Tuesday, 15 January 2013

On Having Close Friendships with the Opposite Sex

Sometimes I want to write blog posts about things I feel passionate about but I worry about having opinions that will not be well received.

And then on days like today I have just the right amount of courage to do it.

Can we talk about being married (or in a committed relationship for that matter) and having friends of the opposite sex? Obviously we all have a few, but what I am talking about is a close friend. Best friend even. I am not talking about your guy friend that you grew up with and consider to be your "best guy friend" and now talk to once every few weeks or even months. I am talking about a best friend. Someone you text with often, or call a few times a week. Someone who will hang out with you and your husband but sometimes your husband feels left out because you and your friend go on and on chatting and laughing about all your inside jokes. When you're bored on a Friday night, you call him to hang out with. That's who I'm talking about. I am also talking about the guy at work who you joke is your "work husband" The guy that you always sit with for lunch, who stops by your desk multiple times each day. the guy that not only asks about personal things, but seems to be an expert on your personal life. Ya. That guy.

Here is my concern.

What happens when you are very happy or very sad? You usually want to talk about it to those closest to you. If I have a friend or co-worker that makes me really upset or hurts my feelings, I run straight to my husband and tell him all about it. I want him to listen to me and let me share my heart with him. He will then comfort me, and sometimes give me advice as to how to handle the situation, and we both leave the conversation feeling better connected and somewhat accomplished. We've each learned a little more about what makes us tick, and what hurts and helps us.

When it is your husband that upsets you, who do you want to talk to? Even the happiest of marriages are going to run into bumps along the road, and if you're like me, you need to talk it out with someone. Explain what happened and look for comfort and advice.

So if you're a woman and your "go-to person" is a man, would it not be safe to assume that might make your husband feel uncomfortable? Maybe not, but I know that for us, we do not want each other seeking comfort from someone of the opposite sex. I don't ever want my husband to feel like he isn't the most important man in my life. I don't want him to feel disrespected, and I certainly don't want his leadership in our household to ever be diminished by anyone, let alone another man's opinion.

Let me stop right here and add in that I also refuse to have my "go-to person" be someone that will talk down about my husband, or say disrespectful thing about him. If I say "He hurt my feelings when he did ___" I don't want to hear "He's such a jerk!" That's just plain not helpful- I don't care if you're a man or a woman, I don't want you talking about my man like that! I do play a part in this as well though. If I were to approach my friend with complaints that paint him in a bad light by calling him names myself, or pointing out his downfalls, I would really be asking for negative feedback. This would certainly add to the dangers of having a close friendship with the opposite sex, but I'll explain that more in a moment.

So let's assume there are two types of friends, whether they are male or female. Helpful and Not Helpful. A Helpful friend listens and comforts. A Not Helpful Friend cuts down your spouse and is all around... not helpful. When this friend is the opposite sex, both scenarios can potentially be dangerous.

Let's say you're having trouble in your marriage and have been for quite sometime. Each time you and your husband have a fight, you tell Paul about it. He listens. He seems to really understand your point of view. He always takes your side and comforts you when you feel sad and as though your marriage is failing.

Not Helpful
Same situation except Paul isn't so much comforting as he is angry with how your husband treats you. You deserve so much better, he says. You shouldn't be with such a jerk. You should leave him.

The harsh reality is that no one gets married expecting to have an affair. They "just happen" to find themselves in a situation where it happens. I want to distance myself from any situation that looks anything remotely like that situation. Whether it is a situation where your heart drifts over to Paul's side because you are looking for someone who emotionally fills the hole your husband is not, or the situation where you have finally found someone who knows you deserve better.... I just want to steer clear of both. If it were a woman that were doing the comforting or the cutting down at least I know that my heart won't start to beat faster when they walk in the room.

If you liked anything I just said, consider picking up the book His Needs, Her Needs. I'll be honest- I haven't read all of it because when I first picked it up Chris and I had just gotten engaged and I found it depressing whilst still in my newly engaged glow. I was actually quite offended by the insinuation that affairs are that easy to fall into. I would never cheat on my husband! I have since realized the book isn't the wet blanket I first perceived it to be, but instead a very upfront, unapologetic approach to reducing temptation in your marriage.

Something I am learning the further I get in my relationship with God is just how human I am. I think sometimes we think we are better than we are. We expect ourselves to never fall into temptation. Through God's grace, I am learning about humility- knowing that without God, I can end up being very weak when placed in certain situations. Right now in my life that has a lot more to do with ice cream sundaes than it does with affairs, and my prayer is that I will never experience that type of temptation at all. But when you break it down, temptation is all the same. It is thrown at us in varying degrees and in many different forms. To make it easier on myself I do my best not to put myself in situations where I have to face it at all. Right now that means I step away from the frozen food aisle.

See, that temptation is already there on a mental level. I love ice cream, and I know I want it. I avoid the physical temptation by avoiding the aisle of the grocery store that carries an abundance of it. In my life there is no temptation to cheat on my husband. There is nothing mental or physical that is tempting. No friendship that could end up being inappropriate emotionally, and no scenario where that friend and myself are ever alone together where something physical could happen. To prevent myself from ever getting to a place where I have to set certain physical boundaries around a specific friendship because the temptation has begun on an emotional (mental) level, instead I choose not to have the friendship in the first place. That aisle, so to speak, has never and will never exist in my grocery store.

So in conclusion, am I saying you can't have friends of the opposite sex? No. But I am saying that you need to be careful how close those friendships are, and that you need to guard your heart. And if you are a Jesus follower like myself, remember that He is the only one that resisted temptation. He understands how hard it is, but promises that He will never give us more than we can handle, and will always give us a way out.

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  1. I would say 'of course I would never cheat', but if I'm honest, there have been 2 times where I could say it was a definite possibility. It was with male co-workers. One before we were married, we were close, had fun and spent lots of time together. Second was after marriage and was my "work husband", our close friendship became the butt of many jokes at work. Looking back now, it wasn't so harmless, and I will be more weary of those relationships in the future.

    1. Definitely something to be cautious of. Thanks for your honesty :)

  2. I read an article on another page saying that in those guy girl friendship at least the guy if not both the guy and girl have at times looked at their friend as a potential romantic partner
    I totally agree close guy friends is a bad idea.

  3. I have mostly male counterparts, each of them are friends with me and we've hung out after work or during lunch. My ex never liked the fact I worked with men and was insanely jealous, to the point of getting violent. I stopped telling my ex when I had plans for lunch with a coworker, got very quiet around the office. This led to our eventual (inevitable) divorce. I'm still friends with my coworkers!