Q. I have a friend with whom there’s a romantic history. In the beginning of COVID, I was told we couldn’t get together in person because of safety concerns due to them focusing on their ex, who was diagnosed with a serious illness.
We continued talking and texting almost daily, me believing we were helping each other through a difficult time. Eventually I found out through a third party that my friend has been in a relationship and it is serious. It felt strange not knowing this, and I calmly confronted them about it.
It didn’t go well. They denied intentionally concealing this important aspect of their life and then suggested we go out for a drink! I can understand why a person would hide a former relationship from their current relationship, but this was vice versa. Why conceal a current relationship from another person (me), all while keeping up communication? What was the end game here? This person and I have a strong friend history so the behavior is particularly painful and disappointing.
I believe their actions were unkind to both me and their current partner, and I’m finding it difficult to move on emotionally because I’ve been trying to understand their motivation. Is this overlapping? Pocketing? The fadeout? Help!
WHAT’S THEIR MOTIVATION
A. Oh dear, the terms. The dreaded dating terms!
Sometimes trendy terms are good because they help us communicate feelings. Often, though, they’re confusing — and reductive. A lot of people have written to Love Letters to say they’ve been ghosted, when really they just had a quiet breakup, with both sides fading away over time. I hear about “love bombing” frequently — we did in a letter last month — but sometimes people are referring to genuine excitement that fades over time.
For readers who don’t know, pocketing is when you keep someone in your pocket — so you don’t introduce them to family and friends. It’s a term used to describe significant others who have felt hidden. Letter writer, you’re the ex, so that’s not you. Your friend’s significant other isn’t being pocketed either, I assume, because a third party knew about them.
What is happening here? It could be that your friend is having relationship issues you know nothing about. Perhaps they want to have that drink to catch you up on what you don’t know.
The most important thing here (for me, at least) is how you feel — and you’re upset. Can your friend understand that and apologize? Will they answer questions now? Ask whether their partner knows about you. Be clear about what you need.
Also think about why this has upset you so much. It is disappointing, especially because it sounds like you do share a lot of history with this person. But is it possible you were also excited to rekindle the romance? Do you still want to be partnered with this person? The answer might be a big “no.” If you were seeking more (remember, you did mention “overlapping”), it’s OK to be disappointed on top of everything else. Take space for that reason, if you need it.
“Why conceal a current relationship from another person, all while keeping up communication?” Because other people do not have to tell you anything they believe is none of your business.
If your friend’s behavior is hurtful, you are under no obligation to remain friends with them.
I think the end game was to avoid what is happening now. They didn’t want to talk about a serious relationship with you, probably because of your romantic history. It was better (for them) that you didn’t know about their current social/love life. Now it’s going to be a big thing because you know about it. I think this is a person you can’t really be “just friends” with. It sounds like you want more, even though you didn’t say it. They probably know this too.
It seems like you thought you were in a romantic relationship with this person, but you weren’t. There is nothing to move on from. If you want to stay friends, do that. If not, don’t bother.
I keep seeing the word “friend” in your letter, but on your end it seems like way more than friendship, hence your trouble with the other party having a relationship and not revealing it to you.
Your friendship is not as strong as you thought if you had to find out from a third party that they are in a serious relationship. Just because you dated or hooked up in the past doesn’t mean they owe you anything now, and they had a right to be upset with you for confronting them about something that is none of your business. Your friend is not interested in you romantically; accept that and you will be able to move on.
Whatever this is, it’s one-sided. You built it up in your head to be more than what it was, a friendship. Just because you either dated or hooked up in the past does not mean they owe you anything now or you have a right to know about everything that is going on in their life. You move on by accepting that you misread the situation.
You have spent a sizable chunk of your previous time being a good friend to someone who only knows how to use people. It doesn’t matter what motivates them, just write them off completely and move on with your life. You were a good friend to them, they were a bad friend to you.
A couple of months distance can help you see things clearer and not with rose-colored glasses on. Sometimes NOT getting what or who you wanted is the blessing.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.