My boyfriend's drugged-out friend is causing trouble in our relationship.

Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
Aug. 24 2010 10:00 AM

Is My Boyfriend's Drugged-Out Buddy a Bad Influence?

They've been friends since high school, but I want him out of our lives.

Illustration by Jason Raish. Click image to expand.

  Dear Friend or Foe,

Lucinda Rosenfeld Lucinda Rosenfeld

Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.

"Jack," my boyfriend of five years, just finished his graduate degree, while "Dan," his best friend since high school, dropped out of art school and now supports himself primarily by selling drugs (which he also abuses). Until recently, Dan was living a few hours away. But a year ago, while I was traveling, Jack told me that Dan was trying to better himself—a project he attempts yearly—and wanted to move to our city to get a "fresh start." Jack asked if, while I was gone, Dan could stay at our place. I agreed, provided that no drugs came into our home and Dan knew that he had to be out by the time I got back.

When I returned a month later, the room Dan was staying in was so dirty it was infested with insects. Oh, and he was still there. Dan had only been able to find part-time work, so he hadn't gotten his own apartment. Plus, his girlfriend was now staying with him. Jack and I told them they needed to find another place to stay by the end of the week. Dan flew into a violent rage and stormed out, then called the next day threatening to kill himself. Jack was incredibly upset and felt responsible, but he convinced Dan to check himself into an in-patient substance-abuse program. Dan  lasted only three days, saying it wasn't for him. I told Jack I didn't think the relationship between the two of them was healthy, and that Dan was not someone I felt comfortable around—or would want involved in the lives of my children. Jack agreed to limit contact.

That lasted a few months—until Dan moved cross-country, was arrested (for, among other things, a gun charge), and called Jack for advice. For months, Jack would only admit they'd been talking when I asked directly. Now they are back to being best friends. Moreover, after bouncing around, Dan has ended up in the city we plan to move to, living in the dorm room of his college-age girlfriend and still using. What should I do? I don't feel right giving my boyfriend an ultimatum. And I appreciate that Dan has had a difficult life with no family support. But he's had opportunities to receive help and hasn't taken them. I also feel threatened by him and worry about his influence on Jack. To be honest, I'm not sure I want to marry him if Dan is a part of his life. Recently, I mentioned to Jack that I was disgusted by prostitutes at bachelor parties, and Jack said there would probably be one at his, since Dan would order one and he "wouldn't be able to stop him."

Sincerely,
My Boyfriend's BFF Is a Bad Influence

Dear MBBFFIABI,

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Dan sounds like a disaster area—agreed. But while you assert that he's a bad influence on your guy, other than the possibility of him booking hookers for Jack's bachelor party, I don't see any direct evidence. Yes, Jack let him stay in your apartment while you were away and apparently failed to notice the cockroaches aggregating near his sock collection. But it's not as if, with Dan's help, Jack has turned into a transient, suicidal, underage-girl-dating drug addict himself. In fact, apart from this issue, he sounds fully committed to making you happy and to your future together.

It sounds as if Dan and Jack's relationship has more to do with one old friend looking out for another than two guys bent on raising hell. I would go so far as to say it speaks well of your boyfriend that he feels so protective of someone as messed up as Dan. Nor is it Dan's fault that you two are moving to the city he's currently scoring in. In short, I don't see that it's your right to tell your husband with whom he can associate, especially since his and Dan's friendship predates you two.

What you can insist on, however, is that Jack refrain from bringing Dan to your new home. Drugs are one thing. Potentially violent, unstable people are quite another. (I'd be wary, too.) But after you make your point, stop complaining and let it go. You don't want to let this issue drive you and your boyfriend apart. Already, you've put Jack in a position where he feels compelled to lie to you. That's not a good pattern to establish. As for Jack's bachelor party, why don't you decide if you actually want to marry the guy before you start worrying about what happens in Vegas? In my book, husbands are allowed to have at least one awful friend. I've never heard of anyone deciding not to marry the man (or woman) they love because of the platonic company he or she keeps.

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

I've been best friends with "Jenna" since our freshman dorm days, seven years ago. Even though we now live 1,000 miles away from each other, we still communicate multiple times a week via e-mail, phone calls, Facebook, and texts, and we see each other several times a year. Six weeks ago, my father suffered seizures, and a brain tumor was found. The experience has been scary and stressful. I called Jenna right away and leaned on her for support. Initially, she was there for me and checking up regularly. A month ago, I called to update her on my dad's coming surgery, and she texted back saying she was busy with her boyfriend and would call early that week. I haven't heard from her since. (A side note: When I met the boyfriend, I found him rude and less than impressive; he's also broken up with Jenna three times, but she keeps going back. So it's adding insult to injury that he's apparently more important to her than her best friend is.)

My family recently found out that the tumor was late-stage cancer, another blow, which Jenna now has no idea about. I know if the roles were reversed, I'd be checking up daily and probably planning a visit. Should I call her and tell her how I feel? I fear that if she doesn't show any remorse, I might have to end this friendship. Is that too harsh, or this event a very telling one? I feel very hurt—and can't help but wonder if in the face of a crisis, Jenna's true colors are appearing.

Sincerely,
My BFF Is MIA