Just like everyone else, married people also have friends of the opposite gender. These opposite gender friendships are usually perfectly innocent – until they turn into inappropriate friendships when married!
It’s when they start working extra hours, coming home with traces of lipstick on their collar, excessively texting, and you start wondering: “What the hell is happening?”
“Hmm…that male/female co-worker seemed suspicious to me the second I saw him/her. I could tell by the way they looked at my spouse that they were interested.”
“But, I know my loved one would never do such a thing. They would never hurt me, well, not deliberately. Okay, I’m seriously starting to suspect that something fishy is going on here!”
And that’s how you ended up here searching for ‘inappropriate friendships when married’.
Perhaps you suspect that your husband or wife is having an emotional affair (or God forbid physical affair), or you’re just interested in the way friendships (should) function when you’re married.
No worries, we’ll cover all that here, so buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Is It Okay For A Married Man / Woman To Have A Friend Of The Opposite Gender?
My humble opinion is that it is okay for a married couple to hang out with people of the opposite gender because there’s no way you can avoid this (unless you’re a total introvert and you refuse to socialize with anyone).
Our jobs, daily routines, hobbies, gyms, coffee shops, and so on are all places where we meet tons of other people with whom we spend a great amount of time.
We become good friends with our colleagues (both male and female) because our work is the place where we spend the majority of our time.
It would be really awkward if you refused to even talk to your colleague because your spouse was too jealous of everyone around you. This would interfere with your work, social life, and sanity.
It would be really hard to track who you could and could not socialize with, right? That leads us to the most important thing in a marriage – TRUST.
Can you trust that your partner won’t do anything stupid when hanging out with their best friend of the opposite gender? Do you believe in platonic friendships?
When it comes to marriage and other relationships, everything is based on trust. If there is no trust, you will have a hard time letting your spouse form close friendships with the opposite gender.
If you’ve had a bad experience in the past when it comes to platonic friendships, then you might have problems tolerating them. But, once again, everything stems from the ability to trust your partner.
When you know you can trust them, then you know it’s okay for them to spend time with a member of the opposite gender.
Is It Okay For Married People To Be Alone With Another Man/Woman?
When it comes to hanging out with people of the opposite gender, there’s a difference between hanging out in public/groups and spending time alone.
But, truth be told, you don’t have to hide in an isolated coffee shop or similar in order to be alone with someone.
Both men and women spend lots of hours together at work and sometimes they have to work extra hours with one of their male or female colleagues.
They go on business trips together (I know you just imagined those inviting beds in hotel rooms), and they also have chill time after work together.
Or imagine that there’s only one person at the gym at the moment your spouse arrives. The chances that they would communicate are really high because it would be really awkward if they didn’t.
So, is it okay for a married man or woman to be alone with that one person at the gym? Some would say yes, some would say no.
I would say yes because there’s no point in pretending that you’re totally antisocial just because you have to be alone with that one person in the same place.
In case you answered no, the question is: What is a married man or a married woman supposed to do in such a situation?
Should they turn around and leave once they see there’s only one person of the opposite gender? It would be really awkward and a stupid thing to do.
Would it be okay to refuse a business trip with a colleague of the opposite gender? Our jobs are not something we can play with. We don’t really have a choice when it comes to this, so there’s nothing we can do about it.
So, the question is: In what situation would it not be okay for a married man or a woman to be alone with another woman/man?
And the answer is: When they are unreliable (cannot be trusted) and/or under the influence of alcohol, or when that other woman or man is someone they used to be romantically involved with.
You would be surprised how easy it is to revive an old passion.
A few drinks, plenty of laughs, confiding in each other, subtle flirtations, emotional support, plenty of good time and voila; we have a recipe for ‘inappropriate friendships when married’.
Sooner than you know, you end up avoiding every single red flag and doing something you probably shouldn’t; something you’ve sworn you’ll never do no matter what.
Once you revive an emotional connection with that person, physical attraction will follow. And it’s up to you whether you choose to do something on impulse, or think rationally and retreat.
Unfortunately, not all of us were gifted with a strong sense of self-control.
Some people can’t control themselves in critical situations because the urge and temptation to do something they know is wrong is strong.
After that they usually feel regret and wish they hadn’t listened to their impulse but rather the rational side of the brain. That is when acquaintances or friendships form into inappropriate friendships when married.
How To Prevent Opposite-Gender Friendships From Becoming Inappropriate Friendships
If you want to protect your own marriage, you need to set boundaries when it comes to opposite gender relationships outside of your marriage.
You need to make an imaginary list of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, so that you know how to react in certain situations.
When you know what is considered acceptable, it’s easier for you to set boundaries and stick to them. You will know exactly what to do or what not to do when hanging out with your female friend or male friend.
Setting boundaries is the first step to protecting your own relationship and that’s why it is essential.
Here’s a list of rules that will help you set opposite-gender friendship boundaries:
1. Keep your priorities straight
One of the biggest dangers of opposite gender friendships is the urge to sometimes prioritize them over your spouse.
Exchanging tons of text messages on a daily basis including personal details (reserved for your spouse) and following their every move on social media can contribute to prioritizing your friend of the opposite gender over your partner.
When you start fantasizing about having an intimate relationship with your friend, your friendship becomes inappropriate on a certain level.
When you blackmail your partner by saying that you will abandon them if they don’t accept your opposite gender friendship, you start prioritizing your friend instead of them.
That’s why it’s important to always keep your priorities straight no matter what.
Ask yourself what is more important to you. Is it your spouse or your friend? If the answer is the latter, then you might reconsider the idea of being married in the first place.
2. Be honest with your partner
I like to call this a silent killer of every relationship.
When you have a tendency to lie to your partner about your whereabouts or about certain activities with your friend of the opposite gender, you know what you’re doing is not right.
Otherwise, you wouldn’t lie to your partner about it, right?
So, whenever you feel like hiding something from your spouse, ask yourself why you feel like you need to do that in the first place.
Are you afraid that your spouse will be jealous? Or do you think they have a reason to be jealous?
When you know what you’re doing is not right, don’t do it. Well, don’t do it if you care about saving your marriage.
Always be honest with your partner because that’s the only way to prevent opposite gender friendships from becoming inappropriate friendships when married.
3. Avoid any kind of flirtatious behavior with your friend (especially in front of your spouse)
When we’re having a good time with our friends, we usually have a tendency to get extra personal with them. We subtly touch them while laughing, or make inappropriate jokes and similar.
Well, there’s a thin boundary between regular friendly behavior and flirtatious behavior when it comes to hanging out with friends of the opposite gender.
Just one inappropriate, subtle touch when laughing could make you look like you’re more than “just friends”.
It is easy to cross the line when you’re feeling comfortable in their company and that’s why you need to ensure you avoid any kind of flirtatious behavior with your opposite gender friend (especially in front of your spouse).
You don’t want them to feel uncomfortable or to start suspecting you’re having an affair with your friend. You want them to trust you