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Kate McCoy
Kate McCoy, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5510
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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Ive been in a relationship for almost three years—its suppose

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I've been in a relationship for almost three years—it's suppose to be exclusive. My girlfriend has said many times that there's nothing wrong with her going out with her male friends. This would include going out for drinks, concerts, movies, lunch, coffee, etc. I call them “dates” but she says that's “old school”--they're only a date if there's intimacy involved. When I tell her that I'm uncomfortable with this I feel like I'm depriving her of a social life. So am I being “old school” if I feel uncomfortable about this? Would this be considered OK in a majority of modern American relationships?
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Rafael M.T.Therapist replied 12 months ago.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

I am sorry to know about this frustrating situation.

Customer:

Tell me about yourself.. where do you live? Are you an American?

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Nowadays you could find couples sharing really exclusive relationships to those who do feel comfortable having multiple partners, all depending on their peculiar value and belief systems, personalities, life styles and more. What is clear is that when tow people in a relationship do not clearly get to an agreement about what behaviors is acceptable or not in the relationship, serious issues and unhealthy crisis would happen.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Sorry, if you do not feel comfortable with my support I will leave the chat for another expert to answer.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Hello?

Expert:  Kate McCoy replied 12 months ago.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

There is nothing wrong with what you are feeling. Your girlfriend should not be going out with any male friends without you. She is in a relationship with you and only you. Going out with other men, especially on "dates" basically is telling these friends that she does not respect you as her boyfriend and she is telling you that your feelings about it are not important.

Talk to her again, but this time tell her that if you are in a relationship together, you expect to have your feelings treated with respect. Let her know that she expects the same from you so she needs to listen to you and decide how she wants to approach this issue. You can also talk to her about why she feels the need to go out with her male friends. If she feels happy with you, then there is no reason to exclude you when she goes out.

If she will not listen, you have a few choices. You can end the relationship or consider counseling either with her or on your own if she will not go. While you cannot force anyone to change their behavior, you can encourage her to deal with what she is doing either by bringing it up to her or having a counselor tell her that her behavior is wrong. Sometimes a person needs to hear that they are wrong from another source that is not so easy to dismiss.

I hope this has helped you,
Kate
Customer: replied 12 months ago.

Thank you for your response but my fear is that I may be too traditional in my thinking about our relationship and maybe a "modern" relationship includes going out with others. I also fear that I am depriving her of her social life.


 


My two questions are: Am I being “old school” if I feel uncomfortable about this? Would this be considered OK in a majority of modern American relationships?

Expert:  Kate McCoy replied 12 months ago.
No you are not being old school with your thoughts. Though relationships tend to be more open now because of cultural expectations, the needs of s person to be loved and cared about remain the same. The need to be in a faithful and committed relationship is always "in" and is a natural expectation in a relationship, American or otherwise. Not listening to your partner's needs (as your girlfriend is doing with you) is never ok. In any relationship, putting each other first and good communication makes for a long and happy relationship.

Kate
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 12 months ago.

I think there are a few considerations that may influence your situation. There is Your age and Her age. There are Your intentions for relationship with her: You've said you expect an exclusive relationship; but do you expect it to lead to marriage? Do you expect it to lead to cohabitation before marriage?

 

What's going on in today's college and work-worlds allows greater freedom for alone time between friends of the opposite sex--and one of the driving forces behind that "going out As Friends" category is the need that large numbers of Children of Divorce have to keep alternative sources of warmth and love available to them, since they're unconsciously SO wary about any romantic relationship eventually descending into divorce/breakup. (I wrote a doctoral research dissertation on the love-styles of children of divorce in the 1990s.) So they keep all their "old friendships" alive. I don't know if your girlfriend is a daughter of divorce or not; but even women and men who don't have the adult children of divorce's nearly universal (unconscious) fear of divorce may naturally like the warmth and support for their self-esteem and attractiveness that cross-sexual friendship brings.

