Drama Mamas: When "just friends" intrudes on love

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Drama Mamas Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are experienced gamers and real-life mamas -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of the checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your realm.

The above song was played once an hour on MTV when it first came out. (In before the "when they were still playing music" comments.) Twenty-seven years later and I'm still sick of it. It is also from a movie about a love triangle -- I hear -- which makes it kind of pertinent to this week's letter.
My name is Robby and I've recently stumbled upon your "Drama Mamas" section on WoW Insider. I find that this column focuses on an often overlooked facet in dealing with MMORPGS, the human part. I've been an avid WoW player for about 2.5 years. I'm fortunate enough to have a wonderful girlfriend of 4 years that plays with the same enthusiasm that I do. We try and play together when we can but life is life and we are limited by school and work etc.

My current problem is that in our travels around Azeroth we have met many people, some are good and some are not so good. I try and keep my real life and my game life as separate things. I've made friends in game that I very rarely contact outside of game. Most people I meet on game are more like colleagues I work with. At work I talk and interact with them, we "do our job" and then I go home to real life and that's the end of it.

My girlfriend is a very different player. She has a friend she met through the game that she has talked to for over 2 years. They live about 12 hours away, is about 20 years older than her and he's a man. They talk daily via text messaging, they make frequent phone calls, and in game they are constantly in a group. I consider myself a very level headed person not prone to jealousy, but all I keep thinking off are "Dateline" episodes where internet predators end up killing people.

The situation came to a head when earlier this year he came down and visited (12 Hrs to visit) and recently he came down again. I've voiced my discomfort but I've yet to say "this wont happen again". Her parents are ok with the whole idea and she sees nothing at all wrong with it.

My question is am I wrong to feel this way? To my knowledge there has been no badness to come of this. They vow to stay friends even if there was no World of Warcraft. I don't like to think of issuing an ultimatum, but what more could I do?

Thank you for your time and keep up the great writing.
LisaDrama Mama Lisa: Hi, Robby! Thanks for reading Drama Mamas, and I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to share with us and the readers.

Without making any judgments at all about your girlfriend or her long-distance buddy, I can tell you that the feelings between a young woman and a man 20 years her senior are not typically as reciprocally platonic as they're usually painted to be. It's exciting to have the attentions of a younger woman, and it's flattering to have the attentions of an older man. What's more, it's easy enough in this situation to use the age difference and geographic separation as excuses to assure everyone -- including the parties themselves! -- that things are purely platonic. They manage to have their cake and eat it too.

Let's get this straight: I'm not one of those who believe that men and women absolutely cannot be strictly friends. What I am saying is that it's fairly likely that your girlfriend and her buddy are a lot more emotionally involved than they'd like to admit. Being friends with someone of the opposite sex doesn't make you immune to their attractions; if it's a mature platonic relationship, though, both parties will be explicitly aware of those feelings and handle them as a matter of course, keeping the boundaries firmly set.

Given the available opportunities for denial in this situation (age difference and geographic distance), it would not be surprising to discover your girlfriend is having romantic feelings for her friend that she is unwilling to admit even to herself. And given the way that time spent together, in-person visits and personal feelings are sliding all over the place, it doesn't look like friendly moderation is what's going on.

One problem I see, as a mama who's been around the sun a few more times than you and your girlfriend, is that most mature people my age have learned to tell when people are uncomfortable and putting on a good show. The fact that your girlfriend's friend doesn't seem to be sensing or heeding the chaos he causes during his visits (or during his conversations with your girlfriend -- because come on, we all know they're talking about this) throws up a red flag. What is blinding him to something a man of his age and experience should be able to perceive? What is stopping him from seeing that bringing this relationship out of the game space is creating turmoil for his younger friend? Hmm ...

But enough speculation. It's time to talk honestly with your girlfriend about how she would feel if you spent an equal amount of time with a female friend of your own. How much does this affect your feelings for your girlfriend? Is their relationship a deal-breaker for you? Let her know exactly where you stand. Maybe she'll finally get the hint that she's undermining your relationship, and you can work out something that you're both comfortable with. Or maybe she'll continue to claim she doesn't have any issues with opposite-gender friendships.

If the latter is the case, I might suggest that perhaps it's worth trying out a little female friendship of your own. Now, now -- I'm not talking about any petty revenge tactics. This is strictly on the up-and-up. Expand your own social horizons during all that time she's hobnobbing with her buddy. I'm not saying to go date girls, and I'm not saying to go seek out female friendships; I'm just saying you should go be social, and if girls are there, so be it. She might gain some perspective. You might gain a new friend or two. And with more equal social time and breathing room for everyone, you'll definitely both have a chance to make some new discoveries about where your relationship is headed.

Thanks for reading, Robby. Please write back and let us know how things work out!

RobinDrama Mama Robin: I agree with almost everything Lisa says. I just don't think that a little female friendship of your own will be perceived as anything but petty revenge tactics. It doesn't matter how you intend it; your girlfriend (and perhaps her family) will think you are taking the low road.

There are a few things I would like to point out:
  • Having no friends from work that you hang out with outside of work is a little odd. Work is a common ground which often forms friendships. The fact that you eschew any out-of-work contact makes you seem antisocial.
  • You say that you have in-game friends that you "very rarely contact" outside of the game. So you do contact one or two via other means? Or has that been just to coordinate in-game activities?
  • You say your girlfriend is a very different person, but in fact she seems to only have one friend that she contacts outside of WoW. Perhaps you also mean that she is more social in general?
I am going to take those pieces of data and make a big assumption. Given that her relationship with Older Guy began two years into your being a couple, I think she was looking for a little more social interaction than what she was getting with you. I'm not saying that you are neglecting her -- in fact, I think it's the opposite. I think that your lack of friends (again, I'm assuming) and her greater social needs caused this worrisome friendship to happen.

Yes, I think it's very worrisome, and yes, I think you would be rather naive not to be suspicious. But I think you may be able to reduce the damage of Older Guy by engaging in more out-of-game social activities with your girlfriend. Perhaps you could allow yourself to make friends at work, hopefully with a couple so that you can all go out together. Or you might arrange more outings with current friends. Whether it's just the two of you or you're with a group, spending more time outside of WoW would be much better for your relationship.

Warning: Your girlfriend may at some point admit to having an online affair with Older Guy. I recommend you decide now whether that is a deal-breaker or not. If it is, it wouldn't hurt to form an exit strategy that is as drama-free as possible. I often find that if I have a way to escape from a bad situation, I am more relaxed about it -- even (particularly?) if I never have to use it.

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at robin@wowinsider.com.
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