(The Root) —
"My best friend is a guy I have known for almost seven years. We're former co-workers, and he now lives in a nearby state with his girlfriend. We're both busy with work and our relationships and don't speak very often, maybe once every other week. Mostly we text and send emails sporadically to keep in touch. Our friendship is strictly platonic, but my boyfriend of almost three years has suddenly become irrational and insecure, saying that he is 'uncomfortable' with me having a male best friend, and he has asked me to end that relationship. I cherish my relationship and my friendship and can't imagine giving up either. What do I do?" —T.E.
Despite the opinion of another popular relationship expert, I'm of the opinion that yes, men and women actually can be friends. I've had a male "best" friend, "Tariq," since 1998 and counting. We have a similar dynamic to the one you describe, in that our relationship is strictly platonic; he lives in my hometown (D.C.), and like you, we are both in relationships (he's married); and although we don't speak to or see each other often, I cherish his friendship and couldn't imagine not having him around.
So I completely understand your dilemma — and yes, it can likely be solved in a way that allows you to keep your romantic relationship with your boyfriend and your platonic relationship with your "bestie" — but it won't happen if you dismiss your boyfriend's real concerns as "irrational."
I keep putting "best" in quotes for a reason. As much as I do believe that men and women can be friends, I'm also of the belief that your significant other — especially your spouse or a partner of multiple years — should be your best friend. If you're heterosexual and closer to a member of the opposite sex than you are to your spouse, it raises the question, "Why aren't you with that person instead?"
It's interesting that your boyfriend has become insecure about your relationship after three years. Unless he just found out about this long-standing friendship —which would give him reason to be "uncomfortable" — he's been OK with it all this time.
A guy who believes that "his" woman should have only female friends would usually reveal that while dating or very early on in the relationship. This new conflict leads me to believe that there's been a recent occurrence that has made your boyfriend ill at ease.
There have been a few times when a guy I've been in a relationship with has been "uncomfortable" with me having a close male friend. Those situations have mostly happened because I put my best friend before my relationship. For instance, I received exciting news once; called my then-boyfriend, who didn't answer; then called Tariq and shared the details. When downloading to my boyfriend, I made the mistake of saying, "Well, Tariq thought … "
In another instance, my boyfriend and I were dealing with an ongoing issue in our relationship and I spoke with Tariq about it. He usually takes my side, but on this issue he told me I was dead wrong. When my boyfriend discovered that my change of heart had come because Tariq said so, he said he was "uncomfortable" that another man's outlook held more weight than his own.
At the time I thought that my clearly threatened boyfriend was being irrational, but really, he was responding to the perception that another person — especially a man — outside the relationship seemed to have more clout or influence than he did. It made him feel less important in the relationship. And that's a very valid concern.
Perhaps you've given your own version of "Well, Tariq said … " one too many times and your boyfriend has had enough of it — hence his request that you give up this particular friendship. Instead or axing your friendship, which you clearly don't want to do, discuss with your boyfriend about what the underlying problem is here. It may be that you're giving your friend more "weight" than your man.
Since your communication with your friend is already pretty minimal, you'll need to make some adjustments to make your boyfriend feel more secure. That could include giving him the first heads-up about new information and communicating more with your man to solve any issues in your relationship. There's nothing wrong with talking to a trusted friend about issues you're having, but your boyfriend doesn't need to hear, "Well, so-and-so said … ," even if the person you consulted was another woman.
In the unfortunate case that your friendship has habitually line-stepped on your man's ego, your boyfriend may be unwilling to rethink his stance regarding your male friend. You will then have to make a tough decision about who matters more to you. After three years in a relationship with your partner, choosing him over your friend should be the obvious answer. And if it isn't, you will need to re-explore what your real feelings are for your male friend.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.