On Women Getting Over Upsets

These videos (From “Tale of Two Brains” by Mark Gungor, DVD here) have been very helpful for my husband and me both in understanding why getting over Richard/Tracy has been so rough for me:

The Nothing Box

Men’s Brains vs. Women’s Brains

It seemed mostly obvious to me: Richard’s friendship meant a great deal to me, we did all sorts of things together, had many things in common, talked about everything, made connections.

So not only was it emotionally devastating, but every single thing in my life and in geek culture reminds me of him in some way, so I would get constant nudges pushing the pain onto me over and over every single day.

But as he explains it, Hubby put Richard into a “box” which he has buried deep in a warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant, never to be dug up again:

So he couldn’t understand why I didn’t just do the same.

Because he got over it so easily (despite wanting, every time he saw Richard at church or at the store, to go up to him and knock him out), I began to feel like there was something “wrong” with me for not being over it yet.

But the above videos explain how in a woman’s brain, everything is connected to everything else.  You can’t just categorize your life in boxes which do not touch each other.

Movies don’t just remind me of that movie, but of whomever I was with when I first watched it.  Games remind me of whom I played them with.  Cthulhu reminds me of Richard for reasons I won’t get into.  Everything about Orthodoxy, my chosen path, reminds me of Richard, because he was the one guiding me into it and helping with my questions.

And also, as explained in the above videos, when we are stressed, when we are emotional, we must talk about it, or we will explode.  Being told by male friends or family members not to talk about it, just drove me crazy because the feelings were still there, but couldn’t be released.  Hence, this blog.

Of course, there’s also the issue that introverts tend to have fewer friendships than extroverts, so we put more meaning into those friendships, and feel the loss much more than someone who has 20 other friends to fill the void one leaves.

Also the same for those of us who tend to have trouble finding dates, and can’t just find somebody else next weekend to mend the broken heart.

So on both counts, it was hard for me to get over broken hearts in college, just as it’s hard for me now to get over the loss of Richard’s friendship.  It tells me that this is perfectly normal for women and for introverts.

So those of you who are extroverts, or men, please be patient and lenient with us introverts and/or women.  We don’t mend our hearts the way you do, feel our losses very keenly, and can’t just put that bad experience into a box we never look into again.  It’s not a character failing or some mental issue; it is the way God made us.

 

 

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Is it okay to be jealous of the opposite-sex friends of my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend?

Q: Is it okay to be jealous of the opposite-sex friends of my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend?
A: Not unless they’re sleeping together.

If you’re in an exclusive relationship, particularly marriage, it is common and natural to feel jealousy.  However, unless your significant other (SO) is truly cheating on you and you’ve caught him/her red-handed, you must learn to trust him/her not to cheat on you.

(To clarify, “cheating,” or “adultery,” is sexual contact with another person.  It is not, for example, having a close friend of the opposite sex, talking to someone of the opposite sex, playful flirting, hugging, snuggling, talking to an ex or someone who used to have a crush on you, etc.

(Though in order to keep yourself from crossing the line, I highly suggest avoiding porn or sexual fantasies about your friends.  That helps you to see your platonic friend as a person, a fellow creature of God with feelings and opinions and talents, not as a sex object to lust over.)

Follow me down below the table of contents for the rest of this article:

Flirting and other supposedly “inappropriate” behavior

By “flirting,” I do NOT mean it’s okay to touch your friend in inappropriate places, such as the breasts or backside or thigh.  That is more properly called “coming on to” or “seducing” or “groping.”  I also do NOT mean putting your tongue down her throat.  By “flirting,” I mean what is also called casual, innocent banter.

As Christine Schoefer writes in the Salon.com article Strangers in the Night, Americans often get too uptight about flirting, making it a part of seduction, when it should be perfectly natural for anyone to flirt with anyone no matter what their orientation or marital status, expecting nothing more than a moment’s diversion:

There is no question that most of us have flirted strategically at some point. But what if mating is not on our minds at all? What if we are happily settled, and dating is the last thing we desire? Do we disregard everyday erotic vibrations altogether for fear of being misinterpreted as hunters on the prowl?

In the past few decades, even strategic flirting has come under attack. The women’s movement, which coded all erotic innuendo as patriarchal, blasted flirtation as yet another means by which men objectified and intimidated women. It took me years to realize that flirting was not misogynist by definition and to reclaim it as fun….

When practiced artfully, flirting is as light as a chocolate soufflé, stick a fork into it and it collapses. The pleasure of flirting is that you can play whether you are in a committed relationship or not. On my European travels, I learned that you do not have to be young, beautiful or single to flirt, just alive. Regardless of your sexual orientation, you can engage in it with men and women.

I have flirted with solidly committed white-haired men, with women as married as myself, with adolescent lifeguards and ice-cream vendors. Sometimes, I fear that if I go too long without a European sojourn, I’ll get too rusty to pass on this art to my daughters.

The worst a flirtation can do is to evoke jealousy in a third person. Because American culture teaches us to be single-minded when it comes to sexual attraction — seeking a partnership for bed or for life — acknowledging the erotic has an unsettling effect.

But since artful flirtation is not intent upon acting, it poses no threat, really. Watching a lover flirt with someone else can be like a pinprick piercing the bubble of our complacency, but what’s wrong with stirring up the energy?

So you have people getting upset with their flirtatious mates, acting as if they are cheating, demanding that they stay away from that flirtatious friend or co-worker.

I really feel this is too much being made about nothing.  Some of my best friends are incorrigible flirts, never stopping even while happily married.  Some people misunderstand, but most know they’re just having fun.

I remember a co-worker flirting heavily with my former boss, even touching his arm, but everyone knew she was just playing, and laughed.  Meanwhile, furious wives write to advice columnists about their insensitive lout of a mate who lets his coworker flirt with him and touch his arm, then says she’s overreacting.  (I forget if this was Carolyn Hax or Dear Prudence.)

Who do you think is happier–the spouse who gets jealous of a flirtatious mate, forcing him to change his ways, or the one who just laughs it off?  Does the marriage contract read, “Even noticing that other people are attractive and/or fun to be around is now verboten“?

I’ve spent all of my adult life among people who enjoy flirting for its own sake.  People who are happily married but see nothing wrong with innocent flirting socially, in the workplace, even at church.  I don’t see why some people make such a big deal out of it.

I also have friends who have no problem cuddling up to you on the couch, putting a head on your shoulder, that sort of thing, and mean nothing more of it than friendship or maybe a little innocent flirting.

One girlfriend, my matron of honor, always wanted to loosen me up, and is a shameless flirt.  I know and have known plenty of people–socially, at work, on BBS’es in the 90s, at school in the past, and especially in the Society for Creative Anachronisms–who flirt freely and shamelessly, including my matron of honor, whom I have known for 20 years and whom even marriage has not tamed.  Guys often misunderstand her intentions, but she’s no trollope.

People at my last job used to flirt all the time: One of my bosses winked at me and flirted with me, one of the secretaries and any pretty girl who came to visit; I was sure one of the secretaries had a thing for my other boss, since she would flirt with him and touch his arm, and he would laugh and say “That Nancy,” but they were both happily married and it was just an innocent game.  I never had a reason to think they had taken it to another level, that either of them were anything but faithful spouses.

I have also discovered that Greeks are huge flirts, constantly flirting with each other (despite being married to others for years), right in the church basement, but nobody taking it seriously.  For example, the elderly altar server saying, “I have one wife but I need another.”

Or the 50-something guy flirting shamelessly with one of the 50ish ladies, telling her to show him her pretty face etc., during Greekfest meetings, even though both are happily married and I have no reason to think they were doing anything but flirting and playing innocent games.  One old gent even told me I looked like I came from a certain island where the beautiful Greeks come from, and in his younger years, he would’ve gone after me.  LOL

As for SCA people, I know a guy who will flirt with me and tell Cugan that he’s cute.  I can be flirted with by three guys in one dance practice with my husband right there, and he doesn’t mind.  When I first started playing in the SCA, Cugan told a guy friend that I was wearing a simple peasant dress; the guy said, with Cugan right there, “It’s not the dress, it’s the peasant in the dress.”

One day at a birthday party, Cugan and I went to visit a couple of his friends who I barely knew; the guy cuddled up to me on the couch and put his head on my shoulder, while the wife watched and smiled.

On a later date, his flirting got far more blatant and outrageous, but it was all done with his wife sitting right there, laughing and teasing him.  She began telling stories of how flirtatious he gets, things which most people would consider way out of bounds–but it was made very clear that they’re not “swingers” and it’s all just in fun.

SCA people also hug freely.  Modern Americans are far more reserved with displays of affection (such as hugging, kissing cheeks, or holding a friend’s hand) than many other cultures, present or past.  Other cultures are often freer with flirting and/or shows of affection to family and friends or even strangers, especially the French and Italians.  (See here and here.)

I also used to have a friend, Richard, who is a touchy-feely, big teddy-bear kind of guy who will cuddle up to you and fall asleep on your shoulder, or give you long, affectionate hugs–but all platonic, sweet, not at all sexual or romantic.

These people I know who do these things are not cheaters, not adulterers, just people who believe in showing platonic affection to everyone, having fun, and not being afraid to acknowledge that others are attractive.

My own flirting is mostly about eyes (if I feel comfortable enough to look in a guy’s eyes then I feel comfortable enough to flirt with him), laughing at jokes, and the occasional witty comment twisting something you just said into a double entendre.  I don’t start hanging all over you or touching your thigh or trying to kiss you or anything like that.

I might get more playful online, such as a time I started spanking a fellow gamer for being cheeky to me in an IRC chatroom (and he enjoyed it).  But that’s online, where you can do things like that and it’s just pixels on a screen.

I see nothing wrong with being flattered by flirting, or flattering others by it, as long as it stays at flirting.  I also see nothing wrong with having the occasional crush on a friend, as long as you don’t freak out and think it must mean the end of your marriage, or act on that crush.  It’s just being human, and being human and an adult also means regulating your behavior instead of acting on every impulse.  We are not dogs to try to hump everything in sight, no matter how enticing the object.

I think it’s ridiculous to treat crushes as if they were somehow “inappropriate” behavior.  “Inappropriate” is in the eyes of the beholder, and–as a commenter on the online version of the Carolyn Hax advice column once said in early 2011–a word used to control other people, beat them over the head for disagreeing with you.

I’ve read so many crazy things on the Internet–probably by much older people who have nothing to do with geek culture–on what are “signs of cheating,” things which show no understanding of modern culture among Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers, especially computer geeks, things such as late-night conversations must be cheating, going on the Internet late at night must be cheating, etc.  When actually, in our crowd, such things are considered perfectly normal to do with friends.

Another sign of cheating I find laughable is, If your spouse keeps shutting down whatever they’re writing/looking at/reading when you come in the room, they must have something to hide, especially if they’re writing an e-mail to an opposite-sex friend!–But I do that all the time, and it has nothing to do with cheating!

It’s a matter of privacy.  I’ve always wanted to hide whatever I was writing from onlookers, from my earliest days, which I hear is a common trait of writers.  We don’t want you to see the drafts out of context and laugh at them, we want you to see the whole, finished product!

Same for e-mails to friends.  Even if it’s an e-mail to a female friend, I’ll probably close it down before Hubby can see it, even if there’s absolutely nothing to do with him or affairs or anything else he might object to.  I can tell you that I’m certainly not looking at porn, but still don’t feel like exposing every website to my hubby.

It’s not about hiding things, but about privacy.  Especially as an NLDer who often gets into obsessive interests (such as, for example, things you see on this website: abuse, jealousy, Orthodoxy, NLD, fairies), I don’t want to have something open on, say, abuse (research for my website) and have him think it’s about him, or on Orthodoxy or NLD and have him think, “Oh geez, not that again!”

“Emotional Affairs”

I know the term “emotional affair” has been bandied about quite a bit in the last 10 years or so, but I never heard of such a thing before then [this was written in the late 00’s].  It reminds me of the 90s, when “stalking” began applying to all sorts of innocuous actions by harmless people, and little children were accused of sexual harassment.

To me it sounds like a bunch of bunk invented to make people even more paranoid about their relationships, both marital and with friends/coworkers.  People used to say that “I’m married, not dead,” and that it’s perfectly normal to notice when somebody else is attractive, that you can look but don’t touch.  Nowadays, even the looking without touching has become a reason to cry “betrayal” and want a divorce.

I’ve read bullet points for “how to tell it’s an emotional affair” that sound a lot like friendships I’ve had with women: talking for hours, emotional connection, sharing intimate details about your life.  You also have the term “man-crush,” which is not at all sexual because the men involved are straight, but they talk about each other as if they were in love.

The “emotional affair” craze sounds like a way to keep couples so bound up in each other that they get cut off from the world, from the support systems they’ll need when one spouse leaves or dies.  It’s healthy to have deep friendships with others and not make your spouse responsible for all your emotional needs, and people often have such friendships with an opposite-sex friend.

Also, having a crush on somebody but minding your boundaries is hardly the same as sleeping with her, yet lately it’s being treated the same as if you’d taken her to a hotel room.  While Christ cautioned us against lust, the commandment against adultery refers to extramarital sex, not caring for a friend sans lust.

