Once you’re married—What are your thoughts on having friends of the opposite sex? Yay or Nay?
Much to my delight, the responses came rolling in—each with equally unique perspectives and degrees of passion.
One contributor offered a simple “Absolutely not. Completely inappropriate”.
Other’s created some wiggle room by way of caveats for prior existing friendships (“He’s like a brother to me!”), or evolutions of friendships (aka: Jack and Jill may have started off as friends, but then Jack married Jane, and Jill married John. Now all four of them are friends and hang out together, but not 1 on 1 across the genders).
Nature vs. Nurture
At the time, I questioned whether my readers, followers and friends (really, I feel like I surveyed just about EVERYONE) felt that males and females were just biologically hardwired for romance, or if it was the way people were raised to socialize with the opposite sex influenced their thoughts and feelings.
For example, young men and women whose only interaction with each other past puberty was in a romantic setting (i.e. dating, dances) might feel differently than those who experienced more casual platonic interactions, such as working on projects together for class or co-chairing committees.
As always, the responses I received were a lively mixed bag.
Facebook Folly or Social Psychology?
Some folks might be tempted to shrug this discussion off as social media fueled fluff, but believe or not, cross-gender friendship is actually something that has been revisited over and over again by social scientists. Just the other day, I read an article on Psychology Today that extolled men and women, could in fact be friends and outlined four different types of heterosexual attraction.
And a few years back a study was conducted (you can read it here if you like that sort of thing) that looked at the perceived benefits and costs of cross-gender friendship. Turns out that men and women shared many of the same thoughts for why having a friend of the opposite sex was a good and useful thing! It’s probably worth noting here that none of these participants were categorized as being married.
But don’t worry—for every study that argues for the legitimacy of platonic friendships, there are just as many offer the other side of the debate as well.
Apparently in this instance, social science is no less confused than the rest of us.
So what does this have to do with YOUR marriage?
5 MAJOR Red Flags that You’re Crossing the Line from Platonic Friendship to Emotional Affair
1) You Change Your Appearance.
Our friends are the people who are supposed to enjoy our company regardless of a good or bad hair day, right? But when we’re invested in attracting someone to us in a not-so-platonic way, a common change we make is to our appearance. And please don’t think this is only for females. Women may tend to do it with clothing, and men seem to do it through physical transformations. If you’re trying to look more attractive for your spouse and coworkers/friends happen to notice, that’s one thing. But if you’re trying to catch some side-eye across the cubicle—look out!
2) Electronic Communication Habits Change.
My Facebook followers and friends are so brilliant. Nearly everyone mentioned the issue of electronic communication as a good measuring stick for whether or not a friendship was problematic. Simply stated: If you wouldn’t want your spouse reading your texts or messages between a person and yourself—that’s probably not a great sign.
One time a coworker (male) asked my husband if I knew the password to his phone. When my husband answered that I did, the man asked, “Why would you do that?!” Greg’s response? Because I’m not trying to keep her out of my phone, I’m trying to keep you out of it. (Sometimes he really makes me proud!)
3) You’re Comparing Them to Your Spouse…
Ideally, your spouse and your friends shouldn’t even be on the same level for comparison. That being said, some people seem to view the world through the lens of compare and contrast. The problems only really seem to emerge when the comparisons start, and your spouse starts coming up short.
He’s so much more fun than…
She listens to me more, and understands me better than…
I’d much rather spend time with…
If you find yourself thinking these types of thoughts—resist the temptation to allow yourself to be carried away by the fantasy of someone who is exponentially more fun, more understanding and better to be with. Instead, talk to your spouse about what you’re missing and how to infuse more of those things into your lives.
4) You’re Lying… Yes, Even White Lies
It’s fairly obvious why lying to your spouse is a bad idea. However, I always find it equally interesting and frustrating to hear about the messy calculus people try to contrive to make lies seem like something other than what they are.
For example, “I had to work late…” when in reality, you chose to work late because working late meant you could see a certain person.
Or “The team grabbed some food after the game…” when really, only 2 of you went out get something to eat after the game.
If it were as innocent as you claim, you wouldn’t have to lie about it, would you?
5) You Light Up Like a Christmas Tree When They’re Around (and you shut down just as quickly when they’re not).
I’m not sure this one requires a whole lot of explanation beyond the obvious. When the state of your emotions is directly tied to any person, it’s probably not healthiest of habits. However, it’s easy to understand why when your spouse is having a rough day, your emotions might dampen as well.
But when that person isn’t your spouse?
Or if your entire mood for the day is based on whether or not you’ve seen, spoken with or texted this “friend”?
Watch out! That’s a sign of some serious emotional investment.
I want to know what you think! Can men and women just be friends? Are there any other red flags that you would add to the list?
E.J. Smith is a Nationally Certified Counselor, motivational speaker, writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. She is also the face (and mouth) behind SimplyEJ.com. Born in New Jersey, and transplanted to Texas, this self-professed holistic health nut enjoys a wide variety of athletics, reading, and cooking. Raised Catholic and the wife of an active duty Marine, E.J. uses introspection and pragmatism to help readers create loving, fulfilling relationships from the inside out. Follow EJ on Twitter @SimplyEJS