As a romantic fiction author, I could not resist addressing this here. This NYT article is primarily about a survey regarding attitudes when it comes to people interacting and socializing with those of the opposite sex . . . who aren’t their spouses:
It being Twitter there as well, quickly matters moved into snarks about old men who aren’t as hip as (“modern”) younger guys who can – of course! – be just friends with women. There are the expected points raised too about men needing to get over themselves; that not every woman is after them. And more.
As examples, I pulled out several tweets:
Issues such as career opportunities are – not unreasonably – noted as well.
However, sadly, those opportunities are beside the point when it comes to his marriage. Your married male colleague’s female wife may feel rather differently about you having dinner and drinks alone with him “post-6pm.”
Assuming you are a straight man, and your best female friend is a heterosexual, let’s see how her male husband feels about you having dinner and drinks with her alone after their wedding day.
By the way, I’m married to my best friend.
I can’t say I’m surprised by the likes of those responses. Perceptions do change with age and with marital status. When I was single into my early 30s, I couldn’t fathom either what all the fuss was about when it came to women and men, and marriage, friendship and work relationships. Only out of touch, lost in the 1950s, “oldsters” worried about who was married and who wasn’t.
However, as a married man I’ve learned that there are definitely social boundary lines when it comes to relationships with women who are NOT my wife.
Pre-marriage, regularly I went out after work socializing with single women one-on-one. Why would I not have?
After I married, I know I changed. My personal circumstances had changed, too. Since saying “I do,” I have not been out in an evening alone, post-work or not, with a woman who is not my wife.
Yes, I have also had numerous one-on-one work lunches with both married and single women. However, I remember as well once at the London university where I worked having a glass of wine in a pub mid-afternoon alone with a woman single colleague. She said she wanted to get off the campus to talk over sensitive workplace issues she felt she couldn’t in the offices.
Over the drinks, she drifted from those into talking about non-work stuff – being from the continent, she wanted to know about New York (she had never been there) and what I thought of England. Harmless chit-chat. However, her chosen topics gradually went from acquaintance work-friendly like that to a bit too intimate (in my opinion). Did she think I was perhaps “interested” in her? Or was I misreading her? Regardless, it started to feel too much like casually meeting for drinks as a “first date.” (I did remember what that felt like.) Subsequently, I took no chances: I did not go out with her alone again.
Naturally, the “gay men” issue also gets tossed in:
Are “my rules” the same with a man? Would I socialize with a male colleague, regardless of his relationship status, and sexual orientation, and have a post-work drink? Yes, I would.
The difference: I am not attracted to any man in the way I might be to a woman. That’s why I am married to a woman. So, yes, I admit I do distinguish between men and women.
Do I not “trust” myself around women other than my wife? Well, one never knows when you might find yourself falling for someone; as we know, we cannot easily control that feeling. After all, that is how we end up married in the first place: you fall in love with her, and she does with you.
And, remember, that love may well have started over a dinner and drinks.
Rightfully, women today are often the boss, too. And this is not only a one-way matter of what men may think. Assuming my wife understood and accepted it, if I force myself to socialize with single (or even married) women equally as I might with men – only as friends, only as colleagues – I could indeed perhaps make valuable career contacts.
But I could still just once come across that one woman who mistakenly comes to believe that, although I am married, I am “interested” in her. And maybe she sends me an “innocent” text? And perhaps my wife sees it?
It may take only one miscommunication to damage trust and perhaps undermine a marriage.
As a man, you fell in love with the woman who became your wife, so you know that someone else certainly could fall in love with her, too. Similarly, your wife fell in love with you, so she feels you too could attract someone else – well, at least you could perhaps on your best day anyway. 😉
I have no idea what happened to that woman with whom I had had that afternoon glass of wine in that pub. We change jobs all the time. Work is ultimately just a means of earning money to eat and put a roof over your head.
In comparison, marriage (in my humble opinion) is so far beyond that that they are not even in the same universe. Marriage becomes your family, your world, your eternity. You would DIE for that person.
Just what I think. I suspect we don’t like to confront this issue honestly. If you have any thoughts on this awkward subject, feel free to comment below.
Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. 🙂