Now, of course, every once in a while, perhaps a wife will have a relationship with another man which is very much like dating, except without the sex.  Maybe they sneak around, talk about how much they want to be with each other, make out, have phone or cyber sex, but never actually sleep together.  In such a case, maybe it’s not a physical affair, but they’re taking all the steps that lead to a physical affair, and it’s deliberate.  Do we really need to call it an emotional affair to show how wrong it is?

However, that’s hardly the same thing as connecting with and/or simply having a crush on one of your friends.  I like this definition on Urban Dictionary:

A pop psychology term which instills a sense of impropriety when describing Platonic and courtly love (and other forms of intimate non-sexual association). Since the relationships it defines are by definition chaste, its use is misleading and is often used manipulatively.

“You call it coffee with a college professor, I call it an emotional affair.”

A supposed “emotional affair” is depicted in George Sand’s Indiana.  When this girl wanted to have a purely emotional, non-physical romantic love with a man other than her husband, the man didn’t put up with it for long.

I think that if there truly is anything harmful about your opposite-sex friendship, it soon will show itself when the two of you start getting more and more physical, steal kisses, start putting your hands in the forbidden zones, etc.

Unless you’re contemplating sleeping with or leaving your spouse for this person, unless you’re beginning to hate your spouse and are not willing to keep the fire alive, I wouldn’t call it an affair–no, not even if you have a little crush on each other.

Trust vs. Destructive Jealousy

Let’s calm down and remember our spouses are only human.  I believe this can only help our marriages.  Now, if your SO really has cheated (and I mean actual affairs here), then jealousy and checking up on him is justified: He has to prove himself worthy of your regained trust, or be kicked to the curb.  But if your SO has never cheated, then the following applies.

In doing a little research, I discovered, to my surprise, people all over the Internet excusing and even praising jealous behavior.  I found people who thought it perfectly normal and acceptable to be jealous if one’s SO had a good friend of the opposite sex.

I thought we had evolved past this, particularly after feminism brought so many women into the workforce and helped women see they weren’t just possessions of or sex objects for the men.  I thought Generation X (my generation) felt jealousy was bad behavior, since Generation X is used to making friends of either sex.

Yet in one blog comment thread I found jealousy of the SO’s platonic friends not only excused, but even lauded–not only in the older generations in which women made friends with women and men made friends with men, but in Generation X and the Millennials!  In fact, some of them even criticized the philosophy that we should trust until given a reason not to, calling it naive!  One person even referred to the “necessity” of “babysitting” one’s SO!

(Note: For the above paragraph, when I wrote this in probably 2009 or 2010, I linked to blog post Platonic Friendship.  However, on reviewing this link, there is nothing there about “babysitting” SOs.  I suspect that such comments were once made on the Feminist Gal’s linked blog post, but later removed.  Or that I linked to the wrong post.  It was too long ago to be sure.  In any case, Feminist Gal has a good post on platonic friendships.  For example, the below quote:)

Aside from being a heteronormative question, assuming that all men are attracted to women, it is also a question engrossed in strict gender roles and stereotypes. For these two reasons I hoped this would cease to be debated in 2009, when apparently we live in a post feminist society where men and women are equal and free thinking… (that was snark if you couldn’t tell).

Yet jealousy and possessiveness tear couples apart.  When you know you’re innocent of wrongdoing, being suspected by your SO is stressful and causes resentment: Will your SO go through your things while you’re out?  Will your SO chew you out if you come home late from work, thinking you were sleeping with your platonic friend?

Jealousy also places stress on your opposite-sex friend or co-worker, who was just being your friend and now is suspected of having designs on you.  “Why should I be put under suspicion just because some other women cannot be trusted?  I am not them!” she says.

So your friend also feels resentment toward your SO, making it much harder for the two to become friends–which also makes it harder for the jealous spouse to trust the friend, causing a vicious circle.  If you’re the jealous one, it causes you stress, because you’re constantly worrying about what your SO is doing when he’s out of your sight.

Jealousy is a destructive passion which leads to all sorts of wickedness, such as murder.

Some people might think they have the right to treat a spouse like property and control the spouse’s thoughts and actions, and feel justified in bullying opposite-sex friends.  The spouse might even act flattered, like this must really be love.  But it’s never okay to bully, whether for jealousy or whatever reason.

If you feel you have to monitor your spouse’s friendships to keep him/her faithful, if you feel you have to okay the friendships, check up on them, read their online chats and e-mails, etc. etc.–then either you’re an insane control freak or you need to divorce this person for not being trustworthy.  Don’t put your spouse and their friends through this hell because of your own insecurity and lack of trust.

This behavior is NOT okay, and don’t expect your spouse to “respect” your feelings when you’re not respecting his ability to choose his own friends and stay faithful.

NEVER let a jealous person define for you what are “proper boundaries” or accuse you of not having them.  A jealous person doesn’t know what they are, especially if they are (as is often the case) also abusers.  The jealous person needs to accept you as you are, with your own self and your own choice of friends, or they will have to say good-bye to you.

Trusting your SO causes both of you to feel calm and happy.  Your SO will be far more likely to live up to that trust, and not want to leave you.  Jealousy, on the other hand, causes some people to go out and cheat out of spite: “She thinks I’m cheating anyway, so I might as well do it!”

If you trust your SO and he still cheats on you, that does not mean you were naive.  Rather, it means that your SO was not good for you; the fault is his for betraying your trust, not yours for trusting him.  You might as well find out sooner rather than later.  If the experience causes you to become jealous with your next SO, you’ll probably find yourself alone again very soon, as your SO begins to say, “Why should I be punished because your ex cheated on you?  I am not your ex!”

The Bible tells us not to be jealous.  Note that when God refers to Himself as a jealous god, this is when the people of Israel are worshipping other gods beside Him.  In other words, God is jealous when Israel is really and truly straying from Him.  This is compared to adultery.

So why would it be acceptable for us mere humans–who, unlike God, often take jealousy too far and turn it into hatred, obsession or even murder–to be jealous of an SO who is not sleeping with anyone else?

Crimes of Passion

As for murder, I was shocked, dismayed and aghast to hear a Christian friend–who wanted to become a priest–try to justify violence if you discover your SO has been cheating on you.  Violence is never justified by jealousy!

Even if you catch your SO on your bed in the very act of adultery, if you beat someone up, throw someone out the window, grab a baseball bat (like the preacher on The Apostle, which sparked that conversation in the first place), or pull out a gun or sword to murder the offending parties, you are NEVER justified.  You are now a murderer, which is a far worse crime than adultery.

Soothing your offended ego is nowhere near as important as being an enlightened human being who controls your violent impulses.  God demands that His followers learn to control those violent, destructive passions, if they want to be saved, and warns us that indulging them will destroy our souls.

Any preacher or priest who tells you otherwise, is preaching a false Gospel.  Those violent passions include anger, jealousy, murder, and all forms of abuse, and controlling them is not just a job for monks shut up in a far-off monastery.

If You Love Someone, Set Them Free

Many years ago, I was heavily influenced by the words of Animotion (“Let Him Go“) when considering how to deal with my boyfriend, now husband.  I had no problem with his many female friends; this confirmed my feelings:

You’re holding him so tight that he can’t move.
If you never give him room you’re gonna lose.
He’s feeling like he’s tied up in a knot:
Every time he comes home late he’s on the spot.
Trust him to be the kind of man he wants to be.
You aren’t gonna keep him long if you give him the third degree.

Let him go, let him go, do the things he’s got to do.
Give him the freedom that he needs even though it worries you.
Let him go, let him go, have the faith that he’ll be true.
It’s the only way you can be sure he’ll come back to you.

But you poison love when you mix it up with fear.

If you both have room to grow, then you’ll live in harmony.
http://www.mp3lyrics.org/a/animotion/let-him-go/

In contrast, many people have the erroneous idea that “Every Breath You Take” by the Police is a love song to be played at weddings, not realizing it’s really about obsession and stalking.  Maybe this in part explains why jealous behavior is still so often defended:

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

Oh, can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take
http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/police/every+breath+you+take_20110051.html

(Well, then, won’t it do his heart a lot of good to not watch her do these things with other guys?)

When he was with the Police, Sting sang many songs about obsession.  This was not to praise obsession or call it appropriate behavior; not by any means!  Here are his true feelings about jealousy and possessiveness:

If you need somebody, call my name
If you want someone, you can do the same
If you want to keep something precious
You got to lock it up and throw away the key
If you want to hold onto your possession
Don’t even think about me

If you love somebody, set them free

You can’t control an independent heart
Can’t tear the one you love apart
Forever conditioned to believe that we can’t live
We can’t live here and be happy with less
So many riches, so many souls
Everything we see we want to possess
–From “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free”

Here is a forum from vitalcoaching.com which goes into jealousy in great detail, summing up my own feelings quite nicely about relationships with platonic friends.  The site creator, a professional coach (life coaching, not sports), feels such relationships are healthy, even if they involve light flirting or crushes, as long as they do not cross boundaries: see here.

In the opinion of the site creator, Francisco Bujan, who also has these videos, while jealousy may be useful at times, and was necessary in the ancient world, times have changed.  Nowadays, jealous behavior and possessiveness is unjustified and inappropriate nearly all the time.  According to the website, what we need to do is to learn how to use our jealousy properly and learn to trust our SO not to cheat, whatever the circumstances.  As the site creator writes here:

The main problem is that when they are in a relationship, many people assume they own the life of their partner.  When you think of it, it does not make sense but that’s how many people behave: being possessive, endlessly demanding and controlling….

Still many women and men totally refuse to change because they are afraid to let go and trust.  They believe that setting their partner free will invariably lead to infidelity….

The reason she does not see it as a problem is because her mind set is totally common in society.  In fact, many of her friends might be doing exactly the same. They might talk about this and even encourage each other.

There is more good stuff to read on that page, about how such jealous behavior ruins a relationship.  Bujan has videos for men here and for women here.

This website makes the excellent point that jealousy has “nothing to do with love; it’s a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust,” while in healthy relationships, two people trust each other until one does something to break that trust.

“Dear Margo” writes to a reader who has innocent friendships and does not cheat on his SO,

Even with her history, knowledge of you should encourage trust.  I would strongly recommend that you not let any woman dictate your outside friendships; it is neurotic, a form of control and certainly a sign of insecurity.  I would hang tough on this one, reiterate your faithfulness and see if she can manage….

If you are to have any future together, it is important that she get with the program rather than you give up your friends. —How to Smother a Relationship, 4/11/08

“Dear Prudence” writes,

Your wife is one of those people who keeps in touch with former paramours, while you are not. What to her is normal, innocuous contact, to you is a threat to your relationship.

In general, I think it’s unwise and undermining when a jealous spouse tries to force an end to such innocent contact. —Dear Prudence, now written by Emily Yoffe instead of Margo Howard, 12/27/07

Also see Annie’s Mailbox, 12/10/07, about a reader who has been best friends with her male neighbor for many years, but now is facing jealous spouses simply because she lost a lot of weight.

This Dear Prudence column, 1/1/09, is about a girlfriend who obsesses over the letter writer’s friend, whom he used to date and is still close to; Prudie sides with the letter writer, saying he’s given his girlfriend no reason not to trust him, and her jealous behavior shows they may be headed toward a breakup.

In the advice column “Ask Me Anything” in Redbook, October 1996, a reader asks if she needs to tell her husband about letters she has begun exchanging with an old high school classmate.  The letters are platonic; the guy knows she’s happily married.  The columnist, Ellen Welty, writes, “[T]here’s no marital law against having friends of the opposite sex; everyone does.  Besides, renewing a long-lost friendship is a pleasure none of us should be denied.”

However, she recommends the reader tell her husband about the letters, so he won’t come across them one day and wonder why he never heard about her correspondence with this man–because this would give him reason to be suspicious.  If the husband demands that she end it, however,

you can kindly defend your right to pursue it.  (In a way, that proves its innocence.)  Make it clear that the guy is in no way a threat.  Tell your husband you understand why he’s not happy, that you’d have to work at accepting a female pen pal of his.  But you would, if he gave you his word she was no rival.

You know, jealousy is a constant in marriage.  But if we acknowledge the green monster, most of the time it’s content to ride in the backseat.

Of course, to me it’s strange to think of saying, “I’d have to work at accepting a female pen pal of yours.”  At least one of my past boyfriends had a female pen pal, with whom I believe he went to high school, and I thought it was great.  She sounded like a sweet person.  My boyfriends also told me about past crushes or girlfriends; if one sounded like a nice person, I’d think highly of her.

When I first met my husband, he had a female pen pal as well, a friend he’d made who now lived in Tennessee.  I never had a problem with her, either.  And nowadays, my husband often exchanges e-mails with women he meets in the SCA, but when I find out about it, I just think, “Oh, good, he’s made a friend.”

Also, I’ve always e-mailed new and old guy friends, sent them letters, or chatted with them on BBS’s or forums, but my husband has never acted jealous.  I just can’t imagine getting jealous over such things.  It seems nonsensical to me.

