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Settling for second best?

(11 Posts)
garageflower Fri 24-Jun-11 11:47:44


I am posting this on behalf of one of my best friends, she doesn't have access to the internet at work and at home, would really be able to post here whilst with her partner (explanation below) and I would really appreciate it if any advice could be given just like any other post.

Am also posting in Chat.

It isn't necessary for you to read the whole post, the end is the important bit, but wanted to give background.

It's complicated (isn't it always?) but here goes:


My best friend was with her DP for 8 years. The relationship was very much a case of her giving and him taking and at times, we all very much wanted her to get out of the relationship as it really was taking so much out of her, financially, emotionally - just really very difficult to explain but it wasn't healthy for many reasons, at certain points. However, they stuck together and were very happy at times, it was almost like they were madly in love, or hated each others guts and brought out the absolute best and worst in each other.

Her DP had/has a massive cannabis addiction and (for a time) an apparent allergy to work. Combined with the fact that he was very possessive, insecure and terrible at managing his money, you can see why we were concerned. Conversely, he could be one of the most genuine, lovely, loyal, faithful people you could ever wish to meet.

Upshot is that they loved each other to bits but ended up in a financial mess and she became very depressed and resentful towards him, feeling that she had given most of a decade to him (20s), ended up with debts and missed out on a lot of stuff. Loved him to bits but at same time, wished she never met him as she sacrificed a lot for him and he really did not appreciate this. You could say she was an absolute idiot for putting up with so much for so long (in fact, she says this herself) but she did and what's done is done.

What happened next

She had an affair. She went on a night out with some mates, met a really nice guy who completely was smitten with her straight away (whilst DP was ringing her up asking for her bank details so he could play online poker). Stupidly and ashamedly, she starting seeing this guy who fell for her pretty quickly.

The initial step was to ask her DP to move out, saying she didn't want to be with him, for all the reasons cited above. He was absolutely devasted. It was what she should have said years ago, only meeting someone else, gave her the strength to push him away properly. Problem was, she was so taken aback by his reaction, yet exhausted and angry, she ended up seeing them both, for almost a year. It all came out eventually, leaving both men devastated.

What happened next
Initially, my best friend and DP tried to work things out. She realised she still loved him and he was distraught at the idea of losing her. Went through what I think was the hysterical bonding phase, had lots of open talks etc. He actually understood a lot more than she had expected and even said that whilst it was disgusting and inexcusible, he could see he hadn't helped.

However, after about 5 months of this, he decided it was over. He didn't want to go to counselling, he just was too hurt and couldn't trust her ever again. She was really upset, but understood completely and they went their separate ways. For a while anyway.

The new girlfriend
Ex-dp met somebody else during this time apart. It lasted 6 weeks. It was obvious, to the new girl, that he was still very hurt but he reassured her that he didn't love my best friend anymore and would never get back together with her. As time went on it was apparent that he wasn't over her and new girl and him had very little in common. However, they had both been cheated on, she had had a very sad life he felt (in his words) needed and like he had found someone he really felt would never let him down. She was more straightforward but intellectually they were a mismatch, not on the same wavelenght at all and he found himself seriously missing my best friend. They did, however, have a huge chemistry and were very sexually compatible indeed. He messaged my best friend a few times to tell her this but she didn't know what to say back. In the end, the new girl told him it wasn't working, and that was that.

My best friend and ex-DP have pretty much spent the last 6 months together. Not as an official couple, but a couple in every definition you would expect. They are 'best friends'. They still love each other. DP has tried to break contact and couldn't do it, so he has decided he is now ready to go to Relate, which they're doing, to see if he can try and make things work with her. They've been getting on better than ever, and she really really wants it to work. So far, so good. Well......

The 'new girlfriend' that I mentioned is, apparently, still playing on her DP's mind far more than she had realised. He think it's because

a) She is the only girl, apart from my best friend that he has developed feelings for (because he's always been faithful).

b) He absolutely fancies the arse off her

c) She is very honest. Someone who would not cheat. He would always trust her. She is uncomplicated.

d) This is going to make him sound bad but, she would always see him as too good for her (she did admit this) and therefore, a massive ego boost to someone who has been so hurt.

My friend completely understands this. She knows that her DP does not hold her on a pedastal anymore. She knows he doesn't trust her in the same way, or even see her/fancy her in the same way. She knows this will take time. Her DP has admitted that if the other girl asked him to try again, he would seriously consider it, probably would do it. The reasons for it are not great, he would be taking the 'safe' option but I suppose he has been through the wringer so much, it would be tempting. He says his confidence has been knocked. He's almost been put off 'clever' girls who have confidence and lots of friends (like my friend) as it feels like they're the ones you can't trust.

My friend just really wants any input/observations/similar stories. She knows, at the moment, she is second best. But what they are both hoping for is, with time and counselling etc she will be able to restore faith and trust and love, and get to a point where she is the only one he wants, not just by default/lack of options.

If you were my friend, would you hang in there for a few months longer and hope that this girl fades away, and she comes back (DP has said it's definitely getting better than it was)? She thinks that this is partly why they're going to Relate, to work out what is worth salvaging. Perhaps it's a very small, and only slightly similar taste of her own medicine, but she is becoming obsessed by this girl. Can you understand why he is putting this girl on a pedestal and ready to go back if she wanted him?

I can. My friend can to a point. She really just wants feedback.

I am so sorry for the length of this. blush

garlicnutter Fri 24-Jun-11 14:18:17

I've been somewhere very similar. it's difficult when you are compatible and do know each other really well - but your ishoos are also compatible, so you set each other off! A lot of the time, the hidden damage is what attracts us & makes us feel close: hard as that is to admit.

