Last time we were together we discussed strategies to help singles maintain godly friendships with members of the opposite sex. Today, we will explore the tricky terrain of opposite sex friendships among married people. Now, I understand that this can be a sensitive issue, but nevertheless, it is a topic that must be discussed.
First let me stress that when I use the term “friend” in this blog post, I am NOT talking about a bosom buddy relationship in which people are exchanging deep dark secrets or going on shopping trips and lunch dates. I looked up the meaning of the word “friend” in the dictionary and found two definitions. The first defined a friend as “a person you know well and regard with affection and trust.” The second defined it as “one attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion. “ This is the premise by which I shall share a few tips about opposite sex friendship among married people. So let’s get started!
You Say He’s Just a Friend pt 2
“He’s just a friend.” “How long have you known him?” These are statements that tend to arise when a husband senses that his spouse’s friendship with another man has crossed a line. And, this is typically the only context in which this category of friendship is discussed. However, I believe it is possible, even beneficial, for husbands and wives to have friends of the opposite sex. But how does this work within a marriage?
Some would argue that having extra marital friendships with the opposite sex can weaken a marriage; your spouse is the only friend you need. But it’s unrealistic and an overwhelming burden to expect any one person to meet all of your needs for validation, affirmation, encouragement, and accountability. Having strong relationships outside the marriage can potentially be an asset to the overall quality of your marriage. Such relationships provide opportunities for learning, growth, and increased self-esteem, which are qualities that can actually strengthen the marital bond. The key to success in this area is to establish boundaries. Honesty and open communication are essential to making these types of friendships work.
How to Make Same-Sex Friendships Work?
Friendships between married people and members of the opposite sex work best when the following conditions exist:
- Both husband and wife must be in agreement about the friendship. Different people define friendships differently. Therefore, you and you husband must be on the same page regarding your views on friendships with the opposite sex. Each person should be comfortable with the friend. Along the same lines, it’s important to acknowledge any of your spouse’s concerns about an opposite sex friend. Listen, respect, and respond to the concerns. Any friendships with the opposite sex should be 100% supported by both the husband and wife.
- Full disclosure of the friendship. Avoid the very appearance of impropriety. Hiding phone calls, concealing text messages, failing to mention visits in the absence of your spouse all give the impression that you have something to hide. All things done in darkness eventually come to light. If these incidents are revealed under uncertain circumstances, it will create problems. Be considerate. Don’t behave in a way that you would find unacceptable from your spouse.
- Honesty about the nature of the friendship. Pay attention to any tendencies to minimize the extent of a friendship. If you have to convince your spouse, and yourself, of the innocent nature of the friendship, your feelings are no longer innocent.
- Guard your heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” This is extremely important. Left unchecked, platonic friendships between men and women can easily evolve into emotional affairs. Therefore, it’s good to limit the time you spend with opposite sex friends.
- Avoid confiding in opposite friends about marital problems. Any discussion about dissatisfaction in your marriage should be 100% off limits. Talking about marital issues with a friend of the opposite sex can, and often does, lead to emotional affairs. Emotional affairs very often lead to full blown physical affairs. They can be just as difficult, if not more difficult, to end than physical affairs.
I would definitely say that no one is a better to favor and regard with affection, trust, and esteem than your own husband. However, there are some benefits to maintaining healthy relationships with the opposite sex. In my experience as a therapist, couples that engage in healthy friendships beyond the bounds of the marriage have strengthened their communication skills, experienced personal growth, and increased self-esteem – all of which are qualities that can ultimately strengthen the marital bond.
Dr. Gabriella Caldwell-Miller, affectionately known as “Dr. Gabby,” is a Licensed Professional Counselor, empowerment coach, college instructor, and speaker who shares powerful strategies geared toward equipping people to live their best life. In addition to counseling, Dr. Gabby is a licensed minister who shares an uncompromising message of love, healing and reconciliation within the corporate and church worlds alike. Dr. Gabby currently resides in Virginia with her loving husband and daughter. For more information about Dr. Gabriella Caldwell-Miller visit: www.gcmlifesolutions.com or connect with her on Facebook at: www.facebook/chance.miller.7796.