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Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 08:26 am

Her best friend’s waiting

My girlfriend’s best friend is her ex. They broke up six years ago (upon mutual agreement). She swears she’s much happier being his friend and says they both feel they weren’t meant to be romantic partners. Well, she clearly adores the hell out of him, and he’s her go-to guy for her problems (family, career, and probably any issues with me). She respects my opinion, but sometimes I feel she only asks for it so I won’t feel second banana to him. We’ve only been dating eight months, and I feel she believes what she says about their friendship, but part of me worries that she’s still in love with him but not aware of it. During one of their long phone chats, if he said he wanted to be with her after all, I suspect I’d be dumped fast. –Second Best

If this were a chick flick, you’d be the plot device – the guy the girl’s with just so she can figure out that she should marry the other guy. (Start worrying if you roll over in bed and see a couple of prop men unplugging your lamp.)

Of course it’s hard for you to believe that a guy who once wanted her body now just wants her ear. Their insistence that they’re just friends does run contrary to the wisdom of the noted therapist Billy Crystal, who warned in his seminal work, When Harry Met Sally, that “men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” Sure it does – mainly when they have yet to have sex with each other. But, these two have been there, done each other (and done each other and then some). Chances are, the thrill of the chase really has given way to the thrill of getting on the phone so they can cluck like two excitable hens.

People commonly think love is only supposed to come in groups of two, like on the ark. But, this “two-topia” – the notion that one person will meet your every emotional, sexual, and career counseling need (while leading you in a killer ashtanga workout) – is actually an impossible ideal. The truth is, in addition to your romantic partner, you can have another deeply important person in your life – a friend-plus! – who you love more than a typical friend but who you don’t love naked (or don’t love naked anymore).

And sure, if your girlfriend has a BFF, you’d prefer it to be somebody named Melanie, whose interests run the gamut from shoes to shoes. And yes, she could suddenly decide to “put the ex back in sex.” But, six years post-breakup, it’s likely her attraction is more therapeutic – having a longtime friend to lean on who’s probably helped her dust all the skeletons hanging in her closets (home, office, and beyond). Don’t get all wound up in trying to compete with him or meet her every need; you just need to meet enough of them and keep getting to know her. Throw yourself into your relationship instead of obsessing that it will end, and try to focus on the merits of their friendship. This guy enhances her life, and if her life is enhanced, she’s enhanced, and so is her life with you…even if that flies in the face of everything you’ve ever heard about how love is “supposed” to play out. 
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