In the December 1998 Redbook article The other woman in his life, Miranda Davis writes about her own experience being jealous over her husband’s “office wife.”  He met her four years before in physical therapy school, and they ended up working in the same place, so they liked to talk over lunch or a beer about the stresses of the job.

They were just friends, but Davis still struggled with jealousy.  She writes, “As broad-minded, secure women of the nineties, of course we’re not supposed to feel insecure or threatened by this sort of thing.”  But it can happen anyway, since co-workers spend lots of time together and have their work life in common.

Part of the problem, according to Davis, is society’s double standard: It’s accepted and even expected for women to “have intimate friendships with a wide range of people,” but a “man is instantly suspect for nurturing intimacy with members of the opposite sex: ‘He gave you a book?  He probably wants to have an affair!'”

But when a wife becomes jealous and possessive, this can backfire.  Davis writes about a colleague who “made myself a third wheel.  I forced invitations.  I showed up for their lunch dates.  I even called her….Although they tolerated me honing in, they resented it.  And I felt humiliated.”

She now realized that she could very well have pushed her husband and his friend into each other’s arms through her behavior, but fortunately for her, her husband let the friendship die out instead.

Davis writes that the key to resisting obsessive, possessive and obnoxious behavior is communication.

When we are living up to our responsibility as one half of a dynamic, nurturing relationship, then there is room for other relationships without concern.  Let’s be honest: Nobody leaves a fabulous relationship for no reason.

She also recommends trying to fill the need that friend is filling; this is where Davis and I differ in opinion.  See “Am I supposed to spend most of my free time at home with my spouse/kids now that I’m married?  Will that strengthen my marriage–or weaken it?,” for a full treatment of my views on this.

But in sum, it’s impossible to be all things to your spouse, because that will overstretch you and the relationship.  Having friends outside the marriage will strengthen it and fight off the loneliness that even married people suffer without outside friends.

Wisdom from around the Web

As Samantha Field writes,

If every person on the planet exists in a default state of consent– which purity culture subtly and overtly teaches– and if it’s impossible for men and women to “just be friends” (as argued in a recent Relevant article), then of course bi people will be promiscuous. Duh.

According to many Christians, the only real way to ensure that you don’t have an affair is to avoid deep, meaningful connections to people you might be sexually attracted to (which, for them, is always someone of the “opposite sex,” which erases bi people and non-binary people). To them, men can’t be good friends with women and vice versa, and everyone needs to take super-duper-extra-careful precautions to make darn-tootin’ sure you don’t develop pants-feelings for people. Because, as we all know, once you have pants-feelings for someone you will have sex with them, because consent isn’t a thing.

But, for bi people, the “obvious” precautions in this context don’t make sense. What are we supposed to do– have no close friends? Ever? Never be alone with any person? Lock ourselves in our bedroom, Elsa-style? So, they don’t advocate that. Instead, they either a) refuse to acknowledge our existence or b) call us all sluts.

She also writes in Why No One Should Talk About Emotional Adultery Ever Again,

And, as a bi Christian, I need to ask all of us to stop talking about emotional adultery.

I ran into it yesterday when I was reading Real Marriage, as Grace and Mark reiterate several times how important it is for men and women to only have friendships with people of the [same] sex because the risk of “emotional adultery” is so great, and it makes me feel both anger and despair, because I’ve heard the same message preached from the pulpit less than six months ago, at a church that prides itself on its open-mindedness. It bothers me, deeply, how casual it’s usually presented, too– it’s just assumed by most Christians that this is just common sense. They say things like “be careful not to become close friends with a lady, guys,” as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and every time I hear it I want to cry because what they’re saying is:

Samantha, you cannot have any friends.

…If I can be just friends with women, then all ya’ll need to STFU about how guys and girls can’t be friends, and how risky close friendships are between people of the opposite sex. And I’ve been really close friends with some of the most amazing and beautiful women I’ve ever known, and yeah, on occasion wow she is so hot has interrupted my train of thought, but guess what? I’m a mature adult who values my relationships, and so far I’m the only woman in any of my communities who’s been out as queer. I respect my friends and their boundaries and the fact that they’re straight, and they will never be interested in me that way, which is fine.

It’s the same with all the guy friends I’ve had, too– and I’ve had a few really close friendships with guys. I don’t know what I would have done without those friendships, as they were the people who kept me going when I just wanted to give up, who showed me what love and acceptance looked like. But, even though we’ve spent a lot of time together– even alone– and even though they’ve been my emotional rocks through some pretty wild life seasons, it doesn’t mean that I was doing something “risky.” I was just being a friend.

Also in the comments, readers call it controlling and isolating believers and separating them from their support group, which also is a red flag for abusive relationships and cults.  Maracae Grizzley wrote,

I can still remember the day I remember I first heard about the very *concept* of “Emotional Adultery” and I thought it was absurd even then. I was sitting next to my husband at his office because he couldn’t go to work unless I was there to drive him to work and back home again and he couldn’t stand to be in the office without me beside him.

The very idea that I would have to eliminate all *friendships* other than him, that I would be instructed to give him my passwords to all my accounts for “accountability monitoring” or what the hell ever just made me feel even more depressed and hemmed in.

Here you will find a forum thread in which a group of women say, Why should you have to ask permission to go out to lunch with an opposite-sex friend?  And why should you have to bring along your husband or a girlfriend?  You should be just as free to go out with your guy friend as you would be with a girlfriend.  I have always had the same attitude.  [Update: Link no longer works.  Years ago, it went to the site Wismoms.]

In her article How to Keep the Peace Between Opposite Sex Friends and Significant Others/Jealous Mates and Platonic Friends: Who Do You Choose?, Shamontiel writes:

Being around parents who have a mutual understanding that they can have friends of the opposite sex, it floored me to date a guy who pretty much wanted me to abandon the few male friends that I have….

If Significant Other wants you to give up your friends now that he or she is in the picture, personally I don’t feel this is justifiable….

To give up a true friendship for someone else’s insecurities is not only unfair to that Friend, but it’s not fair to yourself. Friendships are few and far between, and if you luck out enough to find a genuine friend, don’t let that person go.

If you are faced with an ultimatum like this, ask your Significant Other if they like you for you.  If they do, then they should be able to accept the package that comes with you, friends included.  And if they don’t, then Significant Other needs to be with someone just like him/her.

There are those who enjoy Significant Others who should have side jobs as police officers, and then there are those like me who don’t have the time nor patience to humor someone else’s jealousy and insecurities.  Walk to your door, open it, and kindly let Significant Other walk out.  After all that explaining, it’s really not worth the trouble….

If you’re lucky, Friend will introduce you to someone less psychotic…

Don’t let your significant other control your friendships….

I’m just not a jealous person. I understand how some people may feel insecure, but my whole attitude is that if I have to babysit a man to get him to act right, I don’t want him.  If he’s going to cheat, he’s going to cheat regardless and me playing FBI agent isn’t going to change his actions, only slow him down.

More quotes:

6. Have friendships with both sexes.  “If you depend on one person in one house to sustain you until death do you part, that’s a ticket to divorce,” says [Iris] Krasnow [professor of communications at American University and author of the new book The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married], whose research found that women in the happiest marriages had a wide circle of friendships with men and women.

Close friendships with the opposite sex aren’t necessarily a sign your marriage is troubled: “Platonic friendships are a sexy pick-me-up without the complications of adultery.” —“The seven secrets of lasting love” by Madonna Behen, USA Weekend, April 27-29, 2012

One of the major signs of a controlling person is jealousy. While some jealousy is not a bad thing, it becomes out of control if someone accuses you of things that you haven’t done. For example….

Making eye contact with someone of the opposite sex, exchanging a few words with strangers, or even close friends…even if you didn’t initiate a conversation, working with co-workers if your job involves team work, etc.

Some or all of these things can set a controlling person off, causing them to abuse you either verbally, physically, sexually, or any combination of abuse.  No one is entitled to have that kind of say over another persons personal experiences.

Cut this kind of behavior off right away. Show that you will not allow someone to abuse you in this manner.

Some of the other things such an abuser might try to control, is who you see, and when.  They may not allow you to visit friends, or relatives, or have anyone come over, especially if they are not present. —Recognizing the Warning Signs of a Controlling Relationship

You may be more reasonable to be jealous if she has had history of being unfaithful, but, if not, you may only be creating your own jealous thoughts. —How to Avoid Being a Jealous Boyfriend

First, you must realize that you are being jealous and that it is causing a problem. This may seem easy, but many jealous people have a different idea about what is acceptable behavior when it comes to the opposite sex.

While one person might think that having lunch with a coworker of the opposite sex is fine, a jealous person would think it was inappropriate. The biggest hurdle is coming to the conclusion that what your partner did was not necessarily wrong, just different from your standards. —Green With Envy?  Learn How to Control Your Jealousy

When you begin taking steps to creating a happy and fulfilling life for yourself, you will find the anger, the jealousy and the fear will disappear.  Don’t listen to people who make you jealous.

Jealousy is not the same thing as love. Sometimes, people think that by feeling jealous about someone, they are loving them.

Jealousy is not love, it’s the fear and anger of losing love. Jealousy disappears when you are truly loving yourself and others for whatever experience you’re having. —How to Handle Jealousy

People find it difficult to dissociate love from sex. If two people express love and affection for each other it is assumed that they are lovers. The truth is fairly simple: two people like each other, are comfortable together and a special bond of friendship develops between them. —Can a Male and Female be JUST Friends?

To me, jealousy is to the relationship what the iceberg was to the Titanic.  It has the ability to do great harm and totally destroy a loving relationship between two people.

At the heart of jealousy, however, is mistrust.  Jealousy often arises out of one’s inability to trust another and its roots can be found in feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, low self-esteem, and fear.

It also often leads to verbal and physical abuse, and is the leading cause of crimes of passion.  In short, jealousy is a dangerous emotion if gone unchecked.  Just like the iceberg, it can sink your relationship and create havoc in your world. —The Consequences of Jealousy

Going out to dinner with my friends (daughter, son, mother, father, brother, sister) is something I like to do and I sometimes like to do it alone.

You are perfectly capable of understanding that having other important relationships does not mean I am rejecting you. Healthy adults can keep many relationships going at the same time. Why don’t you try it sometime?

To the non-jealous: Have compassion on the jealousy-doer, who may be suffering deeply! But be honest, and don’t pander to his or her problem, or you will be helping to keep it burning. —Things to say, in your own words, to a jealous person

To be free, and if the individuals and the relationship are to survive, the virus has to be named, exposed, expelled, and then consistently resisted. The victim must learn to refuse to obey its demands and must remain out of control.

The perpetrator must learn that the behavior he or she believed would sustain the relationship will rip it to irreparable shreds. —Addressing jealousy

Placated (or appeased, or entertained) jealousy won’t dissipate. It will grow, yes grow, and become increasingly demanding.  A woman who allows a lover’s jealousy to “work,” will discover the virus is never satisfied, will discover it only becomes more restrictive, more ridiculous. —Women and jealous men

Jealousy–In the beginning of a relationship, jealousy may seem like an expression of love or concern. As time passes, however, jealousy turns to entitlement and possession.

This can include falsely accusing you of having sex with others. Jealous behavior begins to isolate the victim, who may stop seeing friends, family, and spiritual advisers in order to please the jealous partner. —What are the warning signs (of abuse)?

BELIEVE JEALOUSY EQUALS LOVE

A common sign of domestic abuse is jealousy. The abuser doesn’t want his partner to speak with or form relationships with other men and women. This jealousy usually leads to the isolation of the victim from her friends. The victim of abuse frequently defends their partner’s jealousy and confuses it with love. —Know the Signs of Domestic Abuse

1.Jealousy:  At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love: jealousy has nothing to do with love, it is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness.  The abuser will question her about who she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or be jealous of time she spends with family, friends, or children.

As the jealousy progresses, the abuser may call her repeatedly at work (or home) or drop by unexpectedly. The abuser may refuse to let her work for fear she will meet someone else, or exhibit other strange behaviors (like checking her car mileage or asking friends to watch her).

4.Unrealistic Expectations:  The abuser becomes dependent on the woman for all needs. He expects her to be the perfect wife, mother, lover, and friend. The abuser will say things like “If you love me, I am all you need, you are all I need.”  The woman is automatically expected to know each emotional and physical need of the abuser.

5.Isolation: The abuser attempts to isolate the woman from all personal and social resources.  If she has men friends, she is a “whore”; if she has women friends, she is a lesbian; if she is close to family, she is tied to apron strings.

The abuser claims that people who are supportive of her are troublemakers and may want to live in the country without a phone, or may not let her use the car, or try to keep her from working or going to school. —Signs to Look for in an Abusive Personality

Isolation

The abuser will control whom the victim sees, where she goes, whom she speaks to and what she does.

This can take the form of simply not allowing her to use the phone, have her friends round or visit her family, or ensuring it simply isn’t worth it by being in a bad mood because she left some housework undone, making her feel guilty that she was out enjoying herself while he worked, or even encouraging her – theoretically – to make friends, and then discounting them or complaining that she cares more for her friends/family/hobby than she does him or is neglecting him. Some abusers may move home frequently to prevent their victim from building a social support network.

