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Manage episode 253247735 series 1423957
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If you are married, it’s more than likely that you’ve had a discussion with your spouse at some point about a friendship between one of you and someone outside your marriage. So, what about those opposite-sex friendships? Are they healthy or are they dangerous? Should we avoid them at all costs or take them on a case by case basis? How much friendliness with the opposite sex is too much and could land you in trouble? What if the person you’re friends with is 50 years older than you? These are all questions we explore in this article. Recognize the Hazard First of all, we don’t take a hard line on this issue in either direction. We neither tell you to back off and let your spouse be a grown-up and choose his or her friends or insist that there can be no friendships with the opposite sex for either of you. This is a nuanced issue with lots of variables and we want to point you towards a thoughtful, nuanced, self-reflective review of this issue. Hopefully, you do this in a way that prioritizes the sanctity and value of being in a loyal, committed, thriving marriage. It’s important to recognize that we all need to recognize there is a potential hazard in opposite sex friendships. This doesn’t just apply to flirtatious friends; it’s is really true with any friend. If someone is your friend, it is because you are attracted to them: to their personality or characteristics or physical appearance or what they have to offer or how they make you feel. The word “attraction” may make you nervous there: it doesn’t necessarily mean physical attraction or even attraction in a way that is unfaithful to your marriage. It’s natural that we like our friends. You may not be thinking in that direction today, but it is important to acknowledge this as a potential hazard. That doesn’t call us to paranoia or isolation: it should call us toward caution and self-reflection to make sure we keep things in a healthy place. What to Watch For The Potential for More The first issue to be aware of is that there is often the potential for more than a friendship. There are conceivable circumstances under which a friendship could exist with absolutely no sexual attraction or sexual compatibility. In a case like this, having a friendship with someone of the opposite gender presents no problem at all. An example of this is little old ladies from church. You can go to her house for the afternoon, chat, share personal stories, have a cup of tea, pet her cat, and nothing is ever going to happen. At the same time, it’s important to realize that many opposite-sex friendships involve people who—if circumstances were different—might be potential romantic partners. It’s also worth noting that it is common for men to mainly befriend women that they have at least some degree of physical attraction to. In light of this, it can be hard to know how best to handle opposite-sex relationships because another important task for married people is to stop considering alternatives. You don’t want to be moving through life considering potential alternatives to your spouse. But you also have to recognize that if someone is a potential alternative then that friendship has greater risks associated with it. The key difference between these two thoughts is the element of fantasy. Fantasy says, “I wonder what it would be like to be married to him or her?” Or worse, “…To have sex with that person?” This is called considering alternatives, and it erodes your commitment, intimacy, and loyalty towards your spouse. On the other hand, it is possible to realize that someone is attractive or kind or admirable in some way. You need to be conscious of recognizing that there is potential for more (without fantasy or thinking about what that potential might be) and just set a mental boundary for yourself. Warning Sings It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs and not to ignore them. Some warning signs might be: