Ask Jono: My Friend's BF Is Way Too Huggy
I have two questions:
1. Can I have your autograph?
2. My best friend's boyfriend has some personal space issues, and he makes me very uncomfortable. He insists on hugging me every time we say hello, or goodbye, or agree on anything, or make eye contact, and his hugs last a lot longer than is really appropriate. He also tends to sit much closer to me than is necessary, and he has even hugged me from behind and whispered in my ear once. I have tried addressing the issue with him, telling him that he shouldn't be so familiar, and that the physical contact makes me feel awkward, but nothing changed. I don't want to talk to my friend about it, because she has already come to me rather upset because he was flirting with other girls, and I don't want to make that situation any worse, or make her think I'm part of his problem. What can I do to set some boundaries here?
The first thing to consider here is how forceful you were when you previously told him to stop; did you go "Tee hee! Stooop!" or did you blow a police whistle in his face and knee him in the groin? And when he hugs you, do you abide his hugs politely, or cringe away like he is a horrible sleazelord? ATTENTION: I'm not in any way saying that his continued grabbiness is your fault for not reacting to it forcefully enough; it's entirely his fault, and if I haven't yet established that I think he's awful, well, here you go again: he is awful. But it's because he's awful that you need to be absolutely clear you're not acting coy or playing hard-to-get. Guys are already prone to mistaking discomfort for flirtiness, and this dude's especially shady, so I wouldn't be surprised if he talked himself into overlooking your last admonition. ("I'm sure she didn't really mean it," he said to himself, thoughtfully grabbing a stranger's butt.)
If you really don't want to bring this up to your BFF, that's your business, although if I were you I'd tell her right now and then head to the nearest tarantula store. But if you're dead-set against that course of action, you can give him one last chance to stop being a complete sleazypants. Tell him with a straight face and unmistakable phrasing to knock it off. ("I seriously want you to quit it with the physical contact; I'm not kidding.") Be prepared for him to act like you're making something out of nothing, because the first impulse of a guy like this is to pretend you're the one doing something wrong. ("Aw come on! In some cultures, it's impolite not to grab butts!") I frankly don't expect him to listen to you, though, and I think you should skip straight to talking to your friend.
I'm the first to admit that I understand women's social dynamics about as well as a dog understands math (in that I generally just cock my head and wonder if anyone has any food). But I'm sure you can find a way to explain this situation to your BFF without seeming like you're at fault, because you totally aren't. Just explain yourself non-confrontationally, be clear that you didn't invite his flirting, and resist the urge to blurt everything out all at once. ("Tim hugged me and then he hugged me again and then I said no hugging but he still hugged me and Jono said to buy tarantulas but they're groosss!!") Explain that you aren't trying to cause problems, and that you even gave him a chance to quit being grabby, but he continues to make you uncomfortable anyway.
I know you don't want to make your friendship awkward, but there's no reason to protect this guy, because his behavior is only going to escalate. He's already invading your personal space and flirting behind his girlfriend's back; I'd bet dollars to donuts he's going to cheat on her at some point, and how awkward will things be then? (I hope you don't actually have any donuts, because I don't actually have any dollars.) You're doing your BFF, and yourself, a favor by bringing this up now instead of letting him the benefit of the doubt. The more you let it continue, the more he'll think he can get away with.