Many abusers justify their control over their victim by stating that it is proof of their love, or that they worry about their safety when out, etc.

In reality however, the abuser needs to isolate his victim to feel secure themselves, they feel as though any relationship, be it family, friend or colleague, will undermine their authority over and take their partner away from them, i.e. poses a threat.

The effect of this isolation is that the victim feels very alone in her struggle, doesn’t have anyone with whom to do a ‘reality check’, and is ultimately more dependent on the abuser for all her social needs.

Forms of Isolation include:
* checking up on you
* accusing you of unfaithfulness
* moving to an isolated area
* ensuring you lack transport or a telephone
* making your friends or family feel uncomfortable when visiting so that they cease
* punishing you for being 10 minutes late home from work by complaining, bad moods, criticism or physical abuse
* not allowing you to leave the house on your own or taking away your passport
* demanding a report on your actions and conversations
* preventing you from working
* not allowing any activity which excludes him
* finding fault with your friends/family
* insisting on taking you to and collecting you from work —Types of Abuse

Do you think Jealousy means he loves you?  Think about this….

Think it’s cute when he gets jealous when your talking to someone else of the opposite sex?  Think about it going on until death do you part.  After years it becomes accusing.

When he constantly questions if your sleeping with who ever is on his hit list at the moment something serious happens to your Spirit.  You learn to stop talking to other men when he’s around because you know your going home to a fight.  Jealousy means he is insecure…

it does not mean he loves you OH SO MUCH! If his jealousy makes you feel uncomfortable and changes your behavior or makes you walk on eggshells with other people when he is around…you are being mentally abused and controlled….

Does he need to know everywhere you are going and with who even though it would anger him to have you do the same to him?  Does he pick and choose your friends and let you know by his attitude and/or actions?  Does he enforce his choices with a fight or mental punishment if you do not follow his verbal or non-verbal recommendation? —Gentle Spirits of the Net, Are You Being abused?

While When Harry Met Sally is a fine movie, the ending feels to me like a Hollywood cop-out.  I would have liked to see Harry and Sally show that a man and woman can be just friends.  Instead, the movie has been accused of setting back by decades advancement in attitudes toward platonic friendships: Psychology Today: Can Men and Women Be Friends?  TIME: We’re Just Friends. Really!

Also see: Just Good Friends

Trust

My husband and I have built our marriage on trust.  Platonic friendships have never even been an issue.  We can have whatever friends we like, and see them whenever we like.  The only thing we cannot do is cheat.  We’ve grown up around people who considered platonic friendships to be normal and natural, and jealousy to be intolerable.

I only objected to a boyfriend leering at other women or telling me he wanted to sleep with someone else (and for that he called me possessive); I would never think of forbidding platonic friendships or just looking at other women, because this was considered jealousy and possessiveness, and my boyfriend would quickly dump me.

So my husband and I were shocked to discover that so many people still think that jealousy is somehow okay.

Over the years, we both have had many friends of the opposite sex.  Sometimes we both know them; often, only one of us does.  Sometimes they are “couple friends”; sometimes they are single.

If we introduce a friend to our spouse, or if we don’t, it makes no difference.  It never even occurred to either of us to require such things.  We were surprised to find that some people do.

In fact, I LOVE that my husband makes so many female friends: It’s a sign of sensitivity and respect for women.  (Think of Lloyd Dobler of Say Anything, who preferred to hang out with female friends.)

If we restricted ourselves to our own genders, we would cut off quite a lot of potential friendships.  It’s hard enough finding good friends, especially in this day and age.

After 18 years of marriage, we have not cheated on each other, and are very happy with each other.

In the same manner as a woman is far more likely to submit to her husband if she feels she has a choice whether to do so or not, and it is not “forced” (and a man is far more likely to go along with his wife’s wishes if she is not a scold), a person is far more likely to be trustworthy when he is trusted and has been given the freedom to use his own judgment.  If he doesn’t, then he has a character failing which would make it hard for him to be faithful to any SO, so it’s better to find this out before marrying him.

From The Psychology of Romantic Love by Nathaniel Branden:

Obviously jealousy can be damaging to romantic love.  What is needed to counter this danger is the art of managing jealousy when it arises.

Typically, when people are jealous they respond with anger, accusations, tears, and character assassination of their partner.  All of this tends to provoke defensiveness and counterattack on the part of the accused party.  Screams, denials, lies, or angry silence take the place of authentic communication….

Sometimes, when we honestly admit our feelings of jealousy, when we move from talking about jealousy to the deeper level of talking about anxiety, fantasies of abandonment, and so forth, our painful feelings become less intense or vanish altogether.

Each partner needs to learn the art of leaving the surface and going to the root, to feelings of fear, of helplessness, perhaps to memories of past abandonment.  (p. 199-200)

Jealousy also happens with same-sex friends

Jealousy can also strike with same-sex friendships; I have read various accounts on forums about a spouse who is jealous of one’s same-sex friend.  Sometimes this jealousy leads to forbidding one to have that friend anymore.

My own ex-fiancé Phil, who was very controlling and emotionally abusive, did not like my friends.  Those friends, by the way, were mostly women.  (College is probably the one time in my life when my female friends outnumbered my male friends.)

If we ate a meal in the cafeteria with my friends, he would get upset if I wanted to sit and chat for long afterwards.  He kept finding things wrong with my friends, whose only “fault” was that they saw how he treated me, didn’t like it, and therefore didn’t like him.  He accused them of treating him badly.

Once we all had a birthday party; he started acting drunk, people got annoyed, and he left.  Shortly after, he called me from my dorm (though I was still at the party), and got me to come to the dorm, making me leave the party.  I had no idea until much later that another friend saw him there, and that he said to her, “She’ll come here, if she knows what’s good for her.”  This majorly ticked her off.

After he broke up with me, a friend of his even told me that–if I wanted him back–I should distance myself from my friends.  You know what?  He’s gone, and I still have my friends.  They were there before he came, and stuck with me and supported me after he left.  They helped me to see just how badly he’d been treating me, so I wouldn’t want him back anymore.

My ex’s behavior is one of the symptoms of a controlling, abusive relationship, because it cuts you off from your support system.  So I am always leery if I hear of a spouse or other romantic partner restricting friendships for any reason (except when the friends are clearly sleeping together).  Could they be restricting those friendships out of a false sense of jealousy or because they fear the friend recognizes their behavior for what it is?

When I was first dating my husband Cugan, he often took me with him to visit friends.  I didn’t especially care for some of them, who were a mixed bag.

There was one in particular who I was sure didn’t like me, a cute little blonde with a cute little blonde 2-year-old.  The little girl loved Cugan, and he and the cute blonde mother were good friends, and she was single, so there was no reason for them not to get together if they wanted to.

I was almost certain that he was confiding in her about the problems we were having; I saw them go off alone together and chat (this was out in the country so they could wander nearby fields).

One evening, I was in the living room with her and somehow ended up chattering away to her, something I don’t do often but I do if I feel I click with a person.  But I guess I was mistaken about clicking with her, because she abruptly got up and left the room.  I eventually found her chatting with Cugan in the sitting room.

Now, if I were the jealous type–or even if it weren’t about feeling threatened so much as just wanting his friends to like me, and him to ditch them if they didn’t–I might have said something.  I could have acted jealous, demanded that he not go off alone with her, demand that he not tell her about our problems, demanded that any female friend of his must first be a friend of me.  But I didn’t.  I kept my mouth shut.

This was not at all about lack of assertiveness, but about respect for his right to choose his own friends and how to conduct himself with those friends, as long as they’re not engaging in grope fests, tonsil hockey or the double-backed beast.

After we got engaged and then married, I still said nothing against this person.  Because of people moving around, in time she passed out of our life; if she ever comes back, there will be absolutely no animosity between us.

In fact, except for a few exes (and that’s a lapse I’ve since regretted), I have never spoken against his friends or demanded that they be friends with me as well, even though on occasion they rubbed me the wrong way.  (If I had, he probably would have broken up with or divorced me years ago.)  I was so respectful of his rights that until recently, he had no clue that I ever had a problem with any of his friends.

He has also been quite reasonable about my friends as well, not even caring that I occasionally e-mail exes or spend long hours chatting with guy friends on Facebook or ICQ or BBS’s or IRC or whatever.

And our life regarding opposite-sex friends, colleagues and bosses has been uneventful, lacking suspicion or jealousy or bitter feelings or drama, except for the previously mentioned issue of the exes, which has long since been repented of and put to rest.  That’s 18 years of marriage with no sign of ending.

Now that I’ve told you how we really feel about date night, you should know something else: Even though you’re our best friend, the mother of our wonderful children, and the love of our lives, this Friday night we’d really like to hang out with our buddies….

Please don’t make us feel even more guilty about it….But as much as we love you, you’re, well, not a guy. And now that we’re dads, what we need is to blow off some steam with our buddies….

You know the phrase that inside every man there’s a little boy? Actually, he’s a big dumb teenager, and if you let him go hang out with his friends every now and then, he’ll come home a better man….

So how about we call that expensive but totally trustworthy new babysitter with an MA in creative arts therapy and, as crazy as it sounds, go on separate date nights?

Maybe that’s not technically date night, but you can go hang out with your book club and discuss the revelations and disappointments in that new novel by the guy who wrote The Kite Runner, and we’ll check in on our “loser” best friend who’s “still single and always will be because he’s a total slimeball.” Later on, I bet we’ll both be really glad to see each other again. —What Your Husband Wants You to Know (But Isn’t Telling You)

Here’s the thing: You have every right not to like this guy or want him around, but your husband has every right to have a pal. Plenty of us have friends our men don’t care for, but woe to him who’s crazy enough to try to keep us apart.

So what right have we to tell our husbands they can’t have the same kind of companionship we want? —When You Don’t Like Your Spouse’s Friend

But let me tell you that if Mr Hickman, after marriage, should pretend to dispute with me my friendships, as I hope I am not quite a fool, I should let him know how far his own quiet was concerned in such an impertinence; especially if they were such friendships as were contracted before I knew him. –Anna Howe, spunky feminist character in the 1740s novel Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

Jealousy undermines your relationship

Jealousy has no place in a marriage (or any relationship, for that matter). It undermines the essential values that comprise a healthy marriage and makes it impossible for partners to relax and be themselves . It is a dangerous manifestation of selfishness that tears at the very fabric of a relationship.

When we exhibit jealousy, we are telling our partner that we don’t believe in them, don’t trust them, and care more for ourselves than we do for them. It shows that we are fearful, self-serving, and is at its core, simply a reflection of our own insecurity.

It unmasks an ugly truth about us, is an indication of our immaturity, demonstrates a lack of self-confidence and is counter-productive to developing an adult, loving, relationship that will stand the test of time….

Jealousy makes you do things that you later regret and brings no good and no joy to you, your partner, or your family. Many a murder has been committed because of jealousy. Many a relationship and family has been destroyed.

It creates drama and chaos and robs you both of any chance for a peaceful existence together. Jealousy leaves a path of pain and devastation whenever it gains a foothold in people’s lives….

If you suffer from jealousy or envy towards anyone, bear in mind that the problem lies with YOU, not with them. And in order to eliminate it from your life, you have a bit of work to do. —Love is Never Jealous or Envious

People tend to let the green monster get the best of them when their significant other wants to meet with an old friend of the opposite sex for dinner or other outing that only includes the two of them. Some partners get so obsessed that they demand their wife/husband only see friends when he/she is present or not at all.

Is this fair? Of course not. You are entitled to have friends and should not have to dissolve the friendships because of a partner’s insecurity. Should you worry about your partner having opposite sex friends? Not unless there is reason to worry.

Some spouses get upset because they fear their husband/wife will end up having an affair with one of their “friends.” While it’s not likely to happen in a happy, well-adjusted marriage it is possible. Oftentimes lovers start out as friends. In fact most people start out as friends before they end up committing themselves to a relationship.

But it certainly does not mean that people of the opposite sex can’t be just friends. Some of the closest, most long-lasting relationships are between people of the opposite sex. Jealousy is not an attractive quality. When a person is overly jealous or even downright possessive he/she risks pushing the person away that he/she is trying so hard to hold onto.

People don’t like being told what to do, not even by those they love the most. Demands and orders only make people more determined to do the opposite of what they’re demanded or ordered to do.

Holding on too tight can actually push your loved one away. Unfortunately they can end up being pushed right into the person’s arms that you wanted to keep them away from. Get your relationship on solid ground and tread lightly where friendships are concerned….

Healthy friendships with people of both sexes are a natural and important part of life. A healthy trusting relationship is even more important. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have both. —It’s Okay to Have Opposite-Sex Friends

Contrary to what you seem to think, your average, sane guy won’t be jealous of his girlfriend’s friends. He may not like all of them, but if he values your relationship, he’ll at least be civil.

Not only that, but men who try to isolate the women in their lives often wind up beating the crap out of them once they’ve successfully driven away friends and family….

