Dear C:

I'm in my late twenties and have a wonderful group of friends. We're all pretty close and hang out at least three times a week. The problem enters with the guys I date. . . . I don't like them to come hang out with us. It's not that I don't want them to be integrated, it's just that I really love my friends and want to chill with them, without him. Mainly so I can talk about him, our relationship, my feelings, etc. And it's not like I don't have an equal number of nights free for just him, or that he's excluded from ALL get-togethers, just most of them. And yes, there are other SOs there.

So inevitability every relationship I have (including the current one of about eight months) comes around to the argument of "you like your friends better than you like me," which gets really old really quick. Do you think I should have to give up my alone time with my friends to keep my BF happy? Do you think the fact that I don't want my BF to be with me at every waking moment means he's not the one? I want a romantic relationship; I just want my friendships, too.

-- I Need a Girls' Night Out

No, you need three or more girls' nights out. And you do like your friends better than you like your boyfriends. And you don't want them to be integrated.

Which would all be fine if you were upfront about it. That way, at least, any boyfriends of yours would have enough information to decide whether they wanted to accept this arrangement, instead of being somewhat deceptively held at arm's length.

Actually, at dukes' length: You've got both of yours up full time in defense of your choice. "I really love my friends"; "I just want my friendships"; "it's not like I don't have an equal number of nights free for just him." Oh kayyy.

And how about those two loaded questions about "keep[ing] my boyfriend happy" or being with him "every waking moment" -- when, of course, you know the stock answer will be, heavens! No! A girl should never drop everything to center her life on a boy!

True. But: A boy deserves a better answer than an eye roll and a here-we-go-again when he notices -- rightly -- that his girlfriend doesn't want him around. You'd want one if he were with his friends and conspicuously excluding you.

Is this guy the right one for you? Probably not. For what it's worth, I do think you'll feel a little differently about including a boyfriend down the road. At least, I hope that for you. It's great to have The Girls, but it's also pretty amazing to have a mate you just enjoy having around -- and who blends with your friends just as readily as he says, "Go, have fun without me."

If that happens, though, it won't be because you found some magical "one"; it'll be because you grew up and, to a lesser extent, the group changed or simply eroded.

Still, this is who you are and what you want, at least right now. Don't change if you don't want to -- just be honest about it, and stop punishing guys who care.

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