 

It's reasonable that it could take some months for anyone to make the transition from the habit of spending regular pair time with opposite sex friends to reserving such exclusive time for their love partner only. I would expect that transition to occur some time between age 23 and 30. But it's also very related to both partners' intentions in their romantic relationship. THREE years is about the end of the normal biological duration of passionate love--unless the lovers spend a lot of time far apart from each other. There are many factors that can keep a romantic relationship from leading to marriage between the 18 months of courtship that is the commonest period in USA and the 36 months that can often be the beginning of a downward slide in relationship satisfaction, even tho neither partner may notice it at first--because the neurohormonal fuel for sexual & emotional passion is beginning to reduce. I don't want to overgeneralize here, but it's always possible that partners like yourselves aren't free enough to talk about your ultimate wishes -- such as a woman not bringing up marriage, because she's afraid of feeling rejected if her boyfriend doesn't want to go there any time soon. So it's possible that if one of you wants to be sure that you're headed for marriage, but the other doesn't show any signs of wanting that level of commitment to a future life together--and you aren't SAYING THE WORDS to each other, then the one who wants more may be secretly expecting that the relationship is going stale. So the incentive to put "all of your erotic energy" into one person retreats and a holding-on-to-what-you've-got pattern takes over instead.

 

It's actually more common in America for young men from 20 to 35 to be reluctant to marry than for young women, because men like regular sex and love but worry about the burdens of financial responsibility that come with marriage, and the probability of children. So if you're NOT talking marriage by year 3, but expecting exclusivity, then you are in effect opting for a 20something "trial intimacy" lifestyle; so it's not too different for your girlfriend to be opting for "going out As Friends" as her own 20something continuing lifestyle. That's why your age and the trajectory of your romantic relationship are such important considerations.

 

Basically, we humans are affected by a biological "mating dance," and if we try to slow and postpone its procreative outcome for too long, it's likely to go flat--so unless both partners are much too involved in their careers or wars, crimes, tragedies or addictions to prioritize their feelings for each other, one or both of them is likely to jump ship and find somebody else with whom the juices are flowing fresh again, and "new love chases away old."

 

So I suggest you examine yourself for any possible fear of marriage and financial commitments, and you also think about your girlfriend's feelings about the same issues. If you perceive all green lights on these fronts, then you can proceed to assert yourself for the exclusivity you want. I'm not arguing that it's morally right or wrong to want what you want, even if you're not willing to approach marriage any time soon. But having an earnest discussion about this with your girlfriend might clarify for both of you whether you're experimenting with romance or also both moving willingly towards marriage despite any normal fears either of you may have.

 

I hope you'll respond so that I can tailor my knowledge (from teaching 20somethings about love relationships for 21 years) more accurately to your present mindsets.

Customer: replied 12 months ago.

Thanks for your response, which is a little technical and probably doesn't really apply to my relationship with my girlfriend. She is 39 and I'm older. Her parents are not divorced and neither were mine. We have been together for almost three years. We are not talking about marriage or living together.

Basically, I just wanted to address a simple issue: Is it right or wrong for a woman in an exclusive relationship to believe that her going out with male friends is OK? What would most other couples think about this? I personally feel uncomfortable with this type of arrangement but she seems to think that me being uncomfortable is "old school" thinking. Just as a note: She says that she is not currently going out with any male friends but she has in the past and she thinks that I should have no problem with her doing this, as they are "just friends." She makes me feel like I'm depriving her of a social life.

Expert:  Kate McCoy replied 12 months ago.
Simply put, if you are in an exclusive relationship, it is wrong to go out with friends of the opposite sex without your partner being there with you and/or against their wishes. You are not "old school" or wrong in your thinking. And most exclusive couples in the U.S. would agree with that. If your girlfriend is assuming you are ok with this, then there are issues that need resolved in your relationship.

Kate




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Kate McCoy, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5510
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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