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Carolyn Hax: Defining friendships and allowing room for growth


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

What do you do when your “gay husband” gets a boyfriend? I have a best friend who is gay, and we are so close and do so much together that he often gets mistaken for my boyfriend or husband by people who don’t know us. Even some of our friends affectionately call me his “wife.” I suppose the best way to describe it is a Will and Grace kind of relationship.

However, he recently met a guy he seems to have fallen for pretty quickly (talking all the time, already making getaway plans, etc.), and I’m really concerned — selfishly — that the closer he potentially gets to this new boyfriend, the further he might pull away from me, even if it’s unintentionally.

I know he’s not really my boyfriend or husband, so I have no right to complain or intervene, and I absolutely believe he deserves to be happy. But at the same time, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him if he starts spending all his time with his new boyfriend, and I’m scared that the nature of our relationship might change because of it and we might lose what we have. What should I do?

(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

Relationship, Sort Of

I’ve gone to answer this a couple of times, and I keep toggling back and forth.

There’s a part of me that really sympathizes, because it’s both common and heartbreaking to semi-lose a friend when the friend pairs off. I say “semi-lose” because a real friend stays a friend, of course, but the friendship inevitably changes when you add someone so significant.

. . . And there’s a part of me detecting a whiff of sadness over having a favorite toy taken away. Maybe I’m just being distracted by the cutesy labels, your attachment is genuinely to him and not to the “gay husband” idea, and therefore I’m being horribly unfair — but every time I started to compose an answer ignoring this hunch, it sounded dishonest.

So, with that off my chest, here’s some advice for what you do here:

You treat him as you would any loved one. You celebrate his happiness; you include his new boyfriend where you can; you commit to being flexible, good-natured and patient as you all adjust to this new way of life; and you generally have his back as you hope your best friend would have yours. Fair?

What’s the alternative — hope for his unhappiness with others to keep him close to you?

Hi, Carolyn:

I put my foot down with a (now possibly former) friend today, knowing full well that she’d fly off the handle.

She told me to stop talking to her. She’s cut off people before for this, so I’m pretty sure if I want us to stay friends, then I’m going to have to apologize to her for standing up for myself. I’m not willing to do that, but I’m still sad/unsure how to move past this 13-year friendship. Any advice?


Trust yourself. You made this decision with your eyes wide open.

It’s normal to be sad for a while, both over the friendship and (I’m guessing) dashed hopes that she’d make an exception to stay friends with you. Being right doesn’t inoculate you against grief. I’m sorry.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at



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