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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

I am a female having a wonderful 2-year friendship with a male. Lately I've noticed that our friendship has had sexual overtones. I am aware of the popular belief that once sexuality enters the picture, men and women cannot remain friends. Is it possible to have a sexual relationship with a friend and still remain friends?

Answer

A purely sexual relationship is different from a friendship, as a friendship is different than a sexual relationship. When you bring the two together and have a friendship to which you have added sexuality, you have made a significant change in the nature of the relationship. Some people seem to be able to dissociate sexuality from relatedness. They are also able to separate friendship from sexuality. When the two are combined -- a sexual friendship -- we associate that relationship with more permanence, as boyfriend-girlfriend, marital track, etc. And these relationships have different expectations. We tend to feel more proprietary, jealous, and possessive. We tend to think more like a couple.

One of the major problems in trying to introduce sexuality into a friendship is that as the intimacy develops one person may become more involved than the other. If one person is viewing the relationship as simply a sexual relationship between friends, and the other is feeling more like a couple, a conflict exists. Frequently people begin such relationships believing either that they can handle the situation or that the partner will come around to their way of thinking. Too often, however, there are different expectations of the relationship, and one person becomes more attached, resulting in someone getting hurt and the need to separate.

If both parties end up moving in the same direction, that is as in the movie "When Harry Met Sally..." where two friends become lovers, then it can be wonderful. What better basis for a marriage than starting out as friends? Hence, people often have to either decide whether they wish to risk the friendship or choose to maintain the friendship and pass on the sexuality. And that decision, whether to pass on the sexuality or take a chance on losing the friendship, should be a mutual one.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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