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Advice – My boyfriend and his friend behaved inappropriately in front of me.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over three years and I can say that we’re having a very happy relationship in all aspects.

Day before yesterday, my boyfriend told me about his female friend whom he hadn’t seen or talked to in a very long time. He told me that she’s in our city at the moment and that he invited her over for lunch. I was okay with it. I tidied the house and prepared food and we welcomed her. We three talked for some time and then we had lunch. After lunch, my boyfriend and his friend decided to watch some Netflix and I excused myself and went to my room to finish some pending work that I had.

I worked for one hour and then I went to the living room where my boyfriend and her friend were cuddling on the couch and watching TV. He was lying down on the couch and she was lying down on top of him and his hands wrapped around her waist and her head was resting on his shoulder, which is totally not a position for two “friends” to be in. Maybe it is, but at least not when one of them is already engaged to someone else.

I didn’t know what to do, whether to break them up or to somehow intervene, but I wanted to do something, either because it’s fucking wrong, or it’s because I’m too paranoid, I don’t know, but in my personal opinion, it’s not right for my boyfriend to cuddle another woman in front of my eyes! I don’t like it one bit.

I let it slide for the time being, while convincing myself that I’m probably thinking too much. She was in our house till around 6 in the evening and I noticed more weird behaviour from my boyfriend and his friend who are just “friends”. I wasn’t with them the entire time. I was in my room doing my work, and my boyfriend and his friend were in the living room. They were having conversations, they were laughing, they were goofing around, which is totally fine for two friends to do, but I saw that they both would randomly touch/grab each other’s intimate body parts as if it wasn’t a big deal at all. They did it multiple times. It was so fucking inappropriate. Now I won’t lie, my boyfriend and I randomly grab each other’s intimate body parts, but I think it’s fine because we’re in a relationship, but she’s just a friend to my boyfriend! A friend whom my boyfriend hasn’t met in a long time, should I be okay with her grabbing my boyfriend’s crotch and my boyfriend just laughing about it?

I desperately wanted her to leave, and after she left, I questioned my boyfriend about their fucking behaviour in a rather stern tone. He told me something like “noooooooo, you’re just thinking tooooo muchhhhhh. We’re just bestttttt friendssssss but we were just reallyyyyyyyyyyy excited to seeeee each other because we hadn’t met in a very longgggggg timeeeeeee”.

It has been a very weird couple of days for me. I haven’t been able to think much apart from this, and I guess my thoughts are expanding and now I’m actually doubting that he’s probably in touch with her from quite some time and he’s probably cheating on me. I’m super frustrated and I don’t know if I’m either paranoid or my reasons are valid.

Anonymous, /r/relationship_advice.

Dear Anonymous,

Your feelings here are all very valid. You have every reason to feel weirded out, frustrated, paranoid, and worn out.

When you first acknowledged the breadth of the connection he had with his friend who he hasn’t seen in a long time, you were rightfully weirded out by the type of touching between them. In most traditionally monogamous relationships, that type of intimate touching and cuddling would be considered a boundary violation.

Your frustration also makes sense. After his friend left, you immediately communicated with your partner that you felt weird about their connection and that their behavior felt inappropriate from your perspective. And instead of acknowledging your perspective, your partner instantly dismissed your feelings & perspective while excusing his behavior. It is frustrating to feel unheard by our loved ones, especially from our romantic partners.

Your paranoia also makes sense. You only witnessed slices of their connection, and what you saw were either in gross violation of your boundaries or definitely pushing upon them. So it could be possible that your mind is wandering to fill in the gaps of your experience, adding to the paranoia of what you are projecting and what has definitely happened.

Then all of this contributes to your emotional exhaustion as you are expending your emotional capital on not just grounding yourself in your own reality but also rejecting what your partner says happened between him and his friend. It is one thing to assess what happened in front of you. And it is quite another to project what happened when you weren’t there two days ago. But it is meager compared to project upon the entirety of their connection.

Photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash

For the sake of this section, let’s assume that your boyfriend and his friend didn’t do anything beyond what you saw two days ago.

Generally, around pre-school to kindergarten is when most children start to figure out what is and isn’t an appropriate level of physical contact to have with someone else. At twenty six, your boyfriend should already know what is a level of intimate touching that is appropriate to have with a romantic partner compared to a platonic friend. It doesn’t matter if they were best friends. Even the bestest of platonic friends should and do have proper boundaries to ensure that it doesn’t have to toe the very thick line in between cheating and friendly banter.

I’ll also mention this. While the definition of infidelity is ever-growing and constantly changing to keep up with the modern technological developments, the definitions themselves are entirely personal and up to the relationship itself. Based on your reaction and your feelings, I get the sense that this is at best a gross violation of a social boundary and at worst a humiliating experience bordering on infidelity.

The most challenging part of this discovery is that even if your boyfriend didn’t do anything more on this particular trip, this event caused a significant loss of trust, especially regarding not just this particular friend but with all of his other friends with whom he could have (or already had) these types of inappropriate interactions with.

With all that said, this is tea time after all. And in our column, we don’t advise end to a relationship that isn’t abusive. This doesn’t necessarily need be a relationship ending experience for either of you. You two can definitely recover and learn from this experience.

First step is to have him understand how dire and serious this situation is. Perhaps have him explain to you what he thinks you experienced two days ago. Allow him to live in your shoes for a little bit to help him understand how uncomfortable, awkward, and humiliated you felt in that moment. Once he understands the gravity of the situation, then you two can both re-establish the boundary he seems to have crossed here, which I personally read as “I will not be in a romantic relationship with someone who cannot establish proper social boundaries around other his lady friends.”

Once that boundary has been re-established, you two will have to work to re-establish a healthy level of trust again. That trust re-establishment can look like seeing him stay true to his words without dismissing your feelings, but it will be a gradual development nonetheless. Brené Brown’s Anatomy of Trust will be a worthwhile watches for both of you, if you’re both set on working through this experience together.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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