Dear Abby: Friend forced to play role in couple’s melodrama

DEAR ABBY: I have two good friends who dated all through college until “Isaac” broke up with “Jen” in a very stressful and dramatic way. We were all living together in a house, and he broke up with her to date a girl he liked from his newspaper club. We used to host parties for the club, and the girls would openly flirt with him in front of Jen. During the mess of the breakup, I learned that Isaac had known for a while he wanted to end things with Jen, and stayed with her only because he wanted to have enough people for a nice student house.

Fast-forward three years: We are out of college, and I still live with Jen. Isaac relies on her for all his emotional needs and says she’s his “best friend.” She can’t say no to him or distance herself because she’s still hoping that “maybe” something could happen. Earlier this year he told me that he was not planning on getting back together with her, but he’s here almost every day, insisting on spending time with us.

It’s frustrating since I feel Jen deserves more. She’s very anxious, and told me during the breakup that she didn’t want me telling her any details about him that she wouldn’t want to hear. I’m now wondering if I have used that as an excuse to spare her from all the things I feel she ought to know. I don’t know how I would even broach the subject, and it’s making me irritable around them. Help! — HOPING I’M A GOOD FRIEND

DEAR HOPING: Jen made clear that she doesn’t want to hear any bad news from you. If you disclose what you know, you will lose your housemate. The message you want to deliver falls into that category. From your description of Isaac, he’s a user and a player. She would be better off without him in her life. But she must arrive at that conclusion herself. (After their breakup, she should have realized he couldn’t be counted on.) Sometimes people have to learn the hard way, and Jen appears to be one of them. If you uncouple your life from theirs and spend less time with them, it will be healthier for you.

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DEAR ABBY: There are several same-sex couples within our circle of friends and former co-workers. Whether male or female, each has a husband and wife. We are not sure how it is decided who will assume which role; and we don’t feel comfortable asking what might be too intrusive a question regarding their relationships. We would appreciate it if you could find the answer, if there is one. — CURIOUS IN THE EAST

DEAR CURIOUS: Unlike with straight couples, who define their spouse as “husband” or “wife,” when male couples marry, both spouses refer to their partner as “husband.” With female couples, the spouses are both called “wife.” Household tasks usually fall to whomever does them best or wants to do them. Roles are assigned according to ability and circumstance, rather than imitating traditional marital duties. (By the way, the same applies to some opposite-sex couples as well.)

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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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