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The Rules of Opposite Gender Friendships

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Filed in Articles , Featured Posts , Marriage , Relationships 104 comments

By Ashley McIlwain

Growing up I always got along better with guys. Unlike most of the girls in my class, my closest friends were guys. Girls just didn’t seem to like me too much, and I wasn’t a fan of the drama that often came with girlfriends. Instead, I found guys to be straightforward, simple, and relatively drama free. Plus, my interests aligned better with the male population – sports, sports, and more sports. For whatever reason, I just clicked with guys better than girls despite my best efforts.

While being surrounded by my guy pals worked well for most of my life, there was a point where this became something I needed to think twice about. That point was when I began entering into serious relationships. Suddenly I realized that having a best friend that was a guy could present some issues and challenges when dating.

At first I really didn’t know how to handle the reality that it probably was inappropriate and unfair to my significant other to be spending time with another guy. But what was I supposed to do? I mean, I couldn’t simply isolate myself and disown all of my friends just because I was exclusively dating someone. At the same time, I couldn’t continue in the path of friendship I had previously been on with them. It was a real conundrum.

In college, my solution to this situation was to simply become close with all of my significant other’s close friends. He trusted them, and it made sense since we were always spending time with them. These guys all quickly became my closest friends, and we all had a blast together. At the same time, in the back of my mind, I knew that this was a temporary solution.

Down the road when I got married, I found myself in a new place and a new stage of life. I had moved to Southern California in a major turn of events and was busy working through my Master’s degree while holding down a full time job. At first I didn’t have time for friends, but when I graduated and things settled down post-wedding, I found myself longing to have some close friends. I was married though, and I knew that my approach to finding friends needed to change and accommodate my new stage of life.

The truth is, even if you aren’t prone to having best friends of the opposite gender, many married people struggle with how to handle friendships and relationships in this situation. What are the rules? What is appropriate? Is any relationship or friendship with people of the opposite gender okay? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered about this because it really is an important topic of discussion. So, as a converted guy’s girl, I wanted to share my rules for handling this sticky situation.

The Rules

Rule #1 – Avoid close friendships with people of the opposite gender.

Everyone will develop their own set of ground rules related to interactions with the opposite sex, but I think there are a few key guidelines that all couples should at least consider if not implement. First of all, close friendships with someone of the opposite gender that isn’t your spouse just isn’t a wise decision.

I know, I know, you may be saying, “But, we’ve been friends forever, and there’s nothing romantic there.” The point is: it’s not worth the risk. It’s not that you can never talk to a friend of the opposite gender, but it’s keeping them at arms distance. I have plenty of old guy pals that I touch base with from time to time, but we aren’t spending substantial (if any) time together. It’s not like the friendship we used to have; it now has strict boundaries and a safe distancing involved.

Truthfully, no one should know you better than your spouse, especially not a friend that shares the same gender as your husband or wife. Sharing your heart with someone builds intimacy whether you realize it or not, so it’s crucial to consider who you are building that intimacy with. Relationships develop based on communication and quality time, so regardless of how little concern you feel there is for being attracted to your guy pals (ladies) or girlfriends (guys), it’s not worth the risk.

Rule #2 – Better safe than sorry.

Most people who have affairs report that it started out with just small talk or minimal interactions. Then it developed into lunch, and as the two people began sharing more of their thoughts, time, and energy with each other, a sexual relationship ensued. The point being: affairs, mistakes, and other marital problems that occur with the opposite gender rarely begin with the extreme scenario. They start out as “harmless” and develop from there.

So, a solid rule of thumb is just to avoid any sort of in depth conversation or alone time with someone of the opposite gender once you are married. If it’s a work relationship, make sure you are surrounded by co-workers when interacting with people of the opposite sex. If it’s a friendship, keep communication to a minimum and always bring your spouse along for get-togethers. That may seem extreme to many of you, but I truly ascribe to the philosophy, “Better safe than sorry.”

Rule #3 – Consider your spouse.

Another ground rule, consider your spouse in every interaction you have with a friend or person of the opposite sex. How would they feel about what you are saying or doing? How would you feel if he/she did what you are doing right now? Use your wedding ring as a reminder of your commitment to your spouse, and always keep him/her in mind whenever you do anything. Consider this the Golden Rule – do unto your spouse as you would have him/her do to you.

Rule #4 – Develop friendships with people of your same gender.

It was challenging for me to reach out to some fellow females in hopes of developing a close friendship with them. I had been burned many times in the past, and I felt most comfortable with guy friends. But, I knew that for the sake of my marriage and my own well-being, I needed to stretch myself to cultivate girlfriends. And while this wasn’t easy for me to do, I’ve discovered some amazing ladies out there who have become my nearest and dearest of friends. Now I don’t know what I would do without our girl talks and girlie moments. My husband has said the same thing for himself; there’s nothing like having a great guy friend.

Men and women need friends of their same gender. It helps to have someone who can relate to you, encourage, and keep you accountable to your marriage. And while you always need to be careful and selective about whom your friends are in general, it’s just smart to start with people who are your gender. It eliminates a lot of extra heartache and potentially dangerous situations for your marriage.

Rule #5 – Run for the hills.

If for any reason, at any time, there is even the tiniest hint of attraction between you and someone of the opposite gender regardless of whose end it’s on, run for the hills! This means that if that cutie at work gives you butterflies when you happen to get coffee at the same time together each morning, avoid that coffee time like the plague. If your friend is showing a slight interest or makes some off-color remarks occasionally, cut off that friendship.

The bottom line: don’t even put yourself in a situation that has the tiniest glimmer of temptation written on it. No matter how miniscule that flirtation, glance, or fluttery feeling is, it has the potential to develop into a disastrous situation that could destroy everything. That momentary tingly feeling isn’t worth it. Squash it from the word “go.”

Rule #6 – Exes do not make good friends.

Too many times I have heard people say that they are best friends with their ex. This is ridiculously dangerous. I don’t care how long ago it was, you have no business getting close with your ex. It is a recipe for disaster.

Obviously there are some blended family situations where kids are involved, but beyond that, there is zero reason you should put yourself, your spouse, or your marriage in that position. If feelings developed once, they can easily develop again. You have a history with one another, and that’s never going to change. So, just throw that whole idea that exes make great friends out the window because that is one of the worst opposite gender friendships you could ever pursue.

Trust me, I know that it may seem a bit extreme to pretty much eliminate all friendships or relationships with the opposite gender. For me that meant starting from scratch in the friend department, and I felt a lot like I was in a foreign country trying to establish girls for my best friends. It was a necessary step though for me and my marriage.

Granted, I am not saying you can never speak to someone of the opposite sex, but developing an in-depth friendship with them just isn’t a good idea. Your marriage is of utmost importance, and it’s simply not worth the risk to jeopardize that over a friendship with someone of the opposite gender. Your marriage is number one.

No one ever regretted being overly cautious. But there are plenty of people that regret being overly trusting or oblivious. The best way to avoid disaster is to take three steps back. Whatever you think is acceptable; choose two levels before that as your stopping point. Your marriage is the most important relationship you will ever have, so treat it that way by making wise and prudent decisions with your friendships.

 

Posted by Ashley McIlwain   @   9 July 2012 104 comments
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104 Comments

About the Author

Ashley McIlwain, M.A., LMFTA is a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate, speaker, and writer. She is the Founder and C.E.O. of the non-profit organization, Foundation Restoration, and blog LittleWifey.com, which are comprehensive resources committed to restoring the very foundation of society - marriage. She is committed to and passionate about helping relationships thrive. Ashley has partnered with LifeCare Counseling and Coaching where she does premarital, marital, and individual therapy. She is certified as a Prepare & Enrich Facilitator and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors as well as the AACC Marriage & Family Division. Her past experience includes working with Moody Publishers and Dr. Gary Chapman as Managing Editor to launch and develop a website focused on premarital preparation. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Azusa Pacific University. Currently she and her husband, Steve, reside in Raleigh, NC.

Comments
Jul 9, 2012
6:53 am
#1 Vicki Coulthard :

Ashley,
Another great article! I really think that last advise about ex’s is right on!
Thank you!

Jul 9, 2012
9:03 am
#2 Anonymous :

Great advice. These are rock solid principles to safeguard your marriage.

Jul 9, 2012
9:11 am
#3 Erin :

Great article! I couldn’t agree more. It certainly is a gray area and as for me I know that I was in the same scenario as you and working in a male dominated industry, such that is aviation, it is really tough to find female friends in general. Thankfully, God has given me one good friend in the same industry and hopefully he will provide more. It certainly can be frustrating.

Jul 9, 2012
10:18 am

I think this is totally important. You need to think about how you would feel if your hubby or soon to be hubby was chummy with women. It’s hard to shake. Now if finding girlfriends was as easy as online dating….lol! Great write up.

Author Jul 9, 2012
12:03 pm

Vicki, thanks so much for the feedback! Yeah, I think the ex one is very important!

Author Jul 9, 2012
12:03 pm

Anonymous, thanks! It’s so important to safeguard our marriages!

Author Jul 9, 2012
12:04 pm

Erin, I can only imagine how difficult it must be working in such a male-dominated industry like aviation, especially with all of the traveling and tight quarters. God always does seem to provide just what we need; I’m glad He gave you a great friend! Thanks for sharing!

Author Jul 9, 2012
12:06 pm

Julie, thanks for joining us and for the kind words! I don’t think many people really consider the potential harm friendships with the opposite gender pose, but it’s important to think twice about it. Haha — it would definitely be nice to easily find quality girlfriends!

Jul 9, 2012
5:11 pm
#9 Reggie E :

Great post!

This topic in general is one that is difficult to cover, without making it sound harsh to the friends of the opposite sex. Nevertheless, if these friends really respected the boundaries, they actually appreciate the fact that you DO have boundaries.

From a personal perspective, when I was single I hung out with both sexes pretty equally. Now that I’m married, I still maintain friendships with female friends who are single. However, Rules #2 and #3 kick in when I feel something might be developing into trouble. Personally, even the appearance of something brewing is enough for me to seriously consider Rule #3. A few times I have had to invoke the cold shoulder, just to show that if anything was leading to the wrong direction, that cold shoulder would be an obvious red flag to my friend. If I was incorrect with my assessment, so be it. I tend to think I have good judgement in selecting friends, so when I do take corrective measures, ture friendships will survive those corrective measures.

I’d like to think that each time I had to take a corrective measure that I was too cautious, but nevertheless I could not entertain the idea of destroying what I’m building with my wife, for something inappropriate.

Rule #5 is the rule that sends the clearest message to both the friend and to your spouse. When you go out on a limb and cut off ties, you made a stand and it echoes in external actions, and internal as well. Doing so, you never have to challenge that internal voice that is heart of all decision-making.

