One Question Quiz
“Have you tried talking to your wife about this?”
“Have you tried talking to your wife about this?”

SocietyMay 2, 2024

Help Me Hera: My friend’s boyfriend Steve is always, always, always around

“Have you tried talking to your wife about this?”
“Have you tried talking to your wife about this?”

He’s fine but it feels like I’m losing a friend and it’s making me bitter. How do I say ‘enough is enough’? 

Want Hera’s help? Email your problem to

Hey Hera,

I’ve recently moved in with a girlfriend, her partner Steve, and his friend. We all live in a lovely little house.

Over the past three months of living there, I don’t think I’ve had one conversation with my girlfriend, Jane, without Steve being present. Whenever we (myself and others in the wider friend group) ask her to hang out, either she says no or asks if Steve can come.

Of course, when she asks if her partner can come, we say yes; he’s a lovely guy. But here’s an example of how it goes down, to put it in perspective. A mate was having his birthday, and Jane asked if Steve could come. Of course, he can. But they then proceeded to sit in a bedroom for the entire birthday just talking to one another, and they left by 9pm.

Now, you may be thinking, maybe she’s just in love. However, she’s recently expressed that she gets “FOMO” when she isn’t invited to things. But when we invite her, she never accepts, so everyone’s stopped inviting her. Everyone knows she’ll never come, and if she does, Steve will be there too.

It feels like I’m losing a friend, and it’s making me bitter. I don’t know how to handle this: Jane says she feels she is being left out, but she’s not; she is just always with Steve. He’s also losing friends. 

Am I obliged to say something? Or do I just let them be? Everything is exacerbated because we live together, but I just want my friend back. What should I do?


My Kingdom for a Steve-free Day

A line of fluorescent green card suit symbols – hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades

Dear Kingdom,

I hate getting letters like this because it means giving advice I’d never follow. It makes me feel like the CEO of Exxon Mobil, handing out compostable trophies at a school science fair. It’s not that I’m concerned about being a hypocrite. But recently I’ve begun to think the conventional wisdom of relationship advice is fundamentally misguided. 

If you had to distil contemporary advice-giving to its smallest constituent part, you’d probably be left with the word “communicate”. People love telling other people to communicate. Read any comment thread on r/relationships, and you’ll find someone with an avatar of a monkey crushing a watermelon saying, “Have you tried talking to your wife about this?”

OK, Esther Perel. But what if my wife is a massive bitch? What if, by naming the issue prematurely, you accidentally lend it narrative weight, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? 

It’s risky to take advice from Americans. They inhabit a different psychic reality from us. You can’t just go around telling New Zealanders to communicate. It’s like buying a Russian dissident a gratitude journal. Nine times out of ten, if you follow American advice in a New Zealand context, you’ll have a perfectly polite and respectful conversation resulting in an unspoken lifelong grudge that will haunt you till your grave.

Conventional wisdom says you can’t expect to get what you want unless you openly express your needs. But where’s the subtlety? Where’s the glamour? Where’s the emotional prestige in finding a way to get exactly what you want without the indignity of having to ask? I sometimes feel we, as a society, don’t respect the keen emotional intelligence and ancient Protestant wisdom inherent in sweeping things under the rug. 

Alright. I’m being glib. But as a general strategy, I’ve had more success with patience than earnest self-disclosure. Healthy communication is a scam and I’m sick of having to pretend it’s the right thing to do, even when it’s objectively the right thing to do. So let’s split this advice into three parts. 

First of all: I agree your problem is annoying. But is it actually a problem? 

Some people would say it’s unhealthy to spend all your time with your partner. But ultimately it’s none of your business. I might be more concerned if it sounded like their inseparability stemmed from jealousy or control issues, but it sounds like they just want to spend all their time together. This may be revolting, but it’s not pathological. Still, I’m of the general opinion it’s good for people in relationships to have time alone with their friends, even against their will. 


Sit down with your friend, put on the soundtrack to Steel Magnolias and have a heart-to-heart. Tell her how much her friendship means to you. All those long bygone days, eating salads and laughing at the sunset. Tell her you’ve missed hanging out one-on-one.

Don’t complain about Steve or draw undue attention to the time they’re spending together. Whatever you do, don’t bring up the fact you’ve been discussing the issue with your other friends and they all 100%  agree with you. She already sounds like she’s feeling defensive and left out. The best way to win her over is to approach this conversation not as a criticism, but as an earnest bid for reconnection. 


Your problem is exponentially complicated by the fact you all live together. It’s much harder to exclude someone from your hangouts when you all share an address. Luckily, social convention is in your favour. By far the easiest way to get a Steve-free day is to reinstate the longstanding heterofascist convention of a “girl’s night out.”

You and your other female friends (or alternatively, the girls, gays and conscientious objectors) can enforce a NO PARTNERS ALLOWED rule. Jane may refuse to come. But it’s an easy solution to a complicated problem. 


These days, I’m all about biding my time. Turns out 90% of non-medical problems go away if you ignore them long enough. Either Steve and Jane will eventually break up, or you can wait around for the honeymoon phase to end, and hope time will make them less codependent. 

Of course, maybe this is just how things are from now on. I hate to break it to you, but as you get older, this situation becomes increasingly common. People’s partners and kids are package deals. Your friendships will necessarily change and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

This can be sad. But there’s also an upside, which is, sometimes your friends fall in love with extremely interesting and charming people, and instead of losing a friend to heterosexual monogamy, you get a second friend out of the bargain. And if those two friends reproduce, the sky’s the limit. 

Don’t give up on her yet. Friendships have natural ebbs and flows. While your situation is objectively annoying, sometimes a little patience is as good as a kick in the teeth. Keep inviting her to things, even if she doesn’t come. Wait her out, like a besieged winter castle with slowly dwindling resources. Chances are, she’ll come around eventually.

And if she doesn’t? If being her friend means never having another Steveless potluck or road trip? The way I see it, you have two options. Either you can have an emotionally fraught and possibly friendship-ending conversation. Or you can find a way to embrace Steve. Celebrate Steve. Buy a one-way ticket to Steve, Arkansas and never look back. 

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