Platonic Relationships…Can They Really Work?

(Originally posted November 26, 2010)

A song titled “Girlfriend” on Alicia Keys’ debut album “Songs in A Minor” depicts a problem she has with her boyfriend’s female friend. The video further displays the platonic relationship between Alicia’s boyfriend and his friend, which Alicia appears to be uncomfortable with their friendship. How many of us have been in this predicament? Of course this is a topic that’s been discussed several times and I’ve heard several thoughts about it, but let me break it down for you.

There are two elements to a platonic relationship. One element is a friendship established prior to the committed relationship. The other element is the friendship established with an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. I will first break down these two elements and afterward I’ll discuss the matter of platonic relationships developed during the committed relationship. (That’s a little less complicated) For any platonic relationship to work, however, all parties have to feel comfortable and included. Let me give you a few examples. You’re in a newly committed relationship with Troy, but you’ve been friends with Darnell for 10 years. I wouldn’t suggest you end your friendship with Darnell for Troy, but I would suggest that you introduce them to each other. Introduce the opportunity for the two men to get to know each other and possibly become friends. (Be mindful of how comfortable you are with the two becoming close friends though – set boundaries if you have to.) If they don’t become best buddies, at least you’re including Troy in your friendship with Darnell. With that being said, now that you and Troy are committed to each other, your friendship with Darnell has to change to some degree. He can still be someone you confide in or laugh with, but there can’t be late night conversations, dinners, movies, etc. by yourselves. You now have to include Troy because you’re committed to him. Don’t ask Darnell to be the third wheel, but make it a double date if Darnell has a partner/date. The friendship can work as long as you make Troy comfortable with your friends…all of your friends.

The flip side to this arrangement is if Troy has a good friend named Nicole. Troy and Nicole have been friends for 5 years prior to your relationship. (It’s always a double standard with men) Ladies we can’t ask for or expect understanding from men if we’re not willing to do the same! As long as Troy introduces Nicole to you and changes the dynamics of their friendship (just as you did with Darnell), then what’s the problem? And you can’t be catty toward Nicole either. You have to be open to befriending her or at least to accept her friendship with Troy. If Nicole is catty or Darnell is disrespectful toward you and Troy’s relationship, then that’s a problem for you and Troy to handle. If Darnell, for example, does not respect your relationship with Troy, then YOU have to check Darnell or let that friendship go. The same logic goes for Troy if Nicole is being disrespectful to you. He has to check her. Friendship is primarily about support and it’s nothing without it. Of course there are other concerns with the platonic relationship, such as insecurities and jealousy issues, however that’s a more in-depth discussion for a different post. Essentially assurance and inclusion in your [already established] platonic relationship is necessary.

The second element of a platonic relationship is more complicated, but I have an easy solution. DON’T DO IT! I don’t understand friendships amongst exes, especially if you don’t have children together. It doesn’t make sense to me at all! I have a rule about exes. Once you are an ex, you can’t be my friend. Your ex doesn’t need to call periodically to see how you’re doing or what’s new in your life, etc. The occasional phone calls are ways to see if you’ve moved on. It’s also a way to control the connection and communication between the two of you. If you keep in touch with an ex it means you haven’t moved on completely, which is fine, but you don’t need to commit to anyone else. It’s plain and simple! Let’s go back to our examples. If Troy was good friends with his ex-girlfriend Erica, you would have a problem with it. You’d probably ask yourself why their friendship works now, but it didn’t work when they were together? Isn’t friendship a key component to any relationship? Furthermore, how do you know that their friendliness won’t rekindle an old flame? It doesn’t make sense! I don’t care if Troy introduces you to his ex Erica or not – it won’t work! There’s a reason an ex is an ex and either let the ex go or don’t get in a committed relationship until you’ve moved on. It’s not rocket science!

Let’s now move on to the platonic relationships that are developed during your committed relationship. This is easy. New platonic relationships are healthy, but be aware of boundaries. It’s almost inevitable that you develop these new friendships through your coworkers, but you have to know your limits. You have to have the same limitations as you would with Darnell, and Troy with Nicole. No late night conversations, dinners, movies, etc. alone with the two of you. To be honest, I don’t think it should even get to the point of extensive conversation outside of work. It’s fine to have comradeship with male coworkers, but you have to use your best judgment to determine the coworker’s lifestyle and intentions. A woman knows when a man is romantically interested, and you have to be wise about who you befriend. Think of it this way, anyone you befriend your partner will befriend, so if you think your partner won’t like your new friend then don’t go there! I specifically mention coworkers because I can’t think of any other opportunity for you to befriend the opposite sex. You’re not meeting new men at the grocery store or in the street when you’re in a committed relationship. It’s either business related or nothing. In a committed relationship it’s important to determine who the friends are and when the friendship began. Be considerate to your partner and be sensible!


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