Everything I Need To Know: I Want My Buddy Back

Advice It’s time for advice, romance novel stye, with your host: me.

Dear Smart Bitch Sarah:

I saw last week you answered a question from a guy, so I thought maybe you could help me out. One of my best pals is a guy I’ve known since grade school. He’s dating this girl now, and he’s a completely different person. He used to be funny and goof off with us when we went out together, and now he’s all quiet and constantly answering his cell phone when she calls to check up on him. He never talks anymore, or makes jokes or relaxes anymore. We don’t go out that much, maybe once or twice a month, but when we do, the rest of us are fed up with him by the end of the evening because he’s no fun anymore.

How do I get my friend back?

Missing my Buddy but Not in a Gay Way

Dear Missing:

First, let me make some broad assumptions: when you guys go out, you’re not going to expensive strip clubs or chasing hookers or finding new ways to commit misdemeanors involving nudity and alcohol consumption. If you guys are real party animals, I have to say, some of my empathy will be with the girlfriend on this one. Second, are you sure there’s not something going on in his life that has him upset? Maybe his mom is ill or his job is in danger – could that be it?

Barring that, if you’re just pals who go out for a beer or a game, and suddenly your buddy is a different person and it’s all due to the girlfriend, as you say, I can understand why that would make you mad and potentially resentful of his girlfriend.

Presumably he hasn’t griped to you about what you perceive as a tightening leash on his freedom, and you aren’t trying to figure out a way to break them up with his active participation. It sounds like he’s happy with her, but you don’t like the person he is with his girlfriend.

Unfortunately, part of having adult relationships is growing up and being more than the person you’ve always been. It may be that he doesn’t want to be away from his girlfriend that much, which is especially a possibility if the relationship is new. It may be that he’s not having much fun in sports bars anymore – or it may be that something’s really wrong that has nothing to do with his girlfriend, and he’s stressed out and worried.

You can try talking to him, and telling him you noticed that he’s quiet and seems unhappy, and see if that gives him a window to clue you in on whatever might be happening in his world. Or, you could try asking him what he’d like to do one night, and doing something different that he picks. And you might even want to take one for the team and, if you’re dating someone, invite his girlfriend and yours to go out together. It might be the girlfriend isn’t as bad as you think.

Sorry to say it, but I don’t think you can get your friend back. It’s all up to him. If you try to intervene, he’ll get pissed off and she’ll be really apeshit and you’ll lose your friend. If you try to talk to him, he won’t get what you’re saying because he’s with this girl for a reason, and that reason is presumably she makes him happy. Or the sex is off the chart, in which case, he’s definitely not going to listen.

Never has the “let’s break up the happy couple!” strategy worked in a novel that I can remember. The overbearing Tycoon who tries to break his sister’s engagement to the worthless playboy might save his sister from a miserable marriage, but he’s still an overbearing assmunch whose sister will likely knee him in the balls next time he interferes in her life. Acting on the presumptuousness of assuming you know best for your friend can only bite you in the ass.

But if you do nothing, or you act like a friend, you retain the status quo and you keep your friend… as he is now. Maybe he’s annoying and maybe you might want to drop his cellphone in a bar toilet next time you’re out together, but if he’s your friend, you’ll want what makes him happy. 

If you’ve got a question that you’d like to see me tackle with Teh Powah of Romance Novels, email me (sarah @ smartbitchestrashybooks.com). I won’t reveal who you are.


General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    C.M. says:

    Maybe the changed friend has issues of his own to do with being in a relationship? Was he like this with other serious relationships (assuming there were other serious relationships)?

  2. 2
    Charlene says:

    I can see three possibilities other than those SB Sarah has suggested:

    1. You were fairweather friends. Now that he has a girlfriend, he thinks he owes you some time, but can’t disguise his impatience. If this is the case, you don’t need him around.

    2. Something financial is going on. Bankruptcy, loss of his home, loss of his job – something big that you may not know about and that he might be too ashamed of or guilty to admit, because of course guys aren’t supposed to be broke. Not only is that going to be stressful, but if he’s hiding it he’s going to be under massive pressure, especially if your outings cost him money. If this is the case, think of things the group of you can do that cost less, and try not to pry since he probably wants to keep any dignity he has now.

    3. There’s a possibility that he’s lying to his girlfriend about where he’s going and is therefore nervous that she’ll “find out” and somehow punish him. How you handle this depends on why he’s doing it: if she’s controlling and jealous you can’t do much but give him support and wait until he’s free of her, but (and this is immensely common) if he’s lying to her because he assumes she’s a controlling bitch because his mother was and he just assumes all women are the same, you need to sit him down and tell him that decent women don’t care if their boyfriends go out with the guys once a week or so, but they will dump a liar.