I’ll be sure to spread your post to those who have asked about these situations and what rules exist. Great job!

Reggie

Jul 10, 2012
9:03 am
#10 HeatherT :

Couldn’t agree more, Ashley! Thanks for your courage to broach this subject!

Author Jul 10, 2012
10:52 am

Reggie, thanks! It’s always so great to hear what your thoughts are! This is definitely a challenging subject to tackle because many people don’t want to hear that there needs to be rules and boundaries to opposite gender relationships, but it’s the only way to protect your marriage. It sounds like you’ve established a strong set of boundaries to keep your female friendships in line. And you are so right, true friendships are ones where honesty and respect are welcomed.

Love how you said “I’d like to think that each time I had to take a corrective measure that I was too cautious, but nevertheless I could not entertain the idea of destroying what I’m building with my wife, for something inappropriate.” Amen!

Great stuff Reggie! Thanks for your feedback, encouragement, and support!

Author Jul 10, 2012
10:52 am

Heather, thanks! It’s definitely a touchy subject, but I think it’s an important one :)

Jul 10, 2012
11:29 am
#13 Lauren :

So true! Better safe than sorry. I 100% agree! Lauren, lholmes79.wordpress.com

Jul 10, 2012
11:45 am
#14 Emily :

Based on personal experience, my husband and I would both agree with this. We’ve both been in situations where we’ve felt the need to flee or distance ourselves because an opposite sex friendship no longer felt right. There were some feelings hurt when the relationships had to change, but I think it is one of those things you don’t quite understand until you’re married or experience it for yourself.

It can be tough when you have to work closely with opposite sex coworkers, as you can’t always be surrounded by other people — but I think just being aware that potential risks exist helps in that scenario and makes you more self aware.

I’m a guy’s girl too, and finding female friends is hard for me to this day, which I’m trying to change. Good thing I found a good guy!

Jul 10, 2012
12:21 pm
#15 Veroncia griffith :

Great article!! John and I were just talking about this subject because we see so many people who have best friends who are opposite genders. of corse we see the same problems you mentioned

Author Jul 10, 2012
1:26 pm

Lauren, thanks! Definitely better safe than sorry!

Author Jul 10, 2012
1:29 pm

Emily, thanks for sharing! It’s definitely challenging with your friend of the opposite gender isn’t in the same stage of life as you. Oftentimes they don’t understand why you are distancing yourself or establishing these “strict” boundaries, and it can lead to hurt feelings, as you mentioned.

Yes, the opposite gender co-worker situation can be tricky. I have several friends, as well as my husband at times, who find themselves unable to avoid being alone from time to time with someone of the opposite gender. Like you said though, “just being aware of the potential risks” can be very helpful and preventative.

At least I know I’m not the only one who struggles to find female friends :) Thanks for sharing, Emily!

Author Jul 10, 2012
1:31 pm

Veronica, thank you so much for stopping by and for the encouragement! It’s scarily common how many people who are married have best friends of the opposite gender. And honestly, it’s a tough subject because people want to believe there’s no harm in it, but there is. Usually the things we think are the least threatening are the very things that sneak up on us. Thanks for sharing!

Jul 12, 2012
5:48 pm
#19 Dan Brennan :

Ashley, full disclosure, I am a happily married man of 30 years. Love my wife. I would say that we have a beautiful, passionate marriage. My wife is my best friend. I am also close friends with a couple of women. My closest friend after my is a single woman. We’ve been friends for ten years. To celebrate our tenth year “friendaversary” we (my friend and I) took a 12 day road trip and visited her hometown.

I’ve done significant research in this area. I’m curious if you see ever see male clients alone. As you know, a significant number of therapists meet with the opposite gender alone and nurture an intense interpersonal intimacy with them in the context of professional relationship.

Jul 18, 2012
10:12 pm
#20 EBJ :

Thanks. I needed to find this discussion, which clarifies a lot I have been struggling to understand. It helps me see the importance of staying focused on my own individual potential and also on becoming and remaining my wife’s best friend in all the world. I seem to fall in love easily, sometimes having a very strong sense that a perfect stranger seen across a room reminds me of some forgotten heaven. But even the mental pursuit of a friendship that could compromise and jeopardize my relationship with myself, my wife, my children is just not something I can continue to wish for, no matter how “spiritual” the attraction to another seems to be. I’m grateful I have avoided outright affairs; now I really see there are benign forces encouraging me to get these questions sorted and settled so I can get on with the real inspiration of being “all here” for myself, my wife of 46 years, our now grown children, and our first grandchild, with whom we spend quite a lot of time.

Jul 18, 2012
10:26 pm
#21 EBJ :

The friends I do have who are women help me with their own good boundaries. Most of these are musicians I’ve had occasion to travel with to weddings, church services, etc. now and then over some years. And I’ve been able to reconnect on the internet with others from the distant past without going too nuts. But a little enthusiasm for another can easily be taken the wrong way, so I’m still learning to “walk the line”.

Author Jul 23, 2012
4:51 pm

Dan, thanks for taking the time to weigh in on this subject. While we clearly have different viewpoints on the subject, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, and I welcome your thoughts!

As for me both as a married adult and a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have discovered that there are serious risks involved in pursuing opposite gender friendships. Time and time again I have witnessed both professionally and personally marriages crumble from seemingly harmless friendships that either developed into a romantic relationship or in some way interfered with the intimacy and relationship between the husband and wife. Further confirmation of the dangers involved with friendships of this nature was evidenced by the comments on this article as well as the many stories that poured in attesting to the devastation that can ensue. That is why awareness, boundaries, wisdom, and a better-safe-than-sorry attitude are encouraged by us.

In regards to your question about my clients, I actually do not see male clients. I either deal with female clients or couples for the very reason that all too often professional relationships can easily develop into more because of the “intense interpersonal intimacy” involved. That is one of the risks that is immediately and predominantly emphasized in the educational and training process of a therapist. While I am confident in my self-control, professionalism, and training as well as my marriage, it’s simply a situation I would prefer to avoid all together seeing it as an unnecessary risk and potential hazard (to me and my clients), which is the point of emphasis in this article.

Author Jul 23, 2012
5:01 pm

EBJ, thanks for your honest sharing with us! It can be easy to allow our hearts, minds, or even bodies to venture from our marriage. I’ve seen it happen all too often, which is why I believe it’s so crucial to set ourselves and our marriage up for success by avoiding potentially dangerous situations, like close, intimate friendships with the opposite-gender. In general I tell people to think about where they see the potential for danger and then to take 2 steps back from there to establish a boundary. Forty-six years of marriage is an incredible accomplishment, one that not many can say they’ve achieved. That is something worth protecting and fighting for! I’m glad that you are becoming more aware of the need to step back and not “walk the line.” As I mentioned in the article, it’s always better safe than sorry when it comes to protecting your marriage! Thanks so much for joining us and sharing!

Jul 23, 2012
6:46 pm
#24 Dan Brennan :

Ashley, thank you for your substantive comments. I’m not a professionally trained therapist but I have researched this issue as it pertains to therapists talking to them about this issue as well as reading what the industry is doing. As you might know, there is no monolithic view on this even among devoted Christians who are therapists. There is quite a diversity of positions out there among trained professionals. I respect you for being consistent (seeing no male clients alone).

I would say to live life fully, life is full of relational risks (look at Jesus in the Gospels who was not afraid to meet women when no one else was around). Jesus meeting women, engaging women, not being afraid to touch them or not being afraid to receive their touch in a culture that thought women were temptresses, whores, servants, or foolish, speaks volumes to man-made rules (see too, Colossians 2:23).

I think when people offer only two narratives for men and women (the romantic trajectory or the danger story) it reinforces those two options as choices. There are multitudes of men and women who have learned to be together alone in their workplaces, learned to travel, learned to be close who don’t fit into the two narratives.

Jul 23, 2012
9:20 pm
#25 Heather Goodman :

Ashley,
I find this particular line probably the most personally troublesome in your entire blog: “If your friend is showing a slight interest or makes some off-color remarks occasionally, cut off that friendship.” I once had a female mentor in my life who was my best friend and like a spiritual mom to me. Problem was, I started to develop a crush on her husband. I hated myself terribly for that crush. I tried all sorts of things to get over that – eventually confessing to her what was going on in my head. And we tried everything – I avoided him, he avoided me, and somehow, this only served to fuel the obsession. I was suicidal at one point because I couldn’t seem to make this obsession go away.
I think the only thing that saved me was carefully learning – retraining – in the MIDST of relationship with both of them – how to think about him in correct terms. Running away just did more damage – walking in the light, and learning how to walk with him in the CORRECT type of sister/brother friendship with his wife at his side, was the only thing that renewed my mind towards him and helped me get over that stupid crush.
I think we too easily deprive people in community the opportunity to be healed BY community. I’m so glad my friends didn’t abandon me because of my sin – although it was a rocky and confusing road, we walked through it together to victory. And now that is long behind us.
I’ve learned to do the same things with my guy friends – or even girls who reveal to me they have lesbian tendencies. I don’t run from people just because they have feelings for me that I can’t control. I no longer feel I have to control what others feel around me – it’s “ok” if that guy or girl has a feeling that I don’t want to reciprocate. I’m still their friend. I know from my own experience that the best healing for them comes as I continue to show them where our relationship is really at – what friendship without romance looks like coming from my end.
If we let fear of sin keep us from community in the body of Christ, even with the opposite sex, then we might as well go back to having churches that are divided down the middle – one side for the men and one side for the women (and the women should sit behind a screen.) We should all wear dresses that cover the female form and we might want to consider veiling our faces too. No – Jesus came so that we can defeat sin another way – the power in the midst of us teaches us together, corporately how to walk in holiness without having to make rules to keep ourselves in check. The days of “look not, taste not” which have the appearance of wisdom, do no value in restraining the flesh. Our only promise of defeating the flesh is “if you walk in the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Walking in the Spirit needs to be done corporately, in the light with one another, having a heart towards those who need restoration rather than simply being shunned for their disclosures of innappropriate attractions.

Jul 23, 2012
9:26 pm
#26 Heather Goodman :

Ashley, one other thing –
When I read commentors on your blog saying things like, “It’s scary to see how many married people have friends of the opposite gender, ” do you realize that you are influencing everyone who reads your blog to inwardly criticize and condemn in their hearts everyone they meet who is married and has an opposite sex friendship? I understand you think that this is not generally a good idea, but, surely you have seen many married people who have perfectly healthy friendships with people of the opposite sex with their spouses full approval, where those relationship have never been a challenge to their marriage and most likely never will be anything but a blessing. It would be a shame if all those people eventually found themselves condemned without cause by well-meaning christian friends who have read this blog and look at them and say, “tsk tsk!” This may be an unintended consequence that your writing has on those who read this.

