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SocietyApril 11, 2024

Help Me Hera: I set up two of my closest friends and bitterly regret it


Their relationship strikes me as unhealthy and it’s making me angry. What should I do?

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Dear Hera,

A few months ago, I set up two of my closest friends thinking that they would hit it off. And so they did. They got along straight away and it wasn’t long before they became official, and definitely not long until they said their first “I love you” to one another. And now, nearly five months later, they are attached at the hip and know no boundaries within the jurisdiction of their relationship. This, naturally, has come to concern me.

They’ve been doing long-distance since they started dating, so my housemate’s boyfriend often stays over at our house. But when they’re together, they coop themselves up in my housemate’s bedroom and rarely ever leave. Their attachment has reached the point of my housemate’s boyfriend now following him to class and attending his lectures with him even though he doesn’t go to our university nor do they study the same subject. There is also a concerning level of co-dependency between them as they’ve stated before that they can’t function properly without each other despite the fact that they’ve only been dating for less than half a year. 

I can feel myself growing angry each time I see them together because I don’t think their relationship is healthy, and quite frankly, I think my housemate’s partner is possessive and overprotective at times. My friendship with his partner has deteriorated, too, as he’s also treated me poorly since they got together and despite his countless apologies, he continues to do the same things that upset me.

I’m a little unsure what the best course of action to take would be as I don’t want to become bitter from this, but my housemate can sometimes have a hard time with confrontation and doesn’t always understand my feelings or criticisms of him, especially when it comes to his relationship so I’m worried about how to share my concerns with him. Therefore, any guidance or help would be fully appreciated!


An Overly Concerned Control Freak Friend

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Dear Overly Concerned Control Freak Friend,

You sound like you’re suffering from a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.”

I don’t want this letter to sound unduly harsh. It was a kind and righteous thing you did! After all, who doesn’t want their best friends to find love? You probably had visions of the three of you in an idyllic summer montage, paddling swan boats across a crystalline lake. Like Dr Frankenstein, you too had a dream of creating something powerful and beautiful. Only your plan worked a little too well. Now your creation is out of your control, lumbering across the ice towards freedom. 

You say you’re concerned about the health of your friend’s relationship. But while many would consider attending your new boyfriend’s History of Roman Architecture lectures a little OTT, I wouldn’t say it was necessarily unhealthy. Especially if they’re in a long-distance relationship, and have only been together five months. Similarly, the occasional hyperbolic joke about being unable to function without one another can just as easily be read as a harmless instance of romantic self-mythologising as a serious cause for concern. 

There is no precise algorithm for what a healthy relationship looks like. It’s a constantly evolving and often opaque process that resists easy “rule of thumb” metrics, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise has TikTok brain. As long as the two of them are happy and nobody’s getting hurt, it’s essentially none of your business. Being young and in love is all about making grandiose romantic gestures, openly weeping on public transport and learning to trust your gut. I once moved cities with a partner after being together just a few months, an admittedly deranged thing to do, but the risk was part of the appeal. Everyone makes mistakes, but those mistakes are usually instructive – not to mention an enormous amount of fun – and I’d be wary of reading any serious romantic pathology into sickening displays of mutual affection. 

You ask how to make your concerns heard, but I think you need to take a step back here. The Rubicon, whatever the Rubicon is, has been well and truly crossed. Just because you played matchmaker, doesn’t mean you have any ongoing stakes in how their relationship plays out. I sense that the genuine concern you have about whether or not they’re a good match is complicated by the hurt you must be feeling. 

I felt sad for you reading this letter! I don’t blame you for feeling abandoned. Two people newly in love can be brutally oblivious to the world around them. You were probably hoping their romance would mean greater mutual camaraderie, cosy dinner parties and a chance to give a heartfelt toast at their wedding. Instead, it left you feeling like a third wheel in your own house. Perhaps your friends should have worked harder to include you and spent less time hiding in their bedroom. 

On the other hand, you admit you’re having difficulty controlling your anger towards them, and I’m sure they can sense that. You say your flatmate has a hard time with confrontation and understanding your criticisms, and has issued “countless apologies”, which makes me think perhaps you’re making this situation a lot more combative than it needs to be. 

Expressing concern for a friend’s relationship is a hard thing to do at the best of times, even when their partner is objectively a horrible person. If you’re genuinely worried about their relationship dynamics, you can always ask leading questions like, “So how did you feel when Grant burned the model Parthenon you worked so hard on?” But being overly judgemental isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you’ve already told them you’re worried and they haven’t heeded your advice, you’ve done all you can. Trying to hammer the message home will only make them reluctant to confide in you and put further strain on your friendships. 

You could tell them both you’re feeling left out and offer to make them dinner or invite them to the opera. But they might be reluctant to accept your invitation if they feel like their relationship is being intensely scrutinised.  

My advice is to adjust your expectations. If they’re making a mistake, it’s theirs to make. If living with them is causing you too much stress, you might want to consider moving out. 

Chances are they won’t be together forever. But you never know. Often it’s the couples you most want to see broken up that seem to persist. You’ve spoken up and it hasn’t worked, so all that’s left for you to do is to forever hold your peace. 

Best of luck, 


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