Can I Get A Consensus? Is It Harder To Maintain Opposite Sex Friendships When You’re In a Relationship?

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A colleague of mine has recently got into a semi-serious relationship with a gal he’s been seeing for about six months. The problem is that his best mate is female and he’s started to feel a bit funny about hanging around with Best Mate Gal on his own because he doesn’t want to upset his New Lady. New Lady hasn’t said anything and she gets along brilliantly with Best Mate Gal but my friend just can’t shake the feeling that it’s all a bit weird. Personally I think he’s being a touch paranoid but it got me thinking about the maintenance of opposite sex friendships while in relationships.

It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me that the date on which you form a friendship can have such a strange impact on your romantic relationships. In my relationship, existing friendships are completely fine. I have several very close male friends that have been a part of my life forever and I casually have private dinners with them on a regular basis. Some of these men are married, some are single. Mr Smaggle has a few female friends from high school and whenever they’re in town he goes off to dinner with them, happily leaving me at home.

However, I suspect that if Mr Smaggle all of a sudden had a new female friend and started having one on one catch ups with her regularly, I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled. I also can’t see him being terribly pleased if I had a brand new man friend that started occupying all my time. There seems to be something about the longevity of a previously formed friendship that provides a certain immunity to jealousy. I guess the unofficial theory is that if you’ve had a seemingly platonic friend for such a length of time then surely the opportunity to hook up with this person has been presented and then either denied or regretfully acted upon. Otherwise you’d obviously be happily married to this magic friend but you’re not, so there’s nothing to worry about. However a brand new friendship has a certain air of the unnecessary about it, particularly if the friendship is exclusive.

Unlike my colleague, I have no guilty conscious when it comes to spending time with my old mates but I tend to tread more carefully with newer man friends. I’m not entirely sure why but it appears that any truly meaningful friendships that I have with men were almost exclusively formed years before I even met Mr Smaggle. It’s all a bit interesting isn’t it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, particularly if this has ever been an issue for you. What do you think?

Is it harder to maintain opposite sex (or same sex as the case may be) friendships when you’re in a relationship?

* I apologise for writing this in hetero-normative language. I always make an effort to write relationship articles with neutral sexual orientation language but it just got too damn messy in this one.


Carly is the founding editor of Smaggle which launched in 2007 back when blogging was weird. She has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines. Hoop earrings are totally her thing and she almost got run over by Myf Warhurst while out jogging one day.


  1. My boyfriend and I met through partner dancing – specifically West Coast Swing – and that is a hobby that will give you lots of opposite-sex friends. It’s just part of life, but when we first started our relationship, a few people reacted with something like “How can you watch him dance with other girls?” or “Why does he still have other dance partners?” They just didn’t get that you could be close to someone of the opposite sex without threatening your relationship. But to me it’s simple: you either trust the person you are in a relationship with, or you don’t.

    That being said, I think you are right about timing. There is another factor too: if both sides of the friendship are in relationships, it’s a lot easier to maintain the friendship – compared to when a guy in a relationship has a close “available” female friend. I’ve been that “available” friend a few times, and in most cases, I ended up losing touch with the guy in question.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      That’s really interesting, because I’m an actress as well and Mr SMaggle has to often watch me make out with other people and he’s always totally fine, it’s generally the other guy (or gir!) that freaks out. I think both sides in a relationship makes a huge difference.

  2. Anon lol 3 years ago

    As someone who has had an opposite sex friendship that went wrong, I honestly don’t really know. I used to think that with the right person it could work – if they were honest, trust worthy, in a committed relationship…. But now I don’t know what to think. Having had an experience where it worked out badly I wouldn’t endorse it.

    As for myself, I am completely disinterested in male friends – by which I mean the BFF one on one time sort of friends. Unless they are gay! A few years ago I had a male BFF, I was with my partner at the time and he was in a long term relationship too. My friend and I had sleep overs all the time and played video games all night, it was no different to any relationship that I had with my female friends. And my partner was cool with it, he trusted me, he trusted him. We even slept in the same bed sometimes, because there was just no question of the kind of relationship we had. And there was no weirdness or anything at all. Unfortunately a few years into our friendship he turned into a piece of shit and out of nowhere tried to force himself on me – all while my partner was in the other room room! Completely out of nowhere. It was just shocking and heartbreaking because we had had such a good friendship and so many fun memories that I now look back on with resent. Obviously, that was the last time I had anything to do with this person, and I will never, ever have a male BFF again. These days I try to avoid having friendships with guys. I try to distance myself when good friendships develop and just keep things friendly but casual.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      Oh yuck honey, that’s awful. And what a terrible way to end the friendship.

  3. Natalie Mulford 3 years ago

    I think it depends on the relationship you’re in too. My ex, he didn’t like me having male friends, actually, he didn’t seem to like me having friends at all, but males were a big no no. I managed to stand my ground on a couple of long term male friends, but it wasn’t easy. Its the level of trust & security you have with your partner. These days, I’m single, and I find I get along better with males more then females, but it’s now my Mother who is a bit “why do you have so many male friends?”.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      I’m EXACTLY the same. I’ve always more man friends than females. Still stands today although all my male friends have been around for 15 years or Mr Smaggle’s besties.