Jul 24, 2012
9:06 am
#27 Joe :

Heather, if you think Ashley is saying that women should sit behind a screen, you’re missing the point. The fact is: many marriage-ending affairs begin through innocent opposite gender relationships. A lot of people out there would rather defend their friendships than their marriage. Ashley is simply cautioning people to be extremely aware of these types of situations. Sounds like good advice to me.

Jul 24, 2012
10:31 am
#28 Joanna :

Thanks Ashley for a great post about opposite-sex friendships. I couldn’t agree with you more. The #1 thing for me is looking from the perspective of temptation. Why would I want to put myself in a situation where I could so easily be tempted? The Bible is clear with this: Matthew 26:41 says “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” That is a command from God!! He knows what the devil is capable of and commands His children to not put ourselves in tempting situations. According to 1 Peter 5:8, the devil is “a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour.” Satan is not going to present the opposite-sex friendship with red flashing lights so that we stay away. He is going to present them as innocent; he will make us think “nothing is going to happen, we’re just friends” or “I can handle this if it goes too far” or “he’s like my brother”. We are setting ourselves up for failure, and the devil is just sitting there waiting to pounce. Like you said, we are not talking about saying hi to someone of the opposite sex or having a conversation with someone at work. We are talking about deep, intimate relationships (remember, intimate does not equal sexual) with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. The only way to battle temptation is to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-17) and to hide His Word in our heart (Psalms 119:11). As we are submersing ourselves in the Word of God, He will make it clear to us where these boundaries need to be. And while our flesh may continue to struggle with this issue, our spirit will be convicted and we will clearly see how intimate, opposite-sex relationships can be dangerous.

Jul 24, 2012
2:52 pm
#29 Reed Stoecker :

As a husband, I am commanded to love my wife, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. It’s not a coincidence we are referred to as Christ’s Bride (John 3). God sacrificed everything, and made no compromises because it was the only way he could demonstrate that we could Trust him, and live harmoniously with him. God tells us that through our Marriages, his perfect and sacrificial love is demonstrated to the world.

In the same way our relationship with Christ suffers when we give our attention to other ‘gods’, I believe our Marriages will suffer when we as husbands give our attention to other ‘brides’.

It is a dangerous and selfish practice to think you are risk free by maintaining personal relationships with women who are not your wife. Why would you create even the slightest opportunity for jealousy and envy to creep into one of the most sacred privileges we have as Christians?

“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 24)

At the end of the day, God’s word is sufficient to provide us with the wisdom we need to make common sense decisions as Husbands (and Wives). Am I friendly with my female colleague of 5 years that I see on a daily basis? Of course. Do I go out to lunch, or have cocktails with her, or go on a 12 day road-trip with her? Absolutely not.

Your wife is sacred. Your marriage is a powerful testimony of God’s perfect love for us. Protect it at all costs.

Jul 24, 2012
3:34 pm
#30 Dan Brennan :

Reed, I appreciate your deep respect for your wife. I do see that you affirm the danger story. I think there is a good and appropriate place for the danger story. However, if I may pusback, there is so much more in the Scripture than just these two stories. Jesus prayed that we all might be one (John 17). He doesn’t pray that men and women get married so that one flesh will bear witness to the world that he and the Father are one. There is a spousal union that is important, Scripture, testifies. We are in agreement there. But there is so much more in Scripture that testifies to a oneness between men and women (Gal. 3:28), Jesus’ engagement with women–you don’t get a sense from Jesus that women are sources of temptresses, whores, or irresistible objects of temptations. Jesus did not treat the women he was close to everyday like they were women of temptation in Proverbs 7:10-22. You don’t find Jesus giving us external rules to follow as a path of wisdom when it comes to love between men and women.

Furthermore, just as a man is supposed to lay down his life for his wife (Eph. 5), all followers are to lay down their lives for their friends (John 15) not just their spouses.

I think the Word does help us discern cultural conformity to particular romantic theories of love and brothers-sisters in Christ who are not married to each other. In Jesus’ day, the adult sibling bond was very close, emotionally deep. The brother-sister metaphor in the New Testament gives us rich discernment for developing close bonds with the opposite sex.

Jul 24, 2012
4:10 pm
#31 Reed Stoecker :

Perhaps you have a unique situation that God has blessed, and I honor your individual judgment and wisdom as a brother in Christ.

However as a general rule of thumb I don’t think the example being set forth to married couples (particularly new ones)should be that it’s OK to spend multiple nights together with another woman, away from your wife.

Jul 24, 2012
5:48 pm
#32 Dan Brennan :

Reed,

Thanks! Oh, I’m not championing that every spouse go out on trips with their cross-gender friend. Wisdom, full-blooded transparency, intimacy, attunement, deep trust among all parties involved all come into play before anything like that happens. Not all adult siblings who are married travel and take trips without their spouses. But I know of siblings who have.

I think many good well-intentioned Christian communities devoted to Christ and the Scriptures nurture only 2 dominant narratives (romantic) and (danger). I argue in my book *Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions* for a healthy, robust middle alternative to Hollywood and romance novels.

I don’t think black-and-white rules keep men and women from committing adultery (Col. 2:23). There have been plenty of Christian communities who have kept all sorts of segregated rules and yet divorce and sexual brokeness happens.

Jul 24, 2012
6:42 pm
#33 Carol :

Well, there you have it……..”in my book”. Tells me everything I need to know! People are free to make any mistake they want…..the wise will heed warnings.

Nov 23, 2012
9:42 am
#34 Jing :

I cried while reading this article.. It precisely and accurately explains every thought and feelings that i have regarding this issue. I cried because this has always been my stand and my husband never gets to understand me everytime i explain this to him. We always argue on this matter because he would always insist that I am being insecure and narrow minded. This is just perfect! You said it all. For those who may have good and lasting friendship with the opposite sex (without their marriage being jeopardized), good for you. But human as we are, we are all very vulnerable to temptation and even “falling in love” … At any time! And it may happen to anyone regardless he or she is young or old.. Single.. Or engaged or even married and has children! INFIDELITY MAY STRIKE ANYWHERE AT ANYTIME WITH ANYONE… so its really better to avoid falling into the pit. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.this is really heart warming. I am so glad i can now prove to my husband that i am not being narrow minded and im not the only one thinking like this.

Author Nov 27, 2012
9:55 am

Jing, unfortunately you are far from alone on this subject. I wrote this article to begin with because it was something I had had several people contact me asking me to write about, and as a girl who always had guy friends growing up, this was something that I had to address in my own life at some point. Obviously from the comments and responses I got, it struck a chord (on both sides of the coin) with many people. I think what people need to realize is that the point is not to avoid people of the opposite gender at all costs, but to realize that there is a very real and dangerous threat that comes with spending time with and building a relationship with them. Oftentimes the most seemingly harmless of situations can be the most dangerous because they blindside us.

I’m so sorry to hear that this has been such a troubling issue for you and your husband. Being concerned, vigilant, and discretionary in opposite gender friendships isn’t being narrow-minded and insecure, it’s being wise. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard or seen stories of close friendships with the opposite gender wrecking a marriage, and I just think that we underestimate the implications of a friendship of this nature. A marriage is precious and sacred, and I believe that it should be protected at all costs even if at times it seems a bit “overkill.” Stay encouraged! You are not alone, and I thank you for sharing so honestly and openly with us!

Dec 13, 2012
6:37 am
#36 DM :

I am facing a tortuous twist on all this… My wife’s best friend (female) died in an auto accident and the husband has now created a great “friend” attachment to my wife. I want to be charitable, but I don’t like any emotional attachment developing with my wife. Emails / texts /calls multiple times per day and a 2 hour private meeting each week. He’s always hinting and probing for more time / access. I trust her completely as she has a great heart. I want her to serve and be who she is, but I just really can’t take much more. Every time we talk about it, I end up looking like a bad guy. I don’t even want to bring it up, but it drives me crazy. Suggestions?

Author Jan 2, 2013
6:12 pm

DM, what a challenging and difficult situation this is for you. On one hand there is a hurting person in need, but on the other hand, you have a wife and marriage to protect. Perhaps you could sit down with your wife and explain how you feel starting with how difficult it is to even discuss it. Oftentimes if you put it out there that you know this guy is in need, that she has an amazingly kind heart, and this is a painful situation, it helps create space to then address your concerns. Let her know how it makes you feel. It’s definitely best to be gentle, gracious, and approach the subject gently, but in all honesty, it seems like something that does need to be addressed. While it’s wonderful and kind of your wife to help her best friend’s husband, at some point, he will need to begin to move forward on his own. It sounds like your wife has been incredibly helpful, but he should be requiring her support less and less instead of more and more. You have valid concerns, and I think you just need to lovingly be honest yet sensitive with your wife about this! Thanks for sharing!

Feb 16, 2013
4:55 pm
#38 BP :

In looking at the rules, it sure does seem like there is an awful lot of fear and mistrust perculating among them. Why is that? I guess if you can’t trust yourself or can’t trust your opposite sex friends, then that’s a shame. But if that’s what you have to do, that’s what you have to do. But with all that mistrust and fear, I would imagine that it becomes very easy to put your marriage on an island, doesn’t it? Is that really the only way a marriage can survive? Is that really loving? I think a spouse is the most important person in any married individual’s life, but I don’t know why with the proper love, communication and respect, someone couldn’t have a close friend of the opposite gender. Boundaries are important in any relationship, but they should be based on the positive aspects of life, not the negative ones. I think if your friendships are defined by fear and mistrust, your marriage is going to be defined by the same factors. Love your spouse, respect your spouse, and they should love and respect you, too. Life is far too short, and too difficult to limit close friendships. They’re hard enough to come by as it is. For the guys and girls that are mature enough to make it work, any friendship, cross-gender or not, is far too valuable to set aside for the “sake of a marriage”. I would argue that a good marriage is supported by positive, close friendships, and opposite gender friendships can be a part of that, too. It may be somewhat rare because of societal reasons (and that’s too bad, as well), but it can, should and does happen, and like any real friendship, it should be celebrated and cherished.

