We’d all like to be open-minded about the other men in the lives of our girlfriends and wives: the friends, the coaches, the pool boy. Yet every day, we see relationships broken apart by infidelity, affairs, and people leaving one relationship to start another. It’s hard not to be worried sometimes, but we don’t want to be paranoid or controlling. Yet how can a guy keep perspective?
Here are five times when your worries may be somewhat justified and ways you can make the situations work for you.
1) When she Sees a Friend you’re not Allowed to Meet
Of course everyone needs a little alone time now and then, sometimes even with an opposite-sex friend. But when your wife or girlfriend goes out for drinks with Charlie Goodtimes and you’re not allowed to come along, and it happens several times in a row , there’s a reason you’re not meeting this guy. He’s not a casual friend: he’s a confidant, and she may be tempted to share more than just words with him. It’s okay to let her know that you’re uncomfortable with her seeing someone of the opposite sex so often when you’re not around. Tell her that if the friendship is innocent, so would be a round of drinks for all three of you.
2) When her most Recent Ex Tries to Reconnect
Sure, sometimes people do break up yet remain good, platonic friends. And that’s the trouble: when your sweetums is contacted by the man who used to melt her heart, you don’t want to seem boorish and unsophisticated by complaining about a harmless reunion. But make no mistake—if your girlfriend’s ex contacts her out of the blue, especially if you’ve only begun a relationship with her and she’s only just stopped seeing him, then he’s likely not out to patch up old wounds. Rather, he may want to assess whether she still has feelings for him, and if so, he might be more than happy to “take back” what he considers his, even just for a night or three. So don’t let him!
Let your girlfriend know that you’re a little uncomfortable with her seeing her ex, especially considering all the bad things she’s told you about him. If she still wants to see him for a chat, then don’t be a cad about it, but try to steer her into a lunchtime reunion instead of midnight cocktails. And deliver her ex the one-two punch of becoming the most awesome, caring boyfriend your gal’s ever seen, while joking once in a while about her ex’s patchy goatee or the time he split his pants on the dance floor.
3) When the Third Wheel Rolls too Close to Home
Does your girlfriend have a platonic friend, who seems innocent, harmless, sexless, and always on the phone with her? Don’t trust this guy. Unless he’s her brother or first cousin, or prefers the romantic company of other men, his affections for her run deeper than friendship—he’s just trapped in the friend zone, too timid to make a pass, yet too dumb to move on to another girl. And at some level, your girlfriend probably realizes the power she has over him and enjoys the attention.
It’s not your business to break up a friendship, but don’t be shy about showing your girlfriend lots of tender and specifically physical affection when this guy’s around. He’ll get the message about what a serious role you play in her life, and she’ll notice the contrast between her lover and her lapdog.
4) When the Famous Friend Comes Calling
In cities such as New York and Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco, it often happens that a friend of a friend is someone who’s been on television or the radio not so long ago. In smaller cities, the guitarist of the local rock band, or even the guy who just came back from London with lots of stories to tell about meeting the members of Coldplay, might be the most famous man about town.
If this guy is your gal-pal’s new best buddy, be wary. He could be a genuine friend who simply has deep affection for her—or he could be a fox who’s coming around to revisit the local henhouse. A lot of famous and infamous guys, especially those who are on the lower rungs of fame, see female conquests as a scorecard. And if he’s an old friend who’s back in town and on the scene, he may very well be trying to rekindle old flames that wouldn’t spark before his star burned bright.
This scenario is particularly difficult to dodge, but the worst thing you can do is act as though the famous friend is somehow better or more worthy of her attentions than you are. When he comes calling, make sure you are included in all conversations. Be polite, but demand the same respect and eye contact from him that he’s giving the woman in your life. You might just find out that he’s a great guy and fun to be around! But if he’s a playboy, your attention and self-confidence will let him know that your guard is up and your girlfriend is spoken for.
5) When the Guy Works with Her
Have you heard of the concept of the “work wife”? Sometimes people of the opposite sex can get into a companionship that, while not sexual, is comfortable and mutually beneficial in a way quite similar to that of husband and wife.
You probably do feel a little threatened if your girlfriend or wife has a second “husband” at work. It may seem like a strike against you that she has a man in her life with all that time and career arc in common with her; make that two strikes if he and she are on a better career path than your own!
While it’s justifiable to be envious of the close working relationship her coworker has with her, it’s not necessarily harmful for her to have a close associate of the opposite sex. In fact, you might find there are a few benefits to it—a friend of either gender can be a release valve, somebody she can talk to about the crabby boss or the rude security guard, so that she doesn’t have to keep her feelings about work bottled up inside until she comes home to you. Plus, it may actually help your relationship if she has a male friend to get daytime perspective on any fights you may have had the night before: this guy may be taking your side and giving you support you’d never hoped to get!
However, if you notice things that make you suspect she has more than just a friendly working relationship with a coworker (like a new interest in dressing up for work or working long hours), the best course of action is to allow her the breathing room to have a career, yet be a contrast to all that. Make sure to show her that there’s another side of her life that starts when the workday ends, one that you’re a primary participant in. Help make her nights as stress-free, fun, and romantic as reality will allow. She’ll see that the familiarity she has with her coworker is no match for the true bond she has with the boyfriend who loves her.
You’ve probably got some horror stories about men in your girlfriends’ lives who were less than honorable in their intentions—and perhaps a few stories about someone who was needlessly jealous and handled it all wrong. Let us know the decisions you’ve made to help the situations work out for the best.