Let me start from the beginning: My best friend and roommate had a crush on this guy for about a year, but since then they’ve become best friends and she’s moved on. I really had no interest in this guy at all—until I started to get to know him and realized that we have a lot in common. Last month, I had sex with him. I came clean to my best friend immediately, and she wrote me a soul-crushing letter in response. For a while, I stopped communicating with the guy altogether to save my friendship.
Recently, though, I caved into my feelings and had sex with him again. My best friend forced me to end things, but I’ve developed real feelings for the guy—feelings I’m really not sure I can ignore. I don’t think my friend is thinking about my happiness at all.
Is it worth pursing a relationship that could ruin a solid friendship? Where do I go from here?
While I’ve never been trapped in a love triangle myself, exactly, I’ve definitely lost a friend to romance. There was a man I considered one of my best friends in the world for over a decade. I loved this man deeply—not romantically (we dated for a period in college before settling into close friendship), but as a critical partner in life regardless. Today, I no longer count him a friend. We’re civil and we follow each other on social media, but we never even speak. Why? Because he started dating a woman who was extremely uncomfortable with our bond, and, I imagine, our history.
The first time my friend really snubbed me on behalf of his new girlfriend (by not inviting me to his birthday party), I was enraged. I called him up and screamed between sniffly tears. I told him that he was being a bastard and an idiot—that our friendship was precious and he was letting his girlfriend trample all over it because she was jealous.
Do you know what he said? “I love her, Mélanie.” Right then, I understood that he’d made a choice. He had decided to move on without me because the love he felt for this other woman trumped our friendship. It wasn’t worth keeping me around if doing so would complicate what had quickly become the most important part of his life.
Now, as much as I miss my friend—ache for him, in fact, whenever I recall the laughs and the good times and the secrets we shared—I have to respect his decision. He had to let go of our friendship to make room for that other woman and to prove that he was committed to building a life with her. I don’t know if she ever gave him an ultimatum. I don’t know if she ever clearly articulated her desire for him to unfriend me, or if he sensed, all by himself, that he had to sacrifice us for them. Whatever the case, my former friend did what was right for him, and I can’t blame him for that.
The truth is that love often comes at a cost. In your situation, everyone stands to lose something no matter what happens. Alas, that’s life. Love isn’t practical or sensitive to everyone’s feelings or all that concerned about its victims.
What you have to do is make a very difficult decision. You have to think hard about your history with your best friend, and whether or not pursuing a relationship with this man is worth demolishing that. Because make no mistake: Pursuing a relationship with this man will definitely damage your friendship, maybe even beyond repair. If one thing is clear, your friend is definitely not over this man you’ve been sleeping with, and consequently developed feelings for. She might claim to be, but her actions scream otherwise. I sense that you know this already. I also sense that you’re itching to know what might transpire between you and this man, which is understandable. A strong romantic itch is virtually impossible not to scratch. And because passionate connections are truly rare, it’s a pity to let them pass by unexplored.
By following your heart, you stand to lose a best friend. So you have to ask yourself: Is this hypothetical romantic relationship more important to me than my existing friendship? If this man turns out to be a great love, the bond you forge will probably seem worth sacrificing a thousand friendships because great love really is that monumentally awesome. If not, however, you might very well regret having given it a shot.
The thing is, if you don’t follow your heart in the name of preserving your friendship, you will probably end up resenting your best friend. I can sense from your email that you’re already frustrated by her actions. You feel as if she’s ignoring your happiness. Because she is. Just as you’re prioritizing your needs, she’s prioritizing hers. Each of us is programmed to survive, which requires taking care of ourselves first in almost all circumstances.
I agree that it’s childish of your friend to make demands about who you do or do not have sex with, or date. But she’s probably resorted to such measures out of embarrassment and/or hesitation to own her true feelings. She has the most to lose out of all three of you—not one, but two dear friends. So try to sympathize with her distress.
The man in this equation seems to be in the best position within the group. What I fear is that he may be sending you and your friend slightly different messages—not because he’s a manipulative asshole, necessarily, but because it’s natural to want to keep two women who’re good for your ego around. It’s nice to be wanted, so it’s in his interest to keep you both happy for as long as possible.
So, what to do?
I think the only solution is for everyone involved to be honest and straightforward, which might require sitting down together and coming clean about your feelings one by one. If your best girlfriend hears firsthand from you and this man that you’re really into each other, how could she deny you the right to give it a try? And if this man fumbles and fails to stand up for your romantic potential in the moment, he’s probably not worth the trouble.
All three of you need more information, it seems. As of now, you’re stuck in a complicated web of emotions and mixed messages rooted in competing interests, and I’m guessing you’re all desperately trying to do damage control on multiple fronts simultaneously. At some point, something’s got to give, and you’re all going to lose something along the way no matter what. But that’s okay. You will all be fine. You will all live. I wish I could offer you protection from hurt, but no one can. Even the most beautiful relationships cause great pain.