Lest you think that could never happen to you, if you look at any study of domestic violence, you’ll see that jealousy is the No. 1 predictor of domestic abuse.

Some other adjectives used to describe a typical abuser include controlling, overly critical, hypersensitive, and isolating. Sound familiar? —He’s Such a Jealous Guy!

“A loving relationship is one in which the loved one is free to be himself–to laugh with me, but never at me; to cry with me, but never because of me; to love life, to love himself, to love being loved. Such a relationship is based upon freedom and can never grow in a jealous heart.” ~ Leo F. Buscaglia

Keep your trust in your guy. It’s normal to have friends of the opposite gender, just because they go for coffee or lunch together doesn’t mean they are having an affair.

Build your own self confidence and respect yourself. Someone with a low self-esteem is more likely to get jealous compared to someone confident.  Be optimistic and stop worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, or might not happen at all it’s a complete waste of time and energy….

Always remember that no amount of nagging, monitoring, accusing, snooping, or guarding will prevent your partner from cheating or from you being hurt. —Jealousy is not Love

A general dislike of Jacob would be understood. But taking steps to prevent your partner from spending time with someone that you dislike is abuse, plain and simple….

Moreover, a part of this isolation is fully and unarguably intentional. When Edward leaves Bella, he flat-out forbids Alice, Bella’s best friend at the time, from seeing her. His motivation? To ensure a “clean break.”

But it is Bella’s right to decide when and how she wants to forget about their relationship. Presuming to dictate her healing process for her is the height of control — it is assuming that you have the right to a person’s thoughts. —Edward Cullen–Abusive Boyfriend

I also recommend the movie Wife Vs. Secretary  (also here, here and here) as an example of how jealousy can ruin a perfectly good relationship.

(I’m especially interested in this movie because I was a secretary before I became a stay-at-home mother.  The wives of my two bosses never showed any sign of worry, even though I was young, slim, etc.  Apparently times have changed.  But imagine if they’d been jealous of me–that would’ve caused a lot of trouble, and potentially jeopardized a job I needed!)

The secretary is attracted to Gable’s character, and if he never noticed his secretary’s charms (since she is, after all, played by Jean Harlow), you’d have to check his pulse.  But their relationship is strictly business, never once becoming improper: Gable’s character loves his wife passionately, and his secretary–who has brains, not just beauty–also has good character.

Yet people begin talking.  Though Myrna Loy’s character is initially very modern-thinking, all this talk makes her suspicious.  One character says, “There’s an old Chinese proverb that says if you want to keep a man honest, never call him a liar.”

As Jimmy Stewart’s character says at the end of the movie,

Gosh, all the fighting and worrying people do, it always seems to be about one thing: They don’t seem to trust each other.  Well, I’ve found this out: Don’t look for trouble where there isn’t any, because if you don’t find it, you’ll make it.  Just believe in someone.

Here is an awesome little forum thread on jealousy.  My favorite message is #35, in which a woman who has been cheated on before, says that she doesn’t have to trust any woman, but she does have to trust her husband to stay out of another woman’s pants even if she were to strip naked in front of him.

If she can’t, and has to “stand guard” over him or “mark her territory,” then the marriage is over anyway.  She rejects the kind of marriage in which you have to do everything together and can’t even talk to another person of the opposite sex without your spouse being around or giving permission.  [Update 11/15/14: Link no longer works.]

The Advice Goddess writes on October 6, 2009, to a woman whose boyfriend wants her to feel free to have single male friends, that:

Unless he’s a German shepherd or an unruly 3-year-old, you don’t get to keep him on a leash. If you’re insecure, work on getting more secure. If you don’t trust him, don’t be with him.

But, any grown man who isn’t doing time should be allowed to meet, unsupervised, with any person of his choosing. You can’t fulfill your boyfriend’s every need, and he’s going to relate differently one on one than he does three on one.

The couple that shares everything and everyone…bores each other unconscious. You’ll know you’re in trouble when you feel dumb saying “Guess what, honey!” knowing there’s no guessing needed by a man who’s spent three years bolted to your side–not just trying to keep from finishing your sentences, but trying to keep from starting them, too.

Do note that this boyfriend is fine with his girlfriend having single male friends.  If he wanted to have single female friends but tried to restrict his girlfriend’s friendships, then we’d have a different issue entirely.

I thought of another jealous characteristic based on the behavior of the wife of one of my friends. She is not just jealous of women – she is jealous of ANYONE who her husband is friends with. So she acts up and creates issues in order to drive people away … and she is successful with that.

I mean – I am his best friend, and she’s gotten me to the point that I won’t go over to his house if she is there. She has also alienated my friend’s father … meaning that she makes it very uncomfortable for him to go over there. It is all so ridiculous. But she is hot, and my friend just doesn’t see things for what they really are!

So what she does is “acts up and creates issues in order to drive people away” because she is jealous overall … that is the point of this response in answer to the “what kinds of crazy things has a jealous girlfriend done” question. —Post on a thread about jealousy

It’s a danged shame when an SO’s jealousy drives close friends apart.  It should be criminal.  Friendship–true, lasting friendship–is hard to find and should be nurtured, never deliberately harmed.

Never assume that a wife’s jealousy is justified: If you investigate further, you could find a wife who is reasonably suspicious of a manstealer, but it’s also quite likely you’ll find someone who is insecure in herself and tries to control her husband by controlling who can be his friends.

From Carolyn Hax on September 26, 2010:

If the deepest scrutiny of your soul turns up no ulterior motives in these friendships, then your answer is simple: Announce your intention to do so, then live your life on your terms. Explain to your girlfriend, once (in your words):

“I have no secret love for these women, and I will keep the friendships out in the open.  I love you, and I hope you will accept me, friendships and all — but if you can’t, then I will understand, and miss you. What I won’t do is end friendships that are valuable to me and based on good intentions. I can’t make you trust me, but I also can’t stay with you if you don’t.”

This isn’t just about you, or opposite-sex friends, or saving relationships. It applies to all of us, and it’s about not losing ourselves.

(Also read the reader comments.  They are full of awesomeness about how we shouldn’t be jealous of our spouse’s friends, shouldn’t pick and choose their friends, shouldn’t let them pick and choose our friends.)

From Carolyn Hax on September 23, 2011:

Open your mind to every reason your husband’s warmth toward his ex-wife is actually very good for you. Here are some:

1. It makes sense on a purely practical level. If he does have some ulterior motive for the hugs and the Facebook friending, then your insisting he de-friend and de-hug her will do absolutely nothing to stop him. Going the short-leash route actually gives people compelling new reasons to seek emotional gratification elsewhere, from someone who doesn’t leash them.

2. It’s a gift you can give to your husband, to say you trust both him and your love. This is as close as earthbound creatures can get to magic. If he goes on to betray that trust, it won’t be your fault for giving trust; it will be his for abusing your gift.

3. It’s a gift you give to yourself. It’s so easy to be lulled into believing you are good and the ex is evil and that’s that. Think again: Since you married the same guy, you and the ex have more in common than distinguishes you. You have a vested interest in disposing him kindly toward the people he marries, even (especially?) after he divorces them.

4. It’s good for your soul, and when your soul is brimming, your marriage (and so much else) benefits.

A lot of wisdom about marriage is in this forum thread, which includes that spouses should give each other space.

More wisdom is on this page, which includes these and other bits about jealousy:

Someone said that it is possible to be together so much that we suffocate each other. Perhaps. I do not allow this to happen in my love relationship. I believe that love includes letting go when my partner needs freedom; holding her close when she needs care. I am committed to creating space in my relationship when needed….

* LoveNote. . . Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in the shade. ~ Leo Buscaglia….

At the heart of love, there is a simple secret: the lover lets the beloved be free. My love partner and I require different mixes of independence and mutuality, and the mix is freely discussed and renegotiated from time to time when necessary…..

When two people in a love relationship are complete within themselves they do not experience the love they have for others as diminishing, detracting, or threatening to the love they share. They are secure within the relationship….

Insecurities bring forth jealousy, which, in effect, is a cry for more love. It is within your rights to ask for more affection when self-doubts surface, however, the indirect way that jealousy asks for it is counterproductive. Excessive possessiveness is inappropriate. Jealousy is the surest way to drive away the very person you may fear losing….

It is an irony that the more possessive I am, the more love I demand, the less I receive; while the more freedom I give, the less I demand, the more love I receive. I take great pleasure in watching my love partner be fully free and fully alive!…

* LoveNote. . . Love is not possessive. ~ I Corinthians 13:4…

Trust is forever present in our love relationship; trust and deep commitment to each other, and loyalty and devotion. This allows us the freedom to care about people of the opposite sex and to enjoy friendships with them, and when we sit down together in the evening to share the events of the day, we do not have to ask if our love partner has been faithful.

More wisdom on jealousy is on this page, from the same website, including:

Emma Goldman once said, “All lovers do well to leave the doors of their love wide open. When love can go and come without fear of meeting a watch-dog, jealousy will rarely take root because it will soon learn that where there are no locks and keys, there is no place for suspicion and distrust, two elements upon which jealousy thrives and prospers.”

And from here:

Mature love partners permit each other the freedom to pursue their individual interests and friends without restriction. This is when trust presents itself. Mature love allows this level of separateness to bring lovers closer together. In this scenario separateness is perceived as a bond, not a wedge. It encourages love partners to celebrate their own uniqueness.

More from Carolyn Hax:

You’ve had a legitimately painful experience [boyfriend she trusted, cheating with his female friend] that taught you one thing, and now you’re trying to overrule your brain into thinking something else [she can trust new boyfriend, who has female friends, just as she has male friends] just by dismissing your thoughts as irrational. That isn’t about shaking off self-absorption.

What you need is to refine the lesson your cheating boyfriend taught you. “He cheated so guys with female friends will cheat” is the lesson you took away, and you’re rightly identifying that as wrong.

So instead, look back to that boyfriend/relationship and think about what happened you missed. Did you miss signs that he was selfish, dishonest, losing interest in you for normal reasons? Were you immature and expecting too much, was he?

Did you get together for superficial reasons and form the kind of weak bond that you’d expect from such an attraction? I could go on but I hope you get the idea …

When you examine the relationship that imploded, you’ll become a better judge of your relationships since, and specifically of trustworthiness of the relationship you’re in now.

More from Carolyn Hax.  The response to Letter Writer 1 (and the older comments, not the last couple of pages) are full of anti-jealousy, pro-trust comments and advice.  People often make the point that we should not try to control the thoughts or actions of our SOs, that we should not consider ourselves entitled to do that to another person–and that even if you have a crush on someone, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  It’s what you do with it that counts.

Unhappy with significant other’s friend: Yet another reason why I love Carolyn Hax’s column!  She understands that you can’t tell your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend who to be friends with, except in exceptional circumstances (ie, abuse, child porn, etc.).  And even then, you ask, don’t demand.  You just don’t have the right.

A list of sites on jealousy, platonic friendships and possessiveness

Psycho or Jealous?

Articles promoting platonic friendships, and showing why this modern concept is still so misunderstood

Overcome Jealousy in your Marriage

Signs he may be possessive

What does the Bible say about jealousy?

10/15/10 Carolyn Hax live chat with part about jealous girlfriend cussing out a friend

Handling His Jealousy

Some sites which state that “jealousy is not love”:

Google Search

Some articles from Dr.Phil.com:

Controlling Jealousy

Dealing with a jealous spouse

Affair-Proof your marriage

Let’s be free and open with our friends–leaving sex out of it

Here is an Annie’s Mailbox (Wednesday Feb. 2, 2010) about a wife becoming jealous of a husband’s meetings with an old co-worker.  I noticed in the reader comments that a lot of people vehemently disagreed with the Annies, but I agree: The only thing I could see that he actually did wrong was to lie about who he was with.

You can’t base the charge of an affair on the e-mail that was quoted, or on him seeing an old friend who happens to be a woman.  There was nothing “inappropriate” about saying same time, same place, or signing it with “love.”  Heck, I sign “love” to all my friends, whether they’re male or female!  Have I truly been “inappropriate” in all my friendly e-mails all these years?  I really don’t think so!

“Love” doesn’t mean “I want to jump your bones,” people!  What is that feeling I have for my parents, child, friends–is that merely high esteem?  Can you only have close bonds to the person you’re having sex with?  I love all my close friends and am not afraid to say it, no matter what their gender.

I’ve been shocked and amazed to read in the comments on the Annie’s column, that some people think it’s somehow “inappropriate” and a sign of adulterous intent to sign e-mails to opposite-sex friends with “love”; that’s ridiculous!

Are they not aware that “love” in English means all different kinds of love, including platonic, familial and brotherly/sisterly?  Americans are getting far too uptight, it seems, so that girls can’t even hold hands without people thinking they’re gay.  It’s ridiculous.

I never, ever allow myself to have sexual fantasies about any of my friends, acquaintances, co-workers or fellow churchgoers, no matter how attractive they are.

I know that Jeff is at least occasionally attracted to his friends; if he wasn’t, I’d have to check his pulse, because some of them are quite pretty and/or flirty.  I also know that he flirts on occasion.

