Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Opposite Sex Friendships After Marriage: How to Guard Your Heart

One thing that produces marital strife in today’s world is friendships with the opposite sex. In our society, men and women often have friendships with each other outside of marriage, and in some cases these are very close. However, when one or both friends are married to another person, too often the spouse feels threatened by the friendship and it can lead to tensions, distrust, and accusations and can even tear a marriage apart. How should such friendships be handled? What priorities and boundaries should be set? These are important questions to think about and to discuss as a couple (preferably before the wedding, but the issue may arise later as well). 

Here’s my take on the issue. 

First of all, I don't think men and women should build close intimate friendships with each other outside of a committed relationship. It is not appropriate to build intimacy (emotional closeness) without a plan in place to head towards marriage. Men and women can be friends, but they shouldn't be sharing their deepest feelings and dreams if they want to remain just friends. It just doesn’t work that way. When you do share in that way, it is intimacy. Intimacy between a man and woman should be reserved for marriage, period. It is part of the beauty and sacredness of marriage that your spouse knows you more deeply and intimately than anyone else. Your spouse alone should know your innermost secrets, hopes, and desires. 

A lot of people, however, will object at this point. Men and women can maintain a purely platonic friendship, they say. They will point to a friendship or two in which they were very close but never had feelings for the other person and will testify that their close friendships of the opposite sex have been good for them, filled a need for them, etc.

My response to that is that of course these friendships fill a need – a need that should be filled by your spouse (or your future spouse). We all have a deep desire to be intimately known, to be accepted just as we are, to make deep emotional connections with another. But this need was meant to bring a husband and wife together to fill this need in each other. It is not appropriate to fill this need outside of marriage any more than it is appropriate to fill the need for sex outside marriage.

The problem is, we like to think in little boxes. We want to put emotional closeness and sexual attraction in separate boxes and pretend that they’re totally unconnected. We believe we can have emotional closeness with someone of the opposite sex without having "feelings" for them. The problem is, we aren't robots that can put things in little boxes and keep them that way. We are integrated beings. We are designed to build emotional closeness that leads to physical attraction and its culmination in physical and emotional unity through sex. Again, that's supposed to draw a husband and wife together.

The marriage relationship is about more than just having sex. For that matter, sex is way more than just a physical act. Sex is a physical, emotional, and spiritual bonding experience that is designed to merge two people into a single unit. Just as physical closeness (such as kissing and cuddling) are preparation for this marital unification, so too is emotional closeness. The physical and the emotional go hand in hand to bring the kind of unity that God designed marriage to be.

Because of this, when you are married, emotional intimacy with someone other than your spouse is cheating. It may not be physical, but it's still sharing with someone else what should only be shared with your spouse. Such emotional affairs are not only wrong in themselves, but dangerous. Most adulterous affairs begin with a seemingly innocent emotional closeness with an opposite sex friend. It’s part of God’s design for our sexuality that we feel physical desire when we have emotional intimacy. This is a beautiful truth within marriage. Emotional closeness brings husband and wife together to show their love for each other physically, and the physical act of sex bonds them even tighter emotionally. Both male and female bodies even release a hormone called oxytocin that triggers emotional bonding after sex. This is the way God meant it to be within marriage. But when a person allows emotional closeness to form with someone to whom they are not married, their body will, sooner or later, want to respond as if they were married.

Even if an emotional affair does not become a physical one, it still causes damage to the marriage relationship. For one thing, the emotional energy that is invested in the inappropriate friendship is energy that is not invested where it should be – in the marriage. If you feel the need to express hidden desires and feelings to someone else, it is a sign that your marriage has a problem and your immediate response should be to work to fix the problem and restore intimacy in your marriage. Sharing with another person of the opposite sex ignores the problem, allowing the gap to widen between husband and wife, while also building closeness with someone else. No wonder it leads to so many problems. In addition, when a spouse learns of an emotional affair, they often feel betrayed (and for good reason). This can cause a lot of hurt as well as further rifts in the relationship. Thus, even when an inappropriate friendship does not turn physical, it is still extremely harmful.

Because of the design of our sexuality, we need to guard our hearts in order to protect our marriages. While men and women can be platonic friends, that will only happen if there is an emotional reserve between them. In other words, we should not build intimate friendships with the opposite sex outside of marriage. With this is mind, we should be extremely careful what we share with others, especially those of the opposite sex. Even what is shared with friends of the same sex should be limited (though, obviously, there's less cause for concern that inappropriate sharing will lead to inappropriate physical acts). The need to share your inner desires and feelings should bring you back to your spouse to fill that need.

 

Note:

A question that often arises is what to do when a husband and wife are having problems and they can’t seem to talk to each other or regain the intimacy in their marriage. The default position should be to work out your problems with your spouse, not to talk to someone else about how to "fix" your marriage. However, sometimes there is a rift that does require outside advice. Sometimes counseling is needed. Ideally, a husband and wife should see a counselor together, but that requires both spouses to participate. Sometimes a spouse has to get help alone. In that case, here is my advice. Anyone you tell about your marriage struggles should be: 
  •  your same sex,
  • a happily married mentor figure, and
  • given only enough detail to allow them to help and pray for you.  
You want to avoid using anyone (male or female) as a dumping bin for all of your frustrations instead of working them out as a couple. And you want to avoid ranting about your spouse on a regular basis to someone who takes your side all the time. This will only cause you to focus on the negative qualities and turn your heart further away from your spouse. The proper kind of mentor figure, if you must confide in one, will challenge you to change yourself, not your spouse. After all, you are the only one you can change.