My guess is that DP's issues aren't entirely satisfied by your friend - as he's admitted, Girl#2 meets some 'needs' in him. The needs he's admitted to - feeling superior, playing the rescuer, etc - aren't good for building a relationship. Along with the past history between him and your friend, he seems to show little self-awareness and is still seeking to satisfy his 'damage' by, essentially, using someone else again.

One of them has to tackle their inner self, and it isn't going to be him. If they're very lucky with their Relate counsellor, that might help them both develop. If they, then, choose to continue figuring out their own heads, they might get themselves into a better frame of mind to enjoy healthier relationships (either together or not.) But that's a fairly long haul and, with Girl#2 in the background, he hadn't got much incentive to do the work. Everything you've written indicates he's perfectly happy to carry on dumping his needs on other people.

I don't think it's going to work. More, I don't see much reason for her to plug away at this relationship - though I understand why she feels she should! She'd be far better advised, imo, to find herself a therapist and get on with improving her relationship to herself ... and making better choices.

garageflower Fri 24-Jun-11 15:24:11

Garlic - that is really interesting.

The other girl, according to him, is definitely playing less and less on his mind as time goes by. I think he is hoping/presuming that in time she will be forgotten and all the needs she provided can, once again, be provided by my friend.

So you think she is wasting her time? Do you not think perhaps his feelings can be rationalised as wanting to protect himself against future hurt and the fact that he is willing to go to Relate shows some kind of maturity despite the hurt he has been put through.

At the end of the Relate seesion, the counsellor asks what they would like to focus on next week. My friend wants to talk about this other girl and more specifically, why DP feels like he would settle for safety and how he overcomes that. Do you think it would seem a good idea, given that this girl is 99.9% certain never to contact him again. It is HIS head she is concerned about, not the wants of the girl.

Lizzabadger Fri 24-Jun-11 15:31:09

If I were your friend, I'd move on. It all sounds thoroughly dysfunctional.

AmberLeaf Fri 24-Jun-11 15:43:55

Your friend should cut her losses and move on IMO.

garlicnutter Fri 24-Jun-11 15:50:24

Do you mean a non-cheating, less-intelligent girl would be the safety option and would be second best?

I think that's an odd way of looking at it. It is, however, a good idea to talk about BOTH their infidelities. OK, his wasn't technically an infidelity, but her obsession with Girl#2 is part of the usual response to a partner's affair, so she's experienced it as an infidelity.

The counsellor would probably ask them to think about each other's feelings in relation to both events. I'm sure that's useful.

It sounds as though she'd like to be able to control what her boyfriend thinks about and/or how he feels. Well, we'd all like that! But it's important to recognise it's both impossible and unhealthy to try. Bearing in mind what you said in your backstory, this still looks to me like a relationship that is more of a game of insecurities than a genuinely life-enhancing one. Would you friend say her relationship is improving her life on the whole?

People still tell me, sometimes, they thought X#1 and I were a really good match, we understood each other so well. None of my subsequent relationships have been that 'close', so hearing it always gives me a bit of a wobble: was I wrong to end it after all? (This was decades ago, btw!) Thing is, the enhancements he added to my life were very superficial. His erosion of my confidence, however, had much further-reaching effects. I couldn't see it at the time but, for all the passion and laughs, he damaged me badly. It was a Relate counsellor who helped me see what was going on, and I hope your friend's is just as good.

garageflower Fri 24-Jun-11 15:50:59

You see, I have suggested she just walk away. However, it gets tricky as she has a really good support system in place, he does not. It's a bit like in The Way We Were where Babs Streisand wants to speak to her best friend, who unfortunately is the man that broke her heart... Every time they have distance, it is him that initiates the contact.

As well as loving him, she feels so guilty that she always goes to him. She has already broke his heart so feels like the least she can do is be there when he wants (to an extent). It is such a sad situation. They have both learnt a lot and grown up but it's seeming like it's too late. If they met now, for the first time, they would be very happy.

I think they are both hoping to get a happy ending, following heart over head perhaps.

It's so hard to give good advice.

garageflower Fri 24-Jun-11 15:54:53

Garlic - yes, he took an overdoes when it all came out, and was on anti-depressants for almost a year. So I think the promise of a straightforward, uncomplicated, honest clean slate really appeals to him. I can understand that, of course, but the fact that he would sacrifice so many other qualities in a person, just to obtain certain things, well, that could be seen as narrow-minded. At the moment, his mindset is very much, as long as she doesn't cheat, I'll be happy, anything on top of that is a bonus.

Whereas before, he was so happy that my friend was intelligent, witty, charismatic etc. that stuff doesn't matter to him anymore

garlicnutter Fri 24-Jun-11 16:09:24

He's playing her. She is NOT responsible for his mental health, happiness, emotional stability, etc. He is. He's a man, not a vulnerable child.

Our responsibility for another adult's well-being stops at the exact point where helping them starts to hurt us.

She could do with a therapist, imo.

Here are a couple of books:
"Women Who Love Too Much", Robin Norwood
"Who's Pulling Your Strings?", Harriet Braiker
"The Nice Girl Syndrome", Beverley Engel
They all have reviews and a "Look Inside".

garlicnutter Fri 24-Jun-11 16:11:08

OK, I'll put this more strongly. He's a manipulator, an 'emotional vampire' and somewhat abusive, both emotionally/psychologically and financially.

Lizzabadger Fri 24-Jun-11 17:00:11

They'd be much better off completely out of each others' lives completely, IMO. The best advice I think you could give your friend is to cut contact.

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