“Is there, in your opinion, an unspoken understanding that one should heed a certain discretion with friends of the opposite sex when they enter a relationship? For example, if I’m best friends with a guy that has a new girlfriend, does that mean I have to censor how often I contact him, especially if the new girlfriend doesn’t know me personally?” —K.U.
In so many words, yes. But instead of taking for granted an “unspoken understanding,” you should have a conversation with your friend about what’s expected, what’s crossing lines and what’s likely to rattle to your friend’s significant other.
I find that I’m one of the rare people who believe men and women can be friends, just friends and only friends. I have several male friends, friendships that span more than and approaching a decade, and they are strictly platonic. We are not superhuman to accomplish this feat. It is possible, as you seem to know.
But like I said, that tends to be a rare perspective. A noticeable number of the people who contact me for help with their relationships have complaints about their significant other’s opposite-sex friendships. Some just don’t want their mate to have them at all. Period. Others find that friends call too often, too late, are alternately “too friendly” or “not making enough effort” to get to know the new mate. And a lot of times they fear that the “friend” is secretly crushing on their partner and just waiting to sabotage the relationship. Any of this can be true. And it can also entirely be paranoia resulting from insecurity about the relationship.
You’re dealing with it, so you know how odd this situation can be, at least for you. You’ve been friends with a guy all this time, and now this new woman comes along and you have to fall back? It doesn’t seem fair. But look at things from her perspective, too. There’s another nonrelative friend in her man’s life who knows him better than she does. That’s not exactly a comfortable feeling, either.
I’m happy when my guy friends get into relationships because, well, they’re my friends and I want them to be happy. But admittedly, it could be annoying at times to act in a respectful way of the relationship, especially when I was single. For instance, when something wonderful or surprising or tragic happened, I’d pick up the phone at any time of day and shout, “Dude, you will not believe … !”
But when he got into a relationship, I had to check the clock before I called. I thought about what time I sent texts because a phone going off in the middle of the night while your woman’s laying beside you is never going to go over well. When I went home for a rare visit—he lives in my hometown—I might get a night to hang out with him if he was free. His girlfriend (now wife) obviously took precedence for weekend plans.
Whether I liked it or not, that’s the way its supposed to be. When you enter a relationship, you’re not supposed to forget about your friends, but in day-to-day matters, the partner trumps. It makes things a lot easier for the friendship and the relationship when friends play an appropriate position, and by “appropriate,” I mean behave respectfully so as not to give any appearances that there’s anything more than an entirely platonic situation.