One of my close friends introduced me to a guy friend of hers recently, and we had immediate chemistry. He’s smart and quick-witted, with big green eyes, and we’re both passionate about our work and have lots in common. The catch (because there has to be one…) is that my friend who introduced us has “dibs.” To my friend, he’s the perfect guy — on paper. They are from the same hometown, are the same religion and he has a of graduate degree like she does. She has also mentioned to me a number of times that he comes from a wealthy family, and while she works now, she would like to be with someone who could amply support her when she has children. In essence, he’s her ideal man, except that in the years that they have known each other (and despite her efforts) he has made it quite clear he’s not interested in being more than friends. The guy has no idea my friend has called dibs on him, and has made it clear he would like to get to know me better. I would like to pursue the romance, but not at the expense of my friendship. Now I feel resentment toward my friend for making it clear she would be furious if we dated. Everyone involved is 30 or nearly so, and at a point where a serious relationship could become a lifetime commitment; I feel like we’re not kids anymore, and the games aren’t helping anyone be happier. So, does calling “dibs” ever stop being acceptable, and if so, how do I help my friend be happy for both of us instead of feeling betrayed? — Down on the Dibs
Your friend is being stupid and selfish and you need to evaluate whether you really want someone like her in your life. There are several different scenarios that could play out here. You could honor your friend’s call for dibs and watch helplessly as this seemingly perfect guy you have great chemistry with falls for someone else (not you, because you aren’t “allowed” to pursue him and certainly not your friend, whom he’s shown no interest in). If that happens, how do you think you’re going to feel about your friend at that point? Will keeping the friendship have been worth losing out on a potentially great (and maybe even life-long) partner? You could say “to hell with my friend” and pursue the guy despite any “dibs” that have been called. Maybe you’ll have a great relationship and your friend will see how happy and good you are together and finally come around to accepting you as a couple. Or, she may forever resent you and be jealous you got the man she really wanted (even though you know she probably never would have gotten him anyway). Maybe she’ll be so angry she’ll never speak to you again. Will losing her — someone who’s childish enough to drop a friend for that reason — be worth landing the love of your life? There’s also the possibility that you may pursue this guy, risk hurting your friend deeply, and then things don’t work out with Mr. Charming. Then what? Maybe you’re left without the guy or the girl. So what are you to do?
Here’s the thing: we all know your friend is being a childish idiot. She probably knows she’s being a childish idiot. But you pointing that out to her (tactfully, of course) and telling her how much you and this guy have hit it off doesn’t guarantee in the least that she’s going to come to her senses and quit being stupid. If she’s made it clear she’s going to be “furious” if you date this guy and you’re already feeling resentment towards her for standing in the way of your romantic happiness, there’s nothing left for you to do but consider the different outcomes and weigh your odds. The path of least resistance and the one that leads you to an outcome where your resentment is minimized and potential happiness maximized is to say this to your friend: “I know you really like Joe (let’s call him Joe for the sake of this column), and I know you feel like he’d be an ideal match for you, but the thing is, I like him, too. And he’s made it very clear he likes me and he’s interested in going out with me. Since you’re a close friend of mine and someone I love and respect, it would mean a lot to have your blessing to go out with him. But you need to know that regardless of what your opinion is of me going out with Joe, we’re all grown adults and we’re going to behave accordingly. That means no calling “dibs” on someone like he’s the shotgun seat on a road trip. If you and Joe had a romantic past together and you still had true feelings for him, that would be one thing. But you don’t. And from what I can tell, there may actually be potential for Joe and me to have a romantic future together, which is a possibility I want to pursue. You know as well as I do that meeting someone whom you have instant — and mutual — attraction and chemistry with is rare, so I hope you’ll respect that I found that with Joe and it would mean a lot to have your approval in seeing where things could go.”
Will your friend immediately throw her arms around you and tell you how happy she is? Fat chance. But you’ll have your self-respect and dignity and won’t be kicking yourself months from now because you let a potentially great guy get away over something so stupid.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.