Dear Lovehacker, I moved cities late last year and my old boss is going to be in town for a visit soon. He suggested that we catch up but my only availability was during the evening. I didn't even think that it could be a problem until after we arranged to have dinner. He has a wife and I'm not sure if I should be worried about what she would think, especially because I'm single. Am I just being paranoid or is there something a bit off about having dinner alone with a married man? Thanks, B.
This post was originally published in July 2017.
I don't see a problem with this at all. Contextually, it makes sense for the two of you to catch up over dinner/ He's working with a limited time frame and that's what your availability is. I highly doubt that his wife would have a problem with this. If she does, that's really not your responsibility. It's for the two of them to work out.
However, if you do feel uncomfortable due to the implication of romance that dinner can imply, suggest a casual dining option like a pub or burgers.
I can understand how this can be a tricky subject though. Earlier this year an article in the Washington Post reported on Mike Pence saying in 2002 that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, and he won't attend alcohol-fueled events without her either.
This post sparked public debate on whether this was a sign of respect to his wife or straight up sexist. After all, it does breed an idea that women can't be trusted. Or that men can't control themselves around them. Either scenario is damaging and underestimates both sexes.
Plenty of people out there wouldn't be comfortable with their partners going out alone with someone whose gender they're attracted to. Is this a sign of deeper trust issues? Possibly. But then it's not always fair to comment on the particulars of someone's relationship when you're not one of the people in it. For them, it's about communicating with their partners and being aware of what each other are comfortable with.
By the same token, I think its important to normalise platonic relationships between men and women. It's time to challenge the idea that men and women can't have a relationship without there being a sexual attraction on one or both sides.
There have been mixed reports and studies into platonic relationships between men and women, particularly in regards to friendship.
A 2000 study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships showed that these relationships were changing and that men and women who were friends were increasingly seeing each other as confidants or mates rather than potential sexual partners.
However, a 2012 study in the same journal showed that there was some form of attraction in the majority of opposite-sex friendships. It revealed that men were more likely to feel this attraction, and overestimate how attracted their female friend was to them.
From an anecdotal perspective, I have plenty of male friends who I don't feel any sexual attraction to, but who I am definitely close with. That being said, my own experiences aren't definitive or scientific.
In your case and perhaps even that of Mike Pence, we're talking about work relationships, as opposed to friendship. The idea of a man and a woman feeling restricted in this context due to their opposite genders is potentially detrimental to working efficiently and networking effectively.
Your former boss is still a contact and you should be able to feel as comfortable grabbing an evening meal without being concerned. The fact that you were considerate enough to worry about this is admirable. I just hope that we're moving towards a future where you won't have to.