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'My friend has been catfishing me as his GF to test if we're more than friends.' UPDATED

'My friend has been catfishing me as his GF to test if we're more than friends.' UPDATED


"I (36/m) setup two of my friends (36/f and 36/m). I found out today he has been catfishing me as his partner on her phone to "check up" on our friendship."

TL;DR at the end because this is a long one. I have a childhood friend (Emily) I've known since we were five. We originally met because our respective fathers were both German and living in the UK having married British women.

They became friends and we were basically raised as siblings. Nothing remotely romantic has ever happened between us. It's accurate to say I treat her like I do my other sisters. People struggle at times to believe nothing has happened between us but is it so insane for someone with 3 sisters to treat a childhood friend as a fourth?

We stopped being friends briefly when she got married way too young to her boss. He ended up being terrible and over the 3 years they were together he basically isolated her from all friends and family. We reconciled when she divorced him.

Around this time I attended university and met my now wife early on, we were assigned to the same floor in halls, We've been together for 17 years now and she's become really close to Emily over the years. Also at university I met a guy (George) on my course. We were part of the same friendship group but didn't stay in touch until we coincidentally ended up working together a good 10 years after graduation.

I ended up introducing him to Emily and they started a relationship. A year or so later they moved in together. Emily was happy, he was happy. On the face of things he's seemingly been fine with me and Emily's friendship and never said anything.

Over the past few weeks I started getting texts from her, sometimes late at night, that were just... off. I was suspicious when she used a common British shortening of my full name rather than the traditional German version our respective fathers (and she) would always use and when some overtly flirty, almost outright NSFW, occurred I immediately shut it down 100% sure it wasn't her.

I basically called him out and asked if this was in fact George using her phone and bluntly asked why he was trying to text with me as his girlfriend. He never responded but after explaining the situation to my wife she went over to Emily's with my phone to see what was going on. I wasn't there for this but she showed Emily our entire text history and what he had done.

George came home and they confronted him. He first out right denied it and had the balls to accuse Emily of sending me NSFW texts and trying to hide said cheating from my wife by saying he did it. Emily just left with my wife to come stay with us after this because there wasn't any reasoning with him.

The morning after he called and begged her to come home, he was crying and threw himself at her feet claiming he did it out of jealousy. He highlighted that she was in the habit of deleting our conversations which drove him mad (an apparent choice she makes for all her texts with everyone, not just me.) and he was always jealous of our relationship.

He found it hard to see me with her and after he saw her saying stuff like how she loved me (again, siblings) not being able to read our texts drove him to basically go fishing to establish our relationship. The texting was an attempt to bluntly see if it was something we (or more specifically I) would engage in.

At this point Emily asked for mine and my wife's opinion on this whole thing. I called bullsh!t on this being a mistake. Something he was driven to by jealousy. He violated her privacy by going through her phone, risked our friendship by masquerading as her.

Risked my marriage by trying to bait me into texting inappropriately with a friend... risked Emily and my wife's friendship by making it look like Emily was texting me. The entire thing was a mess. I didn't outright say she should leave him but I highlighted how dishonest this whole thing was.

She eventually went back home and I didn't hear anything for a few days but Emily eventually revealed to my wife that she had functionally forgiven him. My wife worked out from the conversation what had happened. He had basically flipped the script on me by playing into fears from her marriage. He described me as another controlling male trying to dictate who she had a relationship with.

He encouraged her to make her own decision (not bad advice in theory) but she had to ignore me because I didn't have her best interest at heart. I was controlling her like her Ex. My wife quietly pointed out he was infact being like her ex, not me. He was driving a wedge between her and family. At this point Emily just gave up.

Said she couldn't win, couldn't decide between the man she loves and her brother so screw it. Let's pretend it never happened. We haven't really spoken since. Apparently part of forgetting this ever happened is also giving into his worries about our friendship. Every time I try and bring up what he did I've either been ignored to told to stay out of it.

Honestly this pisses me off that he's gotten exactly what he wanted. He's stopped us talking. I know I can't force her to break up with him but it seemingly a catch-22. I can't push her to make a decision about what he did whilst he's got her convinced I'm controlling her. I rarely see George at work and he's rightly kept away from me.

I was tempted to bring my sisters into this mess, tell them what happened (they love her like a sister too) and see if they can talk some sense into Emily but that's somewhat manipulative too. So any advice here? Let sleeping dogs lie? Try and get her to deal with what he did rather than sweeping it under the rug?

TL;DR: My childhood friend's partner texted me pretending to be her as a test to see if there was anything between us. He's got her convinced my objections to what he did is just me trying to control her and as a fallout we're not talking.

Commenters weighed in to offer advice and insight. Here are a few of the top comments:


Well, it's obvious Emily has an emotionally abusive boyfriend. Accusing her of cheating and isolating her from her friends are classic symptoms of emotional abuse. As you pointed out, the sad thing is that she has accepted the situation and is doing exactly what he wanted, which was to break the two of you up.

