June 23, 2024
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Dating a Guy Who Has Many Female Friends

Dear Dr. Chani,

I have been dating a guy—let’s call him Eli—for a few months. We were set up by friends, even though he typically does not follow “traditional shidduch dating.” When we started going out, he mentioned to me that he has a lot of female friends. At first, I didn’t think this would be an issue for me, but now I’m not so sure.

Theoretically, I do not have a problem with a guy I’m dating having friends of the opposite gender. I personally do not have a lot of male friends, but I can understand why Eli would want to maintain his relationships with his female friends.

Yet, over time I began to notice that Eli seemed to care more about his female friends than about me. When he once scheduled our date around his plans to go bowling with a female friend I felt frustrated. Since I am the girl he is dating, he should have prioritized our time together. Then a couple of days later, he canceled a date because he forgot that he had plans with a different female friend. I was angry. I felt that if nothing else, I should have been invited. Were we not as serious as I thought we were if he would rather hang out with other girls?

At this point, I am very confused. Is it OK for someone I am dating seriously to spend significant amounts of time with people of the opposite gender? Am I being too needy or jealous? Is it fair for me to bring this issue up with him? Maybe this is the norm and I just need to accept it?

Sincerely,

Audrey

Dear Audrey,

There are many questions embedded in your general question about if it is reasonable for Eli to prioritize spending time with his female friends while he is officially dating you. The answer needs to take into account what Eli’s friendships with his female friends mean to him and the extent to which he views your relationship with him differently.

You will need to explore how Eli feels about you and his relationship with you. You also need to understand his perspective on dating and his short- and long-term expectations for how dating should progress. But first, you need to explore your own answers to these questions so you can be prepared to share your own feelings on these topics with Eli as well.

Keep in mind that your question about how you fit into Eli’s dynamic with his female friends has two aspects to it. The first part to consider is how you and Eli feel about the idea of casual male-female relationships altogether. The second part for you to explore is how those relationships can impact dating, regardless of your abstract beliefs.

The first part, how you each feel about casual relationships, is important for you to think about. Male/female casual relationships can bring up a lot of emotions for people. Some individuals feel that it is socially healthy to have a broad array of friends, including those from the opposite gender. Some even report that they relate better to people from the opposite gender and that those people understand them better.

On the other hand, some people observe that male-female relationships are never really as casual as you imagine them to be. Even if people tell themselves that they are relating to each other simply as friends, they never know if their opposite-gender friends feel the same way. There are often attempts to ignore, suppress or discount the male/ female attraction that is a normal aspect of opposite-gender interactions.

Your awareness of this underlying attraction may play a role in your resentment about Eli spending time with other girls. One way to determine how much the opposite-gender aspect to Eli’s relationships bothers you is to ask yourself, “How would I feel if Eli canceled or scheduled our date around his hanging out with other guys, instead of other girls? Would it make a difference in the way I felt?” Ask yourself if the fact that Eli is prioritizing his time with other women adds to your anger and frustration, and if so, why?

It is possible that you and Eli have different perspectives on male/female interactions. These might be influenced by your reactions to your past experiences, such as the families you grew up in, societies you were part of, and your educational experiences. It is important for you to think about your own feelings about casual relationships before you discuss them with Eli. The more that you are in touch with what you personally feel about these relationships, the greater your understanding of your situation and the easier it will be for you to share your feelings with Eli.

Regardless of your personal beliefs and feelings about casual relationships, it is important to recognize how those relationships can impact dating. Even if a person is completely comfortable with male/female casual relationships, those relationships need to be reexamined when one is dating or married. There can be a natural tension created when you feel you need to compete with other people for your partner’s time and attention, and those people are of your own gender.

When you are dating Eli, you expect him to make your relationship his top priority. You feel insignificant and belittled when Eli prioritizes spending time with another person, particularly a female. This does not mean that you are needy or jealous. Most likely, Eli would feel the same way if your situations were reversed.

When you feel ready to have an open conversation with Eli, start by letting him know what you like about him and what it means to you to date him seriously. You might say something like: “I really enjoy being with you. One of the things I really like about you is ____. Over time, I thought we were dating seriously. I thought we would prioritize our relationship over other relationships. Sometimes I feel like I’m just another one of your friends.” Give Eli a chance to listen to you and respond to your feelings.

During your conversation, try to get a sense from Eli about how he feels about you. What does he like about you? How does he feel about the relationship? Does he want to be dating seriously? What does it mean to him to date seriously? Share your feelings about your relationship with each other and your perspectives about what it means to date seriously.

While it may make you feel vulnerable to have these conversations, you need to discuss these questions openly with each other so that you can better understand one another. Hopefully, Eli will recognize that you are his priority and understand how he should demonstrate that to you so that you have no doubt about it in the future. These conversations with Eli will give you the clarity you need to figure out how you want to proceed.

Wishing you much success,

Chani


Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist and relationship coach specializing in teaching emotional connection and communication skills for over two decades. She coaches individuals and couples, teaches courses on how to become a master of relationships and provides free relationship resources at chanimaybruch.com. Learn a step-by-step method to improve your ability to emotionally connect with her online course: The RELATE Technique™—Seven Steps to Emotionally Connect Through Conversation. Reach out to her at [email protected].

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