How do I stop my friend's girlfriend from using my relationship advice against him?

The stock photo folks call this one "Couple talking seriously outdoors in a park with a green background."

The stock photo folks call this one "Couple talking seriously outdoors in a park with a green background." Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Door Guy is a veteran of countless clubs around town. People say they've seen it all, but he's seen more, and he's got all the advice your life can handle.

Dear Door Guy:

I’ve become very good mates with one of my colleagues at work over the last decade. Recently, though, he went and got himself a girlfriend, which is great news, because frankly he was getting to be a bit of a downer, and he's way more pleasant when he's getting laid. (Who isn't, right?) I met the woman, and she seems stable and of good character, et cetera, so we became fast friends.

Anyway, they fight a lot. I know some people just fight a lot in their relationships, but it’s a problem because she has taken to sending me long emails to ask for advice about him, complete with lengthy explanations about what she sees as his faults. At first, I was OK with this—after all, I'm the only person she knows that knows him well. But it quickly became a bit of a problem when I realised that she was using my advice against my mate in arguments, while twisting my words. I know this because he’s said things to me recently like, "She thinks it's all my fault that we fight because I [insert distorted version of my analysis of his personality]."

I have the sinking feeling that I've been enlisted in a conspiracy against my mate and against my will. EEEK! I like the woman, but my allegiance is clearly to my old mate in the long term. How do I tell her to stop telling him wrong versions of what I'm telling her? How do I bow out of their relationship entirely and basically say it's up to her to sort things out with him?

--Gassed in Glasgow

Dear GIG:

By your aversion to the letter "z" and use of the word “mate,” I’m assuming that you’re from Glasgow, Scotland, not Glasgow, Kentucky, or Glasgow, Montana, or Glasgow, Ontario, or any of the other two dozen places in North America named after your city. I bring that up because I don’t want to get too confusing with cultural references (or maybe I’m just mangling your question to make a point). Anyway, I’m not sure you’re familiar with this term, but I’m sure dudes everywhere have some version of this: the “bro code.”

The “bro code” is one of those unequivocally fucking stupid terms that we Americans use in our never-ending effort to reduce everything to its most simple, unchallenging, and effortless minimum. For a land of Freedom™, we sure have a whole ton of easy-to-follow plug-and-play rules for life so we can get back to flying Confederate flags while watching NASCAR with rifles in our laps or whatever. According to the bro code, you’d never, ever, talk to this woman about your friend. If you did, you’d always take your mate’s side. You also wouldn’t ever date her after their inevitable breakup. Life can be so simple with rules. I image that there’s a similar type of dude social order in Scotland, plus or minus a few fights at a soccer game.

If you’ve read this column and not just accidentally found me on Google while looking to get your garage door replaced—wait, I don’t know, do they call small buildings where you park your car garages in Scotland? Maybe there’s a cooler name, like “lorrypond” or “tyrebutt” or something—then you probably know that I don’t get many, and answer even fewer, relationship-type advice questions from guys. I prefer the questions that come from women, maybe if just to buck those plug and play bro-code rules. Or maybe I just have a savior hang-up—a not-unusual flaw for members of the Door Guy Guild. I don’t know. I write this column because in between checking IDs and tossing out drunks there’s a good deal of downtime where my brain needs to go other places and actually think about stuff. Which, if you think about it, is probably why I find overly simplistic gendered social constructs like the “bro code” so goddamned boring.

But in this case, the advice I’m going to give you is a bit on the bro code-ish side, except hopefully without too much “women are like this, men are like this” bullshit: As you describe it, this person your friend-person is seeing is clearly having some serious boundary issues, which persons of any stripe can have, and they’re equally annoying no matter what person is having them. I think we’re on the same page here, right?

Being friends with two people in a relationship is always challenging. I’ve known many situations where getting stuck in the middle has created rifts that hurt both friendships because they become unmanageable. I’ve also occasionally been very lucky to have friends start a relationship and be a part of it. It takes a lot more thought than bullshit bro-codeisms, but you can support both friends, make time for what’s special about them individually, and also spend time with them together.

But this isn’t what you’re describing. This is a person who, either by nature or by internalizing too much oversimplified relationship garbage (whatever the distaff version of the bro-code is, maybe), is not only disrespecting your friend-person but also you. You sure about that whole “stable and of good character” thing?

It’s one thing if this person is asking you advice about what to get your friend-person for its birthday because person is still getting to know friend-person. It’s a whole different matter if person is calling you or e-mailing you and saying, “Your friend-person and I were fighting today and I’m not sure he really likes me as a relationship-person. What would you do, as a person?” Especially if this person is then throwing it back in friend-person’s face.

This is not OK. It’s not OK because it’s forcing a degree of intimacy on you as a friend that isn’t comfortable or even appropriate. It’s not OK because it’s seeking to define your friend-person’s relationship with this person as more important than the relationship you actually have with your friend-person. And it’s definitely not OK because it’s violating the trust that should be inherent in any relationship by repeating your observations back to your friend-person.

This situation is also a tell-tale warning sign of someone whose insecurities—whatever the cause of those insecurities—are much bigger than any single person it chooses to befriend or share its life with. I have known people like this. Sometimes as individuals they can be charming, interesting, like the same shit you do—whatever you value from another person. But—and this is a very big but—in relationships, they are also profoundly toxic because when push comes to shove they will put themselves, their security, and their drama ahead of everyone else.

If this person wants to be your friend, then it will invest energy in growing an appropriate relationship with you, that’s not defined by your mutual person. Which means that you can say, “Hey, I like you and want to be your friend, but I’d be a lot more comfortable if we kept your relationship with my friend-person out of it,” and they will understand that, and appreciate it.

If, as I’m jaded enough to think it a more likely answer, this person doesn’t actually give a shit about you, and really just wants you as an influencing factor over its relationship with your friend-person, then the answer is pretty easy, and I’ll even use UK slang with you: Put it on its bike. This person isn’t being your friend, it’s marking its territory. Also tell your friend-person in polite but no uncertain terms that you put it on its bike and why.

In other words, if your friend’s girlfriend is acting like this and she won’t take no for an answer, tell her to fuck right off. I’m not saying this because of “bro code” or any other stupid template for life. I’m saying it because it’s the right thing to do. She may actually believe that she is your friend, but she’s not acting like it. Tell your friend you told her to fuck right off. Don’t force him to take a side, just let him know you had to draw the boundary and that you’ll be there when it sorts itself out. And when it’s time, take him out, drink some pints, each some sea roaches (or whatever they call shrimp in Scotland), and know that you made the right call.

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