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Why won't my friend tell me about her same-sex relationship?

The question

I have a friend whom I've known for 20 years. We were best friends growing up, and we still talk frequently and get together from time to time. I found out through mutual friends that she's been in a same-sex relationship for about three years. I'm hurt that she's been keeping her relationship secret from me. I've given her plenty of opportunity to "come out" to me, such as asking if she's seeing anyone or referring to my other gay friends. The other day I casually said, "So, I heard you've been seeing a woman," and things got very awkward very fast. She didn't really confirm or deny anything, but she became very uncomfortable and embarrassed. I tried calling her the next day to apologize, but she's not answering my calls. Now I'm worried I've ruined our friendship. What can I do to repair this?

The answer

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It sometimes happens in the life of an advice columnist (e.g. moi) that you receive a question where you feel there's a piece of the puzzle missing. And you have to do a bit of deductive, detective-type guesswork about causes, and effects.

This is one of those occasions.

So: Your old friend informed members of her inner circle about her gayness. But not you.

Hmm, what's going on here? Pardon me while I put on my deerstalker, tuck a violin under my chin, scrape away at a little ditty and ponder the clues as presented.

My best guess is: You talk too much. You "overshare." Is that possible? Are you too nosy/gossipy?

You certainly seem hell-bent on squeezing this particular piece of information out of her.

You say you offered her "every opportunity" to "come out" to you, but she didn't. When she didn't respond to your circumlocutions, you used the intelligence you gleaned from others as a cudgel to attempt to beat it out of her.

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Still, she remains mum about her sexual orientation and has circled the wagons. Maybe it's time for you to take a hint.

You know, there are various degrees, shades and gradations of closeted-ness.

Even in 2011, "coming out" can be a ticklish issue with numerous grey areas. Some women want their friends to know, but not necessarily their boss or their parents.

Maybe she's worried that if you know, everyone will know - and she doesn't necessarily want everyone to know.

I understand that you feel, as a friend of 20 years' standing, some entitlement to knowledge of her intimate goings-on. And that you feel hurt she's not sharing in this department.

But as an old friend you should also be able to read her signals. And in this case they're clear: Drop the subject. So: Drop the subject.

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Now, if I have you correctly pegged, and you are a friend of the information-extraction-and-dissemination variety - a.k.a. a "Chatty Cathy" - you may find this difficult. You'll want to discuss the fact that she doesn't want to discuss it, chat about why she doesn't want to chat about it, etc.

Don't. It's possible, you know, to get together with friends and exchange very little of a personal nature. Men do it all the time. My wife is always amazed, for example, at how little I'm able to glean from my male friends when we play poker.

She'll ask: "How is Patrick's third child, Aidan? Were the doctors in Switzerland able to save his leg?"

And I'll be like: "Patrick has a third child?!"

I'm exaggerating (a little). But the point is: When my male friends and I get together, we like to enjoy a "vacation from the exchange of information." I don't want to hear about their marriages, children, home renovations or jobs, and they don't want to hear about mine.

Above all, I specifically want to avoid absorbing details about their sex lives.

We communicate mostly in movie quotes, jokes, catchphrases and mutual "chop-busting." (And even then if it goes on too long, it's like: "Shut up and deal.")

Now of course I'm speaking about mostly married, male, heterosexual culture here. But clearly your friend would like a vacation from your probing her about her sex life.

So give it to her. Apologize for your nosiness before, do whatever it takes to arrange a get-together, and then talk about something - anything - else.

Lord knows there's plenty to talk about these days: bin Laden whacked, the implications of the Conservative majority/resurgence of the NDP, the prices at the pumps, how soon William and Kate will get to work on producing an "an heir and a spare."

And you may find that if you show no interest in the topic - when she ceases to suspect that what she gets up to in the sack is an information chip you will later barter and use, poker-style, as currency - that's precisely when she'll open up and tell you all about it.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change, Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad and Damage Control , the book, now in paperback. [-space-]/i>

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