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You Asked: How Do I Deal With his Touchy-Feely-Flirty Friend?

DearSugar --

My boyfriend is 29 and I'm 31, and we have been together for 3 years now. We each have lots of friends of both sexes, and he is close with many friends he grew up with. But there's this one friend in particular, I will call her Teresa. She and my boyfriend have known each other for over 14 years -- she's a nice girl, appears harmless. Years ago, while he was dating someone else, they both fooled around, but did not have sex.

Teresa is married and has been for a few years, but I get the sense that she is not over my boyfriend. She is very touchy-feely with him and very flirtatious. When the four of us go out, it's as if I'm not there. She talks without making eye contact with me. About 5 years ago, my boyfriend had a birthday party for his ex-wife, and Teresa and her boyfriend (now husband) were there. Later that night a bunch of them got into the hot tub. My boyfriend told me that Teresa was stroking him under the water, when her boyfriend/husband wasn't looking.

We have had talks about it, and he has assured me that nothing would ever happen and that I shouldn't feel so insecure. I just don't trust her, and wondered if I should talk to her about my concerns or if I should just learn to deal with it. But how do I deal with her flirtatiousness? -- Uncomfortable Claire

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

Dear Uncomfortable Claire --

A few things struck me right away when I read your email: 1) It doesn't seem wise to trust Teresa because her behavior doesn't appear trustworthy, 2) I'm glad your boyfriend isn't hiding incidents with her from you, though I hope he delivers the details respectfully, 3) your boyfriend thinks the problem here is your insecurity, and 4) if I'm reading the timeline right, the last outrageously untoward incident involving Teresa happened between 3 to 5 years ago.

I think it's always a balancing act when dealing with someone whose behavior, sensitivity level and ethical center seem pretty far afield from our own. Add to that natural fears or worries, provocation, and intimacy, and the challenges multiply. I understand Teresa is your boyfriend's old friend, but that doesn't mean you're obligated to double date, and it doesn't mean her behavior should go unaddressed. I'm not sure everyone will be in agreement with me on this, but perhaps these suggestions will help.

Limit your time and exposure with her. Sit down with your boyfriend and clearly express to him that your feelings are legitimate and have a basis in external reality. His feelings about your feelings are not the subject of the conversation. Be sure to express that you trust him; explain that your difficulty is with her behavior, not his fidelity. Sure you're fearful, worried and frustrated, but he'd be feeling the same way if the tables were turned. And he wouldn't appreciate it if you minimized his experience or blamed him for his difficult feelings. Then, Uncomfortable Claire, pull your focus away from Teresa and keep it on things that matter to you, feed you, and improve the quality of your life.

Should Teresa's flirtatiousness, social rudeness or questionable touching continue or escalate -- if it's an active, current pattern -- sit down with your boyfriend again. She is his friend, after all, and I believe he is the one who should address the matter with her. Tell him it would mean a great deal to you if he would talk with her, set new expectations for her behavior, and make his boundaries -- and yours -- very clear for Teresa. I think that would be a constructive, loving, and helpful thing for him to do in these circumstances.


