/u/Amaril48 on /r/relationship_advice writes…
“My [24F] best friend and roommate, Meghan [22F], is currently dating Sam. They just celebrated their two year anniversary. They’ve always gotten along great.
For the past two weeks Megan’s been hanging out with a guy from her work, Leonard, upper twenties or lower thirties. It started with her not coming home until 11pm, then 2am, 5am, and finally not at all. Then she spent the weekend with Sam like normal.
This past week she hasn’t been home before 5am once. I asked her if she was cheating on Sam and she said no, her and Leonard were just friends, they were just talking and that Sam “knows about him”.
I believe she hasn’t had sex with Leonard, but she’s falling for him hard and I think she’s being too selfish to see it. On one hand I want to ask her if Sam knows she doesn’t come home until early morning, and one night didn’t come home at all. I know Sam well enough to believe he doesn’t, and well enough to believe he’d be crushed if he did. On the other hand, I’ve never seen her so fired up over anything, and I wonder if it’s really so bad to fall in love with someone else. I’d still feel terrible for Sam, but as long as she doesn’t cheat on him would it be so bad if she found out Leonard was a better fit? I’m not sure if it’s my place to intervene, I don’t want it to be, but if I were to offer a friend who has talked me off many a ledge some unsolicited advice in this situation what should it be?”
Dear Amaril 48,
Let’s flesh out three different scenarios here and then work our way back.
Scenario One: Meghan and Leonard really are great platonic friends who get along really well.
Let’s take Meghan’s words at its face value, and trust her completely when she says that she is just developing a really great friendship with Leonard. And Sam knows about all of this and is totally on board with its intensity.
When was the last time you made a friend (regardless of gender) with whom you stayed out with past five AM for several consecutive nights? Even if this was a purely platonic connection, it is deeply peculiar that Meghan dedicates this kind of time and energy to a platonic connection. In some odd way, you have also been losing time and space to celebrate and strengthen your friendship with Meghan as well (if we are still operating under the assumption that her connection with Leonard is platonic).
Scenario B: Meghan is cheating on Sam, and is being dishonest with you about her affair.
Different people define affairs and adultery differently. Each relationship has its own set of agreements and rules depending on how comfortable everyone is. One person might be totally okay with their partners going out every Friday night with their friends, but others might get really jealous. And definitions of what constitutes an adulterous behavior changes all the time. But a study has revelaed that about quarter of the couples have experienced some form of infidelity at some point in the duration of their relationship during the entire lifetime of their relationship.
Generally speaking, developing crushes and feelings in a monogamous relationship is not an adulterous behavior by itself. Sex is generally a definitive indicator of infidelity. But it is also the lying, the sneaking around, and the active nurturing of those crushes are what makes emotional affairs so devastating. You say that you know Sam well enough to know that he probably doesn’t know, and would be crushed if he did. I wonder how much of that comes from your own projection about what constitutes an adultery in your own relationships, and how much of it comes from your own experience and friendship with Sam.
Another wrinkle here is that Meghan is not being honest with her best friend about developing and nurturing these feelings she has towards Leonard. I do think it would be naive for her to think that this is normal on a blank sheet of paper. You might need to consider in what different conversation you can address that disconnect between what you are seeing and what she is saying.
Option 3: Meghan is in an open relationship with Sam that you did not know about.
There is a distinct possibility that Meghan and Sam might be in an open relationship that they’re not out of the closet about. We live in a day and age where polyamorous/ethically non-monogamous relationships have walked the fringes of discussion regarding modern dating. But one in five couples have experimented with some form of ethical non-monogamy at some point in their relationships.
This all leads us to consider what your next steps should be.
I do think that your identity is culmination of your experiences and surrounding. While you cannot fully control with whom you fall in love with, you can definitely establish and respect those personal boundaries not to develop or nurture those feelings that are unethical or inappropriate. As such, I think your action points come down to the question of “How much do you value your friendship with Meghan?”
I get the feeling that you are much closer to Meghan than Sam. So all of your action points come down to having an open discussion with Meghan first, but the directions are different based on what you consider to be the strongest possibility.
One: If you believe that Meghan is really just good friends with Leonard, maybe you can ask Meghan more about who this person she is spending so much time with. Communicate how you feel about having less time and space for your friendship with Meghan in this recent friendship blossoming between Meghan and Leonard.
B: If you believe that Meghan is cheating on Sam, ask Meghan in more detail about how Sam feels about her staying out so late with her coworker. Even if she is not sleeping with Leonard, her current actions still constitute emotional infidelity in most monogamous relationships. If she continues to reject your sense of reality, reassert what you’ve been seeing in her recent changes of behavior and ask to re-clarify what that means for her relationship with Sam. It isn’t your responsibility to call her out and dictate whether or not she is cheating, but you are at least owed an ironclad explanation as her best friend.
3: If you believe that Meghan & Sam are in an open relationship, you can use that “one in five” statistic to spring off a discussion about how more modern couples practice ethically non-monogamous relationships. Then segue that conversation into whether or not Meghan & Sam have ever considered having an open relationship (especially since their relationship feels so strong after just passing the two year mark together). You will probably be able to gauge if your assumption is correct based on her immediate reaction.
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