[Two Pronged] My friend confides to me – not his girlfriend

[Two Pronged] My friend confides to me – not his girlfriend
'How can I emancipate this person without him being hurt again?'

 Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.


Dear Dra. Margie and Mr. Baer,

I’m a 24 year old ded Student, and have a guy best friend, Brandon. He rarely make friends because of his mental health issues.

I am the only person he confides in. In the first year of our friendship I fell for him, which I did not expect, so I told him my feelings are starting to develop romantically.

Brandon had no plans of elevating our friendship into something romantic, so I ended our friendship. Unrequited love is not healthy. This caused pain in his part. I left him alone, so I can move on and forget my feelings. When I finally moved, on I tried rekindling our friendship and apologized for leaving him; we became friends again.

Brandon got a girlfriend, Emma. I am genuinely happy for him because someone will finally accept his flaws and failures in life but lo and behold I was wrong. He is afraid to be judged by his girlfriend and chose not to share his dark side with her. Instead he still depends on me as if he doesn’t have a significant other. He asks me out from time to time without telling his girlfriend about his plans with me.

We both clarified that our bond is platonic: he has a girlfriend and I have a suitor, Vic.

It is unfair to Emma that he trusts me more than her; that he seeks advice from me, not from her.

I find it alarming — I do not want to be placed in hot water and be the cause of their misunderstanding. I do not want to end our friendship but I want him to be more dependent on his girlfriend instead of on me, who is just his best friend.

I was a jealous partner in the past and as much as I do not want to stereotype my kind, I know their sentiments and I do not want to be his girlfriend’s object of jealousy.

Dra. Margie and Mr. Baer was it wrong to rekindle our friendship in the first place? How can I emancipate this person without him being hurt again? Thank you for reading my letter and more power to your careers. 

Love, 

Marian 


Dear Marian,

Friendships can wither and die when new romantic relationships take precedence in our lives. While all the parties may wish to coexist and nurture their respective relationships, antipathies, jealousies etc. often undermine the best of intentions and take their toll. Change has taken place and adjustments have to be made to accommodate the new reality.

You were originally friends with Brandon, started to develop romantic feelings which were not reciprocated and so you stopped seeing him altogether. Once your life was back on an even keel and you had a suitor, you and Brandon, who now had a girlfriend, renewed your friendship.

Second time round your relationship with Brandon is necessarily different, principally because Emma and Vic are also part of the equation. Romantic relationships generally take precedence over friendships; if they do not, they have a tendency to wither and die. The dynamics are different because now any change in the interaction between two people has the potential to affect the rest.

Brandon has told you that he has not revealed his “dark side” to Emma. Your inclination is to persuade him to come clean to Emma because you want to avoid the fallout of being more trusted than Emma.

Yet Brandon has sole responsibility for managing his relationship with Emma as he sees fit. You can try to influence him through your friendship but the ultimate decisions are his, not yours.

In the final analysis, if he continues to trust you and rely on you more than her, you can either accept that or distance yourself from him. The latter course however smacks of martyrdom in a cause that basically has nothing to do with you.

All the best,

JAF BAER


Dear Marian,

Thank you very much with your letter. I am thrilled that I agree 100% with Mr Baer’s take on your relationship with Brandon vis a vis his relationship with Emma, thus allowing me to highlight something you may not have considered.

I think you may have been unfair in labeling Brandon as having “mental health issues.” His behavior, perhaps, may be more cautious than most — rarely makes friends, confiding in only you, not sharing his dark side with his girlfriend — but this does not warrant a description of “mental health issues.” 

Actually, his choices make him sound more like the stereotypical introvert and if he chooses to confide in you more than he does in his girlfriend, alas, he would not be different from many others, But what seems an unfortunate choice (even a decision) to others is not enough reason to label it as unstable. 

In addition, he may have logical reasons for behaving this way. It takes time to know a person deeply and even longer to trust him/her; and even then, people differ in how quickly they feel comfortable in doing so.  Just being different from most is not reason to label a person as deviant. Even having a “dark side” is not necessarily ominous, as dark sides are nothing more than brooding, intense and occasionally very attractive to some.

“Conceptualizing Psychiatric Disorders Using ‘Four D’s’ of Diagnoses” provides a framework that identifies the points on a continuum at which human cognition, emotion and behavior are disturbing enough to be classified as a psychiatric disorder. Dr Timothy Davis wrote this paper for clinicians, but all can gain by using these Four D’s he describes: danger, deviance, dysfunction, and distress. It can help discriminate between quirky — even strange — and “abnormal.” 

Brandon’s decency and kindness when he let you know he had no plans to elevate your friendship into something romantic is praiseworthy. To not take advantage of a woman willing to be your partner is also unusual in these days of easy come, easy go.

I admire you for not wanting to harm Brandon’s relationship in any way. You can even set boundaries as you would to any trusted friend, with or without any mental health issues.  

What do you think, Marian?

All the best,

MG Holmes

— Rappler.com

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

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