This column is part of Advice Week, Slate’s celebration of all things advice.
Sometimes, all you need is a different perspective. So this week, our columnists have swapped fields of expertise. In this edition, Lillian Karabaic, a Pay Dirt columnist, handles your sex questions.
Dear How to Do It,
My best friend is on the asexual spectrum and has expressed interest in exploring some kind of romantic relationship in order to pin down exactly where they fall on that spectrum. I support this for them; they are great and deserve to be loved in whatever manner they decide they want. First, they asked me if I was interested in helping them with that, and I am not. I love them, but not in a sexual/romantic way. I turned them down as gracefully as I could, and conversations were awkward for a while, but our friendship is intact. They have now told me that they are exploring something new…
They’re in a polyamorous relationship with a married couple. It’s been emails and video chats thus far (although they are apparently talking about meeting), and from what they’ve told me and the emails they have forwarded, I have concerns. The male half of the couple is very eager to introduce them to the joys of romantic contact and is constantly and suggestively mentioning it. The female half of the couple is delighted to have a new friend, but doesn’t seem to be considering my friend as a metamour; she seems to be thinking of them as some variant of an “agender best friend.”
I tried to express these concerns to my friend, but they got very upset and told me that since I turned them down, I have no right to say anything about any of their possible future relationships. They also said they’re scared this might be their only chance at anything, and they feel like they should “really try” to be what this couple wants because anything is better than loneliness. I don’t agree, but I also understand their fear. They are an adult and can make their own decisions, but I would hate to see them hurt or pushed into something they don’t want. Is there anything further I can say to convey “please do not rush headlong into something complicated”?
—Not Sure They Should Be Doing Something
Dear Not Sure,
The best thing you can do for your friend is provide them with the assurance that you will be there for them as a friend, even if this prospective triad doesn’t work out. Your friend is explicitly telling you that they don’t want your input on their romantic decisions; that’s a clear boundary they are setting. Listen to them.
You’ve said your piece. Instead of hammering home with your skepticism, reassure them that you will still be their friend if things go sideways. Prove to them that their fears of loneliness are unfounded by being a great support system. Sometimes we have friends who make questionable romantic decisions. We’re not in charge of their romantic relationships. All we can do is express our doubts, look for warning signs of abuse or neglect, and be there for them if it falls apart.
More Advice From Slate
I recently met a guy on Tinder, where I usually don’t have much luck because I’m not conventionally attractive and I want to date, not just hook up. But after talking to this guy for a few days, I think we seem practically perfect for each other! Same hobbies, similar taste in music, kink-compatible, he’s funny, and self-aware, and I think he’s hot as hell. But in the middle of a conversation, he dropped a revelation on me.