Valley Girl With a Brain

Questioning, like, everything

Should You Be Friends With Someone Who Is In a Relationship?

Are you being a 'homie' or a home wrecker?

A few years ago, I worked at a job where I befriended Ed. Ed was the greatest – he was hysterical, so kind, and truly understood me. We often spent long days on set and drove home together, laughing the entire time. Our relationship was completely platonic, yet it seemed we still couldn’t get enough of each other.

His girlfriend or semi-girlfriend at the time, however, didn’t seem to agree. That’s when the phone calls started. During the first call, she sweetly introduced herself as Ed’s girlfriend and gently inquired about my intentions with him. Just as sweetly, I responded that there were none. We were just friends.

She breathed a sigh of relief then gushed about how she was so glad to hear that, since they had been together for so long and she loved him so much. 

I decided to omit the fact that Ed rarely mentioned her, and even when he did, the contents were less than flattering. 

During the second call, she screamed and shouted and accused me of being a home wrecker. She cleverly called me using his phone, while he was in the shower, to ensure that I would pick up.

Needless to say, this second call somewhat dampened Ed and my friendship. Suddenly, he was unable to hang out with me as much at work and while I felt sad I was losing my friend, I also deeply contemplated the age-old question: Can men and woman really be “just friends”?

For the most part, at the time, I believed the answer to be yes. Ed and I had done nothing inappropriate. We had simply enjoyed each other’s company, but apparently, that was enough for his girlfriends’ paranoia to trigger.

Although, now that I think about it, I don’t particularly blame her. If your relationship is not going so well, and your partner seems to be happier spending time with someone who is not you, it can be quite heart breaking.

Still, there is never a reason for you to air your grievances with this third party. The reason is simple – your relationship has nothing to do with them and everything to do with yourself and the guy in the shower whose phone you’re surreptitiously using.

After all, getting rid of me isn’t going to make your relationship any better. There are millions of other potential female pals just waiting to receive a friend request from Ed.

And as much as I would have liked to stay friends, it wasn’t worth it to fight for him.

For a few reasons:

  1. I was terrified of his girlfriend and thought she would hunt me down.
  2. He was obviously in a weird place, and on some level, I was exacerbating his relationship.
  3. Maybe, guys and girls can’t really be “just friends.”*

A recent Scientific American article affirms the third reason and the notion that “we may think we’re capable of being ‘just friends’ with members of the opposite sex but the opportunity (or perceived opportunity) for ‘romance’ is often lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce at the most inopportune moment.”

This may scream the premise of virtually every romantic comedy, but researchers did investigate nearly a hundred real-life opposite-sex friend scenarios and asked each individual (protected by anonymity) their true feelings about their supposed friends.

The findings suggested that men were often more attracted to their female pals, rather than the other way around. Men also tended to think that their female friends were more attracted to them than they really were. Whereas, women generally were not attracted to their male friends and consequently assumed that they were mutually not attracted to each other.

The most interesting finding from the study, however, was how men and women viewed pursuing relationships with their romantically-involved friends.

“Although men were equally as likely to desire ‘romantic dates’ with ‘taken’ friends as with single ones, women were sensitive to their male friends’ relationship status and uninterested in pursuing those who were already involved with someone else.”

What does this mean exactly?

Men seem to have difficulty being “just friends” in platonic relationships with females, whereas women genuinely just want to be “friends.”

*Of course, there are exceptions to this general rule. In fact, this recent Slate article highlights the stories of a handful of purely platonic couples (even though some may have experimented with romance or sexual encounters in the past), who all swear up and down that they couldn’t dream of being anything more than just friends. 

Nowadays, I don’t have many guy friends, and the ones I have, I’m not totally sure that I would consider them ‘true’ friends. 

It’s suffice to say that I prefer my friendships to be relatively drama-free. And it turns out, the best way to do that is to avoid befriending members of the opposite sex, particularly those who are already in relationships.

After all, even if you feel one way about someone, you really can’t ever know how they may feel about you. Also, there is always the possibility that their girlfriend might come after you.

 

Follow me on Twitter: ThisJenKim 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jen Kim is a former Psychology Today intern and a graduate of Northwestern University.

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