Or: how to have opposite-sex friends and be in a committed relationship.
I came to this topic, frankly, because I'm married and I enjoy having male friends. With them, I get to see new perspectives, laugh at gender differences and (sometimes) innocently flirt. Some of my favorite friends are male so I couldn't imagine having to pick between being married, which I also enjoy, and any of them.
This is easier said than done though. It is a gray area and a fairly new topic given just a couple generations ago (and in some cultures right now) it was unheard of for men and women to converse outside of a family. Now work-wives and work-husbands in the office are commonplace.
Thankfully, we have the option to be friends with anyone we want. Although these relationships can still pose problems for the people involved, from hurt feelings and jealousy to cheating and breakup. There is a danger of the emotional bond as friends turning into an emotional dependency or emotional involvement as much more.
In the past week I posed this question on Facebook and Twitter. The answers were varied and fascinating. If you're reading this and have something to say, I encourage you to weigh in!
What makes this topic so ripe for discussion is that there are no easy answers. Much of this depends on you, your partner, your friend (and his/her partner).
Want opposite-sex friends and a healthy, committed relationship? Things to consider:
- Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries - this means more than what you consider appropriate (long phone calls, or a night out with just your friend). It also includes the boundaries of everyone else involved. If your partner is uncomfortable, you two need to face it. Your friend has nothing to do with that. The reverse is true with your friend and his/her partner too.
- Trust - duh. No relationship is going to work without it. Of most importance again is the trust between you and your partner. You two have to believe that your relationship is sacred, and to appreciate why having other friends can add to that. No one person can be everything to someone else. We need the support and friendship of other people to be fulfilled.
- Honesty - this seems obvious too, but is usually the first thing to go. If you think your partner might not like you hanging out with this friend, you are faced with two options. Secrecy, or, as Joselin Linder, co-author of The Good Girl's Guide to Living in Sin, put it, "Bring your partner into the friendship first." Let them see what's so great about your friend, and that there is nothing to worry about.
This topic prompted great conversation with my husband about each of our opposite-sex friendships. I hope it does for you too. Please jump in with any anecdotes or what you see as the positives of opposite-sex friendships.