Perhaps it was because I went to an all girls’ school, but when I got to college, most of my closest friends were guys. I’ve got great photos of me being held up by six boys from our school newspaper and of formals and parties with me as the only woman among a sea of tuxedos. Yet as we’ve gotten older, our friendships have changed. We’re less likely to hang out a deux; we’re more likely to turn events into double dates or group parties. There’s a fine line that men and women tread when they want to preserve opposite-sex friendships-and keep significant other’s from getting jealous.
According to our recent survey, 79% of BustedHalo respondents said they have gotten jealous about their significant other’s friendship with someone of the opposite sex—and the biggest reason for jealousy is when you think that your significant other or spouse is emotionally closer to their friend than they are to you.
In our survey, you shared your stories, you aired your complaints. Here’s the do’s and don’ts list for how to manage your friendships and relationships—based on your experiences:
Do’s & Don’ts
DO tell your spouse first when there’s news in your life, not your opposite-sex friend. It seems obvious, but this was the single most common reason for jealousy—and some big fights—among BustedHalo respondents.
DON’T make your significant other or spouse feel like a third wheel when you are hanging out with your opposite-sex friend. When “the friend” is party to too many inside jokes, BustedHalo readers say jealousy flares.
DO Include you spouse or significant other in the stories from the good old days. It’s just the polite thing to do-and taking the time to explain the background of the story will save you a lot of heartache later.
One female BustedHalo reader worries about her fiancé’s “close rapport” with a female friend because it’s tough to “listen to funny stories of their past experiences and jokes that the two of them only understand.” Don’t make this mistake in your own relationship!
late with a colleague of the opposite sex—but expect regular phone calls and talk things through if you are
DON’T air all your relationship dirty laundry to an opposite-sex friend. According to our survey, 54% of respondents said that if they had a fight with their significant other or spouse, they would be more upset if she/he told an opposite-sex friend about the details of the argument than if she/he told a same-sex friend.
“One boyfriend had this incredibly intense relationship with a woman we both knew well. He told her all of the grimy, intimate details of our relationship, and often, I believe, felt that she understood him more deeply than I did,” writes Meghan, 26. “The pain of it was not so much his relationship with her, but the fact that my bitterness over his betrayal of me (by sharing intimate information with her) made it nearly impossible for me to trust her myself. I felt robbed of the ability to develop a friendship with her on our own terms.”
DO talk about these issues before they become a problem. Frank, 43, writes that he and his wife have set boundaries: Lunch and coffee get-togethers are OK, but dinner, movies and evening events are all off limits for opposite-sex friends. But only 43% of respondents said they have had similar discussions about what kind of behavior is acceptable within opposite sex friendships and what isn’t allowed—while the rest, it seems, just stew over it.
DO trust your spouse while he or she is traveling or working late with a colleague of the opposite sex-but expect regular phone calls and talk things through if you are feeling uncomfortable.
Some 46% of BustedHalo readers admit that they get jealous when their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife travels on business with someone of the opposite sex. Mary Alice, 27, is among them: “At my husband’s work, there are several men who have divorced and then married a colleague, the other woman, so to speak. I trust my husband, but I think it is important for both of us to be very careful, it is easy for things to get dicey when you are working long hours and your spouse seems disconnected from you day to day life, and I find I am a little bit on edge when he is working closely and alone with a female colleague.”
Do you have a few other do’s and don’ts to suggest? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll print the best responses.