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Two to Tango

In this installment of the 4-Way Panel, the group gives advice to a woman who feels betrayed after a flirty friend reveals that he's in a relationship. Do you agree with their advice?

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Dear 4-Way,
I’ve been developing a friendship with a guy for about three years now. Even though we’re just friends, I’ve always had a crush on him, because from the very beginning, he’s been extremely flirtatious with me. We’ve definitely had many moments that have gone over the friend line: we’ve skinny-dipped, he’s always touching my thigh when we’re hanging out together, we’ve spent lots of nights in each other’s bed spooning (nothing sexual happened), and so many other, similar things. Recently, he told me he had a girlfriend that he’s been seeing for about eight months; I was shocked, because he’s never once mentioned her. Now, he wants us all to meet. I know we’re officially only friends, but I’m mad. I feel like he led me on in a weird way, but I’m not sure I really have the right to be mad. And I’m not sure I even want to meet his girlfriend. What do you guys think? —EB, Los Angeles, California

The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
Here I am reading your question, all prepared to tell you that you’ve skinny-dipped, spooned, etc., with nothing happening, so he must clearly be a gay. And then you spring the girlfriend on me. Odd. How could he have been seeing someone for eight months without your knowing about it? Has he dropped any hints? Any at all? Do you live in the same town?

Either way, here’s the deal, EB: you gotta go with the flow. If you want to be friends with him—and think you can honestly be just friends—set aside the flirtations and accept the fact that this girlfriend is an added element to your friendship.

If you can’t imagine a life without him as a friend, then be a friend. If you can’t imagine being only his friend, then tell him. Tell him now. Tell him that you don’t know if you can be just friends with him, because you’ve always seen him as more than a friend, even though nothing has happened between you. Maybe he thinks you’re not interested. It goes two ways, you know, so lay it on the line. At least after that, you’ll know. If not, you may be sitting at his wedding, wondering what could have been. No one needs that. Just tell him you don’t know how you feel about meeting his girlfriend. That will open the discussion, and you can take it from there.

The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
Think about a man you’ve dated in the past, someone you really liked. Get a nice, clear image of him in your head, and think about how blissfully happy you were at, say, the five- to six-month mark in your relationship. You’re still getting to know each other, but you’ve really gotten into a great groove with each other and you feel secure and happy. Now, think about how you’d feel if you found out that this same man was out skinny-dipping with a woman who was supposedly only a friend. Or how you’d feel if you were meeting them at happy hour and you walked up and caught his hand resting on her midthigh region, in girlfriend territory.

The point isn’t that he’s been a little shady with his girlfriend (he has); he’s been shady with you, too, someone who’s supposed to be his friend. Thinking about how you’d react, if you were the girlfriend, to his seemingly innocent flirtations is a good gauge of where his behavior falls on the Inappropriate Meter (very high). You have a right to be mad, but now you have to push that aside and decide how you want your relationship to continue. Are you okay with being just friends? If you are, then really be his friend, which means the next time he suggests skinny-dipping or starts rubbing your thigh suggestively, smile sweetly and tell him to save it for his girlfriend.

He sounds like a guy who wants to have it all: he likes the idea of a relationship, but he’s not diving into it with both feet because he wants to see if anything better (maybe you) comes along that piques his interest more. You’re the cake, EB, and he wants to eat you, too (proverbially speaking, of course). If you truly want to be his friend, be the healthy serving of broccoli in his life. He’s got enough dessert.

The Lesbian Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
You have a messy situation here, and from where I stand, your actions have been adding to the problems. It takes two to tango, my dear, and you and this guy have been dancing a dangerous (albeit fun) dance for a few years.

I think there’s a bigger issue to look at than your just not wanting to meet this guy’s girlfriend: your actions. I don’t skinny-dip or spend my nights spooning in a friend’s bed. I’m wondering who gave you two the official title of “just friends.” Be honest about this: your connection goes beyond that.

With all the time you’ve spent together, I’m wondering why neither of you has brought up the idea of dating. That seems odd to me. Then again, it doesn’t seem like the two of you spend much, if any, time talking about what you’re doing and what it means.

Adding to the murkiness of your situation, I wonder why he wants you to meet his girlfriend. I’m guessing he hasn’t communicated his reasons, as nothing in your connection seems to include that you two have clearly stated your intentions. Maybe he wants the three of you to skinny-dip and spoon in an oh-so-friendly way.

When you give someone mixed messages, like letting him touch your thighs in public and sharing a bed with him, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get mixed messages back.

Was he a bad guy for not telling you he had a girlfriend? He wasn’t any more off-base than you were with all your pseudosexual “friend” connections.

That being said, I’m all for friends with benefits, if it’s discussed openly and agreed upon by all parties. You had the party without the conversation, and now the party isn’t so enjoyable.

The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
The flirting and the spooning and the touching don’t mean anything significant. You’ve obviously read too much into these situations, because if a guy is truly interested in and attracted to a girl, he’ll act beyond the flirtations and go for it in all the aforementioned situations.

He didn’t, which tells us that he’s simply not interested in you beyond friendship. Now, he has a girlfriend and you’re jealous. Perhaps he was too flirty and led you on a bit. But you played along very willingly in this falsity, too, so let’s leave that alone.

At this point, you need to ask yourself if you can be friends with him, now that you know nothing is going to happen between you two. Are you still interested in his friendship? Your answer will dictate whether you meet his girlfriend.

Don’t waste another second like you did these last three years; go find your own boyfriend whom you can introduce to this guy someday.

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