Linked up with WLWW, Seeds of Faith, WFMW, The Modest Mom, Unveiled Wife, Proverbs 31 Wife, Time-Warp Wife, The Alabaster Jar, To Love Honor and Vacuum, Revive Your Marriage, NOBH, and Yes They're All Ours.

42 comments:

  1. Excellent post, I do think a lot of disasters could be avoided if men and women would realize this. Found you at Marital Onenes

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    1. This is a great article. I am so glad someone is bringing light on these myths. I wholeheartedly believe that as Christians we can have better intimacy and fun in our marriages than anyone else. Thanks for this post!how to rekindle a intimacy partner

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  2. Wow! This post contains a lot of wisdom! Surprised you haven't had more comments here either agreeing or disagreeing! :) Thanks for linking up for Marriage Monday!

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  3. Well said, Lindsay. I think more people should heed your advice instead of assuming they can have very close friends of the opposite sex. We need to be above reproach in all we do. Thanks for linking up with us at No Ordinary Blog Hop. Every blessing, Kelly

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  4. This was really well written and laid out. I so wish more people understood this concept. My husband and I have written about this at Marriage Life Ministries as well and have gotten agreement and disagreement. The disagreement seems to come from people who are just trying to make justification for their choices. No one says its easy to maintain boundaries in relationships or that its easy to reign in opposite sex friendships. But for the sake of your marriages it is necessary!

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  5. I've been the betrayed spouse in an emotional affair triangle. The affair was also somewhat physical although it had not crossed over into sex. I have no doubt in my mind that God chose the perfect time to bring this to light because I strongly believe the affair was at the brink of crossing that line. An affair is EXTREMELY painful to recover from, whether sex was involved or not. It is a breach of trust and betrayal by the one person that you vowed to spend the rest of your life with. I discovered my spouses affair 2 and a half years ago and the pain is still unbearable at times. If you find yourself in an emotional affair situation, I beg you to reach out to your spouse and also a pastor or counselor. Your marriage can be healed but it takes commitment. And God can restore it and make it better than before.

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    1. It sounds like you've been in a hard place and can testify that God can bring healing, even after an affair. I know some couples and have heard of many others who have also come through affairs and were able to have a better marriage than before. You are absolutely right that it takes commitment and work and it takes time for the hurt to heal. But reconciliation is possible. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Very well written! More people need to speak out on this kind of thing. If we don't protect our marriages, Satan will be glad to step in. Find a mentor in your life.

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  7. What a great post. I believe that everyone should read this. It's so true. I believe men and women can be friends but there are absolutely lines that must not be crossed.

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  8. Speaking as someone who has worked in the infidelity field for more than a decade, this is right on the money. I find that often when people ask a question like this (can I have opposite sex friends), what they are wondering is "How far can I go?" They want to go right up to the line and get as close to sinning as they can...without crossing the line.

    So I sum it up like this: your spouse is due 100% of your AFFECTION and your LOYALTY. If you have an opposite sex friend, you would be giving some of your friendship loyalty to them at least and probably "like" them so that's some of your affection. In your vows you promised to forsake all others for your spouse, so that means they are owed 100%. Instead of asking "How far can I go?" I recommend asking: "How can I be more faithful?"

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  9. Thank you for sharing your wisdom! This is such a great post and an issue that comes up frequently even in the Church.

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  10. Totally agree with your view point here 100%! Like you we have heard from to many couples who think it's OK to have friends of the opposite sex. Even though there is no physical connection the emotional intimacy that is shared can and does impact the marriage.

    What many folks don't realize is that the Grass Isn't Greener, http://www.oneextraordinarymarriage.com/115-the-grass-isnt-always-greener. Instead of spending time with someone of the opposite sex and pouring emotionally into them you need to be able to do this with your spouse.

    When couples have a way to openly communicate their wants, desires, and dreams we see that the need to have a friend of the opposite sex decrease as well.

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  11. I think I agree. I had guy friend who was close but not like I told him everything everything just like good friends. I was kicked to the curb when he got married and having a hard time dealing with that because in my mind I have always imagined when he got married I gained a friend and of course our friendship decreases of course she is his #1. I don't think its wrong for us all to be friends though. And now that I've been hurt by my good friend I'm going to have a conversation w/ all my guy friends. I don't want to know their relationship issues and whatnot. I don't need to hang out with him alone, group settings are totally the way to go. And its not like i don't plan to get married, but I did think my boyfriend and them could of had double dates, future kids could of had play-dates, things like that because that's my friend and I did hope to keep our friendship on some level and appropriate one when he married would happen. But instead I'm insulted to be in a way labeled "the future other woman." And no I'm not obsessed with what used to be my friendship but my feelings are hurt, I hadn't seen this coming at all. I found out my place by having to basically call him out on not being a friend and saying we were no longer friends. But I feel like married people shouldn't act like single people are all evil and trying to ruin their marriage.

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  12. Anonymous (1-14-13)nailed it! My husband has a close friendship with a coworker who I fear is "the future other woman". The longer they are friends the more I worry that their emotional closeness will cross the line. The author here says, "We are designed to build emotional closeness that leads to physical attraction and its culmination in physical and emotional unity through sex." I *think* men and women can have successful platonic relationships, but I have to admit it doesn't make logical sense to me. I'm sure this sort of thing works for some marriages but it is bombing in mine. Anonymous shouldn't be surprised that she's seen that way and I recognize the misfortune in this. It's just that I'm a wife with plans for "till death do us part" and I believe having a close FOS is an unnecessary risk.

