The Risks of Opposite Sex Friends

Category: Weekly Columns

Do you have opposite sex platonic friends? Are you married? Does your spouse have opposite sex friends, too? What about opposite sex friends that used to be boyfriends or girlfriends? Is that cool? Interesting questions, don’t you think?

Many people believe that their spouse should be their best friend. I am sort of agnostic on that issue since I believe that for the sanctity of marriage it isn’t always wise to bring every thing on one’s mind to one’s spouse. That is the value of same-sex friends.

What Do You Say If…

For instance, if your spouse has gained weight, is it smart to express that observation? If you’re feeling unhappy at home for somewhat trivial reasons, is that something you should share with your spouse? I say, “No.” I say that is the province of same-sex friends.

But, back to the question of opposite-sex friends. A business associate of mine, we’ll call her Sharon, shared her story recently and it inspired this column. In a nutshell, she ran into her husband at a restaurant with a woman with whom he had had a fling many years ago. He was seeing Sharon at the time, but they weren’t married.

When she caught him that first time, she got mad. But, she loved him and decided not to let it de-rail their relationship. Sharon also felt that carrying this “business” into the marriage – as a wedge – would be destructive, so when they got married she gave him a “clean slate,” to quote her. She went to therapy to process this; she discussed it with her girl friends, and looked deep inside herself and chose to forgive him.

She Forgave Him

A year later, they were married. Seven years later, she finds him at a restaurant with the same woman. He jumps up, hustles his friend out of the place, and runs away like a dog with its tail between its legs. Sharon had wanted to confront both him and the woman, but didn’t get the chance.

Later, the husband declared that they were “only friends.” Sharon believed him. However, her confidence in his story was weakened when she checked his cell-phone records for the past year. Turns out he’d been calling Sharon about 100 times per month to the 200 times per month he was calling his “girl” friend.

Going TOO Far

Later, the so-called “girl” friend posted numerous remarks on Facebook demeaning and criticizing Sharon for her immature behavior. Hello!?

Meanwhile, Sharon’s husband continued to defend his actions, ignore the insulting Facebook posts, and otherwise expect to be forgiven since they were “just friends.”

Sharon kicked him out of the house. She’s not sure what she’ll do next or what she wants to do.

Sharon went on to tell me that both she and her husband had brought many opposite sex friends into their family fold. When that happened, soon everyone was a friend with everyone else. She believed that was cool. But, this time there was at least a year of secrecy (per the cell-phone records), maybe more.

Was He Being a Coward?

Clearly, Sharon’s husband was acting both cowardly and seeing this “girl” friend was something he knew was wrong. Otherwise, he’d have been open about it. I suspect there was more than “friendship” going on between them, but I don’t know. I also feel, as does Sharon that the issue of infidelity is almost less offensive than the closeness her husband and his “girl” friend shared with so many phone calls and secretive rendezvous’.

I ask again, can couples have opposite sex friends? My feeling is decidedly unclear. It depends. If, and only if, an opposite sex friend existed prior to the marriage, the primary relationship, then it may be possible to bring that friend into the new family.

But, it has to be open. It has to be up front.

I’d Do Her

However, when either partner wants to bring an opposite sex friend into their lives after marriage, I question the wisdom of that choice. A non-PC truth is that most men would like to have a physical relationship with as many women as they could. Of course, most men control that desire, but why tempt fate and biology?

Again, this is one man’s opinion. Whatever works for you is just fine with me. For Sharon and her husband, his secrecy and possible infidelity has threatened their marriage.

While I would rather not face my wife being unfaithful in any fashion, I actually sincerely believe that a one-night fling, while away on business for instance, is far less of a betrayal than an on-going intimate friendship with another man in which my wife were sharing intimate feelings and thoughts and doing it all in secret.

Sharon agrees with this thinking as she demonstrated in forgiving her husband the first time he cheated on her, prior to their marriage. She chose to give him a second chance that I believe he squandered by continuing to see this “other woman” in secret.

What do you think? Can opposite sex friends exist in your marriage or relationship?