For most men, food is the language of love. However, a delicious meal could tear you and your guy apart just as easily as it can bring you togetherÃ¢â‚¬”that is, if you're dining with another dude.
In a recent Cornell University study, researchers asked participants how they would feel if their current romantic partner engaged in various activities with a former flame, and they discovered that having lunch or dinner with an ex elicited significantly more sexual jealousy than interactions that didn't involve food, like meeting up for coffee.
The reason? Sharing a meal with someone is perceived as a highly intimate activity. "The words Ã¢â‚¬ËœItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just lunchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ are about as reassuring to hear from a partner as 'We're just good friends,'" says Craig Malkin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School.
But just because you're in a committed relationship doesn't mean you should ditch your guy friendsÃ¢â‚¬”even those your single self might go for, or ex-boyfriends. "When we give up aspects of ourselves, including meaningful friendships, we stop being the person our partner fell in love with," explains Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert. "We lose our vitality, and the relationship suffers."
So if you want to have your guy friends and eat with them, too, avoid creating undue jealousy by following these tips for managing relationships with all the men in your life:
Be upfront. If you plan to hang out with a male friend, be completely open about it. Secrecy not only makes your partner more insecure, but, according to Malkin, it can also increase the odds that you'll cross the line with your friend. "Think Romeo and JulietÃ¢â‚¬”forbidden love, especially the secret kind, is exciting," he says.
Consult your guy. Before recruiting a guy friend to grab a drink or catch a movie, ask your partner which activities he is comfortable with. Giving him the opportunity to offer input will both reassure him and prevent you from crossing the line while spending time with your friend. "It puts you in the proper mindset where everything is out in the open. Actively thinking about boundaries is the easiest way to keep from crossing them," says Malkin.
Invite him along. Not only will this show your man that you have nothing to hide, but hanging out with each other's friends can also make for a healthier relationship. When partners shrink their worlds to accommodate each other, their relationship is affected, says Firestone. "Meet his friends and have him meet yours, so you're both enlarging your circle of friends."
Make it a group affair. When a man and a woman eat alone, it can feel like a date, but having more people around can help dilute the intimacy. A group setting is an especially smart idea if you're aware of any underlying feelings of attraction. "You can't brazenly flirt when other people are around, and neither can he," says Malkin.
Talk your partner up. If you're meeting a platonic pal at, say, a restaurant, try leading with, "My boyfriend (or husband) would love this place," suggests Malkin. "It won't necessarily discourage every guy from shifting out of the friend zone," he says, "but it places your partner front and center in your thinking, which makes it more likely that you will keep the conversation in the friend zone."
Skip the booze. Research shows that a good mood is a turn-on, so the feel-good buzz of a cocktail can make a lunch date feel more intimate than you'd plannedÃ¢â‚¬”especially if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re attracted to your dining partner. "Alcohol loosens inhibitions, making you far more likely to flirt if you have the slightest urge at all," explains Malkin.
Avoid relationship talk. Confiding in a male friend about your relationship problems can make your guy feel betrayed. (How would you feel if he divulged the details of your last fight to his female friend? Yeah, that's what we thought.) What's more, according to Malkin, research has shown that merely acting romanticallyÃ¢â‚¬”like sharing important emotionsÃ¢â‚¬”can actually create romantic feelings, which may give your guy friend the wrong idea.
Don't be a hypocrite. Your man needs to keep his female friends for all the same reasons you need to keep your male friends, and ragging on him for having girl pals could lead to dishonesty. "If you restrict your partner, he might resent you," explains Firestone, "and he may become less straightforward to avoid your wrath."
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