In da Bacchanalia

Joey Garcia

I’m dating a woman who was in a 13-year relationship with a guy who cheated on her many times. She became insecure and explained this to me before we got serious. One day, I mentioned that I see nothing wrong with going to a club and getting a woman’s number if we click as friends. She said, “Once we date, you do not need to have new female friends.” I do not see the harm if it’s strictly friendship and nothing more. Is my partner right that all friends of opposite gender are off-limits? Or is it OK to obtain new female friends who are not co-workers once a man is in a serious relationship?

Your girlfriend probably thinks that you’re just trying to keep your options open. She may be right. The problem is the definition of friendship. A platonic friendship means no flirtatious or sexualized content to conversations, e-mails or texts; no calling each other “boo” or other terms of endearment; no cuddling; no full-body, penis-to-vagina hugs; no kissing; no massages; no sleepovers; no confiding in the friend things that you would not or could not tell your partner. And, most importantly, if you engage in any kind of sexual activity with these female friends in between your committed relationships, it’s not a platonic friendship. It’s the f—k buddy relationship that is common among 20-somethings, and it keeps you from maturing emotionally, spiritually and mentally. How? You lie to yourself about the nature of the “friendship” (pretending it’s platonic), so you can’t trust yourself (there’s no trust without truth) and no one you date can trust you completely, either. If there is no truth or trust, you can’t make a real commitment, so genuine love never grows. You may feel an attachment to the people you date, but your behavior will always be about protecting your options, not about growing in love and commitment. So your relationship behavior is stuck at an adolescent or very young adult stage. Plus, since many people associate clubs with Bacchanalia, it’s easy to understand why your girlfriend is suspicious. One way to check out your honesty around this issue is to ask yourself: Are you hitting the clubs seeking new male friends, too, and collecting their phone numbers? My Magic 8-Ball tells me, “Don’t count on it!”

Another question: Why do you need new female friends? If your primary relationship is not satisfying, decide why. Then chat with your partner about changes you can both make so that your emotional intimacy increases. After all, most affairs begin when two people connect emotionally, becoming each other’s confidants, investing their hopes and fears about life in each other’s hearts. Later, one admits an attraction to the other and hopes for requited affections. If those are expressed, the friendship turns sexual. Now does your girlfriend’s demand for a boundary make sense? If you love her, you want her to feel secure with you. So you would not engage in behavior that activates her insecurities. Instead, support her in doing the emotional work necessary within herself to be free. Of course, if you seek new female friends because you crave female attention, you probably have some mama issues and need to spend some time on a therapist’s couch.

Now, a disclosure: I frequent nightclubs and have for more than 20 years, because I love to dance. I have platonic male friends and have for more than 20 years. So I understand the dynamics of your question. I also know that people lie to themselves and others about who they really are and what they are doing in their relationships, causing inordinate and unnecessary pain. Don’t go there.

Meditation of the week
“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. … It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for,” said novelist Erica Jong. Are you willing to give up being self-centered and live love-centered?

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