No matter how much the rules of love change, there are certain tenets that remain impregnable. Prime among them is the relationship you share with the opposite sex. How far should you go celebrating your bond with them before they are considered inappropriate friendships? It is a question that has haunted marriages for a long time.
Let’s be practical. In today’s day and age, it would be foolhardy to expect that you won’t be meeting or interacting with people from the opposite sex. At the workplace, the club, in social setups, and of course, in the online world, you are constantly in touch with people from myriad worlds.
But here’s the danger. Sharing a platonic relationship while married is completely harmless but it doesn’t take long for that same relationship to slither into the inappropriate friendships category, creating a mess in the marriage. So what exactly is that moment? When do you stop being friends and start being something more? When do you say ‘no’ and who draws the limits? Questions and more questions!
What Is Considered As Inappropriate Friendships When Married?
The first difficult point is to understand what is ‘inappropriate’. At the very basic level, relationships you share with someone that threaten your primary relationship – your marriage – are inappropriate friendships.
A lot of extra marital affairs begin innocuously as friendships. But it’s when one of the partners forget the etiquette of being friends with a married man or woman (yes, there are etiquettes!) that the troubles start.
And mind you, inappropriate friendships when you are married do not just mean sex. Even if you are not cheating them physically or emotionally, inappropriate friendships can cause massive rift in your primary relationship.
The defining trait of any marriage is its exclusivity. The trust, care, warmth and importance that you share with your partner would be higher in degree than what you would share with others. Creating the same bond with someone else means you are breaking the connection with your spouse. And this can be the first step towards cheating.
What Are The Rules Of Opposite Gender Friendships?
Now that we have defined what exactly are ‘inappropriate friendships’, the next point to ponder upon is what is ‘appropriate’? As mentioned earlier, being loyal to your marriage and partner does not mean you shun the world and the opposite sex! On the many occasions you meet people, there might be some when you get attracted.
Similarly, every marriage has its ups and downs and there would be moments when you feel vulnerable or tempted. Seeking solace among friends of the opposite gender is but a natural step but there is a difference between them helping you during troubled times and friends interfering in marriage.
It is this thin boundary that you need to be wary of, if you want to have a healthy marriage. How can you avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate friendships? By following the below rules…
1. Do not get too close with opposite gender friends
Sounds regressive? Well, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if you have known this person before marriage and you were super close, things change when you wear a ring. In a marriage, it’s your spouse that should be your best friend.
Your best friend (especially of the opposite gender) should strictly remain friends. Getting too close or maintaining the same level of friendship is neither possible nor advisable. And if they have your best interests at heart, they will understand too.
Related Reading: Can A Girl Have A Guy Best Friend And A Boyfriend?
2. Do not share too many secrets with them
Every marriage has its own share of secrets. Even if there are traits in your spouse that
you cannot stand, do not squeal them to your friends. Avoid washing dirty linen in private conversations. You may ask, ‘If I don’t talk to my friends who will I speak to?’
Quite right, but it is not necessary to have in-depth ‘alone’ time with opposite sex friends while married and reveal ALL the secrets! It is these intimate, deep conversations that can change feelings and lead the emotional connection to a sexual one.
3. Do not allow them into your innermost circle
Even if you end up having intimate conversations, do not place friends, especially from the opposite gender, above your marriage or family. The reason is that ultimately you have to fight your battles and howsoever emotionally supportive your friends are, they can’t dictate your life.
If you wonder how friends destroy a marriage, just try involving them in life when you are going through a rough patch. Unwittingly, they might make decisions on your behalf which can widen the rift between your spouse. In other words, draw the boundary, strong and clear.
4. Introduce your friends to your spouse
If you do not want to annoy your partner yet maintain your opposite sex friendship, here’s the best thing to do: do not hide them from your spouse. Introduce your friends to your spouse early on in your relationship and let him/her have a clear idea of where they stand in your life.
Close friendships with the opposite sex can become troublesome when they come as a shock or surprise to your current partner. By introducing them to your husband or wife, you are cutting out any scope of suspicion. Your conscience should be clear that you do not share any inappropriate friendships with anyone.