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  13. I have recently come across some texts from my others friend,and they were disturbing. Besides that, my other says that she came on to him and he kissed back, but stopped. I then found out that they were talking and texting one another almost every day for the last 7mo. My other says it was about nothing, running, lifting weights, her dad, etc. When I ask him about it he gets mad that I bring it up again. I feel that talking about it will heal me. I feel hurt that he didn't tell me about the kiss and that I had to find out the way i did and not from him. It's like I have to pry to get him to tell me about their friendship and he always seems to get mad when I ask and about bringing it up again. I still am hurt and want to talk to him about it with him not getting mad and defensive about it. There are holes in what he has told me and I just want to know everything. She was my friend too. I am to the point where I am going to go to her house so I can talk to her since she won't answer my calls. I feel if nothing really happened that she would meet and talk with me. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    1. The fact that your husband (?) is texting another woman on a regular basis is something of a concern. The fact that he's defensive about it and doesn't want to talk to you about it is even greater cause for concern. It sounds like he's hiding something. Of course, he may not have done anything, but if he's trying to keep a relationship with another woman secret, he's asking for trouble and probably headed in the wrong direction. Secrets tend to add an element of excitement that makes affairs more likely.

      He may be thinking this is all platonic and you should just trust him. It may hurt him that you are asking about this because he sees it as a lack of trust. But those who want to keep their relationship close want to keep all interactions with others above board. Both of you should strive to be accountable and to be open with each other, not to hide and then insist on trust.

      So, as I said, he may not have done anything. There's no reason to assume a problem at this point. But it is a good idea to get to the bottom of it. I wouldn't talk to the other woman, however. He will see that as going behind his back and reinforce his idea that you don't trust him, which will hurt him and perhaps push him away.

      What I would do is to insist on having a talk. Tell him you really need to explain to him how you feel. Make it at a good time when both of you can spend some time and won't be rushed. Make it non-confrontational as much as possible. And you may want to try having it while doing something together (fishing, making supper, or whatever activity you can do together that allows talking) rather than having a sit-down face-to-face talk. Men tend to do better when they don't feel like they're being interrogated.

      Talking about the specifics of what he did and didn't say to or do with the other woman may not be the best way to talk it out. You need to talk first about boundaries. You need to explain that you need to be able to trust him and that his hiding something makes it hard for you to do that. Talk about how you feel. Don't confront. Be conversational, but explain that this is important to you. Tell him you don't feel comfortable with him texting another woman regularly, even if it is completely platonic, unless you are welcome to see what he writes. Offer to extend him the same privileges to your personal correspondence with other men as well. The idea is to be open with each other in order to guard your relationship. It's not that you don't trust him, but you realize that ANYONE can be tempted when there is secrecy and a special relationship with someone else. You don't want to lose him and you want to be able to trust him completely. But trust is earned through good character and the willingness to be open about what you're doing.

      Also, the idea that talking about it will heal you is understandable. You're curious, a little worried, and want him to tell you everything so you can feel close to him again (sharing secrets builds intimacy). Just know that hearing everything may or may not make you feel better. Especially if there has been unfaithfulness, hearing everything may make you feel much worse. You do need to know how far things have gone though. And however far they have gone, you need to set boundaries in place so that his relationship with this other woman doesn't continue in secrecy.

      Anyway, that's where I would start. Be very careful in your tone not to be accusing or demanding when asking for a talk. Just state your feelings and tell him you need to talk for your own peace of mind and because you want your relationship to be strong and close. Don't insist on talking right away (like right this minute), but ask him to find a good time to talk with you.

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    2. It is nice to get other perspective about this situation. This only happened a couple of weeks ago, so it is still fresh. This woman was a friend of ours that was engaged to our other friend. Our friends split up and we still continue to talk with them both. We would do 5ks with her. I knew that they talked once in awhile and that's fine, but not once I found out how much they were talking. The fact that he told me that he didn't talk to her that much and then I find our cell phone records and there were the texts and calls almost everyday. Once I confronted him about those, he of course got mad that I would dig more stuff up. I just wanted to understand WHY he needed to talk to her everyday. I do believe deep down that the conversations, which were usually brief (few mins) were about what he told me. Running, our friend her ex, her dad that just died and running/lifting weights. I do believe that never of they would do that to me. It's not like I am digging for things, but I feel he should offer up any information that I want to know without getting mad. I am the one that feels a little betrayed. I even said to him that if this was roles reversed, he would be exactly the same way I am or worse. I don't hide my phone and he is able to look at it at anytime. I don't have any close male friends, because I don't feel that is appropriate for someone to have a relationship with someone of the other sex when you are in a relationship with someone else. Also, he recently just got a work phone that has a password. I figured out the password and that is how in intercepted the texts from her. I can check our cell records for calls/texts to her, but he does not receive any type of bill for his work phone. I want to believe that he has not contacted her, but there is 1% of me that thinks otherwise. I have looked at his work phone since, and there is nothing, but that does not mean he didn't delete the message/call records. There is a way that I can access his work phone records, and a part of me wants to do it, but the other doesn't. I don't want to find something if I do look at it, because I don't know what I'll do. I obviously will have gone behind his back to get a password sent to his phone so I can set up an account. This makes me sound like a crazy person. He didn't tell me how much they were talking, so it makes me wonder if he really did stop all contact. I did say he cannot talk to her anymore and he said that was fine, and he did delete her from both of his phones. I know you said that I shouldn't talk to her, but I feel like I have to. She was my friend too for 4 years. I feel like she owes me the truth behind everything as well. My fiance knows that I want to talk to her. I have texted her my feelings and got nothing for a week and then I texted her again asking her why she cannot answer me and she responded with "I am just sorry for what happened. Very sorry". I truly love him and want to get past this, but without some answers I feel like I am stuck thinking about it everyday. Part of me thinks I should just leave it all alone and carry on. The calls/texts were not late at night. He did say that most of them were when he was driving to and from work because he gets so tired driving 65min each way. Anyways, I just want this sick feeling that has been in my stomach for almost 2 weeks to go away. I've lost weight because of it. :/ I ran across a quote that said something like, "Don't overthink things, otherwise you'll make a problem that was never really there" Sometimes I just wish there was a magic answer to make everything better.

