My Friend Panics About My Boyfriend’s Guns

We chat at 1 p.m.

Hi Meredith,

I'm dating an amazing guy. He's adorable, attentive, respectful, has great relationships with his family and friends, would do anything for me, doesn't obsessively play video games, and -- here's the truly fantastic part -- actually has a vague idea of what he wants from life and is taking steps to achieve it. Super attractive, right? The first five months of our relationship weren't serious. We just enjoyed getting to know each other. He was supposed to deploy for three months in the spring and I wanted to protect myself from getting hurt (again). Things changed around Christmas. His mission was cancelled and we both started to fall for each other. Things got serious kind of quickly.

I began introducing him to the other important people in my life, starting with my best friend. We have been friends since college and are inseparable. She liked that he listened, that he was funny and charming, and that he would go out of his way to make me happy. She knows I love spending time with him and kept asking me when I will tell him I'm in love him. She then found out he owns multiple guns and is now completely paranoid about my safety. She is convinced that he will kill me because he owns firearms.

Before we met, my best friend had a very bad experience with an ex who owned a gun. I know she counts herself lucky to be alive. Her fear is coming from a place of love for me. She told me every time she sees him or sees us together, she is unable to stop herself from remembering that awful time in her life. Every time she looks at him she is forced to relive that fear. She tries to get past it and we've gone on double dates together a few times, but the next time I see her she loses it and reminds me she doesn't know what she would do if anything happened to me. She had two full-blown panic attacks recently.

When she first told me about this part of her past, I suggested she talk to a professional about her experience. She insisted she is coping well enough. She is happily married and a powerhouse in her profession. She has everyone around her (with the exception of myself and her husband) convinced that she is invincible and she works hard to maintain that persona. I offered to go with her for support, but she refused. I brought up professional help again when she started having panic attacks, but she still insisted that she can deal with it on her own. She then told me not to make any rash decisions, which I think is her way of saying she knows I'm thinking of breaking up with him over this, even though I don't want to. I hate how this is breaking her down. She knows that her reaction isn't rational but she can't help it and she won't deal with it. I have the power to stop her fear.

To put a few things on the record, I don't like or want to own guns. I have never used one and my boyfriend knows that I never want to. I do not think that he poses a risk to my safety and he has never been anything less than a gentleman to me. He always watches out for me. The guns he owns are because of his military background and because he grew up hunting with his family. The risks she is seeing are 100 percent her projecting on to me.

What do I do? How can I keep putting my best friend through this? Things are still new with my guy, but he is absolutely one of the few good ones. Is he my good one? Maybe. I definitely want to find out. But I feel like that knowledge will come at the price of my best friend's sanity. I don't want to hurt her, or worse have her end our friendship over this. I don't want to have to choose between them but I feel like I'm being forced to. If I stay with him, I'm saying her sanity isn't as important as my happiness. If I leave him, I could be walking away from the best thing that has ever happened to me. Please help.

– Caught In Between

I think you've made your decision. You really, really like this guy, and you know that you can't live your life for your friend. All you can do is tell her how much you care for her and offer your support. You've told her that she might benefit from therapy, but you can't force her to go.

It's possible that no matter what, this friendship won't be as close as it is right now. Even if she learns to cope with the fear of you getting hurt, she might not want to be around as much. If you and your boyfriend wind up living together, she might not want to come over to your place. That kind of limitation can change a friendship, and that's OK.

Sometimes we wind up in romantic relationships that make it difficult to stay inseparable with certain friends. In your case, it's not about choosing between your friend and your boyfriend, it's just about doing what's best for you and accepting that your relationships will evolve.

If you're really into this guy, let your friend know that you're not going to make any rash decisions, and that you hope she asks for the support she needs -- whether it’s from you, her husband, or a professional.

Readers? Should she consider ending her romantic relationship? How can friends survive this kind of issue? How should she proceed?

– Meredith