Join The Conversation
lickety-split lickety-split 10 years
how about this, start taking pix at all your get togethers. pix of everything, the food, the people, etc. make a little scrap book of the pix and have them out on your coffee table next time ho-bag and her husband come over :) when hubby sees the pix, (her hand on his knee, her whispering in his ear, her staring a hole in him), that will be the end of it. if you can get them in the back ground it would be better than them being the "focus" of the pix. sort of like "oh, i didn't even see that". i mention this because when we got the proofs from our wedding there was a guy that was busted this way. i was so busy looking at the wedding party that i didn't even notice my girl friends douche bf hitting on women in the background until she pointed it out.
Marci Marci 10 years
I still think it's up to Claire's boyfriend to tell Theresa to knock it off. He's the one she's touching and playing up to, and he must be aware of it. If he's not telling her to stop it's because he doesn't really want her to.
smith3 smith3 10 years
I think the problem with talking to Teresa could be that it will make Claire look insecure and threatened - and I guess if I were in the same situation I'd rather present myself as comfortable, trusting, and oblivious to another woman's petty attempts to flirt with a man who doesn't want her. But if Claire can limit the time she and her boyfriend spend with such an obnoxious woman that's got to be good! And at least he did tell her about the stroking - that suggests he can be trusted.
DearSugar DearSugar 10 years
Ladies: I HEAR you about the intense desire to talk with Teresa directly. Trust me, I hear you. Could I, would I, take my own advice? I finally decided, when thinking about the welfare of Claire and her relationship, that if Teresa were reasonable and reachable, this probably wouldn't be happening; therefore, confronting her might be like kerosene on a fire. The urge is great but the payoff could be terrible. I honestly believe this problem is really her husband's problem, and Claire is shouldering the consequences of his problem. Just didn't want you to think for a minute that I didn't or can't relate to the need for a little summit talk. Alas, it didn't seem that would be effective, and sometimes my choice is between helping to make the situation better and helping to make the person feel better, know what I mean? I frequently find the first choice leads to better long-term results. But there are always startling & interesting exceptions!
Romai Romai 10 years
I would have a hard time not saying anything to her directly either, but it is probably best to talking to your boyfriend and then let him handle it. I agree with DearSugar.
Trixie6 Trixie6 10 years
LizaToad - I'm with you. I would have a very hard time not calling her out. I'd simply ask her why she doesn't look at me when she's talking. I'm sure she's aware of her behavior, but maybe she's jealous of you & your relationship & she's trying to assert herself to show you that she's known/had a relationship with your boyfriend longer than you have. Maybe you need to put her in her place, firmly but gently, and she'll lighten up.
L7amiguita L7amiguita 10 years
I agree with grace violet. Was he married when this hot tub incident occured? I would find it very odd if he did not say something to her about this if he was married. Obviously her behavior is inappropriate, so I am just wondering why it even came to the point that you need to tell your boyfriend that it is wrong. Very insensitive for him to allow her to do this, especially when you are there. I would take a step back and really look at the situation. Is he reciprocating these actions? Is he making it absolutely clear that he is NOT interested in her? Just pay attention to his actions...they will say a lot about him. I hope everything works out for you :)
hrhdiana hrhdiana 10 years
I think I would have a very hard time restraining myself from telling Teresa exactly what I thought of her behavior, in front of her husband. But ultimately for any change to occur, its gonna have to come from your boyfriend.
grace-violet grace-violet 10 years
Was your boyfriend married at the time of the underwater stroking incident? If so, why did he allow it to happen at the time? If he didn't like attention from her he would have set a clear boundary a long time ago.
LizaToad LizaToad 10 years
i have to say, you guys are all so much more mature than i am! i would have cut her out the second she made me feel uncomfortable... but on the otherhand, my bf and i met young and so we don't have many 'seperate' friends.
Marci Marci 10 years
We have all had a Theresa in our lives, I think. What is it with those women? Dear hits the nail on the head here. It's not your place to get into any discussion with Theresa, and limit the time spent with her as much as possible. And it really is up to your boyfriend to put a stop to this; which he can if he wants to.
grl-in-the-world grl-in-the-world 10 years
Dear is right. It's not up to you to talk to this girl about how inappropriate she is regarding your man. I can see why it would bother you though! I don't mind it if a stranger flirts with my boyfriend, because I'm just proud he's such a cutie, if somone who knew he was taken flirted with him, that would be a different story! If she is still being too touchy-feely with him than get your boyfriend to speak with her. He can tell her how uncomfortable it makes him feel now that he's in a serious relationship. It's also good to tell your boyfriend how you trust him...just not her! Tell him how you don't mind him having female friends, just not ones that stroke him arm when they're talking to him, etc. I would also try to limit the time you and the boyfriend spend with her, and always make sure her husband is there too, maybe she's less obvious when he's around?
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