    4. And here be dragons. Is he going out with you less often too? Is he checking up with her not because he wants to, but because she’ll scream at him if he doesn’t? Is she isolating him from his friends and family in other ways (if you know)? Because those are hallmarks of abusive behaviour. Again, there’s not much you can do but be there for him and support him when he needs it (and give him a place to bolt to if he needs a safe place, if you can).

  3. 3
    aninsomniac says:

    Hi there.

    Before going into your friend’s behaviour, I think maybe I would like to confirm that he is indeed acting strangely. You mentioned that the ‘rest of us are fed up’, so does this mean you discussed it among yourself? If not, maybe you should talk with your other friends and confirm that he is really acting strange and it’s not just you assuming things. I am guilty of this often and that’s why I wanted to put this idea out there.

    K, hope it helps and your friend is okay.


  4. 4
    Lori says:

    My first thought was that the girlfriend doesn’t like/trust the friends and is checking up on him to make sure he’s not getting into trouble when they’re out.  I’m wondering how long this has been going on? 

    If the relationship is fairly new it may just be an adjustment thing.  The girlfriend needs to see that the guy can be trusted and the guy needs to get comfortable enough to draw better boundaries.  Annoying, but not the end of the world.  You just have to wait that out.

    It’s also possible that the girlfriend is overly jealous or possesive and the guy hates it.  If that’s the case he’ll work himself up to dumping her on his own.  You just have to stay out of it &, again, wait it out.

    However, if this has been going on for a long time you may have to accept that this is how it’s going to be and make up your mind how you feel about this new version of your friendship.

  5. 5
    Anon76 says:

    Hmmm, why do I see a Scott Baio reality show stamped all over this?

    Believe it or not, our tastes do change over the years and perhaps this bud is no longer having the kind of fun he used to when everyone gathered as a group. What once was funny, he no longer sees the humor in. True, having a new girlfriend and experiencing other things to do that she’s turned him on to may have a hand in it, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

    It’s a natural progression, a fact of life, and no one’s fault.

  6. 6
    Mina Jade says:

    Happy New Year, an even nicer year than the previous one was,

    Mina from Hungary

  7. 7
    Venus Vaughn says:

    All good suggestions and I’m not going to contradict a single one of them – certainly not from the point of romance novels.  But from the point of real life I’m going to give you this small suggestion: stay out of it.

    It is scientifically proven (and I have the degree to back it up) that friends usually know better than the persons involved whether or not the relationship is good and will work out.  In other words, Missing, you’re probably spot on in your thinking. 

    I don’t know of any science, however, that supports you saving your friend by inserting yourself into the problems.  Real life people need to make their own mistakes.  Real life people are stubborn, and don’t want anyone to tell them who they can kiss, what to do with their genitals or how to spend their leisure time.  Real life people don’t figure out their world on the knee of a sage uncle, they get out there and live it and then six months later say, “Woah!  okay then.  I won’t be doing that again.”

    As a friend, the best you can do is remain a friend.  Be open, be accepting, be there.  If your buddy really is as changed as you say, you may never get him back the way he was.  But if you stick around, you’ll probably get to have fun with whoever he becomes in the aftermath.

  8. 8
    MargotK says:

    It may simply be the case that he is madly in love with her and wants to spend all his time with her, not with his buddies.  After all, he’s sleeping with her, not you, right?  Just make sure to keep in touch but don’t be pushy.  Eventually things will calm down.

  9. 9
    Sprite says:

    I think this buddy might be the same person as my brother.  Unfortunately he’s been with his girlfriend for three years.  I keep hoping he’ll see her for the evil scheming Harlequin Mills ‘n’ Boon anti-heroine that she is, and dump her for Ms Right.

  10. 10
    hope101 says:

    What A. Banana said. 

    What’s the issue here?  That you want him to go back the way he was, or that you are concerned for his welfare?

    If it’s the former, then aren’t you essentially acting the same as the over-controlling GF?  (Assuming that’s actually what’s going on here.)  Prescribing a way he must “be” when he’s with you to have fun actually places pressure on him at the time he might need your support the most.  Ironically, it makes it less likely that he will be able to let loose anyway, and be that man that you are missing.

    If you’re concerned for his welfare, don’t you want to provide a counterpoint to his GF’s example?  You are far more likely to influence him if he has a model of a caring relationship that doesn’t need to be fed with constant assurance or attention to thrive.  But be as needy and demanding as she is, and you’ll lose him for sure.  In the end, you just don’t have the body parts to be able to compete.

