Hannah Orenstein gives advice to a reader who slept with her boyfriend's friend

Help! I Hooked Up With My Boyfriend’s Friend & Fell In Love With Him

I know it’s bad, but I see myself getting further entangled with him.

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Q: My boyfriend has been cheating on me for a while, and almost our entire relationship has been decidedly toxic. I no longer feel anything towards him, and am planning on moving out soon. The only thing keeping me for the time being is getting my finances in order.

There's been intense sexual tension between me and one of his friends for the longest time. They are not that close, but they go way back and are part of the same social circle. I've been crushing on him for a while without ever admitting it to myself. He would end up touching me in different places whenever we hung out (nothing ever happened besides our blatant flirting), and I found myself opening up to him and always looking forward to seeing him. But I never thought I'd do something about it.

Recently, I got drunk and told him how I feel. We had sex and it was mind-blowing. I will be returning to my hometown when I move out, and he goes there often for his studies. I know it's insane, but I can't keep myself from planning on getting more entangled with him in the future. I should mention that this wasn't done out of revenge, and I don't regret it, although I'm aware it might be morally wrong. I am not intending on getting into a relationship with him somewhere down the line because of many reasons I won't go into, some of them pretty evident from the situation, but I've definitely fallen in love with him. What should I do? — Masha

A: Hi Masha! Please leave this relationship immediately. You aren’t getting anything out of your boyfriend other than maybe a roommate, and honestly, he sounds more toxic than my worst-ever roommate, who moved her aspiring WWE wrestler boyfriend, best friend, and mom into her bedroom and never once did the dishes.

Breaking up with a live-in partner is a special kind of nightmare. It’s like being asked to juggle balls of fire while riding a unicycle through an emotional obstacle course and finding a new place to live and packing and paying for it all at the same time. It’s an exhausting, expensive, time-sucking endeavor, and I don’t want to gloss over that. Take it from a girl who has accidentally cried in front of three realtors after a breakup: I promise you, I get it.

But whatever you need to get your finances in order, whether that’s taking on more shifts at work or tightening your budget, do the very best you can. I don’t know the specifics of your situation — how much a move would cost you, if both your names are on the lease, etc. — but I do believe that even if you and your boyfriend have to keep living under the same roof for a while, you need to break up.

This will not be fun! In all likelihood, it will be awkward, stressful, and painful. But you and your boyfriend haven’t been happy together for a long time, and staying together will only delay the inevitable. So maybe one of you crashes with a friend or family member. Maybe you sleep on the couch or divide your bed with a pillow wall to avoid accidental overnight cuddling. It sucks, but plenty of people have temporarily lived with exes and survived. (I recently met someone who broke up with her live-in boyfriend three days after they re-signed their 12-month lease. They plan to live out the year as roomies.)

As far as the other relationship goes, I wouldn’t tell your boyfriend about your involvement with his friend. While I think honesty is the best policy in most cases, I don’t think that makes sense here, and it will likely only hurt him. He might find out down the road, but given how thorny the current situation is already, you don’t want to do anything that’ll make living together even worse.

I’m glad to hear you don’t plan on getting into a relationship with your boyfriend’s friend. As you point out, his involvement in this situation is… not great. Neither is yours. To be frank, you both betrayed your boyfriend. I don’t think this incident has to be a long-lasting mark on your character. Everyone makes mistakes, and we can all grow from them.

For starters, it’s important to reflect on why you cheated in the first place. Clearly, you were in a difficult place: You were in a toxic relationship that offered no easy exit. If this relationship is abusive in any way, my heart goes out to you, and it’s even more crucial that you leave. Don’t worry about a single other thing I say except for this: You deserve to be treated with love, respect, and care. (For help, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800)-799-SAFE (7233) or visit

Cheating on your boyfriend might not have felt like a big deal if he already cheated on you first. But the thing is, you know how sh*tty it is to be cheated on. Do you really want to be the kind of person who makes others feel that way? I don’t want to scold you, but I do want you to really sit with that question — because no matter why you did it, our experiences in relationships can sometimes turn into patterns. In the future, when you’re with someone amazing, you don’t want that past hurt to rear its head again.

Feelings are incredibly powerful, but ultimately, you’re the one in control.

I also want you to explore your feelings for your boyfriend’s friend. What do you love about him? Which traits do you admire? There’s a big difference between lust and love, and the drama and excitement of this situation might distort your perception of this guy. Love is so much more than attraction and chemistry, even if he makes your heart feel fizzier than a dropped soda can. Do you trust him to be a steady, caring, supportive force of good in your life? Do you want to be that same person for him? Would you be proud to call him your boyfriend? Do you two bring out the best in each other? (I hate to be a downer, but the answer to that last one is no.)

In your letter, you wrote about “planning on getting more entangled with him in the future,” even though you’re “aware it might be morally wrong” and don’t intend on “getting into a relationship with him” — but you’ve “definitely fallen in love with him,” so you don’t know what to do. Feelings are incredibly powerful, but ultimately, you’re the one in control. Lust or love might be pulling you to this guy, but that doesn’t mean you have to give in. Being in love isn’t a free pass for damaging behavior.

I don’t say this to judge you, but rather because I’m worried about what could happen if you keep talking to your boyfriend’s friend. The more involved you get, the harder it’ll be to keep things casual. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with casual sex, but it’s impossible to maintain a strictly casual relationship with someone you’re actually into — let alone in love with. To protect your heart, walk away now. Do not stay friends. Do not meet up with him when you’re both in your hometown.

At first, this might feel devastatingly crushing and all-consuming. With time and distance, it’ll get easier, I promise. Delete his number. Erase your text history. Mute or block him on every social media platform. Write a list of reasons he’s wrong for you and read it over and over. Tell your friends you’re really done with him and give them the green light to start trash-talking him. Throw yourself into work so you can move out ASAP. Distract yourself with something positive, like making elaborate TikToks, mastering the ultimate chocolate-chip cookie recipe, or marathoning all 405 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. You will get through this. As Serena Kerrigan says, if it’s not a f*ck yes, it’s a no. You know this guy is a no.

I’m asking a lot of you, but I believe in your strength. Imagine how satisfying it’ll feel once you’re on the other side of this mess, looking back at all the challenges you were able to navigate. Hold onto that vision. With determination, you’ll be there soon.

Dating, Decoded appears on Elite Daily every other Tuesday. Have a question for Hannah? Submit it here.

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