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When She Chooses Him Over You

Thursday, April 11, 2013
Here's one of the most painful facts of female existence. There are women who will put their latest romantic/sexual relationship before any other consideration in life: before their friends, before their children, before their jobs, before their marriages, before their health, before their sanity.

Sexual infatuation is a drug, and some women become addicts. Other women are just--well--ordinary human women. Most women naturally want a special man in their lives and make him their Number One priority. Marriage is supposed to make this tendency a safe, good one.

But it does hurt at least a little when your best friend falls in love or gets married. Quite obviously she loves some guy better than you, even if she has known you for twenty years and him for six months. Whoa. Ouch. Life.

If you are under twenty-five, the tendency of women to privilege some man over their female friends may come as a shock to you. If you are over twenty-five, you may have noticed this already. If you are over thirty, you're probably used to it. Life--you know? (Shrug.) Whadayagonnado?

Pop music is full of wonderful songs about "men come and go, but sisterhood is forever." It's a lovely idea, but come on. Although women don't usually compete with each other with the same bloodthirsty gusto as men, women do indeed compete with each other, and if it has something to do with a man... Whew! Look out. Even the nicest, kindest, women-loving women can go crazy with jealous rage.

But I should stress that not all women battle or compete much or often over men. One of the most annoying things about being a Single woman is going to a party of married couples where the Married women act like a you are a vixen in the hen-house just because you are having a conversation with one of the Married men. I should also stress that not all Married women are like that, either, although few things annoy Married me more socially than watching a Single woman chase any man around a party. "Sit still, woman," I think. "If he wants to talk to you, he'll talk to you."

But I'm not really thinking about the occasional social unpleasantness between the Married and the Single. I'm thinking about young women discovering that they have been displaced in their girlfriends' affections by their girlfriends' boyfriends. I am especially thinking about the young lady whose friend is now dating her ex-boyfriend.

Treason, we howl. Treason! How dare she? How can she be on his side, let alone at his side? AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

Really, it hurts. It really, really hurts. But it happens. And only if you are really lucky will she discuss it with you first. She is much more likely to sneak around or lie about it because she doesn't want to hurt you or feel like a bad friend, etc., etc.

So what do you do? Well, there are a number of things you might do.

First, admit to yourself and God that you feel betrayed and disrespected and even disbelieved, if you told your friend that your ex-boyfriend is a rat-fiend from hell.

Second, admit to yourself and God that as you fell for the guy, you know better than anyone how easy might have been for your friend for fall for the guy.

Third, ponder the faults of your ex, and feel compassion for your friend because now she has to deal with them. Pray for her. Go talk to a good priest about it all.

Fourth, draw some boundaries for yourself and for her. Her love life is her love life. You don't have any right to know what she does with her love life, and she has no right to impose her love life on you. If you don't want her to talk to you about Scooter, say "Because Scooter is my ex-boyfriend, I don't feel comfortable talking about Scooter." If you don't want Scooter in your place, tell your friend that as much as you care about her and want her to be happy, you don't want your ex-boyfriend in your place. She, of course, is always welcome.

This is not forcing your friend to "choose between her friend and her man"--that staple of so many boring and painful high school and college dorm dramas. This is you choosing to remain friends with your friend, but not being forced to have a relationship with her boyfriend.

It's a tricky situation, one that calls for compassion, patience and strength. Friends respect their friends' boundaries, so if the girl who is dating your ex still wants to be your friend, she must respect your boundaries: if you don't want him in your living space, or to have to talk about him, then you must say so as kindly yet firmly as possible, and she must respect that. And you must respect that her love life is her business, not yours. It is not for you to complain about to mutual friends, and you can't tell her what to do or not to do.

Fifth, allow yourself to grieve a little--in private or with someone paid or trained to keep their mouths shut. The juiciness of "Mary's dating Anne's ex-boyfriend, and Anne is totally gutted" is too much of a temptation for the average college student not to share. "Mary's dating Anne's ex-boyfriend, and Anne seems totally cool with it" is not only a million times classier, it's too boring for others to want to talk about much.

It may be that you will never see your friend in the same light again. I know. And that's sad, and maybe she dreads that, but truth is what is, as Saint Thomas Aquinas taught. Forgive her and also remember that you have other friends. She wasn't put on this earth to be your Lifelong Special Confidante; you probably have other women in your life to confide in, women who won't tell your ex what you said about this or that. (Another newsflash: women often talk to our boyfriends and husbands about what our friends did or said unless doing so feels like real betrayal.) Meanwhile, continue to do whatever girl-time stuff you could still enjoy together: studying, watching films, going dancing, baking a cake, organizing mass pedicure parties, messing around with chemistry sets, electric guitars or fabric scraps.

So. Compassion. Boundaries. Forgiveness. Adjusting. And hope.

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