• Mon, Jun 28 2010

Bitch, Please: When Your Friends’ (Open) Marriage Is Out In The Open

Do you have issues with your no-longer-best girlfriend? Is your coworker driving you crazy? Megan Carpentier is here to give you the life advice that you don’t want to hear, told in the way you absolutely need to hear it.

I have been friends for 20 years with a married couple, let’s call them “Lilith” and “Adam.” Last year, another woman, let’s call her Eve, entered the picture and became friends with all of us. Adam and Eve started exhibiting suspicious behavior and eventually my instincts were proven correct — they were having an affair. However, it also came out that Lilith had had an affair for several years with the neighbor, thus justifying Adam’s behavior. Adam and Even are now openly involved, yet he keeps Lilith in the picture (albeit not in a physical way). Sadly, Adam is now displaying very controlling behaviors toward Eve, like hacking into her email, telling her to stay off dating sites even though he’s technically unavailable, criticizing her, telling her that her friends are a bad influence (including me).  Adam and I have tried to move forward with a “friendship” for the sake of Lilith, who is my best college friend.  However, he doesn’t understand why I can’t see that his affair with Eve was justifiable all along.  He never wants to be seen as the bad guy.  He wants his cake and eat it too with Lilith and Eve.  Meanwhile, Eve recognizes these controlling behaviors and wants out and has solicited my help.  After learning these behaviors about Adam, I want nothing to do with him.  My questions are:  How do I help Eve out of this situation?  How do I maintain my friendship with Lilith without it including Adam?  I mean, he wants to be involved with everything that has to do with me.

Well, look, first things first: two wrongs don’t make a right. Lilith’s affair with the neighbor doesn’t give Adam a pass to stick it to Eve unless Lilith explicitly granted him permission — which is sounds, at least by your accounting, that she didn’t. So, next time he pulls that bullshit, cut him off: bygones are bygones, and you’re no longer willing to discuss the past with him — and then don’t. He brings it up, you either change the subject or remove yourself from the conversation.

But, people’s romantic lives are messy. If Lilith and Adam were having mutual affairs, it’s entirely possible that they quietly had an open relationship, or even a polyamorous one (the difference being one of casual sex with others versus emotional relationships with others). If they’re just two fucked-up people who ought to not be married any longer, then that’s what they are. You’re outside of their relationship, more or less, so it’s hard for you to really know what went on emotionally or why. That said, if Adam “isn’t available” for a commitment to Eve, that makes it sound like his marriage to Lilith is ongoing, physical side or not — so it’s kind of a tread-lightly scenario for you, given how many friendships break-up after a disparaged ex comes back in the picture.

However, very few men wake up halfway through their lives and become controlling and abusive. If Adam is hacking into Eve’s email, trying to limit her companions, insulting her and following her online, this isn’t the first time he’s engaged in these behaviors. And if he’s doing this all while keeping his long-suffering wife on a string, mutual affairs or not, it sounds like Lilith’s seen that side of him as well. Abusive people often try to justify their actions (like an affair!) by blaming the person who is hurt. And his pressure on you to both accept his “new” lifestyle and be involved in every aspect of your life sounds like just another symptom of a controlling person out to add, or keep, someone in his orbit.

Long-standing friendship or not, if I were you, I’d back away slowly from Adam and, if he continues to pressure you, put your foot down. Tell him that his controlling behavior towards you, let alone toward Lilith and Eve, make you think he’s not the person you once thought he was. Tell him that you don’t care if he thought his affair was justified; he hurt two people and then blamed them for it, which is horrendously immature. Tell him that you will no longer allow him to use you to make himself feel as though he’s done no wrong, and that you have no interest in ever talking to him or seeing him again.

But, do that all once you help Eve get out of the relationship as she’s asked — because if you ditch Adam first, his grip on Eve might tighten, and he might successfully lock you out of her life. And once Eve’s safe, loop back for Lilith, and make sure that she doesn’t want or need permanently out of her relationship with Adam, how you can help and to make sure she knows that you value and wish to maintain your friendship with her. Then tell Adam to take a hike.

If you have a problem with a friend, relative, coworker, or other person in your life, email Megan at advice@thegloss.com. If you have a problem with your boyfriend, you should probably just try talking to him.

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