As people marry later in life, many are bringing long-term opposite-sex friendships into their marriage relationship. While the friendships were great during singlehood, in marriage, these relationships may prove problematic.
“I think it is okay for married people to have opposite-sex friends,” says Lisa Stewart. “However, I believe out of respect for your spouse that even if you were close friends before the marriage, there ought to be strong boundaries around that relationship.
"For example, I would not be comfortable with my husband meeting a woman for coffee on a regular basis to talk about what is going on in his life. That is a conversation he ought to be having with me.”
“It is possible for married people to have healthy opposite-sex friendships,” says Dr. Todd E. Linaman, founder of Relational Advantage, Inc. “However, special consideration must be given to a number of factors that, if ignored, can potentially threaten your marriage.”
If you are wondering whether or not a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex poses a threat to your marriage, Dr. Linaman has a list of 20 questions for you to answer. Some of those questions include:
- Is your spouse unaware of your opposite-sex friendship?
- Would you behave differently around your friend if your spouse were present?
- Would you feel uncomfortable if your spouse had the same quality of friendship with someone of the opposite sex?
- Are you physically and/or emotionally attracted to your friend?
- Do you ever compare your spouse to your friend?
- Have you ever entertained romantic fantasies about your friend?
- Do you and your friend ever exchange highly personal details about your lives or complain about your marriages to each other?
An informal survey showed that both married men and women were uncomfortable with their spouse having close friendships with the opposite sex. Not all opposite-sex friendships are dangerous, but it is important to err on the side of caution. It is good to confer with your spouse about the nature of your friendship on a regular basis. If not kept in check, a totally innocent relationship could end up causing unnecessary harm to your marriage.
“I think it is okay to have friendships with the opposite sex, but I don’t share with other women what I haven’t shared with my wife,” says Will Honeycutt. “I think sometimes it is healthy to get input from another female, but on a regular basis I should not be sharing intimate issues with a woman who is not my wife.”
Here are some tips from Linaman for managing opposite-sex friendships so they don't threaten the marriage relationship:
- Develop and consistently nurture a “best friend” relationship with your spouse.
- Develop and consistently nurture close same-sex friendships.
- Make sure your spouse knows your friend and is completely comfortable with the type and level of interaction you have with him/her.
- Honor your spouse’s wishes concerning your friendship – even if it means ending it.
- Avoid establishing close friendships with opposite-sex singles.
- Avoid close opposite-sex friendships if you are struggling in your marriage relationship.
- Address unmet needs and unresolved anger in your marriage with your spouse in an open, honest and timely fashion.
Contact us for more information or check out our classes for married couples to learn practical skills to keep your marriage strong.
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As a Certified Family Life Educator Julie writes and speaks on issues related to strengthening marriages and families.