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My bf inappropriately prioritizes his best female friend over me when we are together. How do we have a productive conversation?


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I [34f] would like to preface this issue by stating that my bf [31m] does a lot for me, shows public affection, never cancels on me, and treats me all the time. I generally feel prioritized and secure. There is only an issue when the three of us get together or the entire friend group is around.

The more I think about my boyfriend (we'll call him Steve) and his best friend (we'll call her Terrie) the more triggered I feel. Not because I think there is anything romantic between them or that he doesn’t want me, but because I feel like the whole truth wasn’t spoken to me and that he might not be completely emotionally available.

During the Halloween party we met at, Steve was constantly seeking “his bestie,” Terrie. They were jokey and goofy. It didn't seem inappropriate to me. But when he wasn't trying to flirt with me he was seeking her out. This was despite the fact that all of his other close friends were there. This didn't really bother me but I did notice they were close.

When I asked him what his favorite rom-com was he said, “When Harry Met Sally.” Naturally asked if he thought men and women could be just friends if the guy found the woman attractive. He said, “No!” He only took that back after I confronted him because Terrie spilled the beans about them being besties and spending all their time together before her husband showed up on the scene. I suppose that's when they curbed their hangouts.

Terrie said he was her best friend for years and they would go shopping together all the time, just him and her. Sometimes with another female friend of theirs. This information dropped when we were out celebrating her new job with their friend group.

This same night he went over to her, bent a knee, held her hand, and gushed over how she was a beautiful queen and she deserves the world, yadda yadda. I thought to myself, "How precious that he has a cherished friend that he elevates! Surely this is a good sign that he respects and values women." It was only slightly awkward for me, the new gf.

Then, at a dinner party with his friend group, he completely ignored me and served her like a butler. He served her first and even when she didn't ask for a drink. He kept checking on her and asking if she needed something else; running to grab her a beer. Then when I got frustrated and told him I needed another beer, he said, "Wow, you drank that so fast I didn't notice!" The optics alone are unnerving. I do have a problem with it. It bothered me enough to tell my best friend about it and it still made me mad when I told her. I get a pit in my stomach every time I think about it.

I don’t have a problem with Terrie at all. She has done everything in her power to include me, bond with me, and assure me. In fact, I find myself wanting to be closer to her. I was hoping we'd be friends from the moment I met her and I enjoy her company. She clearly never wanted him romantically or sexually. She does obviously enjoy the attention he gives her, but I think she respects me enough to be wary of how their dynamic might come across to a romantic partner of his.

I can't help but wonder if her efforts to pull me in are an attempt to get him to treat me the way he should and prioritize me. She's married and has been for a while. But if he was reluctant to settle for friendship with her and never dealt with that, I don't deserve the half-assed emotional commitment.

Steve just… maybe isn’t admitting to himself the nature of his own feelings. Even if he does feel strongly for me, that doesn’t mean his feelings for Terrie or his actions are appropriate. He definitely did not prioritize me at that moment. I don't think he's done the emotional work of getting over her and setting healthy boundaries in their friendship.

I don't know how to have a conversation with him about this. I don't know where to start. Boundaries need to be established and he needs to know how this behavior affects me. But I don't know what to say to him.

Oh, and to top it off, he forgot my birthday and didn't get me anything. I told him for weeks and we even discussed it the night before. We were out shopping once and I pointed out a cool hoodie. He said he was gonna come back and get it for my birthday. My birthday rolled around and he didn't even tell me happy birthday all day. He only remembered because my best friend made a post on social about it. He apologized and asked what I wanted to do but didn't make an effort to get me anything or offer any suggestions really, other than asking me what I want to do.

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I don't think Terrie is the problem.  I think your boyfriend is behaving inconsistently with being in a committed relationship.  I had an issue with my now husband prioritizing his female friend who he never ever found attractive as far as when she said jump he'd ask how high basically -she's a strong, confrontational personality and I remember on one occasion I didn't feel well and wanted to leave our gathering at her home -I couldn't leave on my own -unsafe -she was drunk and clingy and he was placating her and delaying our leaving significantly -I finally left on my own to try to get a taxi at 2am and he finally then left.  That wasn't about his attraction to her just letting her strong personality take priority over being my boyfriend/committed to me.  So I get the frustration.

Maybe your boyfriend got frustrated/put off by your constant reminders about your birthday and asking for a specific gift.  Or at least strongly implying you wanted him to buy it for you -not saying he did it as a passive aggressive thing but maybe he kind of blocked it out because your constant reminders annoyed him as if you couldn't trust him to remember on his own.  Why did you choose to approach it that way -did you not trust him to remember?

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I don't think Terrie is the problem.  I think your boyfriend is behaving inconsistently with being in a committed relationship -and you are behaving as if you don't trust him as far as your birthday. 

I had an issue with my now husband prioritizing his female friend who he never ever found attractive as far as when she said jump he'd ask how high basically -she's a strong, confrontational personality and I remember on one occasion I didn't feel well and wanted to leave our gathering at her home -I couldn't leave on my own -unsafe -she was drunk and clingy and he was placating her and delaying our leaving significantly -I finally left on my own to try to get a taxi at 2am and he finally then left.  That wasn't about his attraction to her just letting her strong personality take priority over being my boyfriend/committed to me.  So I get the frustration.

Maybe your boyfriend got frustrated/put off by your constant reminders about your birthday and asking for a specific gift.  Or at least strongly implying you wanted him to buy it for you -not saying he did it as a passive aggressive thing but maybe he kind of blocked it out because your constant reminders annoyed him as if you couldn't trust him to remember on his own.  Why did you choose to approach it that way -did you not trust him to remember? If so how is that you feel secure and prioritized?

I'm also confused as to why your standard is "he never cancels" - I mean shouldn't it be more like - "he is reliable with plans?"  

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I say dump Steve.  This isn't good enough for you.  

How are you going to have a conversation about this?  What's he going to say?  He's not going to change.  He knows he is doing this.

I dated a guy that was kind of similar.  Looking back, I kick myself for putting up with it.  I think some of the hardest things to get over are not things others do to us, but the things we allow ourselves to do to ourselves.  

Discussing or arguing about this is not going to make him change.  He passive aggressively letting you know you where you stand.  

You can do better.  

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15 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

I don't think Terrie is the problem.  I think your boyfriend is behaving inconsistently with being in a committed relationship.  I had an issue with my now husband prioritizing his female friend who he never ever found attractive as far as when she said jump he'd ask how high basically -she's a strong, confrontational personality and I remember on one occasion I didn't feel well and wanted to leave our gathering at her home -I couldn't leave on my own -unsafe -she was drunk and clingy and he was placating her and delaying our leaving significantly -I finally left on my own to try to get a taxi at 2am and he finally then left.  That wasn't about his attraction to her just letting her strong personality take priority over being my boyfriend/committed to me.  So I get the frustration.

Maybe your boyfriend got frustrated/put off by your constant reminders about your birthday and asking for a specific gift.  Or at least strongly implying you wanted him to buy it for you -not saying he did it as a passive aggressive thing but maybe he kind of blocked it out because your constant reminders annoyed him as if you couldn't trust him to remember on his own.  Why did you choose to approach it that way -did you not trust him to remember?

I never asked for a gift or told him directly about my birthday. We were with my other friends and the subject came up. He even asked me to remind him a few times....

Terrie doesn't ask him for anything. He just does it automatically out of habit as a show of endearment I guess.

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2 minutes ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

I never asked for a gift or told him directly about my birthday. We were with my other friends and the subject came up. He even asked me to remind him a few times....

Terrie doesn't ask him for anything. He just does it automatically out of habit as a show of endearment I guess.

But you didn't write that -you said you told him for weeks and discussed it the night before.  Now you say he kept asking you to remind him? If that is true then yes dump him.  Especially with technology now he simply could have put it in his phone.  I even have my mom's bday in my phone coming up -I actually already sent her gifts early, we've talked about it and I'm concerned day of I'll forget to wish her happy bday.  Because I care I have the extra reminder.

He needs you to remind him? More than once?  Buhbye

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Your boyfriend is an "orbiter". Practically a simp. That woman is not available but enjoys having somebody around for attention. And your boyfriend will gladly provide that attention for her. In hopes that one day she would maybe ditch her husband and be with him. Which would probably never happen as she doesnt see him that way. But he hopes she will.

Sadly, you are just a passing station there. Somebody who is just there until he reaches his final destination. Which is unfortunately not you. But its her. You are a second woman there no matter what the status is. In a situation like that are you surprised that he forgot about your birthday? And forgot to buy a present and even congratulate? I bet he didnt forget about hers birthday. Which should tell you everything you need to know about his priorities.

Remove yourself from there and find somebody where you would be number 1 woman. And not just no2 that doesnt matter.

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40 minutes ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

 he forgot my birthday and didn't get me anything. My birthday rolled around and he didn't even tell me happy birthday all day. 

Sorry this is happening. How long have you been dating?

This isn't just about him fawning over other women. He seems to have systemic disregard and disrespect for you and your feelings.

Reflect if this is the right man or situation for you. It's doubtful you can change who he is or how he feels through talking. You shouldn't have to spell out to someone to not be a rude bozo to you.

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Here is a productive conversation -use I statements.

"I see you prioritize T when we are together to where I feel ignored by you and like I don't matter.  For example you are attentive to whether she needs another beer or needs anything and by contrast you are inattentive to me.  I feel disrespected by you when that happens and it happens often.  I deserve a partner who prioritizes me in those situations.  I can't speak for how anyone else would feel or react but those are my standards and what I expect."

The conversation then turns to him - see how he reacts.  If he begs for forgiveness and promises to change then it's up to you whether to give him another chance -you will know soon enough by his behavior.  Good luck.

(Also as much as Terrie is befriending you -she's enjoying the attention at your expense and I'm sure she knows it -and perhaps it's a turn on or neutral for her husband but if I were her husband....)

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9 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

But you didn't write that -you said you told him for weeks and discussed it the night before.  Now you say he kept asking you to remind him? If that is true then yes dump him.  Especially with technology now he simply could have put it in his phone.  I even have my mom's bday in my phone coming up -I actually already sent her gifts early, we've talked about it and I'm concerned day of I'll forget to wish her happy bday.  Because I care I have the extra reminder.

He needs you to remind him? More than once?  Buhbye

Ok, pedantic. He was told by me in passing a few times a week because we were discussing plans and scheduling. He knew well that it was my bday and I didn't harp on him about it. It just came up naturally... So he was told.

We talked about it the night before because he asked if I wanted to go out or make plans. We discussed put put. Those plans got cancelled later but he still forgot to tell me happy birthday all day and didn't get my anything. He didn't make the reservation for put put, I did.

Aside from that... you have a point. 

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How long have they been friends is my big question, and has he had serious relationships prior to you?

If he had been single for a long time and they had been friends for say 10 years; this may has started as filling an emotional gap in his life. While not romantic, it could have felt fulfilling to have attention from a female while single (at least he didn't go the only fans simp route). Over time it became a habit, that he doesn't see, and if you two have been dating under a year, he is unaware of how worrisome this is.

I think you need to have a very calm discussion with him about this, and why it bothers you, don't make it about Terrie, make it about you and Steve. Something along the lines of how you wish you were doted on by Steve like he does Terrie. If there is no recognition on his part of anything wrong, or no changes in behavior, then time to move swiftly on.

Also consider some positive reinforcements for Steve.

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7 minutes ago, Coily said:

How long have they been friends is my big question, and has he had serious relationships prior to you?

If he had been single for a long time and they had been friends for say 10 years; this may has started as filling an emotional gap in his life. While not romantic, it could have felt fulfilling to have attention from a female while single (at least he didn't go the only fans simp route). Over time it became a habit, that he doesn't see, and if you two have been dating under a year, he is unaware of how worrisome this is.

I think you need to have a very calm discussion with him about this, and why it bothers you, don't make it about Terrie, make it about you and Steve. Something along the lines of how you wish you were doted on by Steve like he does Terrie. If there is no recognition on his part of anything wrong, or no changes in behavior, then time to move swiftly on.

Also consider some positive reinforcements for Steve.

I love this answer! Thank you 

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Knowing of others I've encountered in somewhat similar situations, my best guess would be that early in their friendship, he expressed a desire to date her and she saw it only as platonic. In his mind, being friends was better than no longer being a part of her life.

There is a different dynamic when your SO's closest friend is of the opposite gender. I know I wouldn't date a guy who had a female bf, but some people are fine with it. 

