Sanctioned 3rd-part fling leads to regrets, recriminations. Advice?

So I have this friend, let’s call her Melissa. She’s 29 and has a live-in boyfriend of about two years with whom she has a son. About a week ago she responded to a craigslist ad from a bisexual woman in her town who was looking for a No Strings Attached hook up. My friend had never been with a woman, but it’s something she’d been curious about and figured she should try while she was still young. She talked about it with her boyfriend and he gave his approval. This past weekend, with her boyfriend and son out of town, she met the girl who posted the ad for coffee and apparently hit it off well enough to go back to her place and fool around.

Drama ensues. The boyfriend had a change of heart at the last minute and tried calling while Melissa was on her “date,” but the ringer was off and she didn’t get the messages until after the fact. When he got home he was extremely angry with her for sleeping with someone else. He also, at some point, browsed her email inbox (which she’d left open) and read all of her emails with the craigslist girl. And he’s “forbidden” her to ever speak with this girl again.
So now my friend feels like total shit, and doesn’t have anyone else to talk to about this because she doesn’t want to spread this particular story around. I want to give her good advice, but other than stressing that she didn’t do anything wrong and has no reason to feel ashamed, I’m at a loss. Maybe it’s just a case of being available as a shoulder to cry on, but I’d like to be able to offer some more concrete advice. If there were no children involved I’d just advise her to dump him, but under the circumstances I don’t feel comfortable coming out and saying as much. OTOH, he’s not the greatest catch in the world for various other (serious) reasons, and if I had to guess I’d say the relationship is going to end within a few years anyway. I don’t know.

Little help? What advice should I offer? Thanks.

I think you’re doing the best thing a friend can do, which is listening and offering a shoulder to cry on. Anything more than that could spell trouble. If the relationship is as rocky as it sounds, it will end on its own anyway. The last thing you need is to be caught in the middle, or to give advice which she doesn’t follow and ends up making you look like the bad guy.

I once had a girlfriend was dating this complete tool who treated her badly. Once when she asked my advice, I was honest and said I thought she should dump him. That worked out well - instead she ended up marrying the guy and there was definitely awkwardness all around.

I think the best thing to say is, “I just want you and your son to be happy. I think you should do whatever you feel is best, and I’ll support you no matter what.”

If she went into this because she thought she and her boyfriend had an open, honest enough agreement that they could talk about something like this, plan it and execute it with no drama, angst or excitement, the fact that there is, in fact, drama, angst & excitement should be a wakeup call to her about the nature of her relationship.

The question for me is whether she thought he’d be okay with it because she thought they were totally solid, or because she thought they weren’t, but he’d be apathetic about it.

On a side note, for him to get all up in arms and angry with her for doing something that they agreed was okay is lame.

I don’t think this is a “concrete advice” kind of situation. The boyfriend thought he’d be okay with the hookup, realized he wasn’t too late, and then freaked. If he were a good boy, eventually he’d realize that it wasn’t your friend’s fault - he gave her permission, after all - and work out his issues. If he’s not such a good boy he’ll continue to freak, give your friend an ongoing guilt trip, and make her cry for weeks.

Since your friend is with him and has a kid by him she presumably thinks he’s a good boy, making the DTMFA advice somewhat…awkward (see SaharaTea’s reply). If i were in your place I would reassure the friend that she did nothing wrong, that the boyfriend is being unreasonable, and, this might be important, that it’s natural that the boyfriend is being unreasonable given the boyfriend’s mistake (of initially saying yes and then changing his mind). A variant of “you see why he’s freaking? He’s freaking because he’s insecure and it’s his own fault that this happened. see how you’re not to blame here?” This isn’t the sort of situation that a friend can “fix” (well, not her friend. maybe a friend of his could talk him down but that is neither here nor there).

Wish I could be more help.

This bit. Is it possible that he realised (or felt, at least) that this wasn’t so much of a fling as a real long-term threat to the relationship? If it was really no strings, then presumably he’s thinking that you wouldn’t expect to see ongoing contact anyway.

As a friend, I think you’re doing all you can. But I’d also be conscious that you’re only likely to be getting one side of the story and things might well be more complicated than they’re made out to be.

Sounds like the kind of situation where the best thing you can do is listen. Ahe, aha, ahum… but as very little specific advise as you can give without Melissa saying “you’re just ahumming me!” Tell her you don’t think she did anything wrong (if that’s indeed the case, which from your OP I think is) but avoid advice about how to go forward.

The kneejerk-reaction advice is to tell her to tell stupid jealous possessive twerp to go fuck himself.

If she wants to make up with him, tell her to to whimper to him about how icky and creepy and downright freaking AWFUL sex with another female turned out to be.

Wow. So much wrong…

IMO, once your SO brings up the subject of sleeping with someone else, it’s pretty much over.

