DEAR CAROLYN: My boyfriend came to our (hetero) relationship with a lot of female friends. I'm uncomfortable with my partners having close female friendships, based on a prior history of dating people who were emotionally unavailable to me and were super-close with a female friend. One of those exes went on to marry his bestie, which still stings. I expressed my discomfort to my boyfriend. He wants me to be happy, so he adjusted his behavior and engages less with female friends one-on-one. Meanwhile, I'm really trying hard to get better when his friendships put him in one-on-one situations with female friends . . . but it still really bothers me. Our relationship is good. I do not want to assume the worst of him because he is a man. I worry that expressing my feelings with the result of changing his behavior is controlling, and that he is missing out on friendships he used to be more present in. I also cannot make my discomfort go away, so I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of saying, "Go back to hanging out with your lady friends, no prob." Can't wait to get spitfire roasted in the comments over this, but nevertheless: Any advice?
Pain and More Pain
PAIN AND MORE PAIN: I hope you don't get roasted — it discourages honesty like yours.
Your request that he see his female friends less was controlling, yes — because you did it to address something in you by changing him. And he is indeed missing out on his friends, who are in turn missing out on him, when they did nothing wrong.
If he had written to me, I would have advised him to say no to you, and to say that he really cared about you and wanted to see where your relationship would go, but he wouldn't change himself to make that happen.
Attempting that kind of change is not a good thing for him, or for you, either: The best shot you have at a healthy relationship is in being yourself, and freeing your partner to be himself. Utterly. If that mix is a bad one, then so be it — time to break up.
You've also left part of this problem unaddressed: You cite "a prior history of dating people who were . . . super-close with a female friend." So, at least two priors, likely more for it to qualify as a "history" — then you choose a new boyfriend with "a lot of female friends."
So you are picking men over and over again who have close relationships with women? Why are you applying extra pressure to an area you know is vulnerable?
You do need to deal with your trust issues, absolutely — but please recognize as part of the process that you can also seek like-minded people on something you see as a priority, but are choosing not to.
That emotional machinery is where your attention belongs, not on this or any boyfriend's behavior. I urge you to find a therapist (using whatever platform is available to you) and get to work.
Trying to fix your problem through other people's behavior means you're always dependent on others to feel good — which, as I think you're learning, never feels very good at all.