In your shoes, I wouldn't even have a discussion. He will merely resent you for changing the dynamic and intensity of their friendship. I'd get out now to find a guy who doesn't have to change in a major way for you to be happy. If you think you'll magically feel like a priority with his friend out of the picture, or pushed onto the back burner, you will probably be surprised when that doesn't happen.

But have the discussion if you wish before throwing in the towel. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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24 minutes ago, Andrina said:

Knowing of others I've encountered in somewhat similar situations, my best guess would be that early in their friendship, he expressed a desire to date her and she saw it only as platonic. In his mind, being friends was better than no longer being a part of her life.

There is a different dynamic when your SO's closest friend is of the opposite gender. I know I wouldn't date a guy who had a female bf, but some people are fine with it. 

In your shoes, I wouldn't even have a discussion. He will merely resent you for changing the dynamic and intensity of their friendship. I'd get out now to find a guy who doesn't have to change in a major way for you to be happy. If you think you'll magically feel like a priority with his friend out of the picture, or pushed onto the back burner, you will probably be surprised when that doesn't happen.

But have the discussion if you wish before throwing in the towel. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

I had this thought. But since we've been good about communicating and I'm otherwise happy, I even like this girl I'm willing to at least discuss it before I pull the plug. I'm not asking him to stop being excited around her or even to stop doing anything other than not acting like her butler and doing things in public that seem like bf/gf stuff. If he can't handle that I don't want it. But if he can stop and think before he acts maybe it can work. 

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2 hours ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

Ok, pedantic. He was told by me in passing a few times a week because we were discussing plans and scheduling. He knew well that it was my bday and I didn't harp on him about it. It just came up naturally... So he was told.

We talked about it the night before because he asked if I wanted to go out or make plans. We discussed put put. Those plans got cancelled later but he still forgot to tell me happy birthday all day and didn't get my anything. He didn't make the reservation for put put, I did.

Aside from that... you have a point. 

Well - no it matters who initiates the talk and you asked him to get you a specific present.  To me it's not pedantic at all and you are posting about nuances in communication and actions -which I responded to but am not dismissing as pedantic -of course.  

Hope it all works out for you -sorry you are stressed.

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58 minutes ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

I had this thought. But since we've been good about communicating and I'm otherwise happy, I even like this girl I'm willing to at least discuss it before I pull the plug. I'm not asking him to stop being excited around her or even to stop doing anything other than not acting like her butler and doing things in public that seem like bf/gf stuff. If he can't handle that I don't want it. But if he can stop and think before he acts maybe it can work. 

I think he is stopping and thinking- unless he tells you he has some disorder where he reacts impulsively or blames alcohol etc - people move towards pleasure and away from pain - it pleases him to interact with her in this way and if she didn't like it she'd tell him - but she likes him dropping to his knees and basking in her glory.  She might very well be a nice person otherwise and a fun friend for and to you.  

What if he goes through the motions for you and stops those behaviors - will you then trust that he would do so other than from a sense of obligation?

Also I'm not a fan of "games" but perhaps you can fawn all over some guy similar to what he's doing and see if he likes it?

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22 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

Also I'm not a fan of "games" but perhaps you can fawn all over some guy similar to what he's doing and see if he likes it?

Besides adhd no disorder that I know of. But his friend group is overtly goofy and playful which I think is the element they were going for but overstepped the boundary of acceptable conduct. I plan on bringing your last point up as a hypothetical when we discuss how this affects me and my feelings. Games are boring and I'm tired. We're adults and we can use our words. 

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5 minutes ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

Besides adhd no disorder that I know of. But his friend group is overtly goofy and playful which I think is the element they were going for but overstepped the boundary of acceptable conduct. I plan on bringing your last point up as a hypothetical when we discuss how this affects me and my feelings. Games are boring and I'm tired. We're adults and we can use our words. 

Yes- but you just wrote he is not acting like an adult in this situation.  I understand your fatigue about this.  You think he overstepped the boundary -but he might not and if this is how he interacts with his friends this is sort of a package deal kind of like the cliche of "you marry the family"

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4 hours ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

This same night he went over to her, bent a knee, held her hand, and gushed over how she was a beautiful queen and she deserves the world, yadda yadda. I thought to myself, "How precious that he has a cherished friend that he elevates! Surely this is a good sign that he respects and values women." It was only slightly awkward for me, the new gf.