Let's face it, Emily only had two choices: break up with her boyfriend or go along with what he wants for the sake of the relationship. She's chosen the relationship, at least until her boyfriend does something else even more abusive to her.

I understand that you feel sad about losing your childhood friend, but you have to accept it for the time being. Don't try to interfere in their relationship and don't involve your sisters. The only thing you can hope for is that Emily will finally see what George is really like and dump him. But that may take some time. Just try to hang in there.


I would say to leave her at arm's length for a while. She has made a difficult decision (badly it sounds like) but she has made it and she is more likely to double down on that bad decision than change it if you or others push her. Give her some time to calm down, get used to being treated badly and then once she has had time to realise that fact you can try to help her out of the situation.

And said:

Emily has repeatedly shown a willingness to throw away 30+ years of friendship and family for these jerks. Ask yourself if you really want someone like that as a friend when or if she eventually comes around after things have imploded with George. How many more times are you willing to be ghosted for the new guys in her life?

A few days later, he shared this first update:

So, I followed the general advice of just leaving the entire situation alone. I agree any interference from me or my family would be manipulative and controlling, albeit well meaning.

So, I haven't really spoken to Emily since slightly before Christmas but her mother contacted me a little after New Year to ask if I knew what was going on with her. Emily's cousin back in Germany had contacted her mother saying she had turned up on her doorstep having flown in from the UK on the 4th after apparently breaking up with George.

According to her mother, Emily had come back to our home town for the holidays. She brought George and at some point they ran into her Ex-husband at the pub. For context we grew up in a tiny village in the arse end of nowhere. There's literally nothing to our village but a pub, a post office and small supermarket. Her ex still lives where we grew up.

So this is all information relayed to me via Emily's mother but apparently at some point George approached Emily's ex husband and asked for some advice. George is familiar with the story of their relationship and know how controlling he was, and why they divorced.

Somewhat to her ex-husbands credit he apparently refused to answer any questions and quietly approached Emily's mother to relay what he had asked. Now this is according to him, and George denies it, but he said George asked him how to "handle" me in terms of my friendship with Emily.

I've no idea what Emily's ex-husband's motivation was here, but they've been divorced for a decade now and he hasn't contacted her in this time so I'm inclined to believe it wasn't further attempts at interfering with her life. Maybe it was actually manipulation, maybe in the decade since they've divorced he's become a better man... who knows.

We're all inclined to believe that is what was asked (despite George denying it) because how else would her ex-husband know he had an issue with me recently? He isn't in contact with anyone who would know about the recent issues. Also, to be honest the Ex never had an issue with me.

He saw me as a child (despite being the same age as his then wife) and constantly called me kiddo and asked how "school" was. It would be a very specific shot in the dark on his part to assume George had an issue with me without George saying so himself.

So, her mother told Emily what George had tried to do and pointed out that her boyfriend is now trying to emulate her ex-husbands behaviour and encouraged her to confront him over this and also what happened over the last month rather than ignoring it.

Nobody was privvy to the discussion they had but he left sometime after it to return to their shared home and she stayed with her mother saying they had broken up. She stayed with her mother until the day after where she, without any warning, left for Germany.

The cousin she's staying with assures us she's relatively fine. She's just overwhelmed and embarrassed she let this happen again. She couldn't handle being where she might run into either ex so staying with her mother was off table and she just ran somewhere far, but safe.

I still haven't spoken to Emily, I've sent her a message with some condolences and reassurance she will always have a home here in the UK. I've decided to continue to give her space whilst making it clear I am there for her. She hasn't responded but I assume this is just out of awkwardness over what happened and how technically George was once my friend.

He hasn't spoken to me either and I haven't seen him at work at all. So yeah, not a happy ending per se. It shouldn't have taken her abusive ex getting involved for a resolution but as people predicted, George was being abusive and he would repeat that behaviour.

I suppose it was relatively painless that he showed his true colours so emphatically. This could have dragged on. Thanks for the advice, me staying out of it didn't make this any easier for her but it probably avoided making it worse.

And then, four months later, he shared this second and final update:

TL;DR of everything so far is my childhood friend (Emily) then boyfriend (George) texted me as her to try and see if anything was going on between us. After being confronted he approached her abusive ex-husband and she left him realising twice now she's fallen for abusive men.

Given this whole thing has now been entirely sorted in the 3 months since it happened I thought I'd actually give an actual full resolution. So, Emily came back to the UK just before the country was locked down and moved in with us, reluctantly. We grabbed some beers (and played Divinity 2) whilst we hashed out exactly what went down from her perspective.

I apologised for going behind her back and speaking to her mother about it all, situations like this are never helped by information being relayed through other people and I asked if she wanted to go through it all start to finish.

Basically she buried her head in the sand the day she found out he had been trying to text me as her. It was just too much. She couldn't win, she either lost the man she loved (and the lifestyle she had) or lost her brother. I assured her she'd never "lose" me but she revealed she low-key hated the fact she let herself be taken advantage of like this twice and couldn't face me having not listened to my advice.

