Well Being

When Friends Come Between Your Romantic Relationship

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There's a woman I know who is a bit too chummy with my husband. We're both runners and cyclists, but this girl–let's call her Ms. Clueless When It Comes To Relationship Boundaries, emails him (not me) to join her on long runs and rides. In all fairness, she invites other guys too–but not me, and not any other women.

The times that I have invited myself along anyway just despite her, I have had to put up with her flirting with my guy, making jokes with him and talking about things she probably shouldn't (like the fact that her new jog bra is making her chafe in all the wrong places). Like I said, she does this with the other guys too, but it's her blatant disrespect towards me—and the female code that says we don't get too close to each other's guys—that irks me. One time she even had us stop mid-run and asked me to take a photo of her with all the guys. Not one that I would be in, just one that I would take. I “accidentally” cut her out of that picture. Woops.

Friends just don't do that to each other. And yes, I used to consider her a friend. I mean, we're close to the same age and have a lot in common when it comes to athletics, so it seems like she'd be a natural fit. But when she started honing in on my man space, and worse, when he started soaking up the attention, the friendship became strained. I had many conversations with my hubby about why he had to run or bike with her. “Because she's fast and can keep up with me,” he'd say. “Besides, two- or three-hour workouts get really boring by yourself.”

While I certainly understood that, I finally got to a point where I said, no more. No more workouts with just her. If there were other guys involved, then OK (although I still didn't like the fact that she was there). Not that I considered her a threat to our relationship; she just made me feel insignificant and disrespected. Through all of this, my so-called friend came in between my marriage and caused more than a few ripples. Luckily, I am vocal enough about my feelings and my husband is smart enough to listen.

I was reminded of this when I read about a new study in this month's American Journal of Sociology that talked about the same issue, except this time, how it affects guys. Who knew men felt a similar sense of betrayal when their partner gets a little too chummy with his male friends. LiveScience writes:

The situation of a girlfriend or wife having more contact than her significant other does with his friends is what researchers call “partner betweenness,” because the woman comes between the man and his friends. Even though the friendships are platonic, these circumstances can ultimately take a toll on the couple's romantic relationship.

Study researchers Benjamin Cornwell of Cornell University and Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago explained how this affects guys in terms of physical and emotional intimacy:

Men who experience partner betweenness in their joint relationships are more likely to have trouble getting or maintaining an erection and are also more likely to experience difficulty achieving orgasm during sex.

They went on to state that it doesn't necessarily matter how often the woman speaks to her man's friends, it's simply the fact that she has more contact with them than he does. This can pose a threat to the guy's gender identity and masculinity. It can also bring up issues about privacy and may even stop the guy from talking about his partner and seeking personal advice from his friends.

The bottom line is: Both men and women should respect the boundaries in a relationship. While it's great to get along with each other's friends, don't buddy up and get too cozy. Same goes for our friends. Respect the code.

Tell us, has this ever happened to you?

Photo: Thinkstock