Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
I love my boyfriend. He is a great guy. The only problem is he LIKES girls. No he isn’t cheating but when he isn’t with me he is always surrounded by and talking to other girls. He is a good listener and a sympathetic ear and women just flock to him. I used to be a caretaker of men and my therapist said I had codependent issues. So I was so happy to have found a man that I didn’t need to baby. But I see lots of my old qualities in him. He says he loves only me but I can’t help but worry and it leads to a lot of fights, with him complaining that “I don’t trust him.”
You wouldn’t want your man to not like girls as that would set up a whole other set of problems; there is nothing wrong with a man talking to women. I think that your concern is what they are talking about…this is what can become a slippery slope.
As you pointed out boundaries are important. It isn’t mild office flirting that usually leads to infidelity- more likely it is launched by someone being “the hero” or “the only person who understands me.”
Codependence is when you take on other people’s troubles as your own. The problem with this is that it creates psychological indebtedness.
One study on cultural anthropology shows that relationships/bonding can form when you help someone. There is a natural reflex to wish to pay them back in kind. When you can’t it creates psychological debt or a bond.
This is why marketing companies send you free sh_t. It makes you feel indebted to them and increases your desire to buy their product or idea, or give them a donation.
These women feel indebted to your boyfriend for listening to their sh.t and the fact that he is with you prevents them from paying him back. This tension could increase their desire for him.
There is a great movie about this type of phenomena, The Tao of Steve.
Your boyfriend needs to understand that he has to keep his conversations with these women superficial. No diving deep. If he keeps it light, this will pre-emp most unhealthy bonding. That’s why mild office flirting isn’t as dangerous- it is 99.9% superficial. It is only when it develops into listening and personal involvement that it becomes a problem.
So the rule to pin to the refrigerator is: stay out of other peoples SH_T.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: Hmmmm. Looks like Dr. Brilliant is setting your boyfriend up for a life of forced superficiality with his happy little flock.
The problem with real friendships is that they always involve a sort of intimacy. Most men that I know can only have healthy and uncomplicated friendships with women if they have work in common or kids on the same soccer team.
Your boyfriend’s affection for being surrounded by women is not conducive to a good relationship with one woman. The juggling of all these personalities takes time and energy, and if that is what he gives his spare time and energy to, it says something about him. It says “I need to be the center of attention.” Most men with their own interests to develop and a future in mind find the flocking of chattering women annoying.
You are having a relationship with a more than one man- you are dating a man and his entourage of bleating sheep. If this is what you want to cope with for the rest of your life, do what you can to work it out. Quite honestly, I think it’s just going to drive you nuts in the long run. I’d jump pastures if I were you.