As a single person, you may have close friends of all stripes, and both sexes. You spend all day at work together, go out for a drink in the evening, meet for a cup of coffee on weekends, attend classes and seminars together. And ironically, after you get married you’ll still find yourself spending more time with your friends and coworkers than with your spouse!
In addition to that, technology and social media make it easy to maintain friendships even with people you don’t see that often. Emails, blogs, text, chats, Facebook… they all make it simple to stay connected and foster intimacy.
Whether or not your opposite-sex friendships are truly platonic, the dynamics of all friendships shift a bit once you are married. Suddenly there is one person and one relationship which must be the priority in your life. The question of how appropriate it is to have and spend time with opposite sex friends suddenly becomes a question that you may never have asked yourself before. It is not only a question of how comfortable you feel maintaining opposite-sex friendships, it’s a question of how your spouse feels about these relationships.
Some couples will say that they trust their spouse and respect their right to keep their opposite-sex friends. Others say that despite trusting their spouse not to act inappropriately, the are uncomfortable having them spend private time together. In these cases it may be best to include your spouses in sharing group quality time.
In her article Can Married People Have Opposite Sex Friends? Diane Gottsman explores this conflict and offers six tips to help protect your marriage when dealing with friends of the opposite sex. Here is her advice:
1. Listen to your intuition. If you feel deep down that your friend has romantic feelings for you, do not pursue the platonic friendship.
2. Keep personal space and physical touch in check. Although the relationship may be more relaxed than a business client, keep the same amount of distance and space you would with your boss’s wife. Close proximity and intimate touch is reserved for your spouse alone.
3. Don’t discuss your spouse’s flaws with your friend. Even if you consider yourself very close friends, it’s a form of betrayal to vent to your friend about your spouse’s shortcomings, especially without addressing it with your spouse first.
4. Meet in public places at appropriate times of day. Just like mom used to say, “Nothing good happens after 1:00 a.m.,” the same holds true with your friend. Time and place is a consideration when meeting with your friend of the opposite gender.
5. Include your spouse in your plans. If it’s only platonic, there should be no problem with one more person tagging along.
6. Your spouse always comes first. If your relationship with your friend is causing marital strife, your first consideration should always be your mate.
There may not be a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether men and women can truly be just friends. But for married people, it’s vital to keep your relationship with your spouse above all others. If your spouse thinks there is a problem, then there is indeed a problem.
More advice for happy marriages at Hitched.com