Sex + Dating

What Your Girlfriend Really Means When She Says 'He's Like My Brother'

So, you have a great girlfriend. Excellent! She's smart, she's beautiful, you love her family, and you get along really well with all of her friends. Well... except for that one guy, who's always kind of giving you the stink eye, and with whom she texts back and forth every night right up until bed. Yeah, the one who all but ignores you any time you're all hanging out. You've asked her about him multiple times, but you're always met with the same response:

"[Insert name here]? He's like my brother!"

If a girl ever hits you with this line, or a variation thereof, you should definitely, 100%, without a single doubt in the world, WORRY.

There’s a difference between a significant other having friends of different genders (which is perfectly fine, and definitely encouraged), and that same significant other having someone to whom they confide more than you, laugh with more than you, trust more than you -- and may or may not want to sleep with more than you. So men, when you hear this phrase? It's a red flag. Let me explain.
 

There's a difference between being buddies and crushing on each other

Yeah, this seems obvious. But it's not always, and nowhere is that murkiness greater than in the brain of the person who keeps calling that guy who's clearly in love with her, her "brother." Yes: mature, rational people should be able to tell when their friends want more than friendships. But it's just not always that easy… so don't automatically assume she's doing anything inappropriate.

If you find yourself in this situation, your best bet is to try making him your friend, too. If he resists, you've got a good case to present to your girlfriend. And if he complies, you can have a man-date (or several) and gain a bunch of insights about him. Maybe you'll even discover he's not such a threat.

What you want to avoid having is a jealous fit in front of your girlfriend. It will make her act defensive, paint you as a crazy person, and make her best buddy suddenly seem like a way more viable option.
 

If this "brother" figure is rude to you, he's not really her friend

General rule of social etiquette: be polite. To everyone -- and most especially the man or woman your friend has chosen to be with. Sure, you're not going to love them all; but you can still act like a reasonably decent human being so long as there isn't abuse (physical or emotional) or fraud (cheating) going on.

If you're dating someone who refers to that guy who's rude and obnoxious to you as "like a brother," it's fair to ask why someone so close to her would be so shitty to the guy she's with. If there's no clear reason for the behavior, sorry to say but there's often jealousy involved. And a reliable, healthy, loving partner isn't going to surround herself with people who unjustifiably disapprove of the relationship.
 

If you're newly coupled, it's time to focus (on each other)

It should be understood that a new couple starting out has one very important, burgeoning relationship to invest time in… and it's not the one between two friends. You can’t possibly learn the ins and outs of a person if her “brother” is consistently in and out of her: on her phone, in her texts, at every function she is at, or, possibly literally, in and out of her.

By no means am I saying to dump a woman just because you noticed she has a lot of guy friends. Nor should you stop trusting her. BUT! If she’s texting the smirking-I’m-not-wearing-any-panties emojis, giggling at comments that don’t even warrant laughter, and play-fighting with her "brother," it's fair to say something is amiss. And yeah, at that point maybe your guard should go up.

Friends shouldn't act like boyfriends

If your girlfriend has a guy friend she keeps in her back pocket and at her disposal, and you're fulfilling all your boyfriend duties, something's up. She really shouldn't need another guy in her life filling the role. So if this is the case, it might be worth exploring why.

And for those of you who agree to play brother to women like this, shame on you! You've put yourself at the mercy of a person who keeps you on call in case things don’t work out. She uses you for the attention you heap on her. And she determines when -- and how -- you get her attention. You'll never be able to tell whether you can count on her, either; because most of the time, she'll be too busy for you when you need her most. Because she'll be with her boyfriend.
 

Use the friend-card checklist to be sure

To review: friendships with the opposite sex are not wrong. BUT! Justifying intimate relationships with other men by belittling the reality to a "brotherly" kind of arrangement, is. Run through this checklist just to be certain.

If she’s…

  • Laughing excessively at his corny jokes,
  • Texting him heart-eyed emojis in the middle of the night,
  • Flirting consistently on social media,
  • Trying to justify the intimacy,
  • Being too touchy-feely

Then you have due cause for worry -- and questions.
 

Learn to recognize when that "brother" figure isn't a threat at all

This (almost) goes without saying, but if the person you're with is as great as you think she is, chances are good that someone in her life is secretly/maybe not so secretly into her. Part of TRUST is allowing her to navigate that. Especially if you're dealing with one of her old friends from high school who totally respects you and isn't likely to ever act on his lingering mushy feelings for her. You coming out swinging to a situation like that will only make you look like an ass.

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Nadia Watson is a contributing writer for Thrillist, and may or may not have been guilty of family-zoning once or twice, in a past life. But it really doesn’t live up to the hype. Follow Nadia on Twitter and Instagram: @illuminadi.