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Savvy Minds: Ask Dr. V ~ “I’m the Other Guy!”

Savvy Minds: Ask Dr. V ~ “I’m the Other Guy!”

Dear Dr V,

I can’t believe I’ve gotten myself into this situation: I’m the “Other Guy.” I’m not happy about it, but things are what they are.  A close friend of mine moved in down the block from me six months ago. I work from home, he’s out of town on business a lot. I always got along well with his fiance, and we started hanging out more and more. I think you get the gist of where I’m going. We’ve decided to tell him.  She’s going to move in with me.  I’m concerned for my friend’s feelings. Is there any way to do this and maintain our friendship?


Dear Scott,

I will do my best not to come off as to brash with you in my response, but you should know that, judging from how you phrased your letter, you seem to be taking an incredibly naïve view of your situation. It almost sounds to me as if you are asking if there’s any possible way you can avoid the consequences of your actions. Unless you are the CEO of giant oil company, this is not likely.

I understand that people fall in and out of love in a seemingly random fashion. Especially in a situation like yours, where there were almost Petri dish-like conditions created for an affair to blossom. However, as involuntary as the development and experiencing of emotions may be, actions inspired by those emotions are not. Both of you made conscious decisions to reach the point you are at now. Also, at the risk of sounding judgmental, I’m willing to bet you found some way of justifying things or perhaps just ignored your conscience altogether. There’s a legal expression for that, Scott: “Mens Rea,” Latin for “guilty mind.” In other words, you knew it was wrong, but you did it anyway. You acted in a selfish manner that will very likely hurt and upset your friend, but you feel remorse (I’m being generous here and assuming you’re not 100% motivated by a simple desire to elude the results of your dishonesty). So, if there is one thing to be learned in this, it is to not ignore your conscience in the future. You won’t have to feel like this again.

That being said, I recognize that nobody here deliberately set out to wrong or hurt anyone. You are caught in a three way car crash of romantic issues and miscommunication. Perhaps this is what Elvis Costello was singing about in “Accidents Will Happen.”  So I will now step off my soapbox and try to offer what advice I can, given what’s going on:

As far as the particulars of your circumstances go, I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as you appear to perceive it. Let’s consider the reality of the situation: you will soon be (if you aren’t completely already) involved in a romantic relationship with someone who abandoned not just their partner, but someone they were ready to commit to for life. What do you know of this person’s history? Is it possible that fleeing relationships when they get “too real,” or the commitment level moves beyond what she’s comfortable with is a pattern with this person? I don’t say this to vilify the lady in question, but rather to highlight possible issues that may be in play. If this is what’s happening inside your new partner, then it might not matter if she is with your friend, you or anyone else; you are all placeholders for her to run this approach/retreat dynamic on. It’s something to be aware of.

Also, you may want to consider what it was that really drew you to this person to begin with, and more importantly, why you felt it was OK to violate that unspoken understanding between you and your friend that this kind of thing wouldn’t happen. Was this person really that incredible and amazing that you felt driven to essentially violate the social contract? Or, converse to what I brought up about the woman in question, is it possible that she is a placeholder for whatever your issues surrounding intimacy and relationships might be? If so, the same applies to you: without a directed and conscious effort to resolve the issues that propelled you into this awkward spot to begin with, you will most likely continue to play out script that’s already written in your head, and will continue to do so in your relationships beyond this one.

I wish I could paint a rosier picture for you, and please know that I do not think you are a “bad” person. However, I do think you made an immature, selfish and irresponsible decision in beginning an affair with your friend’s fiancé. There is no nice way to say to someone “I slept with your girlfriend and she’s moving in.” As for the future of your friendship, if you do go ahead with what you are planning, I would let your friend be the one to approach you to discuss anything.

If you have not passed a point of no return, I strongly urge you to reconsider your intentions. While it may be true that your friend and his fiancé should not be married, or that even you and this woman might make an excellent couple and share a wonderful relationship, if you care at all for your friend’s feelings, or for your own sense of honor, now is not the time for such things to transpire. If you still can, take a step back and remove yourself from this triangle.

However, if, as the saying goes, the die is cast, all I can suggest is that from here on out you make the effort to heed that “still, small voice within.” That’s often the Universe trying to save you from the pain and trouble you now face.

With Empathy,

Dr. V

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