s apparently avoiding the issue of not tolerating his girlfriend’s young son, HE loses out. He loses out on continuing a friendship with you, and he loses the potential of a satisfying and healthy long-term relationship with the woman he plans to marry (because you KNOW that union is doomed). Unfortunately, you lose out too, which is especially painful, and I’m sorry. It’s not your fault and it’s not something you can fix.
Since Charles is someone you deeply care about, you can certainly tell him you are concerned for him, that you’re concerned the WHY of this situation is going to remain, long after you exit the picture, and will poison his romantic relationship just as it’s poisoning your friendship. You can tell him that you genuinely hope he addresses it, but that you will not condescend to wait in the wings for that to happen as a secret “friend” who is not invited to share in any meaningful part of his life. That’s not a genuine friendship. It’s an insult! It’s an insult to all you thought you shared with this person, and it is a clear indication of where you stand with him. And that is the WHAT that should guide you straight away from him.