This week, a reader is torn between two men - the boyfriend she wants to stay loyal to, and the friend who could have been more.
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I have a good friend who I'm very close with and who I used to have feelings for. Nothing ever happened between us because the timing was off and we lived in different cities, but I did send him sexy pics of myself and we used to talk about sex a lot and about us hooking up.
I had known him for more than two years when my boyfriend came along. My friend has made it clear he still has feelings for me, but he's a big flirt in general so I don't take things he says to heart. He still lives far away, so we never see each other, but my boyfriend has made it clear he doesn't approve of the friendship (as I told him I used to have feelings for my friend and he's just very intuitive).
I'm not sure what to do - I'm a loyal friend and I care about this guy very much. My boyfriend knows we still talk and he doesn't give me grief about it. After a long conversation we had a while ago, he now accepts it to some degree.
But now my friend has invited me to visit him and said he would pay for the plane ticket, which I know is crossing the line. I'm not going to take him up on the offer, but it's made me wonder whether this friendship is healthy. I feel like I try so hard to make it clear that we're just friends, but he always tests what he can get away with.
What should I do?
You raise some really interesting issues in your letter about boundaries, attraction and intimacy, and I'm not surprised you are having a struggle with how to respond.
In some ways, the relationship with your good friend has all the elements of intrigue and romance - you had feelings for each other, shared some very intimate thoughts and feelings and engaged in a kind of sexual foreplay without the usual next stage of forming a relationship together.
You are now wondering if the friendship is healthy and from that perspective I wonder if there isn't a small part of you that wonders "what if" we got together and what if he really isn't just flirting.
You haven't had the usual ups and downs of actually getting together and finding our if it would work for you, so it does risk being a bit of an untested fantasy.
Our intimate relationships rely on trust and sharing our feelings and thoughts to deepen and enrich them.
It may be useful to think about who you go to when you have something really important or intimate to share. If it is your current boyfriend and you are secure in that relationship, then you are right to be saying no to the ticket and setting very clear boundaries with your other friend.
If your friend is always testing and you have a sense of being pressured, then that is not the basis for either a sound friendship or an intimate relationship, and you may want to distance yourself further from him.
It takes two parties to form a loyal friendship - and loyalty doesn't normally feel like pressure and "testing".
For your current relationship with your boyfriend to succeed, you may need to make some hard choices about your friendship. This will require you to be really honest with yourself about who you want to be with and to share with.
Once you are clear about that, then letting your friend know you are choosing to distance yourself from him in order to deepen your current relationship becomes easier. On the other hand, if you are left with "what would happen if we did meet up", then you may decide once and for all to go visit and test the reality of having a relationship with your friend.
The rewards from a rich and trusting relationship are well worth some hard soul-seeking and decision-making, and I do wish you well in your decisions!
We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.
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