Miss Information

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My boyfriend considers his best friend his soulmate. Not me.

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Dear Miss Information,

I've been with my boyfriend for almost three years. We're otherwise very happy. Recently I brought up the idea of soulmates. I was just being coy and expecting him to say I was his…because I feel like he is mine. But instead, he replied that he doesn't believe your soulmate is necessarily the person you're dating or the person you married. He says that he thinks his male best friend is his. I was very hurt by this confession. In the past, I've felt like second place in the relationship. I won't go into detail, but it involved his ex. 

So I already have a pre-existing sensitivity when it comes to that. He's been friends with this guy, let's call him W, since college. Whenever they speak on the phone, he leaves the room I'm in to talk to him privately. He says he can't focus with another person in the room. I'm like that, too, but I wonder what they are talking about. 

Recently, I wanted him to come with me to a friend’s party. He said he wanted to go to this local fair instead because he's never missed a year. But then W asks him to help him move that same weekend and he's all excited and wants to go. I know he loves me, but I feel so hurt about not being first in his life. When I brought up how hurt I was that he considers his friend his soulmate and not me, he says that he was joking. But it was very clear at the time that he wasn't joking. Am I being paranoid? Am I just being immature? If so, how do I overcome these feelings of insecurity?

—Sincerely, Second Fiddle.

Dear Second Fiddle,

I’d wager that everyone has a truly spectacular tale of a relationship where they were consistently second place to someone inappropriate: his mother! Her ex! His dad! Her extremely needy sister! However, most of those relationships don’t stand up over time. If someone has true boundary issues with (mom/ex/whomever), it often bleeds over into the relationship and eventually kills it. If you guys had been dating for three months, I’d be inclined to storm the scene with pitchforks and torches. But you’ve been together three years. Has this second-placeness been a running theme, or has it just popped up here and there?

While I’m certainly aware how soul-crushing it is to feel unimportant, I think you’re being a tad hypersensitive to the vocabulary. It sounds like you just have different definitions of “soulmate.” Yours may be more Disney Violin Crescendo, and his may be more Apatow Bro-down, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t value you. You just have different words for it.

Now, this may not be a semantic issue at all: if this is flash point to something deeper, like being consistently blown off, then that may be worth considering. More likely, though, the answer isn’t as stark. It will take some bending from both of you. He needs to think through his commitments better and not live from a place of impulse; you need to recognize that you and your boyfriend’s best friend fit different niches. He can love you and love his friend using different reserve tanks of affection. You’re his girlfriend, and as such you have access to parts of him nobody else does. Let him know that you’re feeling brushed aside, then be proactive: set up a date night, a time for just the two of you. Hopefully, you’ll be reminded that the “girlfriend” niche is not second at all.