She also mentioned that breaking up with him would inevitably land her on my doorstep for support and that made her feel bad also (hence escaping to Germany and not talking to me about this).

This went deeper and she opened up about her insecurities, how she regretted never going to university, instead marrying her abusive ex-husband, and how she feels like an accessory to other people's happiness. She saw me and my wife (a power couple, as she put it) and just felt so "small" by comparison.

She did love George but leaving him would leave her with functionally nothing again and she couldn't handle that. We talked about this a lot, I revealed I aware my support of her could be a problem. I was feeling like I had made their relationship awkward by being so involved in her life.

It might have been hard for George feeling like her "boyfriend" whilst I was there picking up her tabs, doing the DIY and basically acting like a father coddling his child. I asked if my (with retrospection) financial support of her tied into this feeling of inadequacy, like I was dragging her along for my ride and she said it was a problem.

She felt trapped when the relationship ended because she had no independence or true control. Whilst I would never use my position to control her she would still be living by someone else's good graces. She felt she needed to stand on her own two feet, be her own woman rather than relying on a man (no matter how much she loved and trusted him).

That way her decisions would be her own, rather than under some level of duress. In the same way a child want's independence from her parents she feels she finally needs independence from me.

So we came up with a gameplan. Now the lock down has obviously made this harder, she is still living with me and my wife currently, but the plan is she's going to go back into education. She was capable of attending University (had the qualifications) but decided not to due to marriage.

My financial security was really born of an inheritance I had after my father died (life insurance) I used to not have to worry about rent during my extended time in education and early career (I bought a small flat with it I still own).

I've decided to "pay it forward" and put her in a similar situation by lettering her use my flat (which is currently unoccupied because it's only been rented to students due to it's proximity to two universities). Yes, this is me financially supporting her but in a strictly limited way. No more covering errant bills, paying for holidays or footing the bill when we socialise.

She will not pay rent but she will cover all bills on the flat and she moves out the moment she's in work. She didn't love the idea of me owning her home but I called it my last act as "that guy" in her life, the psudo brother/father/sugar daddy/best friend. After this we'll just be independent siblings/best friends.

She will be moving soon, we'll need her room after all since my wife is now 5 months pregnant (turns out she's been pregnant since late December and all this started). As for George, he swears up and down he never asked the ex-husband to "handle me". He claims he asked how to be "fine" with me. It wasn't seeking advice how to deal with me.

It was seeking advice how to be fine with me the way her ex-husband was. Could be true, who knows. It's irrelevant ultimately. Though we recently found out George moved a girlfriend into the house him and Emily used to share and here's the kicker... It's a long time friend.

Emily is fairly certain he never cheated on her but she out loud laughed when she found out he's romantically living together with a long time friend 3 months after the breakup. The dude's insecurity was likely born of his own feelings for a friend. He was getting close with a girl he was friends with so he projected that onto me and Emily.

TL;DR She's broken up and moved on, we're aiming to have a healthier relationship by her gaining some independence. George is shacked up with a female friend and was projecting the whole time.

EDIT: just to clarify because this paints a picture I don't intend. I don't pay all of Emily's bills, nor for her stuff and holidays. She doesn't want independence from me specifically she wants independence full stop.

She went from her parents, to her now ex-husbands and then spent about a decade living pay cheque to pay cheque before meeting George and living largely off his money. She has no real qualifications and her current line of work has limited prospects.

The things I do for her come in two categories and the lack of clarity between the one offs and the consistent things made it look like I pay for her entire world. Firstly, there's the trivial stuff I do consistently that I'm stopping as a massive overreaction to George. Logically it's fine that a brother and his wife do these things for his sister but they make her uncomfortable and it obviously made her ex uncomfortable.

Stuff like I've done the odd bit of DIY (specifically fixing a vacuum which isn't insane given I work in R&D for a vacuum brand) and I pay for her drinks and stuff if we socialise. I'm stopping all that trivial levels of support largely at her request to ease her discomfort at being subsidised by me.

It's a pride thing. This might also help with any jealous boyfriends wrongly assuming because I pay for her cinema ticket along with my wife we're secretly Mormon.

The second category were the big, one off, things like paying that bill or buying plane tickets. Things I did in a crisis and/or out of extreme generosity once. She wants to be able to be safe during the pandemic without needing to live with me. She wants to be able to break up with a guy and be OK alone rather than crashing here.

She wants to be able to screw up a meter reading on her electricity and weather the silly bill that comes without me paying it (that happened once). I'm not gonna stop doing these things entirely (an emergency is an emergency, we won't let her come to any harm) but instead we're gonna try and make it that she doesn't need me to do these things via an education and hopefully a better job.

So yeah, I don't pay for her entire life, I just muddled some big things I've done in an emergency in with some trivial brotherly support.

Sources: Reddit
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