Then, at a dinner party with his friend group, he completely ignored me and served her like a butler. He served her first and even when she didn't ask for a drink. He kept checking on her and asking if she needed something else; running to grab her a beer.

Where is her hubby in all of this?

I wonder why she doesn't speak up ..about his behaviour?

 

4 hours ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

Oh, and to top it off, he forgot my birthday and didn't get me anything. I told him for weeks and we even discussed it the night before. We were out shopping once and I pointed out a cool hoodie. He said he was gonna come back and get it for my birthday. My birthday rolled around and he didn't even tell me happy birthday all day.

Yah, some guys are lost in this category.  Their mind doesn't work like ours 😉 .

How long have you two been dating?  If within the last year, I am not surprised...

 

I agree, boundaries are good on respect for the women HE is with.

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1 hour ago, Batya33 said:

Well - no it matters who initiates the talk and you asked him to get you a specific present.  To me it's not pedantic at all and you are posting about nuances in communication and actions -which I responded to but am not dismissing as pedantic -of course.  

Hope it all works out for you -sorry you are stressed.

I did not ask for the hoodie. I pointed it out and he said he would get it. 

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52 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

Yes- but you just wrote he is not acting like an adult in this situation.  I understand your fatigue about this.  You think he overstepped the boundary -but he might not and if this is how he interacts with his friends this is sort of a package deal kind of like the cliche of "you marry the family"

We all forget ourselves at times. That's no reason to not show compassion and give someone a chance to step back into their own integrity.

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1 hour ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

We all forget ourselves at times. That's no reason to not show compassion and give someone a chance to step back into their own integrity.

This is a good way to look at it. It might even be an unfortunate show-off in front of you to demo how valuable he is to his prized friend. Sure, it's a groaner, but if you really like him enough, you could make room for this and see how it plays out.

The only BF I had with a GF bestie was one where I was fixed up with him by her. I wasn't even all that interested in him at first, but I was so jazzed by her that I gave him the benefit of doubt. I was glad, because we had so much fun together and with her, but if he were to have played her butler, I'd have been a bit put off.

I like @Coily's answer, too, and I really hope you can work this out--especially because you also like her, too. I hope you'll let us know how things go.

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1 hour ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

We all forget ourselves at times. That's no reason to not show compassion and give someone a chance to step back into their own integrity.

Oh.  I’m not sure how that has anything to do with this situation. Yes. He should show you compassion and choose to treat you with respect around T.  Yes if this was a one time slip of course. Yes if he showed integrity even while being silly and goofy with his friends no issue right?  I doubt you’d be posting if this happened once or twice. A few months ago my husband and son and I visited the city where he lived for 5 years.  Our son’s first time and I hadn’t been in 15 years.
Impulsively he said as we drove down a particular street “oh and that’s where (name of his ex girlfriend before me) lived “.

 I was really surprised. He hadn’t mentioned her in probably 10 years and they’re in the same field. I asked him why he had done so and he said it was random. So I let it go. But if he’d kept referencing her during our trip then I wouldn’t have shown him the same “compassion “ because at some point it crosses the line.  He didn’t. So I moved on. 
 

And yes you can show compassion and also care for yourself which might look like “I understand you and T have loads of fun behaving as you do. I love that you enjoy that dynamic you have with T.  At the same time I have to take care of me and I feel disrespected and dismissed when you behave in that way. I have to treat myself with compassion too and avoid situations where I feel cast aside too much of the time.”  

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I think he's a bit thick headed and a pushover. He does need a talking to for sure. Throw caution into the wind and let him have it. Tell him exactly how you feel, how you felt in those moments, point out specific times so he can recall his actions. Do a comparison...ask him how he would feel if you acted like that with a "Guy Friend".

I'm sure you can figure out the words in your discussion/approach.

If he says he can't help himself, then maybe this relationship isn't for you because it doesn't feel normal. 

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8 hours ago, feral_racoon_gf said:

I don't know how to have a conversation with him about this. I don't know where to start. Boundaries need to be established and he needs to know how this behavior affects me. But I don't know what to say to him.

Is it worth even having a conversation? I don't think I would bother. Actually, the whole 'besties' thing at the Halloween party probably would have constituted a no-go for me. It seems like an enormous part of his identity.

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