The “When Harry Met Sally” Syndrome

Harry Met Sally Syndrome

Ever since I was a little girl, I always related better to boys. In elementary school, my closest friends were boys. I was an athletic girl, a self-proclaimed tomboy, and played most sports as well if not better than most boys my age. They called me “Mrs. Dan Marino” because I was the steady QB every time we played football because I had the best arm. I lost a tooth playing tackle football. I collected baseball cards and even learned how to spit like a boy (ok I’m not proud of that). I loved every minute. If you’re that much of a sports fanatic as well, then sites like southerntimesafrica would definitely enlighten you.

Even my nickname, Ronnie, is seen as a boys’ name, so I easily blended in every day, skateboarding and hanging out with the guys. And to them, I was one of the guys. Never treated as a “girl.” I knew way back then that women brought me a lot of stress and drama.

Through my teenage years, I went on to finally make amazing female friends, the kind you have for life. I attended an all-girls Catholic High School, and that kind of closeness just bonds you forever. Even with those amazing friendships, I still had many platonic male friends, the kind that would be there the minute another guy broke my heart, that told me I was too pretty and he was the idiot, that would instantly wipe my tears and let me cry an ugly cry without judging.

The College Years

As I grew older and went to college, I got into a a serious relationship with a man; the kind that looked like it was headed toward marriage. He lived over an hour away, so we would only see each other on weekends when not in college. I still had several male friends I would have dinner with or attend a movie with during the week and I never thought anything of it.

One day my dad pulled me aside and said that if I ever wanted to be married I needed to stop hanging around other men. I was baffled. I don’t hang around unknown men, and I never cheated, I just hung with my friends who happened to be men. He went on to explain how that was disrespectful and inappropriate. I was horrified and, of course, called my father an old man and said he didn’t understand how things were nowadays. His views were old fashioned and antiquated.

I ended up getting engaged to my college boyfriend, who I dated 8.5 years. We never quite made it down the aisle (thank god) but it was in that relationship where he apparently had platonic female friends and I had platonic male friends and let’s just say … one of his platonic female friends ended up being not so platonic.

As an Adult

That forced me at 26 years old to ponder what my father said to me a few years earlier. Can men and women be just friends or is it opening a Pandora’s Box?

I will tell you this, my view on this changed dramatically since I was 23 and thinking my dad was crazy.

Most of my life my friends were male, but as I grew up and became involved in serious relationships, I understood what my dad was telling me all those years ago; especially when I was married. My male friends know that when I am involved seriously in a relationship that our “hang outs” cease. We can double date or hang out with my significant other, but there will be no more one on one time. I realized that it was disrespectful to my husband if I was out to dinner with another man and it wasn’t business related. Most times, my male friends befriended my husband and that way he was welcome to the house for dinner etc, because usually they were uninvolved themselves.

I know this is a more traditional way of thinking, but now at 40, I am convinced that having truly platonic friends of the opposite sex is not a good idea if you are married or in a committed relationship.

Think about it, when things in your relationship are good, there is no insecurity. The problem lies when you are in a rough patch of your relationship. Who are you going to turn to when you need a shoulder to cry on and, better yet, an ego boost when your significant other isn’t treating you as you would like? Of course you are going to want that male attention. It makes us feel good when another man says we deserve better, we’re attractive and awesome and don’t deserve to be treated poorly. That, my friends, is when the trouble begins.

The “When Harry Met Sally” Syndrome

Just like what Harry said in the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” I believe most opposite-sex relationships are only platonic because the woman isn’t giving the green light for sex.

Thinking back, many of my platonic male friends later confessed they had crushes on me all along and were hoping I’d feel the same at one time or another. Most of those male friends that I cherished probably would have slept with me in a heart beat, even though that thought was the furthest thing from my mind. Several made passes at me, a few I did become involved with (one ended up my ex-husband, and boy is that a good story) and many just remained platonic.

Over the years my friends have ridiculed me for my more “old fashioned” or “traditional” approach to relationships. But it works for me. I have been cheated on several times by men who were involved with women they were “just friends” with. And in turn, I have had my male friends make advances on me. It’s very uncomfortable and isn’t flattering.

Now that I am about to remarry, I take this topic seriously. I don’t have many male friends, and the ones I do have are married and are colleagues of mine.

I wouldn’t just go to a movie with them, either. If I am having a meeting with them or a lunch, that is something I discuss with my fiance, and he is comfortable with it, it is something that does not happen often, and typically it is business related.

Now my platonic male friends are my social media friends only. They are welcome to joke and comment, but they know how I feel about hanging out and don’t cross any lines by putting me in that position. And thankfully my fiance has a similar belief and wouldn’t hang out with another woman without me being present.

It is About Respect

I want to be clear that this has nothing to do with trust. To me, it’s about respect. Respecting our commitment. That is the old fashioned Italian Catholic girl in me, I guess. If you can’t trust your partner 100%, then to me there is no relationship. I don’t want to ever doubt commitment or loyalty or be put in a position where I second guess it, either.

This is one way I show respect to my fiance and show my commitment. I’m not out gallivanting with other men and leaving room for doubt when there is no need. Because the minute insecurity hits and your faithfulness is questioned, it’s very difficult to maintain that trust. So I choose to not put myself in that position.

Just like Harry’s opinion on the topic changed over the course of the movie, my opinion changed over the years as well. Now that little discussion when I was 23 turned out to be one of my most valued life’s lessons my father ever taught me.

Photo Credit: F. Montino via cc

Veronica Yankowski

Veronica L. Yankowski is an award-winning celebrity photographer, author and photography educator. During her extensive career she has had the privilege of working with many celebrity clients such as Dina Manzo from The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Signy Coleman from The Young and the Restless, Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC, Jon Bon Jovi, and many others . Her photographs have graced the covers of magazines and last summer her boudoir photography was featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Veronica is an accomplished author and her first book "Dialogue 3" was published in 2002 and showcases her photographs of people and places and the tragedy of 911. She is currently a continuing education photography teacher at Brookdale Community College instructing courses from beginner DSLR to more advanced portraiture courses and also hosts workshops around the state to amateur and hobbyist photographers.

She has been interviewed on several radio talk shows, featured on blogs and her work has been on several reality TV shows such as TLC's Four Weddings, Bravo's Cake Boss, HGTV's Dina's Party and The Real Housewives of NJ.

Veronica is currently speaking in the tri-state area on photography and how women can build their confidence in photographs. She instructs women how to pose better, and sell their brand with a perfect head shot.

Since beginning her professional career in 1996 as a photojournalist, Veronica has won many awards for her portraiture work. She worked for some of the top media outlets in the tri-state area such as The Star Ledger, The New York Times and the Associated Press.