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And worse, when we go out together, he sees me as competition. What to do? (Thomas Hawk/flickr)

Dear Steve,

A close friend of mine is addicted to women. That is to say, women are what motivates him in most of what he does. He admits and even flaunts this fact, but he seems to regard his needs as a combination of natural, inborn maleness and an honest willingness to pursue the very best that life has to offer. For the most part, he gets what he wants, and no one seems to mind, myself included.

But, at times, his needs do negatively impact others. For example, when we go out on the town, he refuses to let the night end until he has either fulfilled his need or has announced with affected confidence that it’s a lost cause (“man, this place sucks,” “these chicks aren’t even good-looking,” etc.).

Or worse, whenever the attention isn’t squarely on him or if I’m having luck and he isn’t, he turns from the greatest guy you can imagine to a pouting child. He gets twitchy like a junkie without a fix in sight.

This may seem self-important, but I honestly feel that with me around, he feels threatened. We talk regularly but he’s started to avoid any group situation involving me. I think his need to have dominance or control in a social hierarchy stems from unresolved issues from his childhood.

The most maddening part is his apparent lack of self-awareness: In other words, he’s able to recognize this exact same behavior in others, but, I think, unwilling to turn his focus inward.

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Ordinarily I’d stay out of it, but I really value our friendship.

How do you suggest I approach this? I want him in my life, but I’m losing my patience.

Thanks,

Trying Not to Hate the Player

Dear Trying,

Your letter reminded me, not happily, of a book I reviewed a few years back. It was called “The Game” by Neil Strauss and it was about the world of pick up artists. Here’s what struck me as strange and unsettling about that community: they were men who supposedly loved women and yet they continually used their alleged power over woman to impress other men. Here’s how Strauss himself put it: “I was in the game to have more women in my life, not men. And though the community was all about women, it was also completely devoid of them … The point was women; the result was men.”

I mention this because, frankly, your friend sounds a lot like the dudes profiled in the book: insecure Lotharios whose pursuit of women was a veiled and unconscious effort to draw closer to other men.

You claim to value his friendship, but portray him as a fragile narcissist who gets hissy when he’s not the top dog in a pack.

Also: Does he really refer to women as “chicks”? That is so totally boss.

What’s saddest to me about your letter, though, is that it remains unclear to me why you like or respect your friend in the first place. You claim to value his friendship, but portray him as a fragile narcissist who gets hissy when he’s not the top dog in a pack.

For that matter, all I know about you, Trying, is that you’re even better with the ladies than your buddy and that you’re making an effort to look past his flaws and keep him as a friend. Your account sounds pretty self-serving, frankly.

Then again, I was a bigger tool than either of you throughout my twenties (and thirties) so maybe I should just shut my pie-hole and answer your question.

Invite your pal out for a drink, preferably at a location without a lot of women around, such as a sports bar or a synagogue. Tell him that you value him as a friend, and elaborate on why, and confess to him that you fear your friendship is drifting. See what he has to say. I’d avoid talking about women, or who’s the bigger stud, or any of that crap. If he’s ready to open up to you about his frustrations or insecurities, well then, maybe you can reach a deeper level of connection.

But don’t be surprised if he’s not ready to open up, especially to you, whom he apparently sees as a romantic rival.

In the end, you’re not the guy’s therapist. You may just have to accept that he’s got certain limitations as a friend, at least for now, and in relation to you.

What matters most in any friendship is the mutual capacity to communicate honestly. For men, this often means moving beyond a certain strain of compensatory macho bullshiz. I hope you find that sweet spot with your pal. And if you can’t, that you’ll seek it elsewhere.

Good luck,

Steve ♥

Okay folks, now it’s your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don’t have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

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  • Amy

    “What’s saddest to me about your letter, though, is that it remains
    unclear to me why you like or respect your friend in the first place.
    You claim to value his friendship, but portray him as a fragile
    narcissist who gets hissy when he’s not the top dog in a pack.” – this kind of nails it for me (ha! pun intended). Why WOULD someone so seemingly level-headed and principled (like the letter-writer) have any interest in a friendship with someone so annoyingly childish and misogynist? Why DOES he value that kind of friendship? Are friends really that hard to come by these days? Generally speaking, I prefer to limit my friendship time and efforts to non-assholes; it’s far more rewarding.

  • IndigoScribe

    I am curious about your sentence “Invite your pal out for a drink, preferably at a location without a lot of women around, such as a sports bar or a synagogue.”

    So are you saying there are no women at a synagogue? I’d love it if you could explain what you meant by that.

    Thanks so much!

  • keltcrusader

    Your friend is a loser who uses and throws away women like tissues to prop up his incredibly low self-esteem. Maybe you should find a new friend who isn’t a womanizing jerk.

  • Susan Tepper

    In other words, your friend is suffering from clinical narcissism combined with an obsessive compulsive disorder. De-friend this asshole immediately. They only get worse with age. This type of man has destroyed families (their own and others), careers (ditto) and of course friendships. They are also hideous employees who don’t understand boundaries.

  • J_Harrow

    So tired of people saying that a man “loves women” when actually he just loves sex. Women, i.e. the actual whole and complete human beings, probably just get in the way.

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