I’m so pleased that you enjoy reading my column. Thanks for sharing!
Sharing a romantic love for two people, both of whom love you back is referred to as being in a Love Triangle. Based on this definition, and from what you describe, you, your friend and your girlfriend are not suffering from this condition.
All is not well, however, as there are other issues you three need to address. As I read your story, the one word that I constantly thought of was responsibility or the lack of responsibility demonstrated in this triadic relationship.
First of all, how do you know that your friend has romantic feelings for you? Are you assuming this based on her flirtatious behaviour? Perceptions can be misleading sometimes, right? Did your friend, herself, declare her love for you? Before or after you began seeing your girlfriend? If before, your friend should accept that though you knew of her love for you, you chose another. She needs to take responsibility for her feelings of loss and move on. If after, and she “constantly flirts with [you] in front of [your] girlfriend,” what does this say about her as a friend? A “close friend” will not try to break you up from the person you love.
So, if you love your girlfriend, why have you let this ‘triangle’ go on for so long? Some of my past male clients in similar situations have shared with me that they liked the attention of being loved by more than one woman simultaneously. ‘Having the cake and eating it too’ does wonders for some men’s egos, but this situation is typically short-lived because sooner or later, these men are forced to take responsibility and choose one woman (if she would still want him at this point, that is).
If this idea of getting an ego boost resonates with you, I recommend you schedule a few sessions with a counsellor and perhaps work on insecurities and your fear of hurting others. Keep in mind that others’ feelings are just that – others’ feelings. You are not responsible for how others feel. What you are responsible for, however, is that you may be sending your friend signals that she has a chance with you. And this is irresponsible and must be stopped.
If you believe that “[your] friend deserves to be happy with someone who loves her back,” tell her clearly that you are not interested in her romantically and that you love your partner. Let her grieve her loss by herself. This is not your responsibility because you have done nothing wrong in speaking the truth.
You are responsible for your happiness so if loving your girlfriend makes you happy, show her (in whichever ways you can imagine) that you are hers and only hers.