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    3. So, you're engaged, not married at this point. That makes a big difference. Either way, you would need to know, but it's more important to find out what is going on by any means necessary before you get married. Dating and engagement are periods when the rose-colored glasses need to be off because you are evaluating the other person to find out what kind of spouse they will make. You haven't made that marriage commitment yet and you can still get out if they aren't what you thought. Once you are married, you have a responsibility to honor your husband and to work things out because you made a commitment for life.

      That said, it may be wise to try to talk to the other woman if your fiance will not talk to you. I would at least give your fiance another chance to talk it out first. Explain how important it is to you to be able to trust him. But you need to know, before you marry this man, if he is going to be faithful to you. If he is carrying on a relationship with another woman (whether sexual or platonic) in secret, that is a huge red flag for your future marriage together. An inability to talk about things (i.e. him refusing to talk to you about something you care about) is also a red flag. I can't tell you how important it is to resolve this before moving forward into marriage. You don't want to find out after marrying him that he's going to carry on secret relationships and/or have affairs. Don't put yourself through that. This is the time for secrets to be out in the open so both of you can walk into marriage with complete confidence in the person you are marrying. This is the time to talk about the boundaries you will have as a couple in order to protect your future marriage. You have a right to expect him to be honest and open with you. If you can't move forward into marriage with complete confidence that nothing is going on between him and another woman and that he will keep proper boundaries in place in order to guard your marriage, then don't move forward. It's that serious.

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    4. We have been together 9 years and have 2 kids together. It's almost like we are married, but without the paper. Since all of this has happened, we have been great. I just have that nagging thought in the back of my mind. It's not as bad when he is home, but when he is at work is when I let my mind wander. I think that I would rather talk to her first before I looked at his work cell call records. I feel that if she was my friend too that she would respect me enough to talk me about the whole situation. Ive even told her through text that I am not irrational anymore and if we talk I am not going to yell at her. I told her she cannot talk/text/email him anymore either. I also told her she has lost 2 friendships. Thanks so much for your input. Talking to other people about this helps me not keep everything bottled up. :)

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  14. Hi Lindsay, I totally agree with you and thanks for your post. I am a wife for two years now, me and my husband are college sweethearts and engaged for 9 years so I really trusted him so much. But I can say that I can relate to your post because I was betrayed by my husband twice with the same woman. My husbands affair started November 2011 with his officemate a 21 years old single mom, It started with a simple conversation of each others life to emotional affair and lead to more serious pain sexual affair. At first i can say that my marriage is a happy one, something that can be look up to. But before the affair happened I really not fulfilled his sexual needs, he always asked me but I rejected him many times because Im still scared to get pregnant and I was physically drain with my work. I just notice that my husband change a lot, he comes home late, he even had rest day overtime. Thats the time I felt that something is wrong but I dont have proof. I am asking him but he always denied it. But someone send me pictures of them together that really devasted my whole world, so I found out their affair July 3, 2012. At first my husband denies it but when I showed him their pictures thats the time he confessed, I was really angry, hurt, and devastated. He told me that he was sorry, that he wants a chance to start a new life with me and never do it again, i even texted his mistress. So I give him a chance, we even talked and counseled by our pastor, so I trusted him again even if its really hard to do. I really take good care of him and give my 100% service as a wife, I got pregnant and we found out last Oct 2012 and we are so happy and I was hopeful that everything in my marriage is in the right
    path but I was wrong. I really didnt notice that my husband is still having an affair with that same woman because I was hopeful that he will not do it again and we are praying together. But this January 28,2013 I found out again that that their still having affair, my husband is still cheating on me eventhough I was carrying his child. I was really hurt and wanted to end my marriage. But he really never want to let me go, that he is now willing to change and willing to end his affair with that woman. I was really confuse and dont know what to do, i was really hurt and in pain when in fact I should be happy while I am carrying my baby. I prayed and asked God to give me strenght and wisdom, my husband asked for my forgiveness and working his part to regain my trust and rebuild our marriage but its really not easy. I gave him a chance but My life was now full of bitterness and insecurities, the nightmare is always on my mind. Sometimes I want to give up on my marriage but God is telling me to hang on and trust him. I am hoping that in Gods grace I will be healed, and In Gods grace he will change my husband as a man of God. Everyday me and my husband prayed together and have a bible reading that I think really helps a lot. I just hope that satan will not win over my husband again that God will give him wisdom in all his decisions in life especially now that in 3 months we will be a parent of a baby boy. Thank Lindsay, I hope u continue to share your wisdom and Gods gift to help couples revive their marriage.

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  15. Excellent post. Have a look at www.marriagebuilders.com to find more on the subject. The information on that site is the best advise on marriage I have ever read.

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  16. Jot this down, if you are doing something you wouldnt do, or sayinging something you wouldnt say if your spouse was standing right next to you....you are cheating.

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  17. I came across this article because I was searching for some insight on this subject. My fiance (we have been together 2 yrs) and I are having problems and I want to work them out prior to marriage. I agree with this article and feel that I respect the boundaries needed when it comes to friends of the opposite sex. The only men other than my fiance that I communicate with are friends I have had for 10 plus years. I had a facebook conversation with one the other day and mentioned that I missed him because I haven't seen him in years- in the same conversation I mentioned my fiance and the 2 of us visiting him. My fiance finds this disrespectful and says I am stupid to believe that men are ok with just being friends. He feels all men look at friendships with females as a possibility for more. I try and explain to him that if we have trust in our relationship that this shouldn't be an issue. Am I wrong to think that this conversation was innocent? I just don't feel like I should have to hide the fact that I miss a friend.. and why that is a bad thing. My fiance says that if I miss guy friends then maybe I should just be with my friends then and not worry about marrying him. Any advice? and just to clarify I have total respect for my fiance and do not say anything I wouldn't share with him, I am very open and I don't spend alone time with any of these friends.

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    1. I definitely agree that you should work this issue out before marriage. Boundaries for your relationship are important and have far-reaching effects.

      You mention that the only men other than your fiance that you communicate with are old friends of 10+ years. I would venture to say that how long you have been friends is irrelevant. How you communicate with them and what you communicate is what is important. Many people have developed feelings for, and even innappropriate relationships with, people they have known a long time, even if that relationship was completely platonic for many years. So you can't claim that nothing could ever happen simply because you've been just friends for a long time. In fact, familiarity often invites further relationship. Thus, it is the men you have known the longest that you should be especially careful around, with respect to boundaries.

      While I wouldn't go as far as your fiance and say that ALL men see relationships with women as potential for something more, a good number of them do. And even those who don't see things that way can develop feelings for a woman when they have regular interaction with her. And that is true, even if that interaction is through electronic means such as texting or facebook.

      We tend to think that electronic interaction isn't as close or as risky as face-to-face or talking by phone. But it can breed familiarity and fuel inappropriate relationships just as easily. As a general rule of thumb, don't say anything to any guy (regardless of how long you have known him) that you wouldn't say to him on the phone or in person with your fiance present. If it would be inappropriate for you to say, in person, that you have missed a guy, with your fiance standing right there, don't say it online or by text either.

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    2. To gauge if something is inappropriate, you have to consider more than just your motives. Your motives can be completely innocent (and they probably are), and the comment can still be inappropriate. You have to consider both how the friend might see it AND how your fiance might see it. In this case, your fiance is apparently not okay with what you said. That's a red flag that you might be getting too familiar with your male friend. Certainly you're being more familiar than your fiance is comfortable with, and that's a problem, even if both you and your friend think nothing of it right now.

      You should consider how comfortable your fiance is with your conversations with other men as very important. How would you feel if your fiance told an old female friend (or old girlfriend) that he misses her? He might mean nothing by it, but it probably would make you a little uncomfortable, even if you trust him and know he means nothing by it. And if you voiced your discomfort with something your fiance said to another woman, you would want him to take that into consideration and avoid that in the future. You should do the same for him. The best policy is to avoid any familiarity that your fiance is not okay with, even if you don't currently see a reason for the concern. If you value your relationship, you will have to make his concerns a priority.

      As for being "very open," while it is good that you do not share anything with other men you would not share with your fiance, it is easily possible to be too open without breaking that rule. The fact that you would share certain info with your fiance does not mean it is okay to share with others also. Some things are best kept private between the two of you, and that includes much of how you feel about things going on in your life, your future hopes and dreams, and a number of other intimate details of your life. You mention that you never spend time alone with thse friends, but keep in mind that a private conversation, even if it is electronic, is time spent alone with them. You don't have to be physically present to be alone with someone, and you don't have to spend time face-to-face in order to develop an emotional connection or even have an emotional affair. Guard even your emotions and your electronic communication if you want to make your relationship last.

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  18. Your advise here simply can't work for me, since I can't be friend with other Men at all. The Gay ones and the Straight ones, it doesn't matter, their to idealistically obsessed with with their narrow views of Masculinity.

    It's only Women I can be friends with. because it's only them I can stand being around.

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    1. Then you have an unhealthy way of doing relationships that you should work on.

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  19. Hi Lindsay,
    I have a very important question. If two married opposite gender friends sort-of cross the line by a longer than normal close affectionate hug, then set clear boundaries and stick to them for half a year, what is the probability of crossing the line again?
    I have a friend,Sarah, and she admits that they are both attracted to each other and enjoy conversing. They met 2-3 times per month at various lounges/pubs while sharing a bottle of wine or more. Sarah said they talk about their families in positive ways, vacations, sports, work, and personal interest/dreams. Sarah also admits that there was just a constant sexual tension, and looked forward to going out with him. Then came the long close intimate hug - sort of sexual, initiated by him. Sarah said she just smiled, and said, "Well then,.." and that was that. Soon after, Sarah's male friend took his family on a 7 week international vacation. When he returned, boundaries were established, including meeting only once a month. Sarah said they still go out once a month, each time for three hours, and one bottle of wine. Sarah says they are both very careful, except one time when Sarah's friend's wife was out of town, Sarah enjoyed 5 hours (till 2:00am) just talking and sharing 1 1/2 bottles of wine with him. They had a great time. And then a quick hug. Sarah admits if they were single they would be a pair for sure. She would rather meet 2-3 times with him. She just showing respect for his wife and family, and her own husband. But here's the real question. If htey continue their current friendship (once per month visits), what are the chances that their relationship could cross the line into something more intimate and sexual? Right now, they are both very careful and respectful of their partners. I'm just very curious as to what you think. I assume you might say they should further limit contact, but that won't be happening. They've both agreed to their current boundaries and seem to have stuck to it after half a year. So it seems to be working. Is this sustainable or will they cross the line?
    Mary

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    1. I can't tell you what will happen, but I can tell you this relationship is inappropriate and is playing with fire. They don't need to be meeting alone for dinner or wine, especially when they know they have a sexual attraction to one another. Call it what it is. They're going on dates together. When they're already married to other people. They're not being careful or respectful of their spouses. They're doing what feels good even though it's dangerous and inappropriate, and they're telling themselves that having boundaries like meeting once a month are somehow going to make it okay.

      Boundaries are to prevent developing feelings in the first place. That line is already crossed. Now they have to make no opportunity for acting on their feelings by refusing to spend time alone together at all. It's not okay for a married man to go on a date alone with a female friend. It's not okay for a married woman to go on a date alone with a male friend.

      Not only are they building inappropriate intimacy with each other, but they're being emotionally unfaithful to their spouses already. It is very likely that physical intimacy will one day follow if they keep up this unfaithful behavior. They must stop spending time alone together at all and only see each other in context of both their families getting together (if at all) so that there is accountability and no opportunity for getting further into sin.

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  20. Thanks Lindsay.
    I just want to clarify a few things.
    Sarah, who has always been honest with me as her closest friend, insists that they are just friends, and have been friends for almost a decade.
    Sarah does not see her visits as dates, but as visits to catch up on each other's lives. Sarah also insists that that they are respectful and supportive of each other families, and that they have never complained or disrespected their spouses.In fact, Sarah always tries to speak lovingly about her own spouse. Sarah is very confident that the appropriate boundaries have been set and has told me that they are very careful to not cross any lines out of respect for their spouses and families. I don't think she thinks she is playing with fire. Sarah doesn't see anything wrong with meeting once a month just to chat about each others lives. Sarah also doesn't like the idea of each other's spouses being included because to use her words "that would be awkward" and doesn't serve any purpose. I don't know what to think. I do believe Sarah that she and her friend won't cross the line.However, you never know. Do you think the line will be crossed if they both honor the boundaries?
    BTW, they both show a lot of integrity in all areas of their life.
    Sarah is a devout Christian woman.
    Mary

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    1. "Sarah does not see her visits as dates, but as visits to catch up on each other's lives."

      She may not see them as dates, but that is what they are. A man and woman getting together, just the two of them, to socialize and learn more about each other's lives is a date. There's a reason dating couples do this and it's because it builds emotional intimacy.

      "Sarah also doesn't like the idea of each other's spouses being included because to use her words "that would be awkward" and doesn't serve any purpose."

      If it would be awkward to have her husband there or for her friend to have his wife there, that is evidence that something inappropriate is going on. It would be awkward because she's trying to keep her relationship and feelings for this other man in a box, isolated from the rest of her life, so she can engage in fantasy about him. Bringing the rest of her real life into the picture breaks the illusion and merges her separate worlds into one, with all the mental clash that entails. That's why she should be including her family if she is going to continue to be friends with this man. It breaks her mental fantasy and gives accountability, bringing what is hidden to the light.

      Remember that the human heart is deceitful above all things. This woman is deluding herself, pretending to herself until she may actually believe it, that continuing to date another man she has feelings for and keeping the relationship separate from the rest of her life is somehow safe as long as they have "boundaries" which no one is able to hold them accountable to because they don't seek accountability.

      "Do you think the line will be crossed if they both honor the boundaries?"

      Let me ask you this. If you get in a car on the edge of a cliff, hold down the brake pedal, and start revving the engine with the gas pedal, should you feel safe because you have boundaries (the brake pedal)? Or should you stop revving the engine if you can't go anywhere?

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    2. "I do believe Sarah that she and her friend won't cross the line."

      I think part of the problem with this view is that they've already crossed the line. They're already in an inappropriate relationship and they're building emotional intimacy outside their marriage, thus robbing their own spouses of the emotional intimacy that rightfully belongs to them. Actual sex between them isn't the only line they shouldn't cross. By the time it gets to a physical affair, it's because many other lines were already crossed. They're already on that road. They've already crossed lines. They've already been unfaithful in some ways. An affair doesn't happen because people wake up one day and decide to have sex with someone else. They tell themselves the entire way that nothing will happen, they haven't done anything wrong yet, they have boundaries, it's not cheating - all while building an emotionally intimate relationship with someone not their spouse. They cross all the lines, one at a time, while pretending the only line that matters is having intercourse and as long as they haven't done that, they have it all under control. And that's how affairs happen. You can't excuse crossing other lines of intimacy without placing yourself in very real danger of crossing the final one.

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    3. Thanks again Lindsay.
      It makes more sense to stop revving the engine so that the car is stationary.
      It doesn't make sense to rev the engine with the gas pedal, while holding down the brake pedal. I do wonder, though, that after maintaining clear boundaries for half a year, the engine between Sarah and her friend has slowed substantially with their once a month visits. Sarah doesn't talk about her friendship as much as she used to (and she's always very open and honest), and I'm thinking that things have calmed down, even with once a month visits. When I once called these visits "dates", Sarah insisted they were not dates, but just showing an interest in each other's lives. "He's just my good friend.We enjoy each other's company.We have fun talking." She feels that her friendship is safe and comfortable because the boundaries are being honored.Regardless, as you said, this friendship is separate from the rest of her life. Is that okay?
      Sarah says that it's easier to stay very accountable to the boundary because they defined it together and has said that they've held each other accountable.
      Sarah is very mature and responsible in all areas of life, so I believe her.
      I don't know too much about him, but looking at all his leadership credentials, as well, he seemed very committed. I suspect, they can hold each other accountable. They're doing it. But not sure whether the line might be crossed down the road. I am sure that it wouldn't be a good idea that each other's spouses get together. Sarah has told me her husband knows about the visits but trusts her. I think he's had some interactions through sports and committee work.
      I guess the big question is whether their friendship, as it exists right now,is okay? I can't see it going anywhere because it has slowed down a lot. But could it ever go back???
      Thanks again Lindsay, for all your wise words.
      Mary

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    4. Hi Lindsay,
      Just read your an additional note. You are an amazing clear communicator. I think I have a better understanding of what is happening with Sarah's friendship.They have most likely crossed a lot of lines already as you say, a lot of emotional ones, more than I realize, probably. And now they have had to make special steps to get things under control. They've succeeded in getting things under control. Once they feel like they're totally in control, is there a possibility that they could slip and cross another line? I don't know.
      Back to the original question: if things continue in their stable and controled state as they're going now, is there any likelihood, that they could cross a major line? what are the chances?

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    5. "Sarah says that it's easier to stay very accountable to the boundary because they defined it together and has said that they've held each other accountable."

      That's not how accountability works. It's not accountability at all if it's just the two people involved in the relationship. Accountability means having someone OUTSIDE the relationship who can check in on them and tell them where they're being inappropriate and so on. They can't hold themselves accountable. And thinking they can hold themselves accountable gives them a false sense of security while also increasing their connection and intimacy with each other. After all, it's very intimate to check with each other on how your relationship is going and how intimate you are getting.

      "Sarah is very mature and responsible in all areas of life, so I believe her."

      Not this area, apparently.

      "I guess the big question is whether their friendship, as it exists right now,is okay? I can't see it going anywhere because it has slowed down a lot. But could it ever go back???"

      No, their friendship as it is now is NOT okay. Having inappropriate intimacy outside their marriage isn't okay because it's developing more slowly than it was. They haven't done anything to actually kill the feelings they have for one another like seeking accountability or avoiding one-on-one dates. They're just trying to rein in those feelings while continuing with the same behaviors that built them in the first place, just less frequently. It's time to stop building the feelings at all. No more one-on-one meetings period.

      "They've succeeded in getting things under control. Once they feel like they're totally in control, is there a possibility that they could slip and cross another line?"

      I'm telling you that they don't have it under control, as their excuses make very clear. Feeling like they're in control is setting them up to fall. The way you know you have it under control is that there is no opportunity for sin because you're never alone together with a person you're attracted to and not married to and you're instead investing in your own marriage. What they have isn't control and it isn't stable. It's a current, seething under the surface, that they keep trying to put a lid on instead of fleeing temptation as they should.

      It's not enough to simply stop crossing new lines. You have to go back over all the lines and stay on the other side of them - and that requires avoiding all one-on-one meetings that built the inappropriate intimacy in the first place.

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  21. Thanks Lindsay once again for your thoughtful responses and wisdom. I can appreciate all that you've written, and today over lunch with Sarah, I managed to share some of your thought as questions,"Sarah do you think that....?" She shared openly and honestly and I can share with you what I've gathered today. They,their = Sarah and her male friend.
    1. Their boundaries has led to a definite lessening in tension/chemistry.
    2. There hasn't been any texting or calling for half a year.
    3. Sarah doesn't think of him until she gets ready to go out.
    4. Sarah goes out only to enjoy talking with a friend.
    5. Sarah has always gotten along better with men than women because
    men are less complicated
    6. They've always talked only positively about their spouses/families.
    They respect and honor each other's marriages.
    7. They both have good marriages.
    8. Sarah is putting much more effort into her own marriage than she did
    half a year ago.
    9. They never talk about the sexual aspect of their lives.
    10. They both mention to their spouses when they go out and with whom.
    It seems that their spouses are okay with this and trusting.
    11. Sarah has been honest to her own spouse about some of the attraction
    and tension, but has also told her spouse that the nature of their
    friendship has changed a lot. She told her own husband that she's
    committed to her own marriage.
    12. Sarah's husband is satisfied that her friendship has been normalized
    and won't cross any lines in the future. (Yes, I did mention to Sarah
    that she's already crossed other lines)
    13. They all seem to believe that the friendship has changed and what happened
    is in the past and will stay there.

    So what I'm gathering is that there's diminished attraction/tension, clear boundaries, no deception, no secrecy,no delusion, and a completely changed friendship. Yes, they meet once every 4-5 weeks to chat, and that's it. When I listen to Sarah, I believe that they won't cross any more lines. Yes, like you said, multiple lines were crossed before. Maybe there's been a lot of forgiveness (I don't know) or patience or prayer.
    Is it possible that this opposite gender friendship between Sarah and her friend has been redeemed and transformed? Or is there still a chance it could go back to where it once was (I don't think so after listening to Sarah). God may have truly changed their friendship. Would God condone a normal amiable friendship between a married man and a married woman who meet once every 4-5 weeks over two glasses of wine to chat about their lives, including church/Christian matters, a little break from their daily lives?
    I'm very curious as to what you think, Lindsay, after sharing the conversation I had with Sarah today.

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  22. One more comment. I did ask Sarah whether she should stop seeing him altogether (for the reasons you mentioned - control,fleeing temptation,preventing any undercurrent of sexual tension from building again, etc.) and Sarah said she would only do so if either her own husband or friend's spouse insisted that they do so, out of respect for them. Otherwise, she indicated very little and seemingly nonexistent undercurrent of sexual tension right now, no temptation with such clear and tight boundaries, lots of control, and the current state of their transformed friendship. She thinks it's totally fine to meet once every 4-5 weeks over a couple of wine to chat pleasantly about each other's lives.

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  23. Concluding Remarks:
    Lindsay,after considering all your very wise and consistent words, Sarah's complete openess and honesty with me, and my own intuition, I can safely say to all your readers that some opposite gender friendships between two married people can be transformed even after emotional lines have been crossed and are on the verge of getting near physically intimate lines. After this entire dialogue, I believe in Sarah's case, there is little likelihood that any more lines will be crossed. I believe that things have stabilized and are in control. I believe that Sarah and her friend have shown incredible maturity and responsibility in making very defined boundaries and sticking to their boundaries for half a year, and working very hard to change the nature of their friendship, which has happened. When Sarah told me she hasn't thought of her friend for over a month and the sexual attraction has diminished, then I know it's okay for them to meet as friends once every 4-5 weeks to just talk as friends, nothing more.
    The nature of their talk is all good. The wine? 2 glasses of wine over 3 hours isn't much. I don't think that's going to really affect their thinking because it hasn't affected their thinking or blurred any lines between them. I congratulate Sarah and her friend on holding each other accountable to the defined boundaries. Sarah told me
    yesterday that it takes no effort now because their friendship has changed. Opposite gender friendship between married people can work even after crossing lines if and only if there's these things:
    1. Very clearly defined boundaries.
    2. Steadfast commitment to honor and respect the boundaries.
    3. Steadfast commitment to stay in the "friend zone".
    4. Honest communication with spouse.
    5. Respect and loyalty to spouse at all times.
    6. Willingness to emotionally invest in one's own marriage.
    7. Always being truthful about oneself, one's marriage, and one's
    opposite gender friendship.
    8. Constant honest communication with spouse.
    9. Showing gratefulness to one's spouse for trust.
    10. Praying for God's strength to help maintain strength,
    responsibility, focus, commitments, respect, faithfulness and
    love towards one's spouse, and truthfulness.
    If these things, plus more, are in place, then every reader should know that it's totally okay to enjoy your nights out with a married opposite gender friend even after
    lines have been crossed.

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  24. I guess the big question is: What is appropriate for opposite gender friendships after marriage? I am sure you and all your readers will have different opinions about that, based on their broader worldview and individual perspective. I'm not sure there are absolutes in this case, but I don't want to sound like a relativist either. I do believe it depends on a number of factors and considerations:
    1. individual maturity, responsibility, and integrity
    2. commitment to spouse and marriage, which also includes continuously open and honest communication, respect, love, etc.
    3. level of self awareness and honesty, which also includes to a desire and willingness
    to seek truth in regards to emotions, "chemistry", attraction,interest, and level of involvement with both opposite gender friend and even one's own spouse/marriage
    4. ability and discipline to establish boundaries, clearly communicating boundaries,
    and upholding boundaries
    But then even this raises a lot of questions because friendship boundaries could be relative to points 1,2, and 3. If an individual is very mature, responsible, and has a lot of integrity, commitment and respect to one's spouse/marriage, and has a very open, honest and mature communication then this person could have much wider boundaries than a person who is younger, less mature, and responsible, etc. So I think it really depends. It may be appropriate or inappropriate for two married opposite gender friends to enjoy a once a month 3 hour visit over a couple of glasses of wine. It could be appropriate or inappropriate depending on the individuals involved.
    In Sarah's case, seeing that they have already crossed the line, it raises even more questions. Lindsay has clearly stated it is inappropriate and I get it. Can people "grow up", become more mature and responsible? Can people be transformed? Can the friendship be transformed even after one has crossed the lines? Yes, I believe with God all things are possible if and only if, by prayer and petition both people earnestly seek the things mentioned above. I believe that in Sarah's case, it's very possible that her transformed friendship could be on its way to becoming more and more appropriate.

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  25. Anonymous has written from the perspective of Mary, Sarah's friend.
    It sounds like this could be a cover for Sarah herself who is grappling with her own guilt, justifications, and rationalizations.
    However, has anyone considered that Anonymous has been written by Sarah's trusting and forgiving husband, who is very aware and considerate of Sarah's transformed opposite gender friendship. Maybe he genuinely believes his wife (99%), but really wants to know (1% doubt) whether there is any likelihood that they'll ever go back to crossing lines.

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  26. Okay. "Mary", Sarah's friend is in fact, Sarah's forgiving and trusting husband.
    That's me.

    I fully believe that there's absolutely nothing between Sarah and her friend---absolutely nothing. If this situation involved two others, the case might be different.
    To me --- their friendship has in fact been transformed, and I can see them meeting as friends less frequently and simply to stay in touch as friends or help with some practical matters. That's all. Maybe their friendship might even fade completely out.
    Yes, I perseverate only because of 1% doubt. Lindsay's wise and consistently logical comments were helpful but I personally, believe that they've pulled far back from the lines they crossed, established new boundaries, and have even retreated from those boundaries. I guess, I've answered my initial question as to the likelihood as to whether two married opposite gender friends might cross the line when some emotional / intimacy lines have already been crossed. The answer: it depends. In this case, the likelihood is almost nil.

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  27. Hi Lindsay,
    So I have waited and observed my wife for exactly one month. I have been very observant to pick up the faintest of clues of what you seemed to suggest, and I have seen no evidence or sign of something more than just friends. My wife,Sarah, and her married male friend met once for drinks, talked for two hours to catch up on news, and nothing more. No phone calls, no texts, no chatting, no other visits. At home, all seems perfectly normal and good. So this all seems to indicate to your readers that it may be completely appropriate for some married opposite gender friends to meet alone together for wine once every month to chat and maintain thier friendship boundaries, even when some emotional/intimacy line were crossed earlier. In this case, it is especially true.
    Lindsay, are you seeing where I am coming from?

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