Thursday, June 25, 2009

Can Romantic Partners Have Friends of the Opposite Sex?

I'm always annoyed with relationship articles (though why I continue to read them I'll never know). It seems like they're really only ever about three things: "training" your boyfriend, how you can change yourself for your boyfriend, or how men and women can't be friends.

(Oh, I guess I'm forgetting "75 Crazy-Hot Sex Moves." I wouldn't want to deny Cosmopolitan the credit of helping to delude people everywhere.)

When I saw this article on yahoo's homepage, I figured I'd check it out to see if they're still peddling the same lame ass information. (Hey I'm bored.)

And don't worry, they are.

Here are the "do's and don'ts" to having a friend of the opposite sex when you're in a relationship:
To beat the odds, follow these ground rules for opposite-sex friendships:


Tip #1. No secrets! All parties should know each other and know about the friendship. If anything should change in the friendship, your partner needs to know.
Tip #2. Time spent with the friend should never supersede time spent with your partner, unless there is a dire emergency.
Tip #3. Never make an agreement that can't be changed. The agreement should always be negotiable, so that if the friendship isn't working for your partner, it can always be modified or cancelled.
Tip #4. Never make your partner feel that he/she isn't the most important relationship to you. This is basically uncharted territory, so be aware and sensitive of your partner's feelings.
Tip #5. Never put your friend's needs first. By keeping your partner as your number-one priority, the mystery surrounding the friendship diminishes, and your partner will more likely view the friend as a real person and not just a fantasy.


Tip #6. To ensure comfort and trust, there needs to be a high level of maturity and self-esteem with all involved. Evaluate this with your partner and really talk about everyone's concerns and fears.
Tip #7. Ground rules need to be established from the beginning, i.e., what's okay and what's not for all the people involved. For instance, is it okay for the friends to get together when the partner is out of town? How much time is spent with the friend on a monthly basis? What do the friends do together? Is dancing okay? Is dinner okay? Each couple will have their own individual concerns and questions to consider.
Tip #8. Everyone needs to be in agreement that it's okay for the friendship to take place. No one should be left out of the process.
Tip #9. The person having the friendship needs to have strong, clear personal boundaries and open communication with their partner and their friend. They need to be up front at all times with their partner, letting him/her know when they're seeing their friend.
Tip #10. If the partner ever feels uncomfortable with the arrangement, he/she can speak up at any time. Their feelings and concerns need to be considered and taken seriously.

What? The only way to have a friend of the opposite sex when you’re in a relationships is if a) you’re partner agrees b) you never put your friend first c) you’re willing to cut off the friendship if your partner can’t handle it and d) you have open communication?

I’m sorry, but NO.

I agree wholeheartedly in the open communication points, but that’s because communication is the most important part of any relationship. I also agree that there should be no secrets (because you would only hide a friendship if you felt you had a reason to) and that you should promote the type of relationship where your partner does feel comfortable talking about how they feel.

That being said, I don’t agree that your partner should always come first. I know a lot of people feel this way, but I don’t and I don’t see how it’s healthy to exalt my partner over all the other people in my life. Why shouldn’t my friends be considered just as an important piece of my life as my lover? Yes, there are some situations where I think people do cross the line of appropriateness with their friendships, but I don’t think these sorts of blanket statements help or should be considered accurate.

I also don’t like the idea that if your partner doesn’t feel comfortable with your friendship that you should just sever it. Sorry, buddy. That’s not how the world works around these parts. Most of my friends are male and if my partner has a problem with that (which Ryan did for a period of time) then he’ll just have to adjust and get over it (which is exactly what happened).

I also don’t like the beginning statement that, “For most people, fear comes not from the friendship, but in keeping the friendship platonic, which can be difficult given that 90 percent of the time one of the individuals has experienced romantic feelings for his/her friend.” Is that true? I don’t think so. I can honestly say I haven’t had feelings for most of my guy’s friends.

And when I did, it was usually out of loneliness (and rum…lots and lots of rum) and not at times when I was in a relationship.

I’ll admit that it can be difficult to keep friendships platonic when you’re both single, but there is almost zero sexual tension when I’m in a relationship. I feel like articles like this are one of the reasons it’s so difficult for our partners to believe it’s simply platonic in the first place.

Maybe I’m just it blowing it out of proportion, but these sort of things really bothered me.

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