But this is all just part of being human.  You can’t just turn off that part of yourself when you get married.  If you could, then laws or customs against adultery would not be needed.

But we are not animals, and don’t have to act like animals, driven to hump everything in sight.  We have intelligent brains and the ability to control ourselves, to banish lust from our thoughts, to see others as attractive–yes–but also as human beings with dignity.  We can love without lust; we can have crushes without sexual fantasies.

Refusing to befriend someone of the opposite sex is, to me, a kind of modern chauvinism, refusing to see the other sex as anything but a way to satisfy your lusts, reducing women and their worth to how pretty they are or what they want to do in bed.

So even if I do find a friend attractive, I never, ever cross that boundary, never try to get him into bed, never try to lure him away like some vixen, and always banish sexual thoughts about him from my mind.  I look at his face and his mind, not his body.

I know that Jeff also does his best not to look at women in underwear ads or let himself have sexual fantasies about his friends.

It is ludicrous to me to try to control not only what your spouse does, but his thoughts as well; trust makes for a far easier life, without all that drama in it.  Controlling, on the other hand, leads to affairs.  It seems contradictory, but it’s true, because a decent person will strive to be worthy of your trust.

But if you treat a guy like he’s going to cheat on you if you let down your guard, he’ll probably start thinking, “I’m getting punished anyway for cheating, even though I’m not, so I might as well cheat.”

I thought that such outdated thinking about opposite-sex friends was long past, a relic of the times before feminism.  But apparently there are still lots of people who think that men and women can’t really be friends, that if you care deeply for someone it must be romantic love, etc.  As if caring deeply for another person is impossible or even “inappropriate” unless you are married to or related to them.

I believe there should be more love in the world, not less, that we should love freely and deeply and openly, that we should not be afraid to express that love because of ridiculous ideas of what’s “appropriate” that change depending on who you’re talking to.

Flirt freely.  Keep sexual relations in proper boundaries, but don’t be afraid to love.  Don’t be afraid to express to your friends how you really feel.  Cuddle up next to your same- or opposite-sex friends on the couch, like a friend of mine does.

Don’t act like modern Americans who think that Frodo and Sam must have been lovers to care about each other and act the way they did, when they were not.  Save your friends’ e-mails and letters, chat with them every day if you like, send them cutesy Facebook hearts if you want.

Don’t treat love like it must be kept contained or else you’re a stalker, having an emotional affair, weirding out your friends, or some other such crap.  No wonder so many people keep acting violently in our culture!

A friend once explained to me that Americans are far too reserved these days, that it used to be seen as perfectly normal and NOT sexual to hug or hold hands or whatever with friends as well as family members or spouses.

I told him that in the last two books of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo and Sam would hold hands, fall asleep cuddled up with each other, call each other dear, hold each other, and the like, and that’s why I joked about them being lovers.

But he said that the fuss in America over Frodo and Sam’s supposed homosexual relationship was silly, that no one would have dreamed they were homosexuals back when the book was written.

Internet searches showed that other cultures are indeed often freer with flirting and/or shows of affection to family and friends or even strangers, especially the French and Italians.  I read about cuddle parties; I read about cultures in which a man would touch another man’s thigh and there was nothing gay or sexual about it.

I read about how the lack of touching among Americans, except with people they’re sleeping with, could lead to a huge disconnect that leads to violence, and–according to one of the commenters on the Slacktivist blog–people craving touch and thinking they have to find a lover to get it, then going from one bad relationship to another, when all they really need are platonic friends to cuddle on the couch with and watch movies.

(I believe this was in the post “Love, Apocalypse Style,” but since the blog moved to Patheos, I don’t know how to access the old comments.)

According to this website:

I believe that touch is an essential need. We know that babies thrive on touch as do cats and dogs, so why not people? Modern society puts severe limitations on touch so that many people feel constrained or avoid it.

Bad idea! Learn to touch those you love in ways that they enjoy. This should be done everyday, all during the day, and be as much a part of life as food or sleep.

In today’s society touch and sex have often become confused. While sex involves touching, touch does not necessarily involve sex. Some people see touching as a violation of their person space. Some groups, cultures touch each other much more than others.

What is acceptable varies considerably within a home and within a culture. And yet the basic need for all of us to be touched is essential and needs to be addressed.

And according to the Cuddle Party website above:

Our society is a little confused (or a lot!) about the nature of touch and sex.  All touch, and all cuddling, is not about sex. Sadly, in a society in which they get lumped together, most people have very little opportunity for touch or cuddling that isn’t part of sex. We believe this is a great loss.

Human beings of all ages need touch and affection. We never outgrow it. As we re-discover non-sexual touch and affection, find a spacious and generous opportunity to enjoy and explore kindness and human affection with others. And we have more fun.

Cuddle Party is specifically designed to leave the sexual kinds of touch off the menu, so that the more inclusive, non-sexual kinds of touch have a chance to be found and enjoyed.

Many people find this quite natural. For others, it’s a new experience, or even challenging. Many people are surprised to find such a rich, comforting, playful and fun experience.

There’s a huge gulf between adultery and showing nonsexual affection for a close friend.  If we cut ourselves off even from innocuous and nonsexual forms of affection even from close, dear friends just because we’re married, what a sad, lonely life we must lead.

If you’re taller than the person you’re hugging, go ahead and nuzzle the top of her head.  Put your hand over the hand of a friend, and grasp it if they need reassurance about something.  Let your friend literally cry on your shoulder.  Kiss your friend’s cheek.  Go up to your friend and, if they’re sitting and you can’t do a full hug, put your arm around them and touch your cheek to the top of their head, or nuzzle their head.

If you’re both in a car, then put your head on their shoulder for a second as a mini-hug.  If you’re on a couch watching movies, go ahead, put your feet on their legs, or fall asleep on their shoulder.  Massage their neck, pat their shoulder, scratch their back.

Male, female, who cares?  Don’t act like we’re diseased and can’t touch each other unless we’re in a romantic relationship with each other!  Be free!  This isn’t about sexual “free love,” this is about expressing how much you care about your friends and family!

I never would’ve thought of doing these things, with my American and possibly Asperger-ish reserve, if it had not been for Richard mentoring me on how they’re perfectly fine for platonic friends to do.  I was never quite as comfortable with it as he was, and wondered what he meant by it at first, but he taught me that there was nothing to worry about, that Americans are too reserved, and made me feel silly for ever thinking he meant anything more than friendship.

Then I became an advocate of such things myself, and discovered the Cuddle Party people online, discovered that other cultures and time periods have been freer than our own with nonsexual touch, discovered that I have SCA friends who are just as free with their friends as Richard is with his friends.

I don’t like being extremely reserved.  I want to be like the people in the SCA.  I want to follow the philosophies of the Cuddle Party people.  I want to teach my son to be open and free, to cuddle with his friends and family, to not be reserved and averse to touch like my own family.

I want to seek out the ones who love freely and want to stamp out all forms of violence, hate and suspicion, since I know they’re out there, finding traces of them on the Internet (such as the Cuddle Party people) and in music by the Beloved, Shamen, and the like.  Even if they are New Agers, Buddhists or some other religion than my own, they express the love for mankind that my own religion is supposed to be about.

Also see this post.

And this leads into the topic of…..

Page 3, Abuse in all its forms: My Thoughts, Quotes and Links to help

–First written 2008/2009, and slightly modified in the years since.

 

Index to my Life Opinion pages:

Topics on Page 1

Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 

Are Spiritual Marriages “real”? 

Am I supposed to spend all of my free time at home with my spouse/kids now that I’m married?  Will that strengthen my marriage–or weaken it? 

Topics on Page 2

Is it okay to be jealous of the opposite-sex friends of my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend? 

Topics on Page 3

Abuse in all its forms: Links to help 

My Personal Stories

 

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Why not to let your spouse tell you to stop being friends with somebody: Rethinking the Importance of Friendship vs. Erotic Love in Our Society

Let’s not think that we should jettison even our closest platonic friends if our wife/husband says so.

Let’s not think of friendship as expendable, that if we fall in love, we can let our friendships wither and die and it doesn’t matter.

Friendship is also important: You need friends, not just a lover, in your life.

Also, let’s not think that for a marriage to endure, it must be full of passionate love all the time, or else it’s time to look elsewhere.  Simon May writes in Let’s Fall in Love Like the Ancients, published in the Washington Post on 2/8/13 (no longer available on the Web):

There is no holiday celebrating friendship, but only since the mid-19th century has romance been elevated above other types of love. For most ancient Greeks, for example, friendship was every bit as passionate and valuable as romantic-sexual love. Aristotle regarded friendship as a lifetime commitment to mutual welfare, in which two people become “second selves” to each other.

In the Bible, King Saul’s son Jonathan loves David, the young warrior who slays Goliath, “as his own soul” and swears eternal friendship with him, while David says their friendship surpasses romantic love. Ruth declares her friendship for her mother-in-law, Naomi, in terms equivalent to a marriage vow: “Where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge. . . . Where you die I will die.”

Today, friendship has been demoted beneath the ideal of romance, but they should be on an equal footing. We tend to regard our friendships as inferior to our romances in passion, intimacy and depth of commitment.

Often they’re little more than confessionals in which we seek a sympathetic ear to help us fix–or escape–our romances. When Harry met Sally, they progressed from friends to lovers.

And on Facebook we’re all “friends” now, further downgrading the meaning of what should be a selective and multifaceted bond……

But all human love is conditional. We love others because of something, whether their beauty, goodness or power; because they belong to our families; or because they protect and nurture us.

By recognizing that all we have is conditional love, we are less likely to give up on our loved ones as quickly as we often do, less likely to be worried if we occasionally fall in and out of love with them or they with us, and less likely to scare them off by expecting their love to be of superhuman strength….

And finally, let’s release romantic and marital love from the stranglehold of sexual expectation. Sure, sex is an unsurpassed pleasure–but you can have a tremendous erotic bond with a person and have sex only infrequently….

I’m not suggesting that we revive medieval courtship, but we should think of sex as just one of the bonds and delights of erotic love, rather than as its touchstone. If sex isn’t going so well, or if desire is no longer so urgent, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we love less urgently, let alone that it’s time for a change.

These days, it’s easy to get the impression that once you get married, your spouse is supposed to be your best friend and confidant, and your family and friends are to take a backseat while you greatly reduce time spent with others outside of your home.  But this is a modern concept which actually isolates us in unhealthy ways.

As a housewife, I can tell you this is true.  I love my husband, I love my child, I’m very close to my husband, yet when I don’t have social contact outside the home, I feel just as lonely as I did as a dateless teenager.

We must make more of an effort to stay connected with friends and family, or else we could find ourselves slowly becoming suicidal.  God made us to be social creatures, spending time with people outside our homes, not hermits who consider relationships with friends and relatives to be of secondary importance.

And when a marriage ends–as every marriage inevitably does–by death or divorce, the surviving spouse will now have to pick up the pieces with a diminished social network.

Also, we don’t want to smother each other.  If spending too much time with your boyfriend or girlfriend will slowly destroy your relationship, why not the same with a marriage?

[T]he current societal expectation that a spouse can provide all the emotional sustenance a person needs is bad not just for people’s ties with community, but for marriage itself. —The Marriage Penalty by Shankar Vedantam

 

Many people believe that marriage is the fundamental building block of society, an institution that broadens social ties and ensures that individuals will not grow old in isolation.  Perhaps that was true in the past, when marriage was a central unit of economic production and political organization.

But today, despite the benefits that a good marriage delivers to the couple and their children, marriage actually tends to isolate partners from other people in ways that pose potential long-term problems both for the couple and for society as a whole. —Marriage Reduces Social Ties by Naomi Gerstel & Natalia Sarkisian

Stephanie Coontz argues in Too Close For Comfort that we have found new joys in marriage because of the changes in how we view it, but at the same time we have “neglected our other relationships, placing too many burdens on a fragile institution and making social life poorer in the process.”

In the olden days, one’s spouse was not expected to be a “soulmate” or one’s closest confidant.  It was considered “dangerously antisocial, even pathologically self-absorbed, to elevate marital affection and nuclear-family ties above commitments to neighbors, extended kin, civic duty and religion.”

Victorian society had no problem with same-sex friends showing physical affection, even sleeping in the same bed; this was not assumed to include homosexual desire or activity, as it would today.

(For an example, note that Frodo and Sam’s relationship in Lord of the Rings would have been perfectly normal and acceptable.  But these days, Youtube is full of videos poking fun at Frodo and Sam’s supposed homosexual relationship.)

By the early 20th century, though, the sea change in the culture wrought by the industrial economy had loosened social obligations to neighbors and kin, giving rise to the idea that individuals could meet their deepest needs only through romantic love, culminating in marriage.

Under the influence of Freudianism, society began to view intense same-sex ties with suspicion and people were urged to reject the emotional claims of friends and relatives who might compete with a spouse for time and affection.

In the 1950s in American middle-class suburbia, this trend reached its peak as women were told fulfillment lay in marriage and motherhood, and men were told to “let their wives take care of their social lives.”

