Q: Seven months ago, when I met my boyfriend, I had no idea he had so many female friends. I’m 26; he’s 30. I understand having opposite-sex friends to get perspective on dating, but he’s like one of their girlfriends. He gabs on the phone with them constantly, and they treat him like their little teddy bear, inviting him to baby showers, bringing him leftovers, and baking him cookies. He only understands my jealousy as fear that he will cheat. But, these are married girls he’s known for years, and he’s not a sleazeball. I’m not scared of catching him in bed with another woman; I’m terrified I’ll overhear him discussing what color she should paint the baby's room. I know he won’t be comfortable telling his girlfriends that he picks out nail polish with only one woman from now on — me! I don't feel he needs these relationships when he's in a serious relationship, and it isn’t their job to take care of him.
— Feeling Inadequate
A: He isn’t just your man; he’s the married hens’ pet mandroid. Kind of like their own super-adorable version of “The Terminator”: “I’ll be back…to help you pick out panty liners!”
From the way you describe the guy, it sounds like his testosterone level is somewhere between zero and “crying softly while hiding under the bed.” But you apparently didn’t find him under-manly when you started dating him and apparently don’t now; you’re just upset to learn that he’s been moonlighting as a gay decorator.
Odd as it is to have a boyfriend whose homies are a bunch of suburban homemakers, outside friendships can help keep a relationship alive. (No one person shares their partner’s every interest or meets their every need.) Outside friendships can also go too far — like if your boyfriend’s confiding things he’d otherwise confide in you, ditching you to hang with them, or answering the phone during sex as their first responder for nail polish emergencies: “Definitely ‘Baby’s Breath’ over that trampy ‘Seashell Pink’!”
If you aren’t icked out because he likes scrapbooking and sipping chard with the ladies, and you don’t feel shortchanged in time, energy, and attention, maybe the real problem is insecurity on your part. It is understandable that you feel a little jealous. When you get into a relationship with a guy, you expect to be his one-and-only, and not feel like you need to get in line behind the housewife harem bringing him plates of homemade brownies.
Stamping your foot and ordering him to ditch the biddies is a bad idea. Even if you got him to cave, resentment would surely rise up in him to fill the void. What you can do is tell him what you need. Explain that you aren’t worried he’ll cheat, just anxious that he’s got a bunch of women in his life who mean a lot to him, who do kinda girlfriendy things for him, who have a history with him that you don’t. Get him to tell you what he sees in you and why he’s with you. This should help you recognize that these women are special to him, but not special-special, like you, which should help you rest easier when he comes home smelling like he spent the night singing into hairbrushes with the girls.
Q: Men apparently see the organic grocery’s salad bar as the new singles bar. Sorry, but after a long day, I want to load up my container in peace, not get hit on with “So, what’s on the menu tonight?” or “You know, I make a mean kale salad.” (Didn’t know, don’t care.) I’m getting so annoyed at this always happening that I’m tempted to say to the next guy, “What makes you think I want to have a conversation with you?”
— Girl, Interrupted
A: Sadly, shopping local often involves ducking the locals. (If only the salad bar came with a sleaze guard.) Though you could pelt these guys with croutons or cutting remarks, venting anger actually makes it worse — biochemically and psychologically. Wearing a big rock on your finger should stop some men from approaching, and mentioning “my husband” should chase away any who already have. You’ll ultimately feel better if you make the tiny effort to ditch them with dignity; treat them like they have value as human beings (if annoying ones) and like their feelings matter. You might also consider yourself lucky. The day may come when men look at you with all the longing they have for a bench. At that point, you’ll still be complaining: “What’s the world come to when a little old lady spends six hours getting a box of sprouts without attracting a single guy wanting to do wheatgrass shots off her abs?”
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