Many people see friends of the opposite sex as a threat to their relationship. This topic always seems to ignite strong emotions. I’ve had this conversation with many people and I am always interested in hearing other perspectives. What is it about this topic that seems to be so controversial among men and women? Are the emotions based on logic or experience?
Here’s what I've learned about having friends of the opposite sex while in a serious relationship.
1. BE OPEN AND HONEST
No secrets! Being open and honest about the nature of the relationship is a good start. Communicating those comfort zones while dating, can also help to alleviate some of the discomfort that may come later on in a relationship. If you choose to build opposite-sex friendships throughout the relationship, transparency is pivotal. Having a general idea of the interactions that occur could help your partner feel more comfortable with the friendship.
Landon and I normally don't hang-out with opposite-sex friends alone, but there are times when we interact with them at work or run into them in public, and sometimes we even share those interactions with each other. This helps to normalize healthy and humanly interactions.
2. SET BOUNDARIES.
Having friendships is possible, but if boundaries are not established from the very beginning, it could leave the door open for misinterpretations or inappropriate behaviors. Sometimes we don't necessarily plan for cheating to take place, but as you cultivate a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, feelings may deepen, and you may not be able to control how you feel about that person. Cheating can be physical, and or emotional. Awareness about appropriate physical and emotional boundaries are necessary. Don't assume that your partner should just know. Boundaries look different to different people.
How often do you hang out with or talk to your opposite-sex friend?
What kind of environment do you hang out in? (The bar, clubs, work, the movies, restaurant, mutual interests, etc.)
What kind of conversations do you have with your opposite-sex friend? (motivational, relational, sexual, mutual interests, etc)
What rules do you feel are important to have in an opposite-sex friendship?
3. CULTIVATE A MUTUAL FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN YOUR PARTNER AND YOUR FRIEND
It's quite possible for opposite-sex friends not to like a partner, but they must respect their friend's choice. To prevent the awkwardness or tension that could arise from opposite-sex friendships, invite your partner to build a relationship with your friend. At the very least, make sure that your partner knows your friend, and feels comfortable with the type of interactions you have. Once your partner sees that you can maintain the same behavior around your friend when they are present, it may make them feel better about your interactions when they are absent.
4. MAKE YOUR PARTNER YOUR PRIORITY
If you are serious about your relationship, your partner should be your first priority. Partners shouldn't have to feel like they are competing with your friends. If you decide to maintain other friendships with men or women, make sure that you are tending to the friendship that you have with your partner. If you cultivate and nurture a deep friendship-bond with your partner, they may not feel as threatened by other opposite-sex friendships.
5. HONOR YOUR PARTNER'S CONCERNS
Another part of making your partner a priority is honoring their concerns about your opposite-sex friendships- even if it means that you have to end one of the relationships. For some individuals, opposite-sex friendships are simply a NO-NO! It may be hard to interpret our partner's concerns because we may feel like they are being unreasonable. It could cause us to react defensively, take it personally, or even respond offensively. If all else fails- you've communicated with your partner, established healthy boundaries, and provided the opportunity for your partner to connect with your friend- you may have to make a very tough decision. Do you honor your partner by ending your opposite-sex friendship, or do you end your relationship, by valuing your friendship more? Either way, honoring your partner's concerns may come with some consequences.
At the end of the day, there are some things that Landon and I both had to do to make sure that we felt comfortable with having friends. If I want to preserve my marriage, then I have to be willing to let people go. Fortunately, we haven’t run into that problem. My first priority is my husband. If a platonic friendship makes my husband feel uncomfortable, I can try to make him feel more comfortable, but if all else fails, I accept that my husband comes first.
I’ve always wanted to convey a realistic perspective on this topic. I do believe that it is possible to have friends of the opposite sex. Before any of us have developed romantic relationships, we were taught to make friends- both male and female. There’s not really a way to get around it. We live in a world with both men and women. We’ve gone to school with both genders, worked with them, and socialized with them. For many years of our lives, acquiring friendships with both genders has been normalized. So why is it that when we enter a romantic relationship, do these platonic friendships pose as a threat to our relationship?
What do you think about having friends of opposite sex? Comment below!