5. Avoid situations that can cause attraction
Even if you are married for years, there is no guarantee that you won’t find someone else attractive. Well, temptations are common but the key is to not give in to them. So what do you do when you find your new colleague incredibly hot? Just run into the opposite direction.
Make excuses to NOT meet them or run into them when they are alone. Avoid texting the opposite gender when married – your social media habits lay the foundation of an affair.
Yes, it may require some self-control but do not get into an ‘innocent’ friendship – online or offline. Sorry to break the bubble but there will be nothing innocent about it, if you continue to have the hots for them!
How To Define Marriage Boundaries With Friends
Many men and women find it difficult to give up the freedom of their single days but when you are married, you have to devote enough time and energy to it.
To ensure that you do not end up, consciously or sub consciously, indulging in inappropriate friendships, here are some ways to define your healthy boundaries with your friends.
1. Stop gossip right on its tracks
This goes for both, male and female friends. Sometimes your inner circle loves to dig around for gossip, especially if they suspect that there is some trouble in your paradise. Even if you are fond of a friend, if they probe a bit too much in your personal life, put a stop to it.
“I appreciate your concern but if I need advice, I will come to you later,” is a good way to ensure they do not keep prying into your personal life. This way you are not denying their help or concern but letting them know you are dealing with your life in your way.
Related Reading: 20 Myths And Facts About Cheating In A Marriage
2. Take your spouse into confidence with regards to friends
Make sure your partner is comfortable with your friends, male and female. S/he does not need to be very close to every one of them but do not have any secret close friendships. Find out what makes them relaxed about your friendships and what makes them anxious.
Sometimes, partners do have some instincts about some people (say, that over-friendly colleague who inexplicably gets your partner’s goat) so do not discount them altogether. Instead, try and find if there is any merit in their discomfort and take a call if you want to cut off such friends from your life.
3. Mark your territory and be upfront about it
This can be tricky. The married man and married woman friendship can take on many forms so if there is any aspect that makes you concerned, you need to approach it sensitively. Perhaps there are some friendships you feel are detrimental to your spouse’s lifestyle and you want to wean him/her away.
Broach it with care, not sounding paranoid or jealous but being matter-of-fact. Something on the lines of “I love your friends but there is something about XYZ that makes me concerned,” would work. Basically acknowledge the relationships, even if you feel they are inappropriate friendships but make your displeasure known.
4. Do not put your marriage in danger while supporting an opposite-gender friend
Sympathy and empathy is fine but know where to draw the line before letting someone of the opposite gender into your life. Getting too involved in the problems and solutions of a friend of the opposite gender can be detrimental to your own marriage.
You can certainly be a good friend and confidant, but don’t lend your shoulder too much and for too long especially if they are using you as a crutch to solve their problems. Your priority and your commitment should be towards your relationship first.
5. Have common friends
Have some rules about friendships in your marriage and three sets of friends – yours, his and those who you know in common. Cultivate couple friends who can hang out with your spouse at times and you can go on double dates with.
This will also reduce your dependence on your friends from the past or from work or personal social circle. A healthy marriage is one where you do not need to look outside for fulfillment so as we said before, try and develop a beautiful friendship within your marriage.
Marriage is indeed hard work and it is perhaps impossible to keep the spark alive all the time. But that’s also the reason why you need to protect your marriage from inappropriate friendships that may creep up from outside and eat away the essence of the one relationship you need to hedge.
Do not allow friends of opposite sex to become too close to you. Do not reveal everything about your marriage or your personal lives to your friends. You can support your friends to a certain extent but not at the cost of endangering your marriage.
It is definitely healthy for couples to have separate friends but ensure that your spouse is aware of them and that s/he is not uncomfortable around them. Do not have any secret friendships that your spouse frowns upon.
A little bit of space in every marriage is essential and couples should spend time away from their spouses. But while having your own set of friends and hanging out with them is essential, it should not encroach upon your time with your spouse.
Friends can knowingly or unknowingly destroy a marriage if they do not follow the boundaries or etiquettes of friendship with a married person. If you allow someone else to fill the void caused by a small rift in your primary relationship, it can certainly worsen the situation.