Recently an anonymous woman wrote into my advice column, Ask Demetria, with a dilemma. The woman’s best friend, let’s call her Nadine, planned a couples trip to celebrate her birthday. Nadine invited her friend to join her, but specifically stated that her friend’s boyfriend could not attend the festivities.
Nadine’s reasoning? The boyfriend had been unfaithful to her friend. The couple had chosen to reconcile and move on, but Nadine was still angry. When the friend said she wouldn’t attend without her boyfriend, Nadine dug in her heels and said, “It’s sad that I care about you more than you do for yourself. I hope missing my b’day for ‘that’ is worth it.” Ouch!
Over the last five years, I’ve answered more than 50,000 anonymous dating and relationship questions. And with startling regularity, I hear stories of women like Nadine that clearly overstep the boundaries of friendship. Countless women have proudly Googled their friend’s partners for background information and reported negative results to their friends. Some women shamelessly monitor others’ boyfriends’ social media accounts and report if the boyfriend (or husband) makes inappropriate comments or posts inappropriate pictures. At least two women have casually shared schemes of creating fake social media pages to flirt with their friend’s man in his DMs and see if he takes the bait, then told their friend about it.
None of these women saw anything wrong with their behavior, and were shocked when they were called “crazy” or asked, “Why would you do that?” The answer was consistently some version of “because I’m a good friend.”
To many, these scenarios may sound like clear cases of jealousy. But relationship expert Logan Levkoff says the reason some women behave this way is more complex. “As women, we tend to share a lot with our best friends. We tend to know so much, and we know early on. We laugh together, we cry together, and we know more than we should,” Levkoff says. “Sometimes we are overly invested, then it becomes emotionally and intellectually challenging when we think a friend’s partner might hurt someone that we care about.”
That’s a fair assessment. Many women do overshare and that invites criticism, concern and perhaps even interference from those who care. And some women are notorious for venting to their friends, asking “What should I do?” and never taking the advice, which can become frustrating for their friends.
Perhaps some women would do better to hold some stories closer to the chest, talk to their partners about their problems or to be more mindful with whom they share the details of their relationships. If you know you have a friend that is protective or holds grudges, it doesn’t make her a bad person, but it should make you think twice about complaining about your mate.
Still, that doesn’t let boundary crossing “good friends” off the hook. For those friends who like to meddle, Levkoff suggests they back off and “do some soul searching.”
“When you’ve crossed a line with someone’s partner, it’s hard to go back from that,” Levkoff assesses. “Even if all is forgiven, you’re still the friend that doesn’t like my partner. What if this relationship takes off? Then you’re excluded from your friend’s life because of how you behaved in this way toward her partner. It’s hard to take that back.”
That’s exactly what happened to Nadine. Once she rejected the boyfriend a second time, the friend decided not to attend her birthday trip. As the departure date approached, Nadine panicked when she realized she would be celebrating her birthday without her best friend. Finally, she put her dislike of the boyfriend in perspective and had a change of heart. Nadine called her bestie and asked if she and her boyfriend would come on the trip.
I advised the anonymous woman that her friend had realized she was wrong, and if she and her boyfriend actually wanted to travel, they should go and celebrate. But she should ask Nadine for an apology before booking the flights and make it clear that any mistreatment of her mate wouldn’t be tolerated. After all this drama, it’s the least Nadine could agree to.
The last I heard, the friend wasn’t sure what to do. The anonymous woman appreciated the call and wanted to mend the friendship, but she wondered how comfortable she and her boyfriend would feel on vacation with a friend who banned him from a trip — twice. Nadine had drawn a figurative line in the sand forcing her friend to choose between their friendship and her relationship.
This rift is a prime example of why instead of interfering — or e-stalking— women should just let their friends be, even when they don’t like or trust a friend’s partner. “Friendship isn’t about judging a friend’s choices,” Levkoff says. “If you respect your friend, you have to respect their partner as an extension of them. If your friend is happy, let it go and move on.”