Just Friends

A friend of mine, newly in a relationship, posed this question: how do you maintain friendships with members of the opposite sex when you’ve left the realm of singledom?

A lot of times, the short answer I hear is, “You can’t.” Romantic relationships are tough enough as it is; there’s no shortage of potential stumbling blocks even before you add in the cute gym partner. Toning down the friendships that your significant other might see as a threat seems only considerate.

But I disagree with the view that relationships should be ascetic. Having a boyfriend might mean no more food fights at the Delphic and no more sleepovers with the convenient grad student, but it doesn’t mean you have to sit at home and plead the fifth. Turning into a wallflower is the least constructive thing you can do because it makes both of you less interesting.

However, in carrying on with friends of the opposite sex, as always, keep in mind the feelings of all involved:

1) Don’t lead them on. This can be as simple as letting them know that you’re in a relationship. For some, the fact that you’re taken is the Berlin Wall. For others, it means absolutely nothing: you have a boyfriend, you have a goldfish, whatever. But the point is that they know, and you aren’t misleading anyone. In the age of Facebook, “in a relationship” can serve as de facto notice. But sometimes people don’t realize despite all methods of internet publicity; it can help to preempt awkward moments by bringing up, “my girlfriend’s job/brother/play/socks“ sooner rather than later.

2) Make sure that you and your significant are on the same page about certain activities. Is it ok if he dances with someone else at the AEPi Purim party? Is it ok if she accepts another guy’s invitation to formal? Talk about what you’re comfortable with, and be completely honest. There’s no point in deciding such limits rationally since jealousy and insecurity are often irrational. Pretending not to care when you actually do won’t get you anywhere, and once your significant other has expressed a preference or dispreference for one behavior or another, do your best to remember it.

3) Finally, introduce your platonic friends to your significant other. Encourage them to get to know each other. This is a boon for everyone involved; they make new friends; your friends become less threatening. If you’re worried that they won’t mesh, remember: they’re your friends, she’s your girlfriend, they should have in common, at the very least, you.