Recently I have been spending lots of time talking and listening to Phoenix Girl about her new boyfriend. I shall call him…Musical Engineer. He was part of my circle of acquaintances, but not someone whom I’d ever spent much time getting to know. In a distant sort of way, I thought he was nice. Soon after Phoenix Girl and he began their relationship, though, he began slowly communicating with me more and more. He knows that Phoenix Girl is one of my three best friends, so I’m sure he figured that I was sort of the next best thing to talking to her directly while she is in France and can’t be as available as either of them would like.
At first I was a little confused by this, as I’ve never been the type to cultivate friendships with men. Not because I don’t like men – quite the contrary! I like them too much, so I want to be sure a man is interested before I begin spending a lot of time with him, so as to avoid heart-ache all around. Musical Engineer is safely in a relationship, though, and was in sore need of advice, so he began texting me and we have talked on the phone a few times, becoming good friends in the process of sharing our thoughts about our mutually beloved Phoenix Girl.
Over the past couple of weeks, though, he began asking me for advice on his college classes. He’s a few years younger than me, and is trying to figure out the best way to get through his schooling without making Phoenix Girl wait on him forever.
My first thought was, ‘Why don’t you ask Phoenix Girl for advice instead of me, since comparatively I care a lot less than she does?’ In one of my previous relationships, the man I was dating spent most of our conversations bouncing every single idea he had for his future off me and requesting my feedback. Girlfriends are there to give advice, as far as I’m concerned.
Then I said to myself, ‘Wait a second…I broke up with him in the end. Maybe that was a problem.’
For years (during and after the long-standing relationship), I had wondered why it was that my ex-boyfriend obviously needed my in-put so much and yet was simultaneously so reluctant to commit. If I was giving him what he needed, shouldn’t he have been ready to snap me up, so he could have my feedback for the rest of his life?
I began to suppose that the woman in a man’s life to whom he runs for advice and opinions and critique is not his girlfriend or wife. Instead, he looks to his mom or his older sister, or if either is unavailable or non-existent, perhaps he looks to a platonic female friend. If, on the other hand, he wants approval, admiration and support, he turns to his romantic interest. This is, of course, a sweeping generalization; I realize that men do ask their girlfriends and spouses for advice, but even so perhaps when they do it’s more because they want to make the happy discovery that their partner agrees with and supports them, thus providing valuable affirmation of their manhood and leadership.
I have the ‘big sister’ sort of personality by nature, so it’s not surprising that men who need that would be drawn to friendship with me. It’s just a pity that my ex-boyfriend and I wasted so much time thinking we should be romantic, when in fact it would have been better for us just to be friends. However, I’m now learning the art of a big sisterly friendship thanks to Musical Engineer, so it’s proving to be an interesting new experience.
The other thing that pleases me about this situation is that it frees him up to have a proper relationship with Phoenix Girl. My ex-boyfriend, through various causes both avoidable and unavoidable, was a very isolated person. Having one person that he liked, he figured that all roles (friend, confidante, adviser, consultant, girlfriend) could be filled by her. However, that’s too much to ask of anyone, and, what’s worse, it induces a massive feeling of obligation and dependency in the man – not very romantic emotions, we must admit!
So, since Musical Engineer has me and lots of other friends and a very helpful older brother, he can turn to us when he needs advice or help or any number of things, instead of expecting Phoenix Girl to supply them all. Instead, she is able to be what a girlfriend should be: someone a man desires and admires intensely as a source of fullness in his life, rather than a person he needs to supply some lack.
It has been interesting coming to these conclusions. Since I am single now, it allows me to think about the sort of relationship I really want in the future, as well as allowed me to put to rest my old relationship since now I understand better why it failed. I don’t know if my readers will agree with me, or if it is even wise to make a foray into the realm of relationship blogging, but it’s been on my mind lately. For the sake of honesty, I figured it would be interesting to write about!
I’d love to know if you have had any experience with this phenomenon. Do you agree that a man prefers not to need his romantic partner but to desire her for herself? I think it indicates that romantic relationships actually prompt a reassuring kind of selflessness, since the couple should be attracted to each other for the other’s sake, rather than because they want something to solve their own problems.