When these suburban women began going back to work in the 60s, they realized how wonderful it was to have contact and conversation with people outside of the home again.

So why do we seem to be slipping back in this regard?  It is not because most people have voluntarily embraced nuclear-family isolation.

Indeed, the spread of “virtual” communities on the Internet speaks to a deep hunger to reach out to others.  Instead, it’s the expansion of the post-industrial economy that seems to be driving us back to a new dependence on marriage.

According to the researchers Kathleen Gerson and Jerry Jacobs, 60 percent of American married couples have both partners in the work force, up from 36 percent in 1970, and the average two-earner couple now works 82 hours a week.

The more we lose the real-life ties we used to have, the more we depend on our romantic relationships for “intimacy and deep communication”–making us “more vulnerable to isolation if a relationship breaks down.”  Sometimes, these excessive expectations actually cause the marriage to break down.

To fix this, we should “raise our expectations for, and commitment to, other relationships, especially since so many people now live so much of their lives outside marriage.”  The way to strengthen our marriages is to

restructure both work and social life so we can reach out and build ties with others, including people who are single or divorced.  That indeed would be a return to marital tradition–not the 1950s model, but the pre-20th-century model that has a much more enduring pedigree.

In How to stay married, Coontz goes on to say,

Today, we expect much more intimacy and support from our partners than in the past, but much less from everyone else. This puts a huge strain on the institution of marriage.

When a couple’s relationship is strong, a marriage can be more fulfilling than ever. But we often overload marriage by asking our partner to satisfy more needs than any one individual can possibly meet, and if our marriage falters, we have few emotional support systems to fall back on.

Without “gratification and support” from others outside the marriage, spouses have “less to offer each other and fewer ways to replenish their relationship”–and the marriage falls apart from all that weight.  Nowadays, “almost half of all Americans now say that there is just one person, or no one at all, with whom they discuss important matters.”

We commonly find warnings in popular culture against spending too much time with friends or family, against letting these ties “interfere” with time spent with the spouse.  Psychologists tell us to rebuff those who might compete with our spouse and children for our attention.  “But trying to be everything to one another is part of the problem, not part of the solution, to the tensions of modern marriage.”

I just looked over a book written by fundamentalist author Wayne Mack, Sweethearts for a Lifetime; his ideas of a successful marriage seem more like becoming clones of each other: You have to have all the same friends, do all your recreation together, learn to enjoy each other’s activities, etc.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t want to do all the things my husband does for recreation, he doesn’t like everything I like, and I don’t want to force him to be with my friends, or have him force me to be with his friends if I don’t care for them.

Also, jettisoning friends because your spouse does not want to be with that friend, sounds like betrayal of the sacred bond of friendship, and can very easily lead to one spouse controlling the other by choosing which friends to like and not like.

One passage of the book says to learn to like whatever your spouse wants to do sexually, but what if what your spouse wants is painful, degrading or disgusts you?  Another passage says to not keep secrets but consider everything to be your right to share; does that mean it’s okay to snoop through my husband’s e-mails?

I don’t want to know every intimate detail of his work; I don’t want to know all his temptations.  I want to allow him space to be his own person, and I want the same courtesy.

Men and women have different ways of perceiving things and reacting to them.  We tend to expect our spouse to be our best friend.  But that may not always happen. For the simple reason that a best friend is–usually–of the same sex as we are and has similar ways of responding. —Three common problems in a marriage

[Myth #]1. THE RIGHT PERSON WILL MEET ALL MY NEEDS.  Even if you have found your “soul mate,” one person cannot be the sole source of your need satisfaction. That’s too big a burden, and impossible besides.

Your partner is a human being, not an all-knowing, all-compassionate, love machine. You’ll need multiple sources–God, friends, a strong sense of life purpose, healthy self esteem, and a willingness to take responsibility for your own happiness. —Love Myths

This article not only describes the problems with our tendency to retreat into our own little world after a child is born, but how we can combat it and the depression it causes.

What Happened to my Friends?

Lucky is the man or woman who has a friend like Samwise Gamgee. Some of us may have a spouse who comes close. I know of no one who has a living friend, other than a spouse, like Sam.

The reason is not that such friends exist only in fiction. Aristotle identified this category of friendship in his Nicomachean Ethics.

No, the truth is that 21st century people have lost the knowledge of how to be such a friend.  Such friendships are based upon good character. Very few people have characters that merit such friendships.

Part of the stupendous power of the Tolkien myth is that the myth taps into the incredible longing everyone has for this type of friendship. Few people know the reason such friendships are impossible in today’s world. Why? Most people do not have the high moral character necessary for such friendships….

Why is The Lord of the Rings such a powerful myth? Why did the final installment earn almost half a billion dollars in its first eighteen days?

Because all of us want the fellowship illustrated in the films. Because we want relationships that last. Because we want to feel super-glued to family and friends, like the glue that bound Sam and Frodo. Because we want involvement. Because we want shared creativity and wonder, because we want loyalty and commitment.

And yet we don’t have this feeling. Oh, if we are lucky we have it in one relationship, maybe a spouse. But in general we don’t have it. In general we tend to be atoms bouncing around the eternal void, occasionally bumping into another atom, exchanging a curse or a smile.

Ought we not create our own Fellowship of The Ring? Ought we not create relationships that will last a lifetime? Ought we not build delightful things, even at some risk to ourselves? Ought we not discover something with ourselves that demands eternal loyalty and commitment?

Having identified these aching needs in ourselves, perhaps we will make a mighty effort to secure fellowship in our own lives. —Friendship and loyalty in Lord of the Rings

It takes much time and sustained commitment to arrive at the third level of close friendship. From within the casual friends, a smaller group of close friends begins to gather. In an discussion of building friendships, it should be understood that although close friendship may be your goal, that level of commitment sharing and trust is harder to achieve.

Intimate friendship is the fourth category. Friends in this category are very special and rare. At this level of sharing, intimate friends feel comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings. This type of friendship is usually marked by a deep understanding of and appreciation for the view and values of those involved.

A desire for intimate friendship is a basic human quality that calls for a giving of self to others; it can result in a lasting love relationship.  A person would be fortunate to have 5 intimate friends in a lifetime. —Friendship in the 21st Century

While it’s hardly a bad thing to be close to your spouse, we must not treat marriage as if it must fulfill all our needs for social contact and support, while all other contacts outside the home are somehow secondary or even detrimental.  To do so is to seriously weaken not only our own social ties and support, but society at large.

As the above writers argue, widening our social circle and gaining confidants outside the marriage will actually strengthen our selves, society–and our marriages.

Also see this post.

This topic leads on to my write-up on jealousy.

–First written 2008/2009, and slightly modified in the years since.

 

Index to my Life Opinion pages:

Topics on Page 1

Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 

Are Spiritual Marriages “real”? 

Am I supposed to spend all of my free time at home with my spouse/kids now that I’m married?  Will that strengthen my marriage–or weaken it? 

Topics on Page 2

Is it okay to be jealous of the opposite-sex friends of my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend? 

Topics on Page 3

Abuse in all its forms: Links to help 

My Personal Stories

 

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I finally find my Frodo–who moves in

As a shy, quiet person, I had the occasional friends in school but not always in my neighborhood, so when classes changed and lunch periods changed and the kids around me changed, my friends changed as well.

Since I was verbally bullied for being different from the other kids (somehow weird), I was glad to have these friends, but I longed to have that one friend who would stick with me through life.  Someone to be inseparable (but not lovers) with, like Bill & Ted or Anne & Diana or Frodo & Sam or Ofra HazaAndrew Eldritch or Gus & Shawn.

I made good friends in college who became friends for life, but after college we moved away from each other–separate cities, separate states.  It’s hard to maintain close friendships even when they live an hour away from you, so we’ve relied heavily on e-mail and now Facebook.

I did occasionally see friends who lived about an hour away, and occasionally did things in the SCA while Jeff was more involved in it for a while.

Male or female has never mattered to me.  I have two brothers and no sisters, so I was just as comfortable hanging out with boys as with girls.  Not the athletic type of boy who thinks burps are funny, no.  I mean the smart, geeky ones who watch British TV and play role-playing games.

My husband and I both have had opposite-sex friends, some close, all through our marriage, with no jealousy.

But it had been years since I’d had a close friend who lived right there nearby, when Richard and I became close over the Net and the phone, having met on a forum while I was searching for spiritual truth.

He was impressed by the theological section of my website, and wanted to befriend me.  He said his wife wanted to befriend me too, but I rarely heard from her, no e-mails or phone calls, just a web chat one evening.

I was surprised at how easily I could talk to Richard on the phone, and for hours, because with most people I just can’t do that, preferring face-to-face or e-mail/letters even for my closest friends.

Also, I can only talk on and on with people I “click” with.  That doesn’t happen with just anyone, either.  Jeff, too, found him easy to talk to when I was unable to come to the phone right away.

In those days, Richard called when he said he would, except once–and that time, he apologized and explained later.  (This all changed in 2008.)  He led me into Orthodoxy, where I found my spiritual home, and that’s mostly what we talked about, as I had lots of questions.  He seemed like a cool person.  But he lived far away.

I began going to the local Greek Orthodox church in November 2006, though–deliberately taking my time to make such a huge decision–I didn’t join it officially until January 2009.

I did what I could to connect with people there during coffee hour, but had to deal not only with my shyness but with the language barrier: Most of the parishioners spoke English just fine, but many of them spoke and understood very little English.  Also, most of them were much older than I was.

One morning during Divine Liturgy, in a fit of loneliness, I prayed that God would please send me a friend.  Just a short time later–within a few months, I believe–Richard e-mailed me that he needed a new place to live, and I suggested my hometown.  He hadn’t expected that, and was surprised to find how promising my hometown would be.

This was early fall 2007.  His wife and children were thousands of miles away with her parents while he cleared out their house, from which they’d been evicted.  He had no job, and hated the area.  He had no hope and nowhere to go.

He was grateful to me because he actually felt happy now, hopeful.  He checked out the links I sent him about my city, then later in person, and loved the town.

He asked to stay with us for a few days while looking for a job; he began calling at least once a day, talking my ear off so much that my ear actually began ringing.

I already felt bonded with him, that we had a close friendship, even though we never met, because he was the only person (besides my priest and Jeff) to whom I told all the details when my family was shaken up during Lent 2007.

It was a disturbing event, full of embarrassing details, things that had been hidden from me by my family for my entire life.  He and my priest heard them all, but even my college friends didn’t hear them at first.

But he had never told me certain personal details about himself and his life, which now, in September 2007, he began telling me, things which just started pouring out without me prompting him.  I worried a bit about his violent past, and was uncomfortable with some of the things he said, because I felt they should be kept private from most people.

But we’d been on the same forum for about two years, we’d been phone friends for maybe a year or so, Todd (the owner of the forum) had stayed with him twice for a month each time, Richard’s wife was on the same forum, and another poster had been his phone friend for several years and had glowing praises for him, so I figured–hoped–he was safe.  And hoped that he would arrive while Jeff was around, which he did.  The day he arrived was, I believe, around October 5, 2007.

Despite pouring out my soul to a forum friend online, in person for the first time, he or she seems a complete stranger.  So I turn into a turtle, hiding in my shell.

It took me a bit to get used to Richard’s physical presence, to connect the forum guy and the voice on the phone with this hulking stranger in my living room.  We had shared so many things already, I had confided things in him, called him when my family went through a terrible upset–but now he was like a stranger.

He was happy to meet me, but after waiting anxiously for him all day long, now I wanted to run away from him.  Until one afternoon when we started chatting about music, the conversation began to flow, and then we just looked at each other all of a sudden like, “Whoa!”

Everything began coming together and falling into place.  Despite Tracy’s aggressive personality–which he had been telling me about and which I soon began seeing for myself–our families seemed to be blessings and helps for each other over the coming years.

It all seemed to be an answer to prayer, the moving of the Spirit, God’s will for Richard and I to be friends and help each other spiritually and materially.

Richard lived with us for two months, during which time we bonded even more, as I did with two of my college roommates.  There’s just something about living with a person, day in day out, and them being there through all the things you deal with from day to day.  We told each other everything.

Though it wasn’t supposed to drag on for so long, I didn’t mind.  I finally had someone to watch TV with, since Jeff spent most evenings on the computer or watching other things.  I was sure we would be friends for life.  At long last, I had somebody outside of the family to talk to again.

Richard became my family, more like a twin brother moving in than a stranger.  Jeff was not some Neanderthal macho man threatened by this.  He, a far more enlightened being than that, usually spent evenings in the basement so Richard and I could talk.

He trusted us both so much that twice he went out of town overnight, once for work and once for a D&D game in the next county on the same day as a blizzard.

And we were careful not to see each other in undress, yelling out warnings when necessary, since we had no spare bedroom and had to stick him on the couch.  I wore my robe over my nightgown; I wore a tank top under revealing shirts; I never wear low-waist pants or high-waist shirts.

I considered him my best and closest friend.  He was the one I went to about religion.  He’s the one I found to help light my way when I was searching for the True Church, the original doctrines.  He had already found it before I did.

