Remember what it was like when you fell madly and deeply in love? I do. It happened to me a decade ago, when hubby and I started dating. For months, I wanted nothing more than to spend every single second with him. I wanted to stare at him while he slept and gaze at him while he slurped up the milk in his cereal. Lost in love, I disappeared from the social scene and pulled away from my friends, particularly the guys who had been in my life forever.
After hubby and I got married, though, I realized that I needed my friends. I was just as in love as I’d been before, perhaps even more so, though I no longer found his slurping quite as adorable. Yet I had a sense, even back then, that a strong and healthy marriage included strong and healthy relationships outside of it. Also – I have to admit – I missed my buddies. So I dove back into the thick of things and found, to my surprise, that something significant had shifted since my walk down the aisle: it was no longer acceptable to spend time alone with my guy pals.
Now that might not be a big deal for you, but I love having friends of the male persuasion. I love the sarcastic banter, I love debating politics, and I love the testosterone that floats aimlessly around the room. I couldn’t survive without my girlfriends, especially after becoming a mom, but there’s something really fun and refreshing about having guy friends as well. And I missed that.
But I have to be completely honest here. My friendships with men weren’t always completely platonic, and maybe that’s part of the reason I’m on the no-fly list with many of my guy pals. In my 20s I developed a curious habit of making out with the boys I’d grown up with. These momentary lapses in judgment were innocent enough, taking place mostly on New Year’s Eve when a little too much liquor had lowered our inhibitions. To me, and I think to them, these tête-à-têtes were enjoyable yet uncomplicated. We never tried to pursue anything more, and our friendships continued untarnished.
At least I thought they did, until the women they would eventually marry entered the picture. I always knew when my guy friends, those I had shared an occasional pucker with as well as those I had not, had met the women who would soon say "I do." Did I have a crystal ball? No, but I had a phone. And when it stopped ringing with their calls, I knew a wedding announcement wasn’t far behind. I never said anything to the guy pals who pulled away, but I couldn’t help but feel the loss of their presence in my life. Why couldn’t we have stayed friends?
The reason is obvious, even to me. Every time I try to picture my hubby developing a close friendship with a woman I, well, I can’t even picture it. It doesn’t seem right, primarily because he entered our marriage without close female friends. So if he were to say to me, “Wendy, I’m going out with my friend, [random woman], tomorrow,” I’d be piqued. And if he repeated that sentence three weeks later, I’d be even more piqued. If he repeated it again, I might just find myself hiring a private investigator and sneaking in to his read his emails.
What makes me uncomfortable is that recently I’ve asked him to do just this, to accept that I have a new friend, a married guy who also has a five-year-old. Every few weeks, we go out for coffee or lunch. There’s nothing going on, nor will there ever be, but I know my husband isn’t thrilled about it. I can only imagine that my new friend's wife isn't jumping for joy either. And that makes me feel bad. And guilty, like I’m doing something wrong. I want to have a social life that represents all of who I am, especially when who I am is someone who wants to hang out with men and women – straight, gay, single, married, parents, and non-parents. But how do I do that in a way that doesn’t hurt my spouse or my marriage?
What I’m banking on is the possibility that social mores will continue to crumble and it will soon be acceptable for married women to hang out with guys like we used to, minus the occasional drunken smooch fests. In the end, if you trust your spouse and feel safe in your marriage, what's a little lunch every once in a while going to do?
~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop