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Dating Advice # 8 - Platonic Platitudes
Dating Advice 8

Dating Advice # 8 - Platonic Platitudes

Opposite-gender relationships with a confidential, vulnerable component are not a good idea -- when they compete with a marriage.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have been seriously dating one girl for a while, and we are literally on the verge of getting engaged. We do have one sticking point, however, that may prevent me from "popping the question." She has a couple of good friends who are male. One of them is a former boyfriend whom she hasn't dated for a couple of years but is still in touch with. Another is someone she grew up with. She thinks that it is okay to have these platonic friendships. But it drives me crazy!! She understands that I am uncomfortable about this and has told me that she'll minimize contact with these guys, but she doesn't do what she says.

I'm in love with this girl and I think the feeling is mutual, but part of me is jealous and part of me is afraid to trust her. I sometimes think of breaking up. This has made me very depressed at a time I should be excited and happy. Please let me know what to do.

Eric in New York

Dear Eric,

It sounds to us that the two of you are not nearly as close to getting engaged as you think. You say you're serious about each other but are also upset enough to consider breaking up. Before you even think about becoming engaged, the two of you need to address this issue that's driving a wedge between you.

Why is your dating partner continuing close friendships with other men? It may stem from her ambivalence about your future relationship. She is engaging in something called "approach avoidance" -- saying she wants something, and then engaging in behavior that seems inconsistent with her goal. This behavior is common in people who harbor mixed feelings about a situation.

The two of you need to have a long talk about what each of you expect for your future together. Though you are ready to pop the question, things may be moving too fast for her, and this is her way to slow things down. It's not uncommon for a man to feel "ready" before his future wife feels the same.

Or, it could simply be that she does not realize the need to place boundaries on her outside male friendships. When a married person has a platonic relationship, it has to be a social one, rather than a confidential one. The dating couple needs to devote their energies to each other to develop emotional intimacy. This is a closeness in which they can talk to each other about all sorts of issues, reveal vulnerabilities and get an appropriate response, confide in each other, and support each other emotionally. This emotional closeness is threatened when one member of a dating couple has a close friendship with a member of the opposite gender.

In addition, a close platonic friendship can distract an engaged or married person from the details of his or her new life, such as how to set up a home, dealing with career, education, and financial concerns.

Of course, it is not so easy to change the nature of a long-standing friendship. Particularly if the friend is not married himself, it may be difficult for him to appreciate why the dynamics of marriage necessitate such change. In the end, if the engaged person can't successfully change the nature of the opposite-gender friendship, she should amicably close that chapter in her life.

If your friend is unwilling to accept this bit of wisdom, the two of you will not be able to attain the level of emotional intimacy needed build a future relationship.

One more thought: Perhaps there is more going on here, and you should look at your own mixed feelings. Sometimes, people are unconsciously attracted to someone whose behavior prevents them from becoming closer -- because they are afraid of becoming too emotionally intimate with someone else. Could this be you -- or maybe we're barking up the wrong tree.

Rosie & Sherry

December 16, 2002

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Anonymous, April 11, 2013 11:58 PM


I am concerned that some people are okay with opposite gender friendships competing with relationships. Stands to reason that a couple needs to focus on their relationship and any other side friendships would likely negatively impact them. Why would I need male friends if I am with my boyfriend? and vice versa. Huge red flags. I wouldn't even consider getting serious with a man who had a ex girlfriend or other female friend that's his friend alone. I should be my man's best friend, if he's serious. In my experience when other opposite gender friends involved, infidelity and insecurity results. dealbreaker.

(5) Anonymous, July 10, 2008 1:18 PM

agree with the last response

I have the reverse situation as well, my boyfriend maintains friendships with ex-girlfriends and feels it is okay to have lunch with them, email, phone - without me participating or knowing about it. I said it's okay with me if they are friends, but he needs to be open about it, and I should meet them. They shouldn't be his confidants. I love him very much,I was hoping for a future together, but this situation has me a bit discouraged.

(4) maylin, February 5, 2004 12:00 AM

frankly put, marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman. two flesh become one. you are no longer you own, but that of your spouse and vise versa. if you want to keep your opposite sex friends closer to your heart than your spouse, than you have a fear of commitment and lack the level of trust in your spouse to full-fill your needs without someone else on the side waiting to step in.

i am a female who has ended friendships with married men out the respect for their wives because they wanted a closeness minus sex, but still something that should be reserved for their spouse. if you can't tell your husband/wife what is on your mind, even if it involves them, then don't get married. It is as simple as that.

(3) Anonymous, April 8, 2002 12:00 AM

Completely Disagree

I completely disagree with the fact that you are saying that she cannot keep her platonic friendship. All friendships and relationships contain a level of intimacy that they share with each other. Just because a friend is with an opposite sex shouldnt change the idea of this friendship. If she ever liked the guy she grew up with, they would've dated, but they never had except for the other guy so obviously it is strickly friends. I think that it is very easy to distinguish between the two and i find it very wrong that our society only accepts friends that are same sex based. It should not be this way so i do not feel that she should have to end her friendship. I do feel that they should have a talk but to just end a friendship is on of the hardest things to do because good friends are hard to find. I do not feel that it should be just one person or the other and that you have to choose. A medium can be drawn such as her hanging out less with the guys but this doesnt have to end her friendship. If the relationship doesnt have two people that trust each other with these issues, than it wont last or work well.

(2) , November 28, 2000 12:00 AM

response to the visitor commentary

I don't think that Eric expressed a need to control his girlfriend. I have been in the reverse situation where my boyfriend has had close female friends. I found that these other close female friendships enabled my boyfriend to put his emotional energy into those friendships instead of into our relationship. And yes, I was jealous. When a couple is thinking about committment, a majority of their energy should be put into the relationship, while still keeping up a balanced life with friends, work, family and health.

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