I am writing in hopes that you can give me some advice on how to help my best friend. She has a toxic behavior that I would like to help her solve. It actually has no bearing on me whatsoever, save for the fact that I am always left to pick up the pieces from her failed relationships.
My friend has cheated in every relationship that she has ever been in. It does not matter if she is dating a man or a woman, she seems to always find herself in a situation where something she is doing is considered cheating by her current partner. It has gotten to the point that I will never consider getting close to any of her partners because I would start to become friends with them, and then they would hate me for being her friend. I get it, their heart is broken but it’s not my fault. I try to discourage this behavior in her, and help support her in monogamy but it never seems to work out.
I am trying to support her because she feels doomed and that she will never find a lasting relationship if she can’t break this cycle of behavior. I have told her many times that I find cheating to be terrible, but she can’t seem to help herself. I won’t give up on the friendship but I am at the point where I don’t want to hear about her romantic life anymore because it always seems to be just another failure.
I don’t know about any trauma in her life, she has a great job, and in every other aspect of her life seems to have herself together. Why does she have so many issues in this part of her life? She recently was just broken up with by another guy because she was sending flirty texts to a guy that happened to know her boyfriend. I am just at the end of my rope and I want what Is best for her.
— Stressed Bestie
Hey there bestie. This is an interesting situation you have gotten yourself into, and there are quite a few parts of your letter that we want to pick apart.
First, you are a really good friend. It takes a lot of emotional labor to be there for someone that requires so much of it. So, let’s discuss why this is taking so much labor from you. You have the correct thought that cheating is wrong. We completely agree. When you are cheating you are being dishonest with your partner, you are not giving them all of the information that they need in order to continue in the relationship, and you probably should not be partnered with someone that you do not feel that you can be totally transparent with.
It’s pretty apparent to us that you see monogamy as THE way for two people to be partnered. That’s not always the case. There are a few situations where we might be wrong in the advice we are about to give. For example, if your friend is only cheating when she is drinking or high, she may need to look at those situations in her life before she even starts thinking about another relationship. However, you state that she is successful in all other aspects of her life, so we think it may be that she is just not cut out for monogamy. If it were substances that were causing the issue, we firmly believe that it would be manifesting problems in everything else that she is doing.
We think that the problem may be that your friend has never looked for a world outside of monogamy. We think that it is interesting that you use the phrase “considered cheating.” That is an interesting way to phrase things. Cheating can be defined so many ways. For some of us we have been in relationships where a flirty text is cheating, and others where our partner considered a smile a hug to be the step too far. There is another option for your friend that we want to discuss: ethical non-monogamy.
At its core, ethical non-monogamy sounds like cheating, but it’s actually the furthest thing from it. It takes more commitment to be in a relationship that offers a chance for people that do not want to, or simply don’t find it in them to commit to one partner.
Ethical non-monogamy is an umbrella term that covers a lot of different relationship dynamics. One of these is polyamory. This is the concept that it is possible to love more than one person at a time. This is probably the highest level of commitment that a person could enter into. You are not just committing emotionally to one person, but multiple people.
One of the other types of relationships that this term covers is open relationship. This would be where you are considered committed to one person emotionally, but able to have sexual activity with others that is not part of the main relationship. This could also apply to people that are committed to living together but having sexual and emotional relationships outside of the normalcy of standard committed communication.
The point of ethical non-monogamy is that we look at the three sides of most relationships. Physical/sexual, emotional, and romantic. None of these three aspects of an interpersonal relationship have to be filled by only one human. If you decide that this is something that is satisfying to you, we encourage you to explore that! We are very happy that you are pleased by one person enough that you do not need anything from anyone else. We aren’t people that are able to do that.
Even if we are able to get the majority of our needs satisfied by a main partner, we often find that we actually need to have a few needs satisfied by people outside of our primary relationship. Think about your girlfriends. We are willing to bet that a night out with the girls will always satisfy some of your needs as a human better than a night with your man and his boys ever will. That is because humans are complex people with difficult needs. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just a thing.
If we can offer some books for your friend, we would encourage her to read ‘The Ethical Slut’ by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton, and more importantly ‘More Than Two’ by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux. These are a wonderful guide into the world of navigating relationships that involve more than just two humans.
Cheers bestie, we hope that you can maybe read these books as well, and try to find a little more understanding for the urges of your friend.
The Alaskans are a group of humans that love life, love love, and have been hurt by love. If you have any questions for them, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org