Throughout our lives, we’ll have friends who are of both the same and opposite gender. This is a natural part of life. For some individuals, though, the thought of their spouse having close, opposite-sex friends can be a bit unnerving. Does this sound familiar to you?
It’s true that there are occasions when opposite-sex friendships are not appropriate in tandem with your marriage. In general, friendships come and go throughout our lives. But the question about your spouse’s opposite-sex friendship might not be so much about gender itself, but more about whether you and your marriage are being honored. Just like any relationship, you both want to have a healthy level of discernment when it comes to the people you allow into your life.
Tips for Discerning Whether an Opposite-Sex Friendship is Healthy
Want some tips to help you determine whether your spouse’s friendship is healthy and safe for the two of you–and your marriage? We’ve gathered some ideas to help you make that call. (These tips can apply whether this is your spouse’s friend, or yours.)
Both You and Your Spouse Feel Comfortable With the Friendship
Do you and your spouse both feel comfortable with this opposite-sex friendship? Why? Examine the foundation of their relationship. Is it built on trust and mutual respect? Does the friendship predate your relationship with your spouse?
If one of you happens to feel uncomfortable with the friendship, why is that? You’ll need to remain open-minded and communicative as you navigate this topic, because we can easily become defensive when we feel our friend is being “attacked.” If your spouse has approached you regarding your own opposite-sex friend, for example, then you will need to slow down, try your best not to be reactive, and allow your spouse to tell you why they’re uneasy. Try to be as empathic as possible, even if you disagree at first.
As the conversation unfolds, you may be able to help reassure them–or, on the other hand, you may begin to understand what’s bothering them. After that, you can decide what appropriate actions to take next.
The Friendship Has Healthy Boundaries
Does your spouse’s opposite-sex friendship have healthy boundaries in place? Healthy boundaries for a friendship can take many forms, but generally speaking, here’s what they might look like:
- Your spouse’s behaviors with their friend are appropriate and don’t cross any lines that might be threatening to your marriage (such as physical proximity, lewd jokes, or intimate discussions).
- You feel welcome and included in the friendship, even if it predates your relationship.
- Your spouse isn’t secretive about their communications with their friend.
- When your spouse communicates about their friend, they don’t say or do things that make you feel belittled or as though they’re comparing the two of you.
- Your spouse doesn’t make remarks to you about their friend’s appearance or level of attractiveness.
- You’re invited along on outings and are included when they want to spend time together.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will help you get started with some general ideas. Of course, every relationship is different, so work together to decide what friendship dynamics work best for the two of you and your marriage.
Your Spouse’s Friendships Never Take Precedence Over Your Marriage
Finally, if your spouse has opposite-sex friends, he or she will need to make sure that the friendships never take precedence over your marriage. Above all others, you should be your spouse’s primary focus. If you’ve found that your importance takes a backseat to their friends, then you’ll need to communicate about that and figure out the best way forward. In order for your marriage to thrive, you’ll need to put one another first over other individuals in your lives–even long-time friends.
Need some help cultivating deeper intimacy and connection in your marriage? Take a look at our book, Strengthen Your Marriage. This guide will give you some important tools to help you and your spouse build a healthier, happier marriage. You can pick up your copy here.
Does your spouse have opposite-sex friends? Do you feel comfortable with them? Why or why not? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
I think you guys are wonderful and very much appreciate your material! This is one point I disagree on. I think friendships with members of the opposite sex are very dangerous for married couples. You are assuming both people are and will remain emotionally and spiritually healthy for the course of the friendship. My experience is that this rarely is the case – even amongst those who are Christ followers.
Oh my, that makes me sad. My husband and I have had opposite-sex friends for many years and none of them have jeopardized our relationship. Some of my best friends are male and have been in my life for 20-30 years. My husband once had an opposite-sex friend who began to make comments that made me feel uncomfortable. I am not easily made jealous, so this was a red flag for both of us and we addressed it with her. Unfortunately the friendship dissolved quickly after that.
I had dated men in my youth who did not like that I had opposite-sex friends, but I new their unjustified jealousy would kill us, and we always went our separate ways. I was looking for a partner who is confidence in themselves, in our relationship, and had an unwavering trust in me to act appropriately in all situations with my opposite-sex friends. I actually believe it’s beneficial to the marriage when there are opposite-sex friends in the mix, as long as everyone is included fairly. This blog has made very good examples of how to know if the relationship is truly platonic and healthy and whether the feelings are irrational jealousy or a reaction to an inappropriate situation. It also lists when how to approach things when they just do not seem right. Opposite-sex/ platonic friendships with a married person is only dangerous if you make it that way, meaning if one of the spouses is not confident or trusting enough and they react to things that aren’t there. Or if the spouse with the friend does not consider their partners concerns when they feel they have some. I have friends who feel like you do, and have found partners who feel the same, and if both are okay with only having same sex friends, power to them. If they need it to be that way, so be it. But I want relationships with all kinds of people, including different gender, race, class, and religion. It only broadens my understanding to them and helps me be a better, more compassionate person and ultimately it brings me closer to knowing God by knowing all of his children.
