* Disclaimer! I know that not everyone is me, and these tips (not rules) don’t apply to everyone, or every relationship.
So I have been on both sides of the girl friend/girlfriend thing. Opposite sex friends are a hotly debated topic, with no easy or pat answers. While I’ve read at least one rather compelling argument that couples shouldn’t have ‘em, period, I’d be a total hypocrite to tout that stance, as I have more than a few guy friends that I have no intention of shunning.
But sometimes it can suck to be the half of the couple where the other person has multiple opposite-sex friends, or even just one close one (and obviously, I use the terminology loosely; not everyone likes the opposite sex, and not everyone does the couple thing, but for the purposes of the blog and my life). Again, there are no easy answers, but here is a brief list, from my own experiences, annoyances, and mistakes from both sides of the girlfriend/girl friend brouhaha, of tips that IMO can make the whole deal easier for everyone, especially in the beginning:
1. Don’t let’s talk about sex.
If your opposite-sex friend has seen you naked, sexually or otherwise, there is no need to remind current friend’s SO of this fact. Either they already know, or they don’t want to know.
2. Leave the exes in the unspoken memory bin.
If you’ve been friends with someone for awhile, chances are that you were around for one or two or 10 of his/her exes. And from here on in, I will cheat and say “their” instead of his/her. Anyway, the current SO is likely aware of the ex/es, so aside from innocuous group tales, it’s kinda unnecessary to bring them up.
3. Tread lightly with sleepovers.
This one specifically, I’ve been on every end with. THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID. Sleepovers never meant sex to me. As many of you know (like it or not), I was a sexless teenager, and I also attended a school 13 miles from home, not to mention went to commuter colleges, so my friends have always been scattered around, and so we had plethoras of slumber parties. To me, sleeping at someone’s house means just that. But I’ve been the girlfriend whose boyfriend just had a girl “crash,” and it can feel a little wonky. I’ve also been the girlfriend who slept at another guy’s house, and even though the boyfriend at the time said beforehand he didn’t mind, turns out he kind of did. And finally, I’ve been the girl friend who stayed at a guy friend’s house, and his girlfriend was not so thrilled. There was no sex any of those times (though I can’t speak affirmatively for the sleepovers I wasn’t at), but it can just feel weird for the SO not at the party. If having sleepovers with your opposite sex friend is one of the things you just do, know that it might not be that simple when s/he’s dating, at least for a little bit.
4. For the love of God, don’t rub all over him/her.
You might think this one is a gimme, but trust me, from my own past experience, it’s not. Now I know that some people are just like this, all rubby and sexual, and nobody cares. However, the SO might care. I realize that I have a lower threshold than many when it comes to my boyfriend’s realizing that there are other women in the world that he may want to rub against, or who may want to rub against him. At 36, I can at last, begrudgingly, admit that I do not exist in a sexual vacuum. But I don’t need to see it happening in front of my face. If you don’t want someone for yourself, and their SO doesn’t care for the lovey-dovey, touchy-feely? Even if it seems annoying? IMO, you should respect it. Not to say that there shouldn’t be affection, but there is happy hugging, and then there is literally imitating a stripper, using the friend as a prop. And then there is in between, which is best left up to the couple, and everyone should be aware of people’s comfort levels.
5. While both parties may like you; they are still the couple.
Another one I’ve been on all sides of, with my friends, his friends, and as a friend, and one that can be particularly hard to see when you are single. Just be careful of needing to be seen as the same type of important that their SO is, and be cognizant of when the couple needs time to be just that.
6. Give reassurance.
If you and the OS (opposite sex, I am a lazy typist today) friend really ARE just friends? Care about your friend as your friend. Actively help him/her pursue happiness. Whether you like their choice in SO or not, they’re your friend, and have chosen to be with this person. Try to get to know the SO beyond your friend – while also respecting their personal boundaries. Show them with your actions that you care about them, and are there to be a friend. Not a proxy girlfriend, not an attention backup – a friend. Even if you spook them at first, with time, the good ones will know that you are there to do no harm.
And speaking of the good ones, here is a briefer list of ways to not be an asshole girlfriend/boyfriend to girl/boy friends – again, based on both sides of my spectrum:
1. Don’t be the Queen from “Snow White.”
That another woman or man is attractive is not a plot against you. S/he just looks like that, sometimes with extra pizzazz. Don’t be a hater. You’re your own beautiful, and your SO is with you for a reason that hopefully goes much deeper than looks. And if someone’s younger than you? Not their fault. You were once that age too.
2. Don’t be a narcissist.
S/he had friends before you; s/he may have friends after you. Ideally, s/he will have friends while being with you. Sometimes those friends will be OS. If you try and forbid it, all of it, every time, s/he will go one of three ways:
1) Break up with you.
2) Go behind your back.
3) Become a shell of a man/woman.
Not saying don’t have boundaries. I think respect needs to go both ways; see above list. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is all Flirty McRubberson with their OS friends and you can’t deal, then IMO you should go with aforementioned 1). But if you like your SO, and they’re respecting you, then you can’t pretend that people of the opposite sex don’t exist, and that sometimes your SO is going to enjoy their platonic company.
3. Try, try, try, to leave the past in the past.
Figured I’d end the blog owning myself. It ties into number two on the latter list, but man, do I hate the past. When it comes to my own self? It’s like, oh don’t worry about it; I can be friends with exes and assorted dudes, because I’ve had first-person access to my own history. When I’m with someone and it comes to the women in his past/present, it’s all harrowing shadows of a life that I wasn’t a part of, at least not in my current role. And as I tend to date people I’ve already been friends with (to tie the blog even moreso together), it can be a truly murky road. Because exes aren’t just exes; they’re the people I used to know as my current SO’s former SO. I find myself haunted at every turn, with the memories. But really, this one’s just an extension of the last thing about not being a narcissist. Realize you’re together now for reasons, and if you like those reasons, try not to let his/her other relationships make you feel less special.
Life is complicated. Love is beautiful. I think that as much as we can tie all that together, the happier we’ll all be.