He Has a Friend that You're Not Willing to Accept

dear dr. love,

my boyfriend and i have been together off and on for the last 4 years. once again we are giving it another shot and i really feel that it is going to be forever this time, except for this one little problem, he has a 'friend' that i am not willing to accept.

it is a female and they only talk on occassion, but i don't know her or even have a clue what she looks like, he expects me to not be jealous. he says i can't meet her because she does not like me due to the things i have done to him, mind you they have only been friends for 5 months now, we have been together 4 years, she has no clue.

i want to be able to just let the issue go and move on but i can't and this is causing major problems, i am very insecure and jealous and he is aware of this yet he's not helping matters by keeping this secret friend. i suggested we make a deal, he gives me a year to prove that i have changed and that we can really give it a shot and when that year is up i can finally meet her and prove her wrong. am i being ridiculous?

there are a lot of details as to why our relationship has been so off and on and i'm sure it would help a great deal if you knew details, i really would just appreciate some advice on what to do about this female friend of his. i don't think he is cheating, he doesn't have time because he is always with me, i just don't feel comfortable with him or i having a private life outside of our relationship.

what do i do? help!!!!!

Answer: 

I don't know why you feel so confident that the relationship is going to work this time. From where I sit, it looks like you have a major problem. You don't feel comfortable having separate social lives, while clearly your boyfriend does. On the most obvious level, you are both highly imcompatible. But there is much more to this story that simple incompatibility.

I have the impression that your boyfriend is using this 'secret' friendship to torture you. He knows that seeing her bothers you, and he won't stop. What's more, you are both locked in a vicious cycle: The more you are jealous and possessive, the more he feels the need to assert his independence by maintaining a secret friendship. The more he keeps the secret friend, the more you feel jealous and possessive, and the struggle becomes worse and worse.

The first thing you need to realize is that it takes two people to keep a struggle alive; so both of you need to figure out what purpose this struggle serves for each of you as individuals as well as for you both as a couple. You need to ask yourself what you gain by staying with a guy you makes you feel so insecure in his love, and he needs to figure out why he gets out of making you so jealous. The possible gains are numerous.

From your point of view, you may have an unconscious need to feel threatened and insecure; you probably grew up in a similar emotional climate, and this would explain why you would choose a guy who keeps you right at home. From his point of view, he needs to see what he gains by making you so jealous. He may be afraid of being too close to any one woman, and therefore, his having a secret friend on the side creates permanent distance between the two of you. He may also be a guy who is angry with women, and this game he is playing may be his way of dumping his anger on you.

The bottom line is this isn't a working relationship. If you both want to make this relationship work, you are going to both need to take steps to break the deadlock. One way to break the deadlock might be for you allow him to have outside friends so long as you meet all his friends and they aren't kept secret.

Another option is that you completely break the power struggle by not showing any concern for his outside friendship. I have the feeling that he is only interested in having the friendship because it gets a rise out of you. If you stop controlling him, he won't be angry, and he won't feel the need to beat on you with this friendship.

So, figure out what you gain by keeping the struggle going, and then if you decide that you are really willing to move forward and give up the unhealthy gains you get by struggling in this way, then you will take steps to break the deadlock, as outlined above.

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