The Humanist Dilemma: Why Won’t My Best Guy Friend Let Me Be Friends with His Wife?

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With A Friend Like This: I’m at a stage where I’m re-evaluating my life and making changes. I took three years off from college and now I’m back. I live about four hours away from my old town, and so far I have no friends. Back home, I didn’t have any close friends. I seemed to always gravitate towards people who took advantage of me, or saw me as naive and sensitive. I really lack social skills, and sometimes I feel as if I am so different from everyone around me. It can be depressing.

I’m writing because I have had this friend since high school. I met him through a guy I used to date. He’s always been someone I could talk to about my problems. The thing is, nowadays, he is the only person I talk to. He knows everything about me.

I want to say I have absolutely no feelings whatsoever for him. I see him as a brother. However, he’s been married the last five or six years, and although I have always wanted to be friends with his wife, she has never initiated anything. He says they got rid of any friends they both felt could hurt their marriage, and yet she doesn’t want to be my friend. He can be on the phone with me for an hour and if she is in the background, she won’t say anything. Also it seems like when he is home, I’m always on speaker phone, which isn’t bad but it makes me wonder if there are trust issues.

Lately he makes comments about “wishing she had prettier friends to cheat with” or coming to visit me so he can “hook-up” at parties. He also complains about her not cleaning and cooking and always being with her friends. He’s even told me that he talks deeper with me than her, and that bothers me. It seems dysfunctional. He seems two-faced, and I’m afraid that I trust him less than before.
I feel maybe I’m overthinking things, but I can’t shake this. He’s married and I’m a woman. I don’t want a guy friend if I can’t also have a relationship with his wife. He calls me every day. I feel like I’m stuck between not having anyone to bounce my feelings off or to ask advice and not having a friend any more. It’s almost as if he’s fighting the urge to cheat. I can always use this as a way to learn and grow on my own, but I haven’t made any friends and it’s hard. I don’t have a close family. What do you suggest?



Dear Uncomfortable,

I don’t think you’re overthinking this. On the contrary, I think you need to give it more thought.

First of all, it’s not realistic to require friendships with every married person’s spouse. Although some people (like Vice President Mike Pence ) see the potential for infidelity everywhere, in my experience it’s quite possible to be friends with a married person (male or female) without including the spouse, particularly if the spouse is not interested. It’s also quite likely that your friend never extends your invitations to his wife, despite your request. You might have communicated with her directly, but that’s not the real issue.

The real issue is that your friend is increasingly creeping you out. Frankly, he’s creeping me out too. That whole bit about wanting his wife to have prettier friends for him to cheat with says loud and clear that he’s on the make—if not with you, with your acquaintences or his wife’s or anyone he can get near. Regardless of whether he and his wife have an open marriage, it sounds like he’s trying to use you  to gain access to women. That doesn’t make you his friend, it makes you his tool. He’s not fighting an urge to cheat, he’s trying to enlist your help to fulfill it.

When he (or anyone) puts you on speaker phone and you don’t want to be on speakerphone, tell him to take you off or the conversation is over. Better still, extricate yourself completely from this dysfunctional relationship. Whatever he’s getting out of his connection to you is irrelevant. The question is what are you getting out of your relationship with him, other than the illusion that he is your friend, and your only friend? Take the time you spend talking with him every day and worrying about what’s going on, and apply it to cultivating better friends. Look into whether your college has some counseling services that could help you work on your difficulties in forming friendships. And surely your college and the larger community has all kinds of clubs, events, sports, community activities, etc. that you can join to learn things, have fun, and meet compatible people. It may take some time to get results, but it will never happen if you don’t make a concerted effort. Please break your dependence on this toxic relationship and focus on nurturing more healthy ones.