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. “However, give special consideration to a number of factors that, if ignored, can potentially threaten your marriage.”
Wondering whether or not a close friendship with someone of the opposite-sex poses a threat to your marriage? If so, Linaman offers 20 questions for you to answer. Here are a few of them:
Is your mate unaware of your opposite-sex friendship?
Would you behave differently around your friend if your partner were present?
Would you feel uncomfortable if your fiancé or spouse had the same quality of friendship with someone of the opposite sex?
Do you have a physical and/or emotional attraction to your friend?
Do you ever compare your mate 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 relationships to each other?
“If you answered 'yes' to one or more of the questions above, your opposite-sex friendship may be a real threat to the quality of your marriage,” Linaman says. “It may even be in the best interest of your marriage to either significantly limit or actually end your close friendship.”
An informal survey shows 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 helpful to discuss the nature of your friendship on a regular basis with your spouse. 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 Linaman's tips to help you manage opposite-sex friendships so they don't threaten your marriage relationship:
Develop and consistently nurture a “best friend” relationship with your mate.
Develop and consistently nurture close same-sex friendships.
Make sure your spouse knows your friend. Also, be certain your mate 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.
While opposite-sex friendships do have the potential to create problems in a marriage, these friendships can enhance your relationship with your spouse if appropriate boundaries are in place.