About five months ago, I met a woman who I immediately clicked with. She was outgoing and caring, and we had so much in common, including that we are both bisexual. After a few months of friendship, I realized my feelings for her were more than platonic. But I can’t confess them to her because she has a boyfriend. I could accept that, but he’s incredibly toxic. He treats her like she’s worthless and then disappears for days anytime she tries to set boundaries. She’s constantly upset and worried over him leaving her. When she asks for advice, I’m honest but gentle about my opinions, but I try to never give that advice unsolicited. I’m trying so hard not to be a homewrecker, but this is not good for her. I don’t even care if she is with me, I just want her with someone who treats her right. What do I do? How do I get her out of this without feeling like I did something wrong?
I’m sorry you’re in this situation. It can be really hard to watch a friend in a relationship that doesn’t seem good for them. At the same time, this situation isn’t entirely yours to fix or even diagnose for that matter. I know you think the relationship is toxic, and you’re absolutely entitled to your opinion and perception, but it’s also really difficult to know the nuances and specifics of a relationship that isn’t your own. You can’t really make choices for your friend.
You say she asks you for advice and that you answer honestly and gently. That is one of the best — and only — things you can really do in this situation. If you’re worried about the relationship, maybe ask her some questions. Ask her how the relationship makes her feel. Ask her if she thinks her boyfriend’s behaviors are toxic. Because that’s what I’m really missing from this letter: your friend’s perspective. Has she told you he treats her like she’s worthless or is that a conclusion you came to on your own? That’s an important distinction.
I mean, here’s the tricky thing: Sometimes, it is indeed easier for someone outside of the relationship to see the bad behaviors for what they really are than for a person inside the relationship to see it. So it’s possible you are indeed perceiving something your friend is not. But the only way to really know is to ask her what she wants and how she feels instead of deciding things on her behalf.
How do I get her out of this without feeling like I did something wrong? The thing is, it’s not really up to you to get her out of this relationship. Does she want out? Has she expressed that? It’s hard to watch friends make bad choices, but you have to respect your friend’s agency and autonomy. This is her relationship, her life. If you interfere too much, you risk losing her. I also think there are times when it is indeed healthiest to keep your crush on a friend to yourself, and assuming her relationship is monogamous, I think this is one of those times. Just because you don’t like the relationship doesn’t really mean it’s fine to cross any boundaries or relationship rules they might have in place.
I think the way to really show up for and support your friend is to listen to her and ask how she feels. I’ve been in relationship situations in the past where I knew certain friends did not approve and thought I was making bad, self-destructive choices, but I don’t think it would have done anyone any good if they had tried to actively stop me from making those choices. Instead, they were honest when I asked for advice but still let me be in charge of my own life. They let me know they loved me no matter what. They listened.
As for the homewrecker line, I’m not totally sure if you’re seeking permission to encourage someone you have a crush on to cheat, but I am not the person who is going to grant that permission. I do think you’re genuinely concerned about a friend. But there’s a difference between wanting to help and wanting to make someone else’s choices for them. And it’s difficult for me to separate your feelings for your friend from your perception of the relationship — whether that’s fair or not.
I’m sorry if this all sounds harsh. I do empathize with your situation to an extent. I’ve watched many friends date people who don’t treat them right, and it sucks. But you can’t break up a relationship you’re not a part of. And I ultimately can’t really answer a lot of the questions in your letter, because so much hinges on your friend and how she feels. These are her choices to make.
I don’t doubt that this relationship strains your friendship. You want her to be happy, and you want someone to treat her right. Those are good intentions in and of themselves, but if this relationship isn’t good for her, she really has to figure that out for herself. All you can do is listen and be there for her.
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.