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Ask MR: I Slept With My Best Friend’s Ex. How Bad Is That?
06.11.19

Hello and welcome to our advice column, Ask MR, where we answer your burning questions, hoping we’ll become the ointment to your life rash. Ask us a question by sending one of us a DM, emailing write@manrepeller.com with the subject line “ASK MR A QUESTION,” or simply leaving one in the comments.

My best friend hasn’t spoken to me in 2 years because I slept with her ex boyfriend 3 years ago. How fine is the line between being strong feminist women and not letting men get between a friendship, and breaking a ‘girl code’?

The bad news first: If your best friend hasn’t talked to you in two years, she’s not your best friend anymore. That ship—stocked with secrets and snort-laughs and honest outfit appraisals—hasn’t just sailed, it’s been sunk. And you sank it.

It sounds like the two of you didn’t really talk it out, so I bet she’s not over it either. Maybe she still thinks about you too, tries to work everything out in her mind. Maybe she occasionally shakes her head about the whole thing while she’s washing the dishes or maybe her subconscious ushers you into her dreams in a way that’s embarrassingly metaphorical. If she has a therapist, you’ve probably gotten some air time. It’s possible that you’ll both be able to recover and move on separately if you really want to do that, but I doubt you do.

No, it sounds to me like you miss her. So what are you going to do to get your friend back? At this point, it’s less about what you did than what you’ll do next. I don’t know much about your situation, but the phrasing of your question reveals a few truths about how you see the situation, which in my view, needs some work. It wasn’t really a guy who came between you, it was a betrayal of trust. That’s one of the pillars all good relationships rely on, but you knocked it out in one fell swoop and your house fell down! Have I mentioned all this wreckage—the ship, the house—is your fault? Have you mentioned this is your fault? I know that doing so might be painful (of course hurting someone you care about hurts you too), but I don’t think you can move forward until you do. Are you ready? Do you want your best friend back or not? Now I’m shaking my head at the kitchen sink!

Here’s the part where I wax poetic about female friendship and how it tends to be deeper than most other kinds of relationships—including, I would argue, even romantic love—because of what women are willing to contribute to it. The deeper it goes, the more you owe it. And as with all love, it requires that you put another person’s best interests in front of your own desires. Not sleeping with your BFF’s ex-boyfriend precisely because you know it would hurt her is one way that love can be performed. I think deep down you already know this, but your guilt is keeping you from admitting it.

Maybe you think I’m being hard on you. And for what it’s worth, I agree. I’m totally projecting! When I was much younger, this sort of thing happened to me multiple times—enough times that I became paranoid. It caused me to develop a fear that if I talked to my friends about my crushes or boyfriends too much—sold their appeal too hard—my friends would develop crushes on them too. It took me a while to get over that. The last person who broke my trust that way hurt the most. She knew about what the other people had done and she did the same thing anyway.

This friend never apologized to me. At least not in a way that was satisfactory enough that I’m able to remember it now. Eventually, many years later, she followed up by sending a letter to my mom’s house. By then, I was no longer living at home, so my brother called me and read the letter over the phone. (Weird!) I don’t remember what she said that time either. And it’s not because it wasn’t a good apology, it’s because she was too late. I had new ships. New houses. I was digging deep with other people, shoveling dirt in the air en route to what we all hope we’ll find once we reach life’s molten core—true love, support, and understanding. The kind of stuff you’ve probably shown your best friend many times over, but didn’t show her when you messed up.

So let’s circle back to my earlier question: What are you going to do? And how soon can you do it? You’re not the first person to make a mistake in a friendship. In fact, if you’re friends with anyone for long enough, you’re bound to inadvertently hurt each other in one way or another. My advice for when you hurt anyone you care about is to deliver an apology—a real one, we all know how to do them—and to deliver it as soon as you can. To reiterate, this isn’t about feminism, and it isn’t about a guy. (I bet if you’d told me his name I would have forgotten it by now, and the two of you will eventually forget it too.) It’s just about the support best friends owe each other. If you can harness some humility to give a heartfelt apology for what happened, I believe you’ll be able to make things right. I really hope you’re ready to do that soon, because you might be running out of time. And if it’s already too late, I hope you’ll be able to forgive her, and yourself, for that too.

 

Ask MR Identity by Madeline Montoya.

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