Yes please love
Friends of the opposite sex can be very healthy and stimulating for a healthy relationship. The trouble is if there is a level of distrust within the married couple. Why is there a level of distrust? A married couple needs to talk about any areas of distrust so as to remedy any causes, real or imagined. Do I find members of the opposite sex attractive physically and emotionally, yes? Does that that mean that I must not have friends of the opposite sex or meet one on one for lunch, no. Where is your heart in this relationship outside of marriage? if you are weak in spirit and in the heart, you must avoid these types of situations. If you are in a committed marriage to your opposite sex spouse, you have nothing to fear other than the looks of impropriety. People will always talk. Yes, the devil is looking for any weakness to jump in and ruin a relationship. Always be true to your heart and to your spouse and always discuss any meetings you had with the opposite sex with your spouse. I have found this always works in over 40 years of marriage to the same Christian lady. Do we flirt verbally with our opposite sex friends, yes, because we all know where our heart is? I have had my supervisor talk to me about having lunch with an opposite sex co-worker because they feared for my marriage. I listen and assure them all is well with my marriage and with my lunch with the co-worker. I enjoyed explaining to my supervisor that my wife and I have double dated with this co-worker and her boyfriend. Do I think this will work for all opposite sex friendships, no! You have to have boundaries that you will never cross and that you never let your opposite sex friend cross. Is this easy, no? But fidelity to God and your spouse is worth it, because your spouse is your forever spouse even in heaven. I am a retired electrical and quality engineer in the automotive industry near Detroit, MI, USA
I think the Billy Graham and Vice President Pence rule on this is best. You can have opposite sex friends but never ever meet alone with the opposite sex if you’re not married to that person.
Matthew 26:41 —“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
This discussion seems to me to needs a lot of clarification. I work with crisis marriages every week and I can see all kinds of issues with “separate but equal” opposite-sex friends. I’m not sure why this is being held up as a value or a strength or why we would even encourage marriages to seek this. I get we are brothers and sisters in the Lord. We should all be mature and open but what percentage of these arrangements are constructed mutually with well-understood boundaries? Isn’t it more common that a “too close” relationship becomes known and then the struggle ensues to convince the spouse who does not have such friendships or does not feel comfortable with opposite-sex friends to accept the arrangement or their spouse’s “need” to have close opposite-sex friends?
It feels like what have learned about motivations and emotional security needs from attachment theory is being overlooked here, given that a large percentage of affairs start in the workplace and ministry teams.
Maybe it is my context but I see the potential for unhealthy rationalizations for confiding and spending time with the opposite sex and putting their mate in the unenviable position of having to prove their trust in the other person by not expressing concerns that are easily dismissed as immature.
I’m happy that some couples have this dynamic, Melody and I each have opposite-sex friends, but with many, marriages suffering from time famine, I think caution is warranted when thinking about introducing relationships (same or opposite- think hunting/ fitness buddies) that can grow to compete for the time and attention of your spouse. This dynamic is often seen in military and first responder couples where the other spouse does not and cannot share in the common experiences that bond the other relationship.
Color me cautionary … I could be off here.
I agree with you. My experience counseling many couples has led me to the same conclusion. Is it sinful or wrong? No, but why even open a door to comprise or jealousy?
Nice to see a back and forth on this subject.
It always comes down to the individual’s true intent and whether they can be honest with themselves. I always think about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. He broke many social mores there.
I would just add two other red flags to watch for and if you see them, then you should back off from the relationship.
1) If you start feeling an emotional attachment where you feel are sharing things you don’t always share with your spouse.
2) If you start feeling some physical attraction to the other person that is not your spouse.
I have more opposite friends than I do same sex and it has always been that way. Nothing weird about the relationships other than lack of drama, which sometimes happens in female friendships. I have had a close relationship with someone of the opposite for several years that is also a friend of my husband’s. We text but never see each other other than happenstance and always when my husband is present. There is nothing going on other than he’s my confidant and I am his. End of story!
cmon guys, more than 70% of this kind of relations will break if you have friend from opposite-sex. people share their feelings with friends, and if you are commited to someone, IT IS an Emotional betrayal. This is one of the reasons why relationships are so short these days. Let us not deceive ourselves.
I feel like it’s an emotional betrayal for sho coz I have realized that the other spouse will be more attracted to the friend more than to the husband to the extent that she’s more comfortable wen the friend is around more than she is wen the husband is around
are you guys ok
Sure there might be a hypothetical ‘line’ between friends and your partner. But if done right, your partner should *also* be your best friend. Trust and communication is a vital part of a relationship. Please do not chain your partner away from talking with their friends of the opposite sex. That will only create a deep divide between the both of you, and further, can even break your own relationship. (Which, not to judge, I believe may have been the exact situation with some of you.) Instead of disallowing your partner to have opposite sex friends because you’re afraid they will leave you, try to work on *yourself*. Teach yourself some self confidence lessons and simply prove to your partner how much of a loving, trusting and caring person you are. *That* will keep them with you. Being controlling is *not* the answer.
And, if you’re so worried that your partner will leave you for the other friend, instead of backing away and feeling betrayed how about you also go and try to be friends with them too? Make it a big friendship instead of something you distrust. There’s a lot of things *you* can do instead of just ending or disallowing your partner’s friendship. I feel like some of you guys need to re-evaluate your own knowledge of what a relationship actually is.