  11. 11
    amy lane says:

    Dude—from experience, here—if you do meet her, and she really is a controlling bitch with horrible people skills whose only benefit in a relationship is removable teeth, DON’T SAY ANYTHING.  Don’t complain about her to him, don’t complain about her to other people (because that shit comes back to bite you in the ass) don’t do anything to indicate that you think she’s a skank-ho who needs to go back to the sewer and fish for another sucker. 

    Be there for your friend, listen, make sure there’s not something else in his life that’s making him act this way, and hope that eventually, he will find the cabinet wherein she keeps his testicles, reattach and beat a hasty retreat to sleep on your couch and wonder what in the hell he was thinking in the first place. 

    Eventually my brother came to his senses, I’m sure your buddy will too.

  12. 12
    --E says:

    I second Amy Lane’s advice above.

    If your friend is being sucked in by a clingy, demanding girlfriend (oh, have I seen that before!), then you need to stand by him, not abandon him. Don’t try to break them up. Demonstrate that you are a loyal friend who will be there when he needs someone to talk to, or just someone to get out with for a while.

    If you turn it into a me-vs-her contest, you will lose, because you are not giving your friend hummers. The best you can do is wait it out. Here’s hoping she doesn’t get pregnant.

  13. 13
    Denni says:

    What Amy said, and great advice from Sarah.

    As long as he’s voluntarily in a non-abusive relationship, there’s not much you can do except be a friend.  If you haven’t done so already, consider Sarah’s advice on meeting the girlfriend…she may be intimidated by his long time friends and therefore acting possessive.  Making friends could ease the situation.

    Good luck, and Happy New Year.

  14. 14
    Jaime says:

    Here’s a strange idea:  Plan a couples date, or group event that a wide variety of people would want to go to.  (Before you turn up your nose thinking Chili’s and chick flicks, our last group outing was the Lynyrd Skynyrd/ Kid Rock/ Reverend Run concert.)  Maybe she’s just really shy and he’s having a hard time getting her to mix with what sounds like a well established group of friends.  Or maybe, like me, she’s really REALLY busy and needs more than 1-2 days to adjust her schedule so some long range plans would help bring her into the fold.  Either way, you could either confirm your suspicions and start laying your best Wiley Coyote plans or you may find a new friend for the new year.

  15. 15
    Honeywell says:

    I was actually in the weird position of being the “evil new girlfriend” with some of my fiances friends.  The truth was he was tired of drinking a 12 pack and hanging with the guys every night of the week.  “I’m getting too old for that crap.  I’d rather be with you.” was his response when I’d ask why he wasn’t going over so and so’s house. 

    I don’t have any clue if that’s what’s going on in your situation but sometimes what a guy wants out of life changes.  And that’s why ends up with the evil new girlfriend, he changed, not that she changed him.

  16. 16
    Gail says:

    Yeah, I’m catching up and running late.

    My son has a girlfriend who calls him every hour or so. But she is not a controlling, jealous bitch. She is a sweet girl who apparently sees the cell phone as another part of her body. She’s from a family of Very Connected females (she has a dad who is still married to her mom, but he’s the only male in the bunch) who talk to each other numerous times every day—even though her Mom is now living in England. Which is on the other side of the ocean from where she is. It’s just the way she’s been raised, to check in with everybody in the family pretty much every step of the way. She likes to talk, to connect, and she’s not real good about waiting til the boy finishes what he’s doing and calling back.

    But if he’s busy and needs to call her back later, or if he turns off the phone and just doesn’t answer, she doesn’t get mad, nor does she mind if he goes out with the boys. She’ll go out with the girls. And when he answers her calls, he’s very sweet with her. I admire it, because I’m not sure I could be. (I’m not nearly as communicative as these girls are… I like a little more space.) They’re working out their own relationship rhythm, and seem to be doing pretty well with it, since they’re still together after more than a year.

    Sometimes frequent phone calls don’t mean jealousy and checking up. Sometimes it’s just… well, boredom. (I have a friend whose daughter calls her Every Day from college whenever she gets bored. It drives my friend crazy.) I think they’re helping each other grow up a little and develop wider interests. She’s certainly learning a lot about male humor and behavior, from the way my two sons act together—the insults and wrestling and such. (It’s like they’re 7 and 2, not 27 and 22…typical males.)

    Anyway—everyone else has given good advice. People do eventually figure out if someone is bad for them. But sometimes, stuff that would drive You crazy doesn’t bother your friends. That’s why she’s his girlfriend, not yours. Maybe she is controlling, or needy, or high maintenance, or just bored. But he’s the one who has to figure out what he wants.

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