Author Feb 19, 2013
1:18 pm

BP, thank you for sharing your perspective. I will say that what you call fear and mistrust, I call wisdom and foresight. Opposite-gender relationships are proven to come with increased temptations, dangers, and problems for a marriage. That’s just a reality. That doesn’t mean you must avoid all contact with the opposite gender, but it’s wise to cultivate friendships with people of the same gender. Being prudent with opposite-gender friendships doesn’t lead to isolation for a marriage. Quite the opposite! My husband and I are extremely socially involved. We have many couples that we spend time with, he has guy friends, I have girl friends, and we’ve morphed those friendships with people of the opposite gender to include one another. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:23, “‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is constructive.” Protecting your marriage and realizing the potential dangers that lie within cultivating close, intimate opposite-gender relationships doesn’t mean you don’t trust yourself or your spouse nor does it mean you are fearful and isolating yourselves. It just means your being cautious and protective of your precious marriage in an area that has brought heartache and pain to many, many couples. Obviously, with that being said, each couple must decide what works best for them.

Feb 24, 2013
10:03 pm
#40 JimJarvis :

It seems like the “marriage on an island” crowd including the OP, must find it easier both to A) deal with multiple people’s emotional issues and B) go from thinking someone is attractive to taking it physical, than I do personally. I am married and have been in a few monogamous relationships and each of them have involved shouldering my partner’s emotional burdens in a way I simply don’t have the energy to do for anyone else at that particular time. I just don’t have it in me to put more than a 2-second checkout’s energy into validating another woman’s attractiveness. That’s in addition to not wanting to disrespect my wife and marriage, which is.

That said, my female friends aren’t on some deep talk-to-me-about-all-your-issues level, more on a lunch-every-four-months level.

Mar 9, 2013
7:04 pm
#41 BP :

I would have to respectfully disagree on some of your points, and I question some of the conclusions that are drawn. Opposite gender friendships (and any friendship, really) should result in communication between spouses to discuss the impact the friendship has on the marriage. I would argue that the “dangers”, “increased temptations”, and “problems” gain a foothold when there are issues – such as poor communication, respect and love – within the marriage that need to be worked out. It certainly sounds like you and your husband have a very healthy relationship and marriage and that’s wonderful. It also sounds to me that you have been able to cultivate some stronger friendships with other gentlemen from your social circle, and that’s positive as well. I wasn’t actually “attacking” your marriage per say, my intention was to speak more generally, but your answer shows that what I said does hold true – if the marriage is healthy, opposite gender friendships can be enriching. I actually would be interested to know how many same-sex friendships have been poisoning to a marriage? I know that happens from experiences of my friends and family. The dynamic is perhaps different, but I think the fundamentals stay the same: respect, communication and love make all the difference. I would say that a same-gender friendship can be just as negative to a marriage as an opposite-gender one if those fundamentals aren’t in place. I think perhaps there may be some confusion in what I wrote as well – I didn’t say that everybody should seek an opposite-gender close friend, or that there wasn’t a need for boundaries. Every relationship starts with boundaries. What I said was that with the right combination of those positive aspects, an opposite-gender close friendship is very possible, and if it happens, it should be celebrated. A close friendship with anyone, same-gender or not, takes effort, and not everyone has the time or energy to maintain a close friendship outside of the marriage. For those that do, it’s a special relationship to have. Finally, I do have to say that I don’t agree with “wisdom” and “foresight” meaning what you said they mean. Your rules essentially say “never spend quality time with a person of the opposite gender after you are married”, and I think that is sad. An opposite gender friendship is not predisposed to become physical, and I think that’s what you’re saying…because it COULD become physical, it’s better to be “safe than sorry”. Again, I look at this and it is my belief that the “better safe than sorry” approach is incredibly negative. Why is that only applied to opposite-gender relationships? Again, same-gender friendships have the potential to be damaging as well, and yet there is no “danger” in them? To be sure, not everyone is suited to be a close friend, or even have one outside of their spouse. I agree with you that a marriage is a precious thing, and it should be handled with much care and love. But, as I said, finding a connection with someone else besides your spouse shouldn’t be a negative, if the relationship is based on the positives I mentioned above. A close friendship – a real friendship, opposite-gender or not – should be a positive support to the marriage, and I’ll again say that limiting the possibility based on fear (and “better safe than sorry” is fear-based) rather than focusing on communication, respect and love is a mistake too many people make. I think any “rules” would be better if there was discussion about where boundaries would start, and what to look for to determine if another person is “friendship material” and how to cultivate such a relationship positively, and how to keep the communication lines open, and what it really means to be respectful, and what love really can be – and that real love is not the same thing as that word a lot of people throw around without much thought. I think viewing relationships in that light – in the positive rather than the negative – is far more indicative of wisdom than “better safe than sorry”.

Mar 19, 2013
2:54 pm
#42 SarahJ :

I thought this was a very insightful article and I believe it is important to safe guard a relationship. I am currently in a long distance relationship and I struggle with my insecurities surrounding this topic. I know you are referring to boundaries within a marriage, but what about boundaries within a serious relationship? Do you feel it is ok for a bf/gf to text and hang out with the opposite gender? My bf says he has a lot of friends that are girls and I need to get used to it and that he will never cheat on me. But, I find this especially difficult because when I’m at a distance I’m compelled to worry and feel jealous that he gets to spend time and develop a closer relationship to the opposite gender friend. Do the rules still apply? Any advice how to communicate these points without just seeming controlling and not trusting?

Mar 20, 2013
12:18 pm
#43 John :

Ashley,
I appreciate your article and you sharing. My wife of 15 years had almost guy friends before we married. I thing 8 out of 10 were guys. I am 8 years older so when we met I knew she was living in the college years which I had already far grown out of and I was looking to settle down. So while we date I often wondered how her relationships would change with men. We had many discussions before we did approach marriage and in the end she agreed the friendships with the opposite sex would change. They could no longer be her best friends. In the end and overtime those friendships dwindled and we built new relationships with couples and same sex friends. My wife is still a very sanguine personality… one that attracted me to her in the first place. She doesn’t have all the traits of a sanguine, but definitely the more outgoing person. I am more melancholy, but not completely either. So here comes the issue. The WORKPLACE. We both acknowledge we will be working with opposite sex folks and can be God honoring in our actions. We know we will have business luncheons in the office for training or meetings where they bring in lunch. We know there will be times where the boss takes out the team for lunch which is coed. These are what I consider expected situations, that we still put our full armor on for protecting the marriage. Now in my workplace the above situations happen several times a year. Not often. But I NEVER initiate lunches with opposite sex members or even coed. I just don’t build that sort of relationship with women at work so I have no desire or even thought to consider going out with other women or coed groups. And I would never do it. NOT because I don’t trust myself, not because I have fear… but because there is no gain for me. There is no reason I would. I spend more time with my coworkers than I do my wife so I have no need to make sure I pick more time to be with other women (coed or not). Here is the rub… What I have come to find was my wife doesn’t necessarily have issue with going to lunch with multiple men by herself or coed lunches… or initiating them. I am having difficulty with this. Do I think she would have an affair. I don’t think that, but I am not naive enough to think in the right conditions (us not doing well, another man providing attention) my wife (or even myself) would not falter. We had agreed at marriage that we would have work relationships of the opposite sex at work, but it wasn’t something we would grow into lunch outings or using the coed lunch excuse to have those male relationships. The sad thing is she saw her mentor fall pray to an affair that split a church. Her mentor was almost ALWAYS with this person in public with multiple people around. They were all “good” friends. Her friend in the end had an affair with this person. Her friend is much like my wife. Friends with just about anyone they meet, everyone likes her, and to be honest I don’t think they realize how certain things they do effect the men around them. If anything I would have thought my wife would understand just how easy building relationships with opposite sex in the workplace can grow into something it shouldn’t be when you start having too much time together and start having regular meals together (coed or not). I have been to coed meals and you see people tend to gravitate to those they feel more comfortable with. So if my wife is more comfortable with men… guess where she will gravitate. I have witnessed this so I am not saying it as “what if”. We are going to be going to Christian counseling, but my fear is I will have a counselor that just says let her go out with the men and or coed all she wants… don’t limit it… don’t guard it and just trust. Sorry for being so long… I just had to get some of this out… and if you have any recommendations please share.

Author Mar 28, 2013
8:04 pm

SarahJ, long-term relationships are an added challenge. I do believe that there still need to be boundaries around a serious relationship too. As I said in the article, it’s not that men and women can’t be friends with one another, but added precautions should be taken to protect your relationship. Especially when things start heading in the direction of marriage (i.e., engagement), I would say to start preparing your friendships to adapt to the new dynamics of your relationship. The motivation for these boundaries and rules can’t be fear or insecurity because those are issues, both personal and relational, that need to be worked out perhaps through therapy or counseling. When your motivation is simply to protect the relationship and is coming from a healthy place, it’s easier to convey and discuss boundaries/rules that work for the two of you. Obviously I do believe that once someone is headed in the direction of marriage or is married, the focus of friendships should change and adapt to accommodate the safety and security of that precious relationship. Hope that helps!

Author Mar 28, 2013
8:10 pm

John, I appreciate you sharing honestly and openly! As a woman who has always had a majority of guys friends my whole life, it has been tough to adjust and adapt those friendships to fit within my marriage. Out of respect for my husband and our marriage, I have limited my interactions and level of depth and intimacy with these men. While my husband and I have a very strong relationship, we believe that it’s wisdom to not think we are immune to Satan’s conniving, back-door approach to destroying marriages. I think that you and your wife absolutely should set clear boundaries around her friendships, interactions, and relationships with her co-workers of the opposite gender. Part of marriage is making sure you’re BOTH comfortable with the arrangement, so while she may gravitate toward men, she must consider you in the equation. It sounds like you are starting off right with heading to Christian counseling, but I would encourage you to be honest and firm about your feelings and thoughts on the matter regardless of the counselor. Good counselors or therapists will not dictate but rather facilitate a happy medium for the two of you. If you feel bulldozed, find another Christian counselor or therapist. Both you and your wife will have to communicate honestly and compromise to some degree, but the ultimate goal is to protect and nurture your marriage. Hopefully that helps! Again, thanks for sharing!

Apr 4, 2013
1:43 am
#46 Rita :

Very interesting. My boyfriend and I are in the very middle of a bit of a predicament. For most of our relationship, he has spent alone time with a number of female friends, including ex-girlfriends. I expressed my insecurity about it, but through a lot of discussion, was essentially told that he has a lot of female friends, he intends to maintain those friendships, I need to trust him, and if I had any male friends, he would be totally cool with me spending time with them. Suddenly the tables are flipped, and I have a male friend, and he won’t admit to being unhappy about it, but all signs point to “not happy.”

Tomorrow night I intend to have a sit-down discussion with him about what guidelines we both need to follow in order to maintain our friendships without hurting each other. Although these opposite-gender friendships have now left both of us feeling insecure or threatened at various times, I think now that there’s symmetry in the experience (the similarity between my male-friendship and his female-friendships is uncanny) we’ll both be far better able to understand, empathize, and hopefully come to a good agreement, rather than one person setting the rules.

We aren’t even talking marriage at this point, but assuming our relationship continues, I hope that the equality and empathy in our agreement spawned by equally miserable experiences will be a boon to us in the long-term.

As I contemplate things to discuss tomorrow evening, I am unphased by the concept of changing my current friendship with the male friend. I trust that the important parts, the reasons that we are friends and not lovers, will continue just fine, unhampered by new guidelines about how we contact each other, spend time together, etc. And if male friend can have a stronger relationship with his girlfriend, and I can have a stronger relationship with my boyfriend, our friendship will be that much more safely friend-like (focused on our mutual interests of stupid youtube videos and races) rather than emotionally intimate (how we feel about our relationships with our significant others).

Apr 10, 2013
10:12 am
#47 Jen :

Thanks for this article, Ashley. My husband and I were married over a year and a half ago. One of my best guy friends who lives across the country was a part of our wedding. My husband has never expressed concerns with our friendship as we have been friends since childhood. In fact, my husband wanted him to be a part of our wedding because of how great he has always been to me and my family. Shortly after my wedding, my friend began to act differently toward me, almost distant. Eventually, I said I felt we were drifting apart and he said that he is in a relationship now (with a woman he brought to my wedding), and that it was natural that our friendship has changed. I told him how upsetting it was to hear that; that my husband never questioned our friendship and I didn’t believe anyone (spouse or significant other) should come between a TRUE, lifelong friendship. Nearly one year later, I still feel sad about the state of our friendship. My husband is upset that he supported him to be a part of our wedding to only have him bail on our friendship shortly after. How can someone who was like a brother to me push me away? My husband is my best friend, hands down. But this friend has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Presently, my father is ill, and I want to tell my friend, but I don’t think he is worthy of knowing about me or my family. I recognize your advice about friendships and relationships, but this person was important to me. Based on your article, the best thing to do is to move on and forget that we had over 20 years of friendship. I can’t seem to do that. The “Around the Corner” poem always seems to play in my head when I think of this point in our friendship or lack thereof.

Author Apr 10, 2013
10:23 am

Jen, I can only imagine how painful and hurtful this situation must be for you! I definitely don’t think you should just “move on and forget that you had over 20 years of friendship.” Again, that’s not the point of this article. Especially with how a friendship developed between him and your husband, I think this is someone who has been important and valuable to your lives. Yes, I do think the friendship would change with you getting married and him in a relationship, but I don’t think that warrants cutting all ties! Again, I have lots of lifelong guy friends that are still that, but it has changed how it looks and plays out now that I am married. I do hope that somehow your friendship can be reconciled and reconnected especially during this time where you could use the love and support of true friends. I am so sorry to hear of your dad’s illness too! I appreciate you sharing and will be praying for you!

Apr 10, 2013
11:23 am
#49 Jen :

Thanks, Ashley. I didn’t mean YOU gave the advice to move on. I meant, maybe based on this, I should. Thank you for the prayers. I thoroughly enjoy your posts. Keep up the great work!

Apr 13, 2013
6:00 pm
#50 Simone Costa :

Great article Ashley!

Author Apr 15, 2013
11:28 am

Thank you so much Simone!

Apr 17, 2013
2:55 am
#52 shery :

Ashley,

I found your article to be interesting. I am in a new relationship and my guy has lots of female friends. Some exes, some not, and some girlfriends of his friends. I am so uncomfortable with this. But I also know I have some trust issues. Regardless, it just doesn’t seem right.

Anyhow, we had called things off. He then said he would compromise and only talk to a few exes that have been friends forever, and also be friends with his friends girlfriends. I still hated it, but agree. He too was uncomfortable and felt that I was only compromising 10%, while he was giving 90%.

Today I noticed that he was getting together with another female based a comment from her on his facebook page. It was his best friends girlfriend, and it was to discuss a side business. When I expressed my discomfort of getting together one on one without including me, he said that it was unfair and that he shouldn’t have to ask permission. He broke up with me. But we continued to discuss it, and decided he would share more and be more empathetic, and I would give him more space.

My father cheated on my mother many times growing up. I know I struggle with my guy because of some past issues. i worry if no man will be able to accept these requests, and also have other important qualities that I seek. I want to grow as an individual and release myself of these insecurities. But on the other hand, I feel that if a man truly cared about me, he would give up friends of the opposite sex. I am 37, and he is 43. We are both marriage minded.

Is this all me? I’m not sure how to proceed. I want to grow, but I also know that I would be much more comfortable with someone with similar values. My guy thinks that it’s not about values, but has everything to do with me being insecure. I hate feeling this way.

Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.

Apr 28, 2013
8:35 am
#53 Anonymous :

Great advice Ashley! I believe that these guidelines not only serve well towards married couples but can also do a great deal of good in general ‘exclusive’ relationships ie: any opposite gender relationship where monogamy/loyalty to the other person is of the highest priority. When the word marriage is used repeatedly it implies that these guidelines are only to be followed by married couples, when In fact these guidelines could aid in creating a strong foundation in any relationship and be conducive to getting on the path of marriage.

May 13, 2013
9:06 am
#54 Roxy Bumpus :

I love this article it show moral standars and how to protect your self and your relation ship.

May 19, 2013
11:57 am
#55 Torsh Johansen :

It’s not just Marriage, though. It’s any time you’re a couple. It’s not semi-okay to cheat when you’ve been a couple with someone for only 6 weeks, nor is bad-but-not-horrible cheating if you cheat when you’re living together but not engaged yet.

The same goes with crossing any other lines, like having 1-on-1 close friendships with the opposite sex carry on. Friendships brighten and dim, as far as closeness & intimacy is concerned… many times when a single friend starts seriously dating someone it will dim some, when they move in together or they move an hour away it will moreso… or when they get married or especially have kids — a lot. But then rise up here and there over time too.

Point being, I agree — keep opp-sex friendships at an arm-distance. But also when you’re single, too. I mean, do you really want to get close with a 1-on-1 guy-friend who likes you when you don’t like him — but he is a great listener and even yes, doesn’t keep trying to make moves on you? If you are OK with that, to have that close 1-on-1 guy-friend, then you’re a male-attention-seeker — not merely because gal-pals can be too catty/judgmental/etc.

When you’re single, the best way to know if a relationship is platonic is to see if your (fictional) BF/Husband, who is neither hyper or hypo jealous-sensitive compared to the rest of the population, wouldn’t be cool with it. But I’m single! Who cares, right? Well, you should. Having a close, 1-on-1 relationship with a guy you’re not into but he is into you even though he has no crush or anything — should be an issue, even when you’re single.

And the whole “I can’t be friends with girls” — much of that is BS. There are many different types of girls, as there are different types of guys. Much of the time, guys are going to be really cool and ANTI-judgmental toward the female friend when compared to other gals. As one woman said it, “Other girls can see through my BS” — which is why she avoided women altogether. Guys can see through the BS — they just don’t want to call you on it and want to be easier to be around, as having some female friends around is a positive thing when hanging out…

And having group-friends of the opp-sex — nothing wrong with that. That’s pretty much the arm-length-distance by itself. But barring rare circumstances, guys aren’t going to want to turn a group-friend into a close 1-on-1 friend unless he likes you, strongly or not-so-strongly. It’s nature. It’s the human condition.

Keep opp-sex friends as group-friends, for all practical purposes. One should not be naive or lie to oneself that close 1-on-1 friendships has no potential issues for all practical purposes.

Jun 1, 2013
7:30 am
#56 Chris :

How does this work in a work situation? I mentor a new teacher, we are the only two that teach this grade level; And every time we meet she needs to be chaperoned? It does not work.

Jun 12, 2013
9:30 pm
#57 Nicole Thompson :

Your article is correct, but it bothers me that we have to safeguard our marriages. Why have a marriage if we have the inclination to fall for someone else? Why marry if someone else can grab our heart away from our significant other? I know we are only human, but why go thru the vows and supposed commitment ritual if we might have to fight off attraction to someone else?

Jul 9, 2013
10:54 am
#58 Pat :

Wow! I’ve been trying to explain exactly what you described to my wife. Everytime she meets a guy through work or whereever she always assume she can be friends with them. I have female friends that I’ve reconnected with over the years on Facebook. My relationship with them involves very limited communication. Sometimes I may only speak with them twice a year just to catch up. That’s as far as I’ll take it.

Jul 11, 2013
10:22 am
#59 Kim :

Hello Ashley,
I came across your article and I couldn’t agree more with your advise. I have been troubled by a similar circumstance and I would appreciate your insight.
My story is this… My husband’s last long-term, live-in relationship was with the sister of his best friend (they have been friends for 25+ years or so). Because of the close ties, we have been to parties and social gatherings where his ex is also present. For the most part I am ok with it because I would never expect my husband to cut ties with his friend. However, recently we were invited to a weekend trip at a cabin…the trip is being hosted by the best friend and his sister (the ex). I told my husband that I do not wish to attend as this is just “too close for comfort.” My husband is really upset and this is causing a huge issue between us.

Please note that by all other accounts we have a wonderful relationship. We never fight, we are so kind to each other, and I couldn’t be happier.

I just don’t want to spend the weekend with his ex (and I don’t know too many women who would) and her friends. I know it sounds simple but I think the one thing I’m
struggling with is that I’m the “bad guy” for not wanting to go. My husband and his friend can’t understand “what my problem is.” They fail to see that I’ve been more than understanding when it comes to socializing with the ex…..

I especially liked your #’s 3 & 6 rules.

How do you suggest I handle this situation?

Thank you.
Kim

Author Jul 12, 2013
8:28 am

Kim, thank you for taking the time to share; I’m sorry to hear of your situation. It’s always tough when an ex continues to be in the picture (for any reason bu especially) because of association (such as with your husband’s ex being the sister of his best friend). It can seem unavoidable, especially if you spouse doesn’t feel they should be trying to avoid their ex. It sounds like you’ve been very gracious in trying to be flexible for the sake of your husband’s friendship with his buddy. The bottom line though is he needs to take your feelings into account. A weekend getaway to a cabin with his ex is a lot to ask, and quite frankly, something I don’t think should be asked of you. You’re not the “bad guy”; you’re a wife who wants her feelings to be considered and your relationship to be preserved, which are both legitimate. The thing is: he chose to date his best friend’s sister which ran the risk of injuring that friendship when they broke up. His feelings and wants are not the only in play here, and with how gracious you’ve already been (much more than most women let alone wives would be), I think it’s time for him to make a few concessions and acts of grace himself on yours and the marriage’s behalf. Unfortunately, sometimes a spouse has the hardest time “receiving” this kind of information from their husband/wife, especially when his best friend is in his ear telling him you are being unrealistic. That friend is looking out for the friendship’s best interest, not your marriage’s best interest. I think it’s time for a heart to heart. The 2 of you need to establish boundaries around that friendship that you are both comfortable with. If this can’t be decided between the two of you, then I think seeking a professional therapist or counselor would be a great option! They can be neutral, honest, and help mediate. Hope this helps!