Boyfriend says it’s OK to sleep with another woman, then freaks and says no when she’s already on the date.

Boyfreind is an idiot and should be slapped. He deserves what he got. Girlfriend should be slapped for thinking boyfriend was gonna be OK with it. They should both seek other partners.

(I know *some people *can handle this sort of thing, but most folks really can’t. Some of them don’t find out till they try it)

It is never, never ok to read someone elses e-mail.

Ugh. If my past experience is any indication, their relationship is over. It’s really just a matter of how long it will take for one/both of them to realize it and take action. Unfortunately, no one else can realize it for them, so I second-third-fourth-whatever the advice to just listen and provide support, possibly mentioning once and once only that she might want to take this time to evaluate her relationship and see where she really thinks it is going.

Wow, nobody has not mentioned counseling yet? Let a professional weed through this soap-opera.

This is what I’d say: Tell her that she did what she did having discussed it with him and obtained his approval, but that he did what he did independent of her, and now she needs to consider whether she wants to endorse this kind of random ethical standard in her relationship. Tell her you understand how bad she feels, but that she needs to see the deeper meaning in the way he reacted: what does she hope to accomplish with his behavior, and with hers? Once she’s identified that, she needs to take action to move towards her goal.

Then tell her you’re there to listen if she needs to talk once things are clearer.

Seriously. The couple also has a child together. Since the potential fallout is so much more serious, I am kind of surprised by how blithe some of the replies are.

That’s how it reads to me in a nutshell. Are the other serious reasons something along the lines of manipulation? Because you don’t just give permission, pack up your kid, kiss goodbye for the intended weekend, and THEN change your mind. Unless maybe you were looking for a bargaining chip or an emotional club to beat someone with.

I’d say that if there’s this kind of behavior they should split sooner not later, because they have a kid together. Kid doesn’t need to see and hear what’s gonna happen over the next couple of years. I’d tell her the truth and then offer her any help you are able to, shoulder, room, babysitting time.

Why the hell not? It is not impossible that he just, you know, changed his mind. He relented to be a good boyfriend, but when push came to shove, he lost his nerve. Laudable? Perhaps not. But “looking for a bargaining chip” is not exactly the first explanation that would cross my mind.

I know I’d be pissed off, especially since there is a child involved. Opening a previously closed relationship seems like playing with fire, even more so when the fallout can affect a completely innocent third party.

That seems like a really bad time for her ringer to be off. They should have planned better and he obviously has every right to change his mind before it happens, which he apparently did. I don’t think her ringer just happened to be off, i don’t think expecting her to never see or speak to the girl she supposedly had absolutely no strings attached sex with is in any way an unreasonable demand, he shouldn’t have checked her emails and she should have had her phone on in case he changed his mind. The relationship is probably over and they are both equally to blame.

From my point of view, had her ringer been on, the immediate consequences might be different, but the long term ones probably remain the same. I’m suspecting that “wanting to fool around with other people” is likely to cause as many or more problems in this relationship as “actual 3rd-party fling” does. Changing his mind at the last minute may be his right, but I fear the point of no-return for this relationship was crossed before he made his phone call.

I’m less inclined than miamouse to assume that he was actively looking for an emotional club to beat her with, but . . .

I would be inclined to encourage Melissa to evaluate what she wants out of this relationship and what she can realistically expect from this relationship. And not that I want to encourage parents to split up, but. . . I’m not seeing how 18 years of misery benefits anyone.

I can believe it was a genuine change of heart. Maybe at first he thought the idea of her doing another chick would be hot, but then the reality of the situation hit him and he realized that he didn’t want her to be with anyone else after all. I think we’ve all had situations where our true feelings about a situation didn’t become apparent until the situation actually happened.

You’re right, it’s definitely not your place to tell her to dump him with a kid involved, unless he is being abusive to them. If I were you, I’d just offer sympathy about the fact that the situation did not turn out well for any of them, and let them work out what the next step is themselves.

It probably wouldn’t have been the first thing to cross my mind either, except there’s that small but very important part of the OP where he says there’s “various serious reasons” he’s not good for her. Not one single reason, not “he could work on [pick your issue]”, various SERIOUS reasons, plural.

Are you kidding? You better believe my ringer’s off when I’m getting some.

The boyfriend is being a moron. He should realize that if he said it was perfectly okay, and she acted on that, and he felt bad about it after, fine, but those emotions are his to deal with and he has no excuse taking them out on her. Saying something is okay and expecting your partner to know telepathically that it isn’t is bullshit.

There’s nothing wrong with saying “You know, I know I agreed to that, but I find I’m not comfortable with it after all, so I think it would be best if we didn’t go there in the future.” That’s one thing. But being retroactively angry with someone for something that was negotiated explicitly at the time? There’s a reason why ex post facto laws are unconstitutional.