The Case of the Deadbeat Fiancé

Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
Jan. 10 2012 6:53 AM

My Friend’s Fiancé Won’t Get a Divorce From His First Wife

He keeps making excuses, and it’s driving me crazy.

Friend_Or_Foe_standingIllo

Illustration by Jason Raish.

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.

My best friend "Amy" is living with a married man, "Gene." His wife left him five years ago for another woman.  Amy met him one year ago; they fell in love, moved in together, and are planning a wedding for the near future.  The problem is that Gene has made no move toward getting a divorce. He and his wife aren’t even officially separated. He's given Amy six ridiculous excuses over the past year to delay the divorce, and Amy has given him two ultimatums but never followed through with either of them. Amy is very insecure about her body image, and I believe she’s in love with the fact that Gene is attracted to her and adores her unconditionally. But they have no similar core values. She's Christian, he's an atheist. She's conservative, he's a raging liberal. She's money-conscious, he never files his taxes. She likes a clean house, he's a slob. 

I've been a very good listener over the past year and I've given advice when asked. But at this point the whole thing is driving me crazy. Almost no one else close to her knows that the guy is still married. So I feel like the grumpy single friend (even though I’m not) any time I express any concerns over their relationship. Would I be overstepping boundaries if I talked to Gene privately and told him that he needs to man up and get a divorce before planning a life with my BFF?

Sincerely,
Concerned Best Friend

Dear CBF,

I think you’re over-involved, need to butt out, and spend the extra energy learning how to knit or skydive. That, or seek out a long-term attraction to your own unlikely opposite. You’ve already expressed your concern to Amy and also your opinion that Gene ought to finalize his divorce before he starts interviewing caterers. Now it’s up to her to hold him to his promise. Most likely, the guy is well intentioned and absolutely means to get a divorce—just as he’s been meaning to pay Uncle Sam and clean his bathroom. Which is to say, based on the evidence presented, Gene’s main fault seems to be that he has a little problem getting things done. If your friend does finally haul him to the altar, no doubt the behavior will continue. He won’t ever quite find the time to mow the lawn or change the fire alarm batteries (or buy milk). But again, that will be Amy’s cross to bear.

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The other possibility is that he’s still humiliated that his wife dumped him for a chick, and he’s stalling. Though I sort of doubt this is the case. My own husband assures me that, should I ever leave him, he’d feel far less emasculated if it was for a woman than a man. At least he’d know it “wasn’t him.” (He might even wish me good luck.)

In any event, what does it really matter if Amy and Gene secure a piece of paper from the state linking them in matrimony? It’s not as if Amy’s “chastity” is at stake. (This isn’t Colonial America.) She’s found someone who loves her and wants to cohabitate, love handles and all. Isn’t that ultimately worth more than a stroll down the aisle?

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

One of my close friends, “Brooke,” moved away three years ago to take a better job in our shared field.  While she was still here, she became friendly with a colleague, “Sarah,” whom I knew to be untrustworthy.  I told Brooke my concerns about Sarah. But once it became clear that she intended to remain friends with Sarah, I made the choice not to get into it any further. Now I’m wondering if I did the right thing. 

During the time that Brooke has been gone, Sarah has done everything in her power to destroy the professional lives of me and many people I care about, clearly believing that this sabotage is her only means to success. (Blackmailing and lying have both been involved.) I’ve managed to escape the worst consequences of her actions—though I’m not entirely unscathed—but friends of mine have lost jobs, income, and reputations. Because she went about all of this secretly, however, I have no firm proof that any of the events can be traced back to her. Though I have all the circumstantial evidence in the world.  No one I know disputes any of the claims against her, and they continue to mount.

Sarah and I are now simultaneously on the job market, while Brooke is senior in our profession. It truly sickens me to think of Brooke giving Sarah the same advice and support she's given me. Next month, all three of us are headed to the same city for a big professional conference. Is it wrong to tell Brooke what's happened in her absence or wrong for me to keep it from her? Please advise.

Best,
Enraged, Jealous, and Confused

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