My best friend — let’s call her S. — has been in a relationship with her girlfriend — let’s call her F. — for the past six years. Their main problem is that F. is not out at all, in fact has flatly refused to come out, saying, “It wouldn’t make a difference.” Obviously this problem has caused a whole string of other problems and influenced their relationship in a negative way, so that at least half of those six years were fraught with tension and basically consisted of one fight after another, followed by a brief period of reconciliation and then the whole thing started all over again. I tried to be supportive and listen to all the tales of woe, but now I’ve really had it.
Whenever I invite S. over or ask if she goes to a party with me, the answer is always “F. hasn’t called yet, but she said she might and then I might have to come to hers, so let me call you back when I know more.” This inevitably leads to her waiting hours on end by the phone on the off-chance her girlfriend might call her and us not doing anything together at all (let alone in public, where they could be seen together and everybody instantly knew they are big lezzers!). S. puts her girlfriend before everybody else, canceling holiday trips and dinners, lending F. her car when she promised it to other people, etc. – you get the picture: when F. says “Jump!”, S. says “How high?” It makes me feel second choice and it bothers me because it seems to me S. is used by F. who needs a shoulder to cry on about pretty much everything and S. gets nothing back in return. F. has constantly neglected and denied her relationship with S., yet S. claims that she still loves her and wants to be with her.
I’m aware I’m not part of the relationship, so I really have no right to tell S. she should get the hell away from this girl, but I really want to! I’ve tried a subtle approach. I’ve tried asking if this is really the kind of relationship she wants, but nothing seems to work. S. is my best friend and I just want her to be happy (which I don’t see happening anytime soon in this unhealthy relationship, unless she is really into suffering!). My question is: What can I do to help her?
Anna says: You’re not going to like this, but there’s nothing you can do.
This isn’t to say I don’t absolutely empathize with your situation though. I do! Who among us hasn’t had friends who stay with manipulative, cheating, destructive, and in some cases, abusive partners? I’ve sat through many a friend’s hours-long crying spells over some douchebucket who mistreated them for the hundredth time. I’ve listened, and cajoled, and tried to warn them about these miscreants who were so obviously wrong for them, and how could they not see?!
One friend’s jerkstore boyfriend even threw away a vibrator I bought her as a present because he was jealous. Another friend’s boyfriend told me point blank he was cheating on her, and then hit on me. Guess how many times my great counsel has worked, and these friends decided to ditch their undeserving darlings? Zero. Zilch. I have had the success rate of a Kardashian marriage. I’ve even pulled the, “I’m an advice columnist so you should listen to me” card. A few gave it a shot, but eventually relapsed. This is the sad reality of other people’s relationships, I’m afraid. And it is totally within your friend’s rights to love and date whatever destructive force she pleases, regardless of how you feel about it.
It sounds like you already know this. S. puts her girlfriend before everyone else. F. neglects and denies S. things. This is the reality, albeit an ugly one, and unfortunately, one that you have no power to change, save for a very otherworldly hex or F.’s untimely incarceration. (Don’t get any ideas!)
But! It’s not all storm clouds and moldy granola up in this hizzy. While you do have to respect S.’s boundaries and try not to interfere with her and F.’s relationship, you can and should tell her how you feel about the situation. Not subtly. Frankly. Have one of those Lesbian Processing Talks we all know and love. Tell S. how much you care about her, and how/why it worries you that she’s being mistreated in her relationship. Be prepared for her to not understand, or to come up with a bunch of different excuses that rationalize F.’s shoddy behavior.
Once you’ve made your peace, though, and you’ve both really listened to one another and maybe cried over a Glee song or two, you should feel a teensy bit better. And after that, you just have to let it go, and be the best friend you can be for her, regardless of her romantic decisions. If you need a little distance from her for a while, then take it. But remember that real friendship is a long and bumpy road. When the time comes and you find yourself on the other end of a colossally bad dating decision, (and trust me, you will) you’ll be grateful that you have a friend (or several) to help talk you through it, even though we know you probably won’t listen to our sage advice.
That’s what friends are for — to share and listen. To forgive and be forgiven. To tell you when you’re being a pain in the ass, and also to remind you that they’ll never drop you on it, regardless of your shortcomings.
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at email@example.com.