Q: I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years. I do have trust issues, having been cheated on in past relationships. My boyfriend’s best friend of six years, a beautiful and intelligent woman, passed away three months ago. Since then, he has visited her grave weekly and kept a photo of them together posted online. When she was alive, the two of them spoke daily about everything -- including intimate details and problems in our relationship. I made clear that their constant communication and boundary-crossing details were not okay with me, yet they continued. They claimed they were strictly platonic. However, since I’m a woman who has been fooled before, I can’t help but suspect otherwise. I love my boyfriend and want to support him in his time of grief, but I don't feel that he sees how hard it is for me to see the man I love mourn this woman he loved and lost.
A: It can be unsettling when your man comes home with tear stains on his collar, smelling like a trip to the cemetery. But the guy’s best friend died only three months ago, and he’s visiting her grave once a week; it’s not like he’s up all night with the Ouija board, asking her for advice on your sex life
It must’ve been a bummer to find that your man’s best friend of six years wasn’t just a placeholder in his life until he could find a girlfriend. And yes, friends confide in each other, share their lives, and give each other feedback. If there was certain information that you wanted to remain private -- if, say, he was revealing details that you felt should be between you two and the headboard -- you needed to come to some agreement about that together. But, you don’t get to mandate that your boyfriend’s friendship revolve around topics of conversation you don’t find invasive, such as the weather, who’s about to nuke whom, and celebrity parole violations.
As for why the dearly departed is still clinging to life in your boyfriend’s online photos, it’s probably for the same reason that I (like a surprising number of people) still have the phone numbers of several dead friends programmed into my phone. It feels good keeping them in my life, even in such a mundane way, and I refuse to have a hand in making them any more gone than they already are.
You have “trust issues” because you’re “a woman who has been fooled before,” not because you have videotape of your boyfriend and his friend making out in the coffee shop. Unless he’s given you reason to believe he’s unethical, your jealousy and suspicions arose out of your failure to take responsibility for what was done to you in the past. There are a few crafty sociopaths out there who can hide their true character, but chances are, you got cheated on because you didn’t really want to look at who you were with, and that came back to bite you. Accepting that should help you be there for your boyfriend -- tempting as it is to take the jealous girlfriend thing to a whole new level by asking whether that tapping on the wall is his dead friend trying to arrange a time for some out-of-this-world sex.
Q: When I got a boyfriend six months ago, I became a lot less available to my best friend. I knew she was disappointed, but she took it in stride and even claimed to understand. I’m bagging a lot of guilt now because I call her the most when I’m having trouble with my boyfriend.
— Bad Friend
A: It isn’t like you’ve stopped sharing your life with her -- not if you count all those times your butt dialed her number and left a muffled five-minute message on her voicemail. Assuming your friend isn’t just a doormat, she’s been a good friend by not getting all miffy that you’ve been preoccupied. Your friendship probably can’t take up as much of your lifespace as it did before, but you can recommit to it by making time for her regularly with phone, Skype, and coffee dates. You might also try an idea from “Friendfluence” author Carlin Flora -- celebrating the success of a long-term friendship as you would a romantic relationship and treating your friend to dinner and reminiscing about how you met and the great times you’ve had. (Think of it as your “friendiversary.”) This should help you avoid undervaluing your friendship, which is important, in case what was proudly perky on you takes a downturn into something a little more National Geographic. That’s when you can really count on your female friends to stand by you -- and if they’re less affected by gravity, to stand by you in public as often as possible.
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