OPPOSITE SEX FRIENDSHIPS
Friendships can add good and positive influences to our lives and to our marriages. However, it can be a challenge to balance the intimacy of our marriages with the other important friendships in our lives. This is especially true if we have close friends of the opposite gender. While same-sex friendships may undergo some adjustments after we’re married, they tend to be easier and less complicated to maintain and nurture than opposite sex friendships. In fact, there’s an entirely different set of considerations when it comes to having opposite-sex friends. It is important to first of all recognize the challenges and potential pitfalls of such friendships.
Estimates are that over sixty percent of all couples will suffer through an affair at some point in their marriage. As damaging as an affair is, you are likely to experience it in your marriage unless you take extraordinary precautions to avoid it.
The first place to look for the highest risks for an affair is to consider who is most likely to be an affair partner. It’s a friend of the opposite sex. More people have affairs with that person than with anyone else. And the closer the friendship, the more likely the affair. So, a reasonable precaution to avoid an affair is to avoid opposite-sex friendship but does that mean that all of these friendships are equally risky? Can’t some of them be healthy or encouraging of my marriage?
Yes, opposite sex friendships can be healthy for you and encouraging of your marriage if you and your spouse will take some steps to ensure that they meet the standards that you have established.
PRIORITIZE YOUR MARRIAGE
The first question to ask ourselves is, where are we going to invest our energy and focus? Obviously, our marriage is the most precious relationship to protect. Outside of that, we have to decide how we’re going to approach our other relationships in light of the commitment and life we’ve created with our spouse.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESITONS
When you made the decision to marry, included in that decision was the understanding that your primary relationship would be with your spouse. So, does that mean we have to abandon our opposite-sex friends once we’re married? Not at all, but if you have opposite sex friendships, there are some questions that you should ask yourself and discuss with your spouse.
- “Does this friendship work for or against my marriage? Does it feel like this friendship celebrates and supports my commitment to my spouse or do I feel pulled away from my spouse emotionally by this friendship?
- Does my opposite-gender friend meet emotional needs that normally a spouse would meet? These would include needs such as validation, respect, comfort, intimate conversation, etc.
- Does my mate feel included or excluded in this relationship?” Does my mate feel welcome to participate in emails, texts or events with me and my friend? They might not want to participate, but the question is, do they feel welcome to if they choose to?
- Does my friend have the best interest of me and my marriage at heart?
- Does this friend have solid values and a lifestyle of integrity, particularly in relationships?
- Bottom Line: Does this friend want my marriage to be better or worse?
So, in this matter of opposite relationships, first of all, understand the reality of potential problems. It is important to understand that certain opposite sex situations exist that can be a detriment to marriage. Emotional affairs, physical infidelity and even simple flirtatiousness are a few examples. In addition, some spouses have a history of wounds from past experiences with opposite sex relationships, and old feelings of fear, insecurity or jealousy can emerge, damaging the safety and intimacy of the marriage. So, marriages must be protected. The following friends should be “off limits” if you want to protect and preserve your marriage.
- Any friendship of the opposite sex that creates fear, insecurity or jealousy in your spouse and does not have their support and agreement.
- Any friend of the opposite sex who has been a lover of yours.
- Any friend of the opposite sex that you know has a strong potential to arouse feelings of romantic love in you, or who has already aroused such feelings.
- And friend of the opposite sex who meets your emotional needs, especially if they meet these needs better than your spouse does. If this is the case, drop everything and get marriage help! This can be in the form of a marriage retreat or marriage seminar or marriage counseling. You and your mate can reconnect and establish intimacy in your marriage, but you have to be intentional about it.
- Any friend of the opposite sex with whom you have a “private”, one-on-one relationship with. This relationship and your discussions are sometimes kept secret for fear of arousing jealousy in your spouse. You both share deeply personal information and you lean on each other for emotional support and fulfillment.
Probably the most important principle to practice with opposite-sex friendships for you and your marriage is the principle of inclusion, beginning with their buy-in on the friendship. There should be no secrets from your spouse related to this friendship and your spouse should be invited to participate in the friendship to whatever level they would like. Including them will maintain the health of your marriage and also the health of the friendship. An added benefit might be that your opposite-sex friend and your spouse become friends as well!