Aug 1, 2013
8:31 am
#61 Meg :

Hiya, I am really sorry if this has been covered in the comments above. I have a really close friend who is male, neither of us are married. Recently I became really struck how confusing we seem to other people who assume that we are married or together, and began to worry that we were being inappropriate since (as far as I am aware anyway) neither of us intend on moving the relationship forward. Neither of us have romantic relationships with other people so there are no disgruntled girlfriends or boyfriends so there is not a feeling as such that we are hurting others, but I have been questioning how appropriate we are. I’m sorry if none of that makes sense! I’ve been trying to figure it out, although most advice on opposite gender relationships and emotional appropriateness seems more focussed on married people.
God Bless!
Thanks!

Aug 6, 2013
8:34 am
#62 octavia :

I’m not married but in a relationship with my son father and we’re expecting another. He not understanding #6 and that’s a big problem n our relationship. It’s even a bigger problem when they on facebook exchange memories. It’s almost a deal beaker for me. If it’s not fix soon I’m afraid our relationship will not last long. I sent him the article hopefully he reads and understand.

Aug 12, 2013
12:48 pm
#63 Zabeth :

X__X This makes me not want to get married or have relationships. My friends are the most important people in my life.

Author Aug 14, 2013
8:55 am

Meg, it’s difficult to know the full situation and friendship between you and your guy friend, but I would say this. Having a best friend or friends that are guys in an of itself is not an issue. Again, most of my life, my closest friends were guys. That only changed once I got in a committed relationship and ultimately married. The question isn’t so much whether you appear to others as inappropriate but are you being inappropriate? If you are truly friends and keeping it as such, then I would say press on. If there are other relations going on where you are becoming physically and emotionally involved, I would encourage you to reevaluate your status. Perhaps it is a relationship that you are ultimately pursuing. The other question is, is it hindering your ability to enter into a romantic relationship with others? Again, it’s tough to determine the specific course of action with my limited knowledge of the situation, but hopefully this at least helps point you in the right direction.

Author Aug 14, 2013
9:21 am

Zabeth, I am so sorry to hear that’s what you came away with from this article as that is not the intention of it! My friends are also very important to me, and that is why I never discarded of them but rather reconfigured them to fit appropriately within the context of my marriage. My hope is that you will be able to find that balance and make the necessary adjustments to maintain your friendships and also get married!

Aug 16, 2013
12:37 pm
#66 Darla :

Late to this party, and sharing with ladies that think having male friends is alright. Age does not preclude one from these kinds of situations. I want to applaud you for a well written article. As a woman who is approaching 50, I find that young people don’t get this, and even mature adults are lacking in proper social skills when it come to respecting their mate.

The reason I found this is I am in my own conundrum. I recently discovered that a “girlfriend” of mine, (I am using this term loosely.) has been having private discussions via instant message and text with my boyfriend of three years. I discovered them, and they are highly inappropriate. Please hang on while I vent.

I met this lady when a man in our circle of friends began dating her. I liked her fine enough and enjoyed her company when we were at the same social gatherings. Last year through a series of random events and conversations I realized to my horror that she was my ex boyfriends, ex wife.

Her marriage to him was a nightmare and lasted no more than 6 months. My relationship with him was three years and they were an awesome three years. Nothing remotely the same. When I told her of our odd connection, we decided that we would not allow that to come into our friendship and that our previous relationship with the same man would never be discussed. Let the past be the past.

This past month, Just less than one month before she is was due to be married, I find that she was having private discussion with my boyfriend. In one of them she invites him to lunch, and tells him that she feels I am still “struggling” with the break up with my ex and that maybe she can provide my boyfriend with some “insight.” Keep in mind we have never discussed that relationship ever.

The ex and I broke up six years ago, and I am not struggling with anything. I am very happy in my current relationship. Her now husband knows nothing of these conversations, she made it a point to ask that these conversations were not meant for our respective partners ears. My boyfriend did not reply to her comments. I was pretty one sided.

I did have a rather heated discussion with him over them. I thought that he should have called her out, and told her that her comments and suggestions for lunch were inappropriate.

I have yet to say anything to her. I have written her numerous e-mails and have not sent them. I am in a quandary how to handle this. They are on the social invite list of all of our friends. Every time I see her, I want to say things that are very un-lady like. She really crossed a boundary and I am left here stewing and sitting on it. I feel like not addressing it is unfair to me. It is eating me alive and affecting my relationship with my boyfriend. I feel resentful that he let it slide rather than telling her how off base she was.

Sep 4, 2013
6:23 am

The principles you have outlined in this article are dead on for safeguarding and protecting relationships. If more couples followed this advice we would see healthier, happier relationships.

Sep 6, 2013
1:55 pm
#68 Tom :

Dear Ashly,

I can appreciate both sides of the arguement and your time in writing this blog although it does not mention every factor or possibility related to being married.

It is probably very likely that if a person was to have an affair it would be with someone close to them. I am assuming it is your theory that eliminating the risk of opposite sex friendships will help to protect your marriage. I suppose it depends on the reason for cheating…

If they are cheating because there spouse mistreats them, then I would assume they may find a person to have have an affair with regardless of weather it’s a close opposite sex friend or not. There are all too many controlling spouses that could use this article as fuel for there fire. Maybe demanding absolutely no contact with opposite sex people. There are certainly extremes in every situation.

There are some deficits to eliminating any possiblity of opposite sex friends. Often, it is reported, that opposite sex friends ovcassionally offer friendship in a way that a parent might/should have. I am sure there is always a risk to everything. But in a fair and equal marriage it seems these topic should be worked out well before a couple plans their wedding day.

There should be boundries set and adhered to after marriage. If a spouse agrees to having opposite sex freiends under certain conditions then it should be honored if tne conditions are met.

I could imagine in certain situations elimination of oposite sex froendships could be detrimental to children within a marriage. For example, I heard a story of a single mom where her children grew up without their father…the best friend(male) helped to raise the children as their Godfather. The husband returned ten years later and over a period of one year banned the male friend(for absolutely no reason) The husband is very controlling and a blamer. The wife cut all ties with the best friend to preserve her marriage at the expense of her children. what is the solution there?

Life is short and I have found there is usually a controlling person with low self esteem behind many divorces… Should life be lived soley for your spouse and should they expect that?

Each person SHOULD be secure enough….forcing people to cut ties with friends they have had for years(without cause) may build more resentment and cause more cheating then just allowing opposite sex best friends.

It is cruel not only to the best friend(who may be married also) but also to the married person. Best friends do not come along everyday, in every color, or apparently in each gender like your placing an order. People know ehen things get wierd and they need to be responsible…we can not NERF the whole world.

Best of Luck!

Sep 6, 2013
1:56 pm
#69 Tom :

Ashley..sorry for mispell of your name. :)

Author Sep 6, 2013
3:20 pm

Tom, I definitely don’t think there should be absolutely NO contact with the opposite gender. And as you pointed out, there are exceptions and extenuating circumstances with all things. Never should these boundaries be out of one spouse controlling another, and if there are trust issues, I would say that the relationship obviously needs some more intensive work to find and fix the source of that mistrust. As I mentioned, I still have my guy friends, but we’ve adapted the boundaries to be appropriate for marriage. It’s about balance and safety for the marriage, but that should come from a healthy, loving place. Each couple must figure this out together.

Thanks for sharing, and no problem on misspelling my name :)

Sep 10, 2013
11:38 am
#71 Paul Labreck :

Ashley your article took the words right out of my mouth! I am in that exact situation right now, granted I am not married to her, but my girlfriend has this guy friend that she used to be “best friends” with before she dated. Well now she says she misses his friendship and longs to be his best friend again. I tell her I’m not comfortable with her having a close guy friend like that and she gets mad at me. The thing is she says he’s just a friend and unnattractive and all, but like you said, quality time with him will develop some sort of feelings. It’s inevitable! I just wish she could see my point of view and realize that she should not have close guy friends like that. I really enjoyed reading your article. Im going to have my girlfriend read it also, in hope thaf it would change her mind because a female wrote it. Well thanks!

Sep 13, 2013
10:14 pm
#72 Spencer :

It really makes me feel BETTER about my potential future relationships KNOWING that at least one other female believes this. I’m a 24 year old grad student who finds it IMPOSSIBLE to date girls who have too many guy friends. I really don’t know whether it’s the age of the girls that I’m dating, or whether it’s just a new thing that’s found in today’s culture. It seems like it’s a plague that I can’t get rid of. I’ve cancelled so many dates with people when I find out they have too many guy friends. I can’t start dating someone knowing this. I’m finding myself to be going CRAZY over this.

People always talk about trust…well…I think it’s more about respect!

From my personal experiences, girls always say “trust me” or “you’re insecure” but the moment I even TALK to someone of the opposite sex, they get angry. People always think they have a plan…until it happens to them!

What you forgot to mention in this whole opposite gender friend situation…IT JUST DOESN’T LOOK RIGHT. If you go out to dinner, alone, with someone of the opposite sex while in a relationship, it just doesn’t look right. If people from your town see this happening, people talk.

Sep 18, 2013
12:35 pm
#73 Shannon :

Seeking for some advice. Does the boundary line need to be drawn only when you’re married, or does the line need to be drawn after a few months of exclusively dating? I’m in an exclusive relationship, we haven’t talked about marriage, but there is definitely that potential, and I feel extremely uncomfortable with a female relationship my boyfriend has. He keeps saying I need to trust him, and I do, but it clearly isn’t right. So, at what point do opposite sex relationships need to change? When barely getting serious, or after marriage. Any advise at all. I don’t know how to handle the situation with out coming across as jealous, or not trusting.

Author Sep 23, 2013
12:21 pm

Shannon, I do believe that boundaries should begin to be drawn once a relationship becomes exclusive. Granted, I do think that stronger boundaries develop as the relationship becomes more committed. There’s no hard and fast rules about when to set these boundaries or how extreme they should be; it depends on the relationship. The boundaries shouldn’t come from fear or mistrust because those are deeper issues that need to be addressed. Rather, they should be established out of love, respect, and protection of one another, yourself, and the relationship. I think that you and your boyfriend should have an honest discussion about your concerns, why you are concerned, and then see if you can’t collectively come up with something that you both feel good and comfortable with.

