You trust your partner. Honestly, you do. But there’s one little thing that drives you batty: his female friend. Their friendship is platonic—hell, she even has a boyfriend—but you’re just not comfortable with it. You feel petty, especially because he’s assured you that there’s nothing going on, but you can’t shake the feeling that irks you.
And while it’s absolutely normal to feel a twinge of anxiety about your partner spending time with an opposite-sex friend—more than half of YouBeauty readers admitted that they can’t relax if they suspect their partner is with someone else—maintaining opposite sex friendships can be problematic for couples if they’re not handled delicately, according to Beverly Hills-based psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, Ph.D. Here’s how to deal when your guy has a female friend:
ID your angst. To start, ask yourself what their friendship means to you. “Sorting out the source of your anxiety will give you a plan of action,” says Marshall. Why are you annoyed? Do you suspect there’s a mutual attraction? Does their friendship fill a void in your relationship? Or is there an underlying reason you haven’t addressed? “My dad cheated on my mom and I’ve always had a problem trusting men,” says Cathy, 28, from Boston, Mass. “When I met my boyfriend, it took me a long time to accept his best friend who is a woman. When I got to know her, I realized my jealousy actually stemmed from my unresolved feelings toward my dad.” The key is to make sure you can differentiate between a situation that just bugs you (Is it worth busting up his 10-year-old friendship?) and one that makes you miserable (Do you distrust him or her?).
Review the evidence. “Relationships are special in part because a couple shares exclusive commodities,” says Marshall. “It’s usually the three big ones: sex, time and money. If he’s suddenly sharing one of these things with her, that could be a sign that something deeper is going on.” For example, are they affectionate with each other? Does he make time for her that could be spent with you, say, on Saturday night? Does he spend money on her? “Whenever my boyfriend had dinner with a certain female friend, he always picked up the tab,” says Judy from New York City. “We shared a bank account so it felt like I was, in part, funding their dinners, and it seemed like a protective gesture on his part—something a boyfriend would do. In time, I realized there was something going on and we didn’t last long.”
Also, asses whether their relationship contains an element of mystery. If you discover, a week after the fact, that she was at the same bar as him, he may have tried to conceal that information. Or if he never includes you in their plans, he may be worried that their chemistry will be off-the-charts obvious. Either way, a serious conversation is in order.
Get some perspective. It’s important to acknowledge what type of guy you’re with. If his posse has always been female-heavy or he comes from a family dominated by women, he may just relate better to the opposite sex. “My boyfriend grew up without a father and has two sisters,” says Megan. “His best friend is a woman and when we’re all together, you can see how platonic their bond is. It just took me a while to see that.” However, if he’s naturally a thrill-seeker, the friendship may give him an ego-boost—which could mean that he’s looking outside the relationship to feel validated. “If you can’t think clearly, consult your sibling or some well-intentioned friends—preferably those in healthy relationships—for their objective opinions,” suggests Marshall.
Confront the issue. “Remember, this is an opportunity to problem-solve together,” says Marshall. Start by telling him that the idea of him spending his time with another woman makes you uneasy, and then explain why. And be specific. Say something like, “When you make plans with Beth on Saturday night, it makes me feel like you don’t prioritize our time together.” Then pause and let him explain. “A good partner has your total welfare in mind when listening to you,” notes Marshall. “This means he’ll empathize with your feelings, yet refuse to cater to requests that are irrational. You will always walk away from conversations feeling understood.” It’s also important to give him the opportunity to hear him out—if there is a problem in the relationship, be open to hearing it.