Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I'm in a weird situation. My girlfriend and I have been together for several years. When we first met, we had a lot of our own friends. But as time has gone on, we have mainly hung out with the same group of people, so now we pretty much share the same group of friends. This is fine with me. I plan to be with my girl for years to come, and we agree we're on track to probably get married.
The problem is with another couple in our group. We'll call them Mickey and Minnie. Mickey and Minnie started dating about when we did, so of all the other friends, we hang with them the most. I have known Mickey since high school. I introduced my girlfriend to Minnie and they became really tight right away. But things have gone bad. Mickey just got caught cheating on Minnie. And it turns out he was sleeping with this other girl for the last year. Mickey and Minnie have broken up, and he is now seeing the new girl. This all happened in the last couple weeks.
Now my girlfriend wants nothing to do with Mickey. She says we can hang out with Minnie, "the victim," but not Mickey, because he's a cheater and liar and insensitive, etc. When I tried to explain that Mickey is my friend, one of my oldest friends, and I need to be there for him too, she completely lost it and accused me of sympathizing with him. We had a huge fight and still haven't found a way to agree on what to do. I don't want to cut off my friendship with Mickey, but I don't want to make my girlfriend angry, either. Help?
Wanda: Your girlfriend is right about a few things: Mickey did cheat, he did lie and jumping into a relationship within days of getting out of a three-year relationship could indeed be translated as "insensitive." But I have to wonder, had it been flipped and had Minnie been the one with a side project and secret life, would your woman be so quick to abandon the friendship and throw her support behind poor Mickey?
It's normal to feel a bit betrayed when we find out our friends haven't behaved up to par, and it's normal to feel protective of our besties when they've been hurt and trampled on. Your girlfriend sounds like an incredibly loyal, faithful friend who is highly empathetic and sensitive. None of these are bad traits and in fact can make her a wonderful partner to you. In the short-term, though, they are also helping make a complex situation additionally frustrating and murky.
Tell your girlfriend that by supporting Mickey, you aren't endorsing his bad behavior. In fact, if anything, it's the opposite. You're just as disappointed in his actions as she is. Rather than abandon him, you need to help him figure out why he let himself drift into a life defined by deception.
Also, best you both keep this in mind: No one really knows what goes on in a relationship except the two people who are in one. Happy people don't cheat. That's not to blame Minnie. That is to say, breakups and broken-down relationships are rarely a matter of "good guy" versus "bad guy." Surely there's more to this situation than either of you will ever know. The best you can do is continue to stay true to your morals and instincts and be a good friend.
Wayne: Mickey, Minnie and Goofy. I'm not surprised in the slightest to hear that this group is engaged in some childish behavior. Cheating. Fighting. Picking sides. What, Donald Duck didn't want any of this fun?
Look, adult friendships aren't always cut from fairy tales. In fact, much like finding the perfect life partner, landing a great lifetime friend is darn near impossible. Adult friends meet their own partners and fall off the radar. Adult friends move away to pursue their careers. Adult friends get drunk and say mean things. Adult friends cheat on their partners, sometimes with someone else's partner.
Right now, it's important for you and your girlfriend to act like grown-ups and worry about your friendship first. Emotions are high right now, so try to stay above all the outside noise, take a step back from the dramas your friends have brought into your lives, and instead talk about the importance of you two being solid partners to one another.
Commit to communicating without conversations elevating to "losing it" levels. Talk about the importance of being unified in making big decisions, like, um, embracing and ostracizing people you care deeply about. And celebrate the great things you've already built together as a couple in a world where relationships go up in flames all the time.
By realizing that the most important friendship is the one between you two, your relationship will be stronger and you'll have clarity and boundaries in your other friendships.
Besides, in a few years when you and your now-wife have busy careers, a big mortgage, bunch of kids, a couple dogs and absolutely no time for friends or other people's drama, you'll laugh about how ridiculous you were to even fight over this mess.
Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.