Carolyn Hax is away. The following is from March 15, 2006.
HI, CAROLYN: My boyfriend of two years has a female best friend (they met in college) who lives a couple of hours away. Their relationship is and always has been completely platonic, but my issue is this: My boyfriend spends a lot of time on the computer and they are constantly instant messaging each other. I'm not talking a few times a week; more like two or three times a day. He often chats online with her while I am visiting for the weekend and I find this behavior rude and annoying. When I try to talk to him about it, he just tells me he has never had feelings for her and they are just friends ... but he doesn't ever understand that the real issue is that his "best friend" is taking time away from our being together. I think that in a healthy relationship, your significant other should be your best friend. How can I get him to understand how disrespectful this is to me, and how much it hurts our relationship?
K: As anyone with writer's block can tell you, the most important part of getting your point across is knowing what your point is.
You've got talker's block. Your point is really two points, and each asks something different of your boyfriend.
The first is that it's rude and annoying for him to chat online two or three times a day on the weekends you've traveled to see him. If this is your real point, then it's a good one — one that has nothing to do with the sex of his friend. All you want is a little courtesy; he can chat with his friend when you leave.
The second point is that you feel the intimacy he shares with this female friend takes away from the intimacy you share with him — and as his girlfriend, you feel you're entitled to it.
If this is what you really mean to say, then I think you also have a good point, but a complicated one. Were this best friend male, would you be feeling so threatened? And if it isn't about sex but instead about best-friendship, then does it even make sense to ask to be someone's best friend? And if it is her sex that makes his attentions to her seem "disrespectful," are you ready to say that a man in a relationship shouldn't have close female friends?
It's an opinion you're certainly entitled to have, but it's also an opinion best thought through fully before dropped on a boyfriend's lap. It's got that whiff of "Take it or leave it," for both of you, and you should know that before you go in.
HI, CAROLYN: Just a not-so-quick question. When you are newly seeing someone, do you think trust should be granted to begin with, or is it something that is earned?
WASHINGTON: Both. You don't assume the worst, you don't assume the best, you just let people speak from themselves. And entrust them with things you care about only after you've heard enough to quiet your visceral doubts.