We had similar backgrounds, and similar views of the various churches.  We could sympathize with each other about going through contemporary church services.

We could discuss Orthodox theology with a similar base knowledge and interest.  We could discuss the meaning of original sin, or whether River of Fire is a good source of Orthodox doctrine.  We could discuss what it means to experience the Holy Spirit.

I could ask him about various things, such as why the English translations of the Latin and Greek versions of the Nicene Creed are so different, even the parts that come from the original Ecumenical Council that produced them.

I could share with him Orthodox writings, and give him Orthodox books and icons for Christmas or birthdays.  I could tell him what led me away from Western doctrines, without feeling judged for turning to “heresies.”

I simply don’t have another friend with whom I can discuss all these things, at least not from the same background, baseline knowledge, amount of interest and same denomination.

I asked him about difficult points of Orthodox doctrine or practices.  I asked him how to forgive people who had hurt me years before.  I lamented to him about Net Orthodoxy and its legalism.

In short, he was my spiritual mentor.

He was the one I always wrote to about interesting church meetings or services.  Who else can I write these things to, who has the same level of interest?  I wrote to him about my church because he was the one who led me there.

And these things led to sharing our life experiences and troubles.  I told him my secrets, and he told me his.  He was my counselor, as I poured out my heart to him about various issues I dealt with, how I’d been bullied growing up, and how I’d been used and abused by college exes.

This included private details which I did not normally tell anyone, because of their nature.  I told him these things because I trusted him completely.

I told him funny stories of things that happened day-to-day, or dreams.  I shared with him thoughts about movies I watched, books I read, life stories.  We talked for hours at a time.

Since he lived with us for a time, he became like an adopted brother, so I could tell him things I didn’t tell other people.  He became “Uncle Rich” to my son.  We could joke back and forth with each other and play off each other so easily that one guy in an IRC chat room said, “I love it when you guys are here!”

We went on religious websites together and defended Orthodoxy.  And we had similar tastes in music, both loving the obscure Goth genres, 80s, New Wave–yet knew some of the same Christian artists as well.  He had actually been a Goth, while I was interested in Goth culture, and did as much “Gothyness” as I could do in a small city in the Midwest.

Because of our similar backgrounds, we both knew about the Thief in the Night series, Left Behind, and other such things.  We were even the same age, so grew up with the same pop culture.  We both liked watching EWTN.  We were both interested in paranormal investigations.

It seems impossible to replace him.  These elements of our friendship I found especially valuable and important, especially appealing, and these were the reasons I was so attached to his friendship.

I was quite certain, from how he acted and what he said every day, that the feeling was mutual, that we both felt bonded to each other in a special, lasting, close friendship.  I wanted to be like his sister or cousin, to whom he was also this close.

I had no idea he was love-bombing me, bonding me to him emotionally with so much attention and praise that it became addictive.  He must have seen how vulnerable I was, since I so badly needed a friend, so badly wanted that One True Friend.

Even though he lived in my house and I knew his gross and annoying habits, I was so devoted to his friendship that I could overlook this.  He had such charisma that I saw the same bond and devotion in Todd and in Richard’s best friend from his hometown.  I craved his good opinion, and felt devastated when he criticized me.

It wasn’t about a lover: I already had one.  It was about that One True Friend, whom I had always dreamed of, and would think I had found, only one of us had to move away so things drifted off.  I felt my life would not be complete without that One True Friend, that Frodo, in addition to my husband and child.  I was a ready victim:

  • Loneliness. If you’re lonely, your unmet social and emotional needs can create an opening for a psychopath to enter your life. Many lonely people are also bored, which elevates risk.

According to Brown, some victims don’t even know they’re lonely, bored, or living a small, confined life, but the psychopath knows. –Psychopaths & Love, Traits of the Psychopath’s Victim

In this part, I explain about Richard’s claim to have hypnotized me.  I knew nothing of this until 2009, when he told me he used conversational hypnotism to get me to open up with him while he lived here.

He told me Americans are far too reserved, so he gets upset whenever people say Frodo and Sam are gay lovers.  He said it used to be seen as perfectly normal and NOT sexual to hug or hold hands or whatever with friends as well as family members or spouses.

I told him that in the book Two Towers, second in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo and Sam held hands, fell asleep cuddled up with each other, and the like, and that’s why I joked about them being lovers.

But he said the fuss in America over Frodo and Sam’s supposed homosexual relationship was silly, that no one would have dreamed they were homosexuals back when the book was written.

Which is true, but also made me more susceptible to Richard breaking down my own physical reserve.  It took me a while just to hug him.

I don’t have a problem with opposite-sex friends innocently flirting: My husband does it, I do it, my geek friends do it, my SCA friends do it, my old co-workers did it.  In time I learned that Richard did it, too, with everybody, including male friends!  My husband and friends also consider it perfectly natural to get crushes now and then, as long as you don’t act on them.

At first, Richard behaved like a prude about innocent flirting, but then he got freer.  One Sunday morning, we visited the brand-new Catholic church building–and he put his head on my shoulder right there in the middle of Mass.  He muttered a playful “sorry” and sat back up.

Then he went in the opposite direction of “prude” one night all of a sudden, after Jeff went to bed.

He didn’t put hands in forbidden zones or try to kiss me or profess undying passion, no, nothing like that.  But he confused me greatly by putting his head in my lap, then on my shoulder.

I was used to flirting with words, such as the occasional double entendre.  Or Richard calling up a female friend right after calling his wife and saying, “Hey, what are you wearing?”  He demonstrated it was all meant in fun.

But this–What was this?  He had also started giving me long, affectionate hugs good-night.

The alarm bells went off.  I wanted a platonic friendship, not an affair; we were getting in too deep!  I finally fled to my room to go to bed and get away from this.

Then the next day and night he went about life like nothing happened, talking about his wife and kids coming to town in a couple of days, etc.

Then the following night he did these things again, making me think, What the heck is going on here?

Then the next day he acted normally again.  I also felt like the scum of the earth for letting him do these things.

So that night I found a way to bring up the “cuddling and flirting,” to confront him about it, get the truth out of him of what the heck he was up to.

But he said, No, it wasn’t cuddling, cuddling is something else, my family/relatives put our heads on each other’s shoulders, I was sleepy, and the teasing wasn’t flirting, it was “playful banter.”

Now I see him as using me for affection after a long, tumultuous period with his wife, but holding back just enough that he could feign innocence when I called him on it later…when he realized I thought he was making moves on me, told him they were freaking me out.

I see him as manipulating me through his covert hypnotism and the trust he gained with me, doing these things when Jeff was not there, preying on my NVLD gullibility–which has also made me susceptible to elaborate hoaxes played on me by exes.  But at the time, I just saw him as a well-meaning bumbler.

But now that I called him out, it was time for him to backtrack: I’m sorry if I violated your boundaries.  No, no, I do those things with my sisters-in-law! cousins! sister!  They’re gestures of friendship and caring!  And those things I said–that was just “playful banter,” not even flirting.  No, we did nothing wrong.  You can look your husband in the eye.  And no, we don’t have to stop doing these things…..

I never would’ve thought of doing these things, with my American and possibly Asperger-ish reserve, if it had not been for Richard mentoring me on how they’re perfectly fine for platonic friends to do.

I was never quite as comfortable with it as he was, but he taught me there was nothing to worry about, and made me feel silly for ever thinking he meant anything more than friendship.  Then I began advocating such things myself.  I discovered the Cuddle Party website:

One problem with finding comforting touch is that if you believe that touch is about sex, then either you are afraid it might lead to sex, or you are afraid it might not lead to sex.  Not so helpful.

We humans need touch and affection. It’s no longer a question. Nurturing, welcome consensual touch is good for you.

Good for your body, heart and spirit. Good for your blood pressure, your nervous system, your emotional health, your ability to connect with and trust people, your ability to respect and care for yourself, your creativity, sense of safety and comfort and belonging.

Infants who are deprived of touch fail to thrive; we never outgrow the need.

Why is it so hard to find? Because for the most part, we think it has to do with sexual relationship, or at least romance, hooking up or ‘attraction’.

What if it just has do with being a human being who cares about other human beings? Kindness, compassion, comfort and nourishment.

Cuddle Party is a movement to reclaim this option in our lives.

I discovered that other cultures and time periods have been freer than our own with nonsexual touch, discovered that I have SCA friends who are just as free with their friends as Richard is with his friends.

We set up some boundaries to stay out of trouble, “forbidden zones” and the like, and agreed that any “playful banter” would be done in platonic friendship only, that any gestures would be in platonic friendship only.  I knew that if he ever tried to kiss me, I’d have to end the friendship right there and then.  I thought that was that.

Oh, by the way (he said the day his wife moved in with us), don’t do these things when she’s around.  She’s very jealous of other women.

Then, of course, when wifey finds out–I don’t know what he told her, but from the way she kept blaming me for everything, I get the impression he didn’t give her the full story, that he was the instigator telling me it was all innocent.  So who gets in trouble?  Me.

It makes me feel like such a naive, gullible fool, putting my trust in his words more than in his actions, which told me something other than what his words said, but for the sake of friendship I chose to believe him and trust him.

I now realize my own blame here was to not call him out on the discrepancies I noted even then (how one day he called it “flirting” then re-named it to “playful banter” when it was convenient for him).  To fail to notice that he didn’t do these things in front of Jeff, that he told me not to do them around Tracy.

But I wanted to believe he was telling me the truth because I didn’t want to be some scumbag cheater.  And you just don’t want to accuse your BFF of lying to you.

I wanted a One True Friend, not a lover, did not want to turn my beautiful friendship into a stinky, dirty, filthy affair.  I did not want to be barred from the Eucharist through carnal relations with the one who led me to the Eucharist in the first place.

He was not sexually attractive, with his repulsive hygiene (bathing every two or three days) and morbid obesity.  But we had a connection of the mind and spirit, a rare jewel of friendship, the Platonic ideal and philia.

Oscar Wilde also discusses this ideal in his Portrait of W.H. (pages 62-67 in this copy, near the end of part II of the full text).  He explains that Renaissance thinkers resurrected the Platonic ideal of friendship, and used terms for their bosom friends that made Victorian readers think they were lovers, even though they were not.

The lack of Frodo/Sam-type friendships in modern American society is described here:

Why is The Lord of the Rings such a powerful myth? Why did the final installment earn almost half a billion dollars in its first eighteen days?

Because all of us want the fellowship illustrated in the films. Because we want relationships that last. Because we want to feel super-glued to family and friends, like the glue that bound Sam and Frodo. Because we want involvement. Because we want shared creativity and wonder, because we want loyalty and commitment.

And yet we don’t have this feeling. Oh, if we are lucky we have it in one relationship, maybe a spouse. But in general we don’t have it.

In general we tend to be atoms bouncing around the eternal void, occasionally bumping into another atom, exchanging a curse or a smile.

Ought we not create our own Fellowship of The Ring? Ought we not create relationships that will last a lifetime? Ought we not build delightful things, even at some risk to ourselves? Ought we not discover something with ourselves that demands eternal loyalty and commitment?

I thought Richard was that kind of friend for me.

I wanted to believe we were simply expressing caring for each other as just friends.  I didn’t realize his instructions to not do them around Tracy gave them a dirty tinge.  I believed him, and saw nothing wrong with giving him the same gestures that I would to my son.

I did not do to him gestures that I only do to my husband, did not do the kinds of cuddling I only do with my husband or son.  No, for us “cuddling” meant sleeping on a shoulder, with arms folded only around yourself.  Like in a recent viral Internet picture in which a man let a tired stranger sleep on his shoulder on a subway train.  Or John sleeping on Jesus’ shoulder during the Last Supper (John 13:23-25).

It was sweet, innocent, a beautiful symbol of platonic friendship, which Americans could do well to adopt, instead of labeling it “gay” or “inappropriate.”  We had distinct boundaries in place.

So I thought we were safe and everything would be fine.  However, he needed to move out soon, before anything did happen.

But moving in his family was not the answer: No, he finally had a job now, and should have saved up a down payment, then moved out immediately after.  You know, like we planned all along.

But then one day, he told me the plans had changed and his family was coming to stay at our little condo.  !!!!

You may already have noted that I am much like Anne Shirley.  I always identified with her inner life: full of romantic ideals and loyalty, expressive on paper even if (unlike Anne) I am not in speech, willing to tell my friends I love them and how much they mean to me, identifying kindred spirits and longing for a Bosom Friend.

One of my friends, Mike from my college memoirs, believes we should say “I love you” to anyone–friends, co-workers–without fear that it’s somehow “inappropriate.”  I also identify with Marianne in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

While Tracy was always angry at somebody or something, always ready to fight.  Whenever I picture her, her face is twisted in fury as she yells and screams or hits.  Tracy does not understand people like me.  She is not a kindred spirit.

Here are articles written by people who believe that physical affection between platonic friends is not wrong at all–not even if your friend puts his head in your lap.  So no, it’s not wrong to behave this way with a friend, just different from the current culture:

Platonic Love and its Revealing Secrets

Is Flirting Cheating?

Touch Much: Why is Platonic Affection so Taboo?

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

 

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