Sep 24, 2013
11:51 am
#75 Texting-Jealously :

Seeking some advice on a situation that has my head spinning… My wife has been with a new company now for less than eight months or so, we have been married for almost 14 years ( I do trust her)… When beginning a new job you always meet new people and friends of the opposite sex which is very normal in the work force (as I do also)… She has become good friends with a lady of her age 36 years old which is single/divorced and seems very nice, she also friends with a man of the age of 24 single and lives at home… I have zero problems with her texting her female friends all day long BUT here in the last six months or so those three have been sending a group text with them three and it’s not always related to work… Her girlfriend always sends a text to him including my wife in it over whatever when she could be texting him or her text individually… My question to you is, am I being too insecure/nosey about her texting a man that I do not know? It is also giving me the urge to check her cell phone now which I have never done in the past… I have brought it up to her before which leads into an argument or her turning her cell phone off for a few days. She has told me she would tell him to stop any texting if I want… Just confused and I guess with all the new technology out there now…

Sep 29, 2013
9:34 am
#76 James :

I am in a committed relationship with a female who has a lot of male friends. I have met most of them and they are nice guys and I don’t have a problem with it. But there was one guy that always concerned me. She had always been really close with one guy and comminucated a lot prior to our relationship, but he began contacting her more once we started dating!

A couple of months ago I found out that he had been Snapchatting – sending secret pictures – to her multiple times a day for an extended period of time. She did not think there was anything wrong with it but I convinced her it was not appropriate by asking her if she was ok with me getting snapchats from other women. She deleted her account.

Last week I found out he spent the night a her house and she hid it from me and even lied to me about it. I found out from one of her two roommates and he did apparently sleep on the couch, not in her room. Regardless, this was a violation of trust and I told her we could not continue with the relationship if she is still in contact with him. She said that she had not told me about him spending the night because she knew I was irritated when he contacts her and she didn’t want to deal with it. She has told him they cannot be in contact anymore and has promised to discontinue the friendship.

Did I overreact? I feel like this is an appropriate boundary to set…

Oct 2, 2013
8:26 pm
#77 Vicki :

Ashley I agree with you 100%. But my fiancée does not, unfortunately, and it concerns me. It has caused several disagreements. I’m always accused of being untrusting… He says I have a problem. He has several female friends that he sees no wrong in communicating with by phone, text, or to visit. I’m trying to convince him that we need to set boundaries before marrying. Two questions: would u recommend some healthy boundaries to adopt? Do u think its appropriate for him to tell these women that they are “special” ? (It’s a word he often uses for those he is especially close to).

Oct 16, 2013
7:11 am
#78 Lola Akingbola :

Serious talk

Oct 18, 2013
7:13 am
#79 Roy :

Morning.
I would like to seek some advice on what to do. .. I have a girlfriend that’s younger then I am. We come from very different back ground. I care and love her deeply. I would like to start out with my past. I was married for 16 years and ended up in a divorce due to one of our children’s medical issue and her depression. I met my present girlfriend thru a work party which we worked for same company yet didn’t work together. We have been together now for going on 4 years and we both live together and have our own children. There was a time she felt that I was not
giving her affection and Compassion and where I worked nights and she says I found out and was sexting, texting and talking to him at work during there same shifts. She Swore nothing physical happened, I believe her at the same time I did not trust her to the level that we once had. I was hurt, angry trying to put it behind me at the same token I didn’t understand and don’t why she still works with him now and not going back to school to better her life as a couple. The icing on the cake is that they now work in the same dept IT KILLS ME inside. Going in to visit and see them. I did the most stupid, cowerly and shameful thing. I started looking at personals and cheated on her. She found out and I feel like the useless human on earth now. She is angry, hurt and feels betrayed. I am so sorry for doing this. Tring to reconcile. There is more. I am trying to show her that she is the only women I want and spend the rest of my life with her and hopefully Marry her. Last night she received a text and answered it never saying any thing about it. We went to bed were intimate and then asked who was that that texted you she said a friend from work he needed a friend because of relationship issues of his own. I started to talk about the list she placed on our mirror on was no secrets and no hiding thoughts. Things did not end well last night she said leave me alone and we ended on each end of the bed..
I want to fix my mistakes at the same time I am hurt she went out and have her number to a opposite co worker. i would like to focus on us and thought she would also? Is this just me going crazy.

Oct 21, 2013
6:56 am
#80 Anna :

I can’t seem to find articles on this topic that account for dating, which is where my conflict lies…
My best friend and I have been attending the same church for a year now, and found an amazing group of guy friends. We affiliate with some more than others, and developed a deeper friendship with one particular person in the group. I began to see him in a slightly romantic way, but knew he DEFINITELY wasn’t ready for a relationship, and that going down that road would only pull me further from God, so I suppressed the feeling and went about each day normally.

About three weeks ago, he confessed to my best friend out of the blue, whom he rarely had conversation with in the past, and he visits her 2+ days a week (and I live with her 5+ days per week, so I’m in the middle of everything). This is he first relationship and there are many things about it that concern me, but the most prominent is his relationship with me… Though he’s dating my friend, he still acts incredibly close to me, if not closer than before. He even comes to me seeking advice about things he hasn’t talked directly with her about yet. He offers to take me to the movies, does small tasks at will, and just seems to pay too much attention to me.

Last night, he wanted to establish our relationship as a sort of brother and sister, which conflicts with my belief that you cannot have a partner AND a best friend of the opposite sex. Your partner should be your best friend.
The two things that separate his relationship with me, vs. his relationship with her, is the frequent telephone communication with her, and the phisical relationship they have…

I’ve tried to back off and set boundaries out of respect for their relationship, but he keeps approaching me. I don’t want to sever our close friendship (that was established before he began dating my friend), but it just doesn’t feel right… As my friend put it’ “it feels like he’s dating both of us”.
What is my best course of action? Seeing as I can’t distance our friendship because of living arrangements, and I can’t just set my own friendship boundaries (because he doesn’t seem to see them).

Oct 22, 2013
5:28 pm

Ashley, this post was very insightful! It seems that these things should go without saying yet this is the topic of many disagreements. It’s not only reasonable to safeguard our relationships but it really is just the smart thing to do. Setting boundaries does not mean you are insecure; it simply means you are aware that no one is above temptation – not a person on the planet. For anyone reading, if you have someone willing to do these things for you, consider yourself blessed!

Dec 13, 2013
2:02 pm
#82 Rebecca :

Oh my gosh your spot on Emily it’s sooo difficult to find female friends but why is that, I have found SOME not all but some Christian women very uninviting and very distant they only let you so close and then the iron bars go down and your standing on the outside looking in, but wen I first went to this particular church they were all over me until they say me not commiting as a member. Its good to pray before commiting some where so I just said God it’s me and you and have given up on the girlfriends thing.

God is good regardless of weather they let me in or not he died for me not them so I think its safe to say my identitiy is in Christ alone. :)

Jan 5, 2014
5:58 am
#83 Susan :

Ashley,
My husband worked with a secretary for years and were frineds. At that time I was ok with it. Since, she has been fired,I felt they still were connected somehow.(One day was very telling.) He finally shared that they have been meeting for a year on Fridays. He swears nothing was happening,she just likes to hear what is still going on at work because of her anger etc. He said he did not tell me because I would have made an issue of it. I expressed my concerns,again he said nothing was going on. He did ask if I wanted to go with him a few times,I said no. Still had concerns. The other morning,he was leaving the house, as he was getting into the car, I asked him where he was going, he said to the bank, and to get some anitfreeze. I could tell he was not being truthful.So 30-40 minutes later,I decided to go to their meeting place. I walked in and found them talking. I told him I did not want him to come home,he could go to a friends house,,,or hers. Then I looked at her and said I know something is going on, I have known it for a year,he has lied to me and I am tired of it. I left. He did come home,I text him to sleep somewhere,he responed with a nasty comment. He is still here,sleeping in the bed with me,we have not said anything,he presenet with hostile behaviors,slamming doors etc. I do not think any sex is involved but the emoitonal connections is strongly there. If his relationship to her is more important then out marrige,then I need to make a decision after 26 years of marriage. Love to hear your thougths.

Jan 13, 2014
7:13 am
#84 DJ :

I have been married 3 months. My husband has virtually all of his past girlfriends and sexual interests as friends on Facebook. I’ve told him I don’t think this is appropriate. He says that he thinks it’s rude to unfriend anybody and that it’s my issue not trusting him. I feel that he romanticizes his past and he’s is allowing a temptation to remain and the fact that he continues this after I have expressed my concern makes me feel as though he values those connection more than he values our marriage. I’m trying to not let it bother me but it does.

Author Jan 13, 2014
11:22 am

Susan, thank you for sharing about your situation, although I am so sorry to hear about it! While “nothing was happening” between your husband and this lady, the fact of that matter is that your husband lied, you’ve been betrayed, and there is damage done. I don’t understand why, if nothing is happening, your husband felt the need to lie about their meet-ups other than there is an emotional connection and intimacy occurring. Obviously, after 26 years of marriage, this information is a tough pill to swallow. I don’t think the relationship, whatever the nature, between your husband and this lady is appropriate simply because, if nothing else, it clearly undermines your marriage and has gotten to a point that he is lying about it to you. Their friendship needs to end, and I think the two of you should seek out a professional marriage therapist or counselor to work through what happened, why he lied, how to overcome the betrayal, rebuilding that trust and your marriage, and your ability to forgive. There are no easy answers to this, but I don’t believe your marriage is beyond hope. You have 26 years together to draw from, and with some professional help, I think you will be able to work through this and be much stronger for it! Thank you for sharing, and I pray that the 2 of you are able to have the tough conversations while also doing the hard work to overcome this issue together!

Author Jan 13, 2014
11:28 am

DJ, thanks for sharing! I can imagine the frustration and hurt you must be feeling! Oftentimes we do romanticize our past, remembering it very differently from how it actually occurred. I want to encourage you that I don’t think your concerns are invalid but rather wise! Clearly it’s something you aren’t comfortable with, and your husband, especially so early on, should be willing to hear you out and act in a way that puts you and your marriage first! Honestly, most people don’t even notice getting unfriended or unfollowed on social media, but regardless, it’s a decision that he needs to consider especially because it’s something that is bothering you. His unwillingness to do it begs the question, why? If these past people/relationships carry no weight in his life, what’s his loyalty to them? It should be a simple choice. What good can come from it? I think a more earnest and honest with your husband needs to happen, and if progress can’t be made there, go see a professional about it to get a neutral party involved who can help navigate what’s best of your marriage. Thanks for sharing!

Mar 5, 2014
5:51 am
#87 Alison Co :

The article was perfect to help me give my point to people surrounding my husband when his close family friend who is female just posted their picture in FB. I was bothered because it was just like our couple pictures! They felt I was just jealous and that there it was not reasonable that I asked her to unpost it. But if I did that, my husband and his family would act differently. I just believe that husband and wife are equal when it comes to boundaries.