  4. Lee 3 years ago

    Very interesting question. I have one that breaks all the rules of what should/should not be.

    One of my closest friends is someone I met online. She lives in San Francisco, I lived in Sydney. She read something of mine that another blogger posted and thought it was really funny, decided to check out my blog. She started leaving comments, and I got curious and checked out her blog, started leaving comments. We started emailing and eventually skyping. A strong friendship was developing… should add here that I’m in a very long term relationship.

    My new friend started confiding and telling me all sorts of stuff about her then relationship, which was in trouble. She really opened up. We laughed a lot. We were in touch a lot. We became very close in spite of the distance.

    Then one day she said she was breaking up with her boyfriend and moving to Australia. Apparently she had met an Australian guy she was in love with.

    Turns out the guy was in Melbourne (I lived in Sydney at the time) and she was going to be there on a study thing for a year or so. But she was going to Melbourne via Sydney so naturally, nervously, I asked if she wanted to catch up. She had friends in Sydney she was staying with but said yeah sure, love to catch up.

    We met in real life. I’d been worried that maybe the thing we had might not carry over into the real world, but it did. She was adorable and fun. My long term partner thought the same.

    My friend caught up with her Sydney friends but ditched them to hang out with me. Ended up staying with us. We couldn’t get enough of each other.

    After a few days she went to Melbourne, but we were on the phone every day, and then she was flying up to stay with us regularly and I flew down to be with her a few times. Long term partner came down on one occasion. I know friends were raising eyebrows, but my friend and I knew the nature of our friendship. It had been defined when she told me she had a dream that were were kids having a play argument, and that in the dream I had been her older brother, she was my kid sister. Part of me was relieved when she said that. I kind of thought oh cool – that’s what this is.

    Long, long story, but it truly is a pure love friendship. One of my closest friends even asked what I think everyone wanted to: were we sleeping together? There was never any chance of that, in spite of the random and very open hugs, the in-jokes, the long talks. We were (are) just the very best of friends full of love and care.

    I understand that it is an incredibly unlikely relationship, but it’s real and genuine. I think we spent so much time together when she was here because we assumed that when she went back to the States that would be it, we would have no more real time together. As it happens, long term girlfriend and I travelled to San Francisco and did a road trip with my friend and stayed at Lake Tahoe for Christmas, whitest one ever, best one ever. Happy times.

    I don’t resent people questioning the true nature of our relationship. I understand how odd it seems. But I also don’t care because I know the truth of it. It is possible that such a relationship can exist. Unfortunate that it’s not more common.

    My friend has finally met a great guy who treats her the way she deserves to be treated. They are talking about marriage. I know without a doubt that she will want me to be at the wedding. And although I hate weddings, I really want to be there. It will be a happy day.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      What a beautiful story! I think the main point is how much your long term was involved/invited into the friendship. I love it.

  5. Maddison 3 years ago

    Such a hard question.

    I think you’re right about the ‘new’ness of the friendship playing an important role. Also the openness with your partner I think. Like, if you were to suddenly have a new guy friend who occupied a lot of time, that might matter less if you were, for example, making an effort for the guys to get to know each other (at least out of courtesy, not trying to force them to be friends). That is much easier on the relationship than a guy you’re meeting with all the time who your partner never has a chance to meet and suss out.

    Oh – and veto powers are definitely a thing! If I was spending a lot of time with a guy (or my man was spending a lot of time with a lady) and our partner felt uncomfortable or got bad vibes from it all, then we would talk and make an effort to pull back from that friendship.

    Sometimes our partners are able to pick up on things that we’re not ready to admit to ourselves. 🙂

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      Yeah totally! I’ve never had anything like that, which is why I wrote the article, because I think it’s interesting that I haven’t developed any deep and meaningful relationships with men since I’ve been with Mr Smags. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m subsciously being respectful or whether I’m just completely fulfilled. Who knows?

  6. Maudie 3 years ago

    Every time I have tried to have a friendship with a man outside of a relationship they have a) hit on me, aggressively b) tried to sabotage my relationship c) passively bullied me for not ditching my man and doing/dating them and d) just generally been a huge pain. Not sure if that’s the age group or I just have really bad luck but it’s ladies only for me in the friendship stakes these days.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      I find most men are fairly well behaved and I certainly do have ‘new’ male friendships but I find it just feels less weird to spend lots of time with my older mates than lots of time with newer male mates. You know?

  7. May! 3 years ago

    I think you’re bang on the money with old friends VS new friends, but apart from that I find it actually easier to maintain male friendships when one or both of us are in a relationship, because the sexual tension is eliminated – it’s taken off the table as an option, so your friendship gets stronger. Tread carefully when first meeting with the new girlfriends though, you definitely need to stay on their good side for the friendship to continue!

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