Mar 16, 2014
10:18 pm
#88 jfe007 :

Ashley,

My situation is this. I am at the hurt stage as one of the two close opposite sex friends that got “too close” I likely have broken many of the rules you so beautifully laid out above, including living with my best female friend and her fiance. We met at work around the same time she met her fiance and hit it off instantly. We walk at lunch and share many similarities of personality and in how we perceive our world and what it has to offer. In short we get along famously and have from the get go. It seemed like the best economic and emotional decision for all of us for me to move in with them. You see I actually am heavily trained in the mental health field and she was handed a very large emotional blow that shook the foundation of her trust in him (of course she shared with me and I remained neutral playing devils advocate on many an occasion) He is also from what I see, clinically depressed. The news he shared with her was shared only 4 months after she accepted his proposal. She went through tremendous anxiety and stress .. all of which I learned about immediately because of course we had established a very close bond. I have come to realize that the way the two of us have approached the line and at times crossed them has been inappropriate and has been the catalyst for deeper feelings for her on my end which I finally expressed in a very respectful way to her. I knew that I could not carry the feelings around and it was only a matter of time before I crossed the a line that caused trouble for two people I care about.. well really 3 I care about all of us in this. She stated that she would have tole me if the things were crossing a line with her. Fact is I may have been filling in for what her relationship has lacked since he dropped the incredible bomb on this amazing woman. I knew that I could not do that any longer and understand the fallout from telling her my feelings could be catastrophic to the friendship. I also knew that it would more that likely put things back where they should be for all of us.. I will not be the cause of a breakup for my friend or her fiancee and I will no longer be a stand in for his shortcomings when it has to do with their making it or not. I made the decision to move. Now she is seemingly angry and pulling away.. I see it as “righting the ship” and hope very much to have a more platonic and healthy rules guided friendship with this amazing woman. I also truly hope she finds greater happiness now that she is as a result throwing her all again into her relationship with her fiance.. no matter how much it hurts right now. I know I am doing the right thing!! Thoughts? and .. THANK YOU. This has confirmed that the hurt now is worth it! JFE.

Mar 19, 2014
5:27 pm
#89 Patrick :

Ashley, you are an amazing writer – very well written, very well thought out. I disagree largely with most of what you say, but that debate has been played out very nicely here with the other posters.

I am a college professor, and have directed my students to read this article as part of an interpersonal communication class. As I read this, I don’t see anywhere how one might deal with bisexual men or women. Here’s what I mean.

Say a bisexual man or woman was married. This person is devoted and committed to their husband/wife. Given your logic, this person couldn’t have any friends, because there might be potential attraction to anybody, as this person is potentially attracted to men and women.

I think when we introduce this type of question, we see the weakness of the argument of avoiding cross-gender relationships. Ultimately, not every heterosexual person is attracted to every member of the opposite sex. I’m a straight male, and I’m not attracted to every woman I meet. And I know that not every heterosexual woman I meet is attracted to me. The same goes with bisexual men and woman, and gay men and women. Nobody is attracted to every member of any given sex – that’s just not the way attraction happens.

I would love to hear more about this from that perspective. Thanks again for writing, and I look forward to engaging in this discussion further!

Author Mar 20, 2014
10:58 am

Jfe007, this is a tough situation, as you know firsthand. There’s no easy solution, but I do believe that at this point, you moving out and giving your friend space is the right thing to do. Clearly you were filling the voids in her relationship, and hopefully, she will be able to make a wiser more clear decision now that you are out of the equation. It’s tough to know how this will play out, but again, I think for your sake and hers, your decision to create space between you is wise. If you guys continued on the path you were on, it would surely mean heartbreak for all parties involved. I pray you continue to have strength and wisdom in this situation in the days and choices ahead! Thanks for sharing!

Author Mar 20, 2014
11:08 am

Patrick, thank you for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate your kind words about my writing, and I also appreciate you sharing your thoughts. It’s always interesting to hear others’ perspectives on things. To be honest, I think we are coming at this topic from two very different points of view, which would explain the lack of discussion regarding the points you’ve brought up. Thank you for stopping by and checking out our site!

Apr 14, 2014
1:15 pm
#92 Sarah :

Ashley, I just wanted to say this is a VERY well written article. I lately..or for awhile now…have been having issues with my fiance and this one woman. I for myself have had the experiences of with all of my guy friends, something always has “developed” or I’ve found out that they’ve had feelings for me, or I for them in some case. So I made the decision for myself awhile ago to not hangout with men alone when I’m in a relationship. For me I just got tired of having great friendships be ruined, so I started finding more women to be friends with. Well, I’m 3 months away from getting married, and it scares me that I held in how I was feeling about my fiance hanging out with this one girl. They used to spend TONS of time alone together. It even got to the point in some instances he began to put her first before me….and when I finally told him how I had been feeling, he had no clue that I’d been feeling that way. The thing is though is that this woman is always telling him about her relationship problems and has tried to spend quite a bit of one on one time with him. It wasn’t until just recently I told him I couldn’t feel comfortable with him hanging out with her alone and would feel better if he hung out with her in groups, or when her boyfriend is around. I’m just wondering, is it OKAY for me to want boundaries in our relationship to not hangout with other people of the opposite sex alone? I have tried to like this one girl he is good friends with….but in all honestly I can’t. Is wanting to set boundaries in your relationship an okay thing to do?

Author Apr 15, 2014
9:40 am

Sarah, thanks for your feedback and for sharing about your situation! Many people have discovered what you have … that opposite gender friendships, when they get very involved, lead to one of you discovering feelings for the other. That’s why I do think it’s so important to set boundaries in your relationship! Though some have felt that this is a lack of trust or limiting your options, that’s not the case. It’s about protecting your relationship/marriage. I still have many close guy friends, but those friendships have adapted and changed to be more appropriate for a married lady. Like fastening a seat belt in the car, wearing a helmet for a bike ride, etc., it’s about creating safety to prevent a major incident that leaves you banged up and broken. Opposite gender friendships are one of those things that can blindside a marriage; I’ve seen it too many times. That doesn’t mean zero contact or friendships with friends of the opposite gender, but it does mean healthy boundaries around them! I think it’s wisdom for both you and your fiance to set those up now!

Apr 26, 2014
10:48 pm
#94 Diana Thorne :

Hi, I have a son who has had pre marital sex at a very young age and is now a father of a one year old. He always wants the mom and baby to spend the night, I have let them at times but fully believe this is wrong because they are not married. He tells me it’s no big deal, they need him but I know better and I want to be firm with saying no because I believe the bible. Need some advise if this is wrong to continue and how to convince him that they should wait to be married even if they have a child together.

Apr 27, 2014
1:33 am
#95 menaka :

Thank you! You made my day. I swear by the same rules and have always been judged by them. Good to know i’m normal and not paranoid… Thanks so much Ashley!

May 5, 2014
8:22 pm
#96 Ken :

Hi Ashley (and others),

This topic has created friction in my marriage on a couple occasions. Unfortunately, my wife and I are both very strong willed people, so it’s difficult for either of us to see beyond our own point of view.

I have a strictly online friend/acquaintance that I’ve known for 16 or so years. Absolutely nothing romantic between us, have only met once, and only communicate briefly via FaceBook every couple months or so. This truly angers my wife, and she says I don’t respect her feelings because I haven’t voluntarily ended communication with this person. My wife has full access to my FB account, and the discussions have never been flirtatious or inappropriate in any way.

My wife says she can’t believe maintaining this ‘friendship’ is important enough to create conflict in our marriage, and I can’t believe she feels our marriage is somehow threatened by 6 or 7 FaceBook discussions a year…

Am I wrong for thinking my wife is being jealous/insecure, or am I totally missing something?

May 14, 2014
5:11 am
#97 Mush :

I was really an eye opening article not only for the married one’s while for the one’s who are getting married. I myself going to marry in couple of months and i have a huge no. Of opp gender friends which may cause any danger to my married life.

May 14, 2014
12:13 pm
#98 John :

Great article Ashley! Thank you! What you say is so true and has happened to a lot of people. I love women but trying to be friends with them is a always a disaster I’ve found. Not worth it! Always ends with a big fallout. Unless you’re careful it can get too affectionate, too easily. A touch can turn into a hug, a hug into a snuggle, and a snuggle into..

Author May 14, 2014
3:13 pm

Diana, that’s a very challenging situation to be in, but I do support the stance you’ve taken. It’s important for your son to realize that he can be there for this gal and their child in other ways. That, in fact, there are much more important and vital ways he can support, love, and care for them than to continue on the same path. It would be helpful to approach his desire for “grown up” actions by redirecting them to truly grown-up, responsible actions as the man and father. I’m sure this is very difficult for you all around, but hang in there and continue to try and lovingly yet strongly guide him in being a strong father figure and the man of his family :)

Author Jun 4, 2014
9:49 am

Ken, I am sorry to hear of the conflict you and your wife are experiencing regarding your FB friendship. It’s difficult to give you a clear cut answer as to who is “right” because there are always two sides to the equation. It would be interesting to know what about your FB friendship/contact is so disturbing to your wife. What are her concerns? On the other hand, what are you getting out of that friendship that is making you too dig in? The answer/solution is most likely somewhere in the middle, but the important thing is to dialogue with one another about it. Truly listen to one another and try to seek understanding as to where the other person is coming from and why each of you feels the way you do. The goal is to be respectful and loving of one another and try to find a solution that attempts to accommodate both of you. Hope this helps a bit :) Thanks for sharing!

Aug 31, 2014
4:30 pm
#101 s heila :

In the space im in a support network is beyond paramount and I’ve not had one for years relying on my husband’s friends and keeping busy relinquishing all ties with those I’d known as i too had kept mostly male friends while single. No longer married I’m in a new relationship. His friends are too new they also couldn’t be the support i need having history with Me.
Right now i need the strength one gets from their friends and family to get thou. My partner cannot be all that and it wouldn’t be fair even to ask if he could. Maybe i shouldn’t have entered into a relationship now but tell my heart that for a chuckle.
A good friend who was there before, who knows me, and is supportive, and never a lover has reached out to me out of concern and caring. Wanting to te connect i spoke to my bf about inviting then to come over. The ensuing fights over appropriate had me simply dodging phone calls as inviting was off the table and even all of us meeting was off. Then it was ok, then it wasn’t, etc.
This seems wrong to me that i must remain isolated vs. Aided based on some seemingly over zealous rule if propriety with out any indiscretion intended or otherwise on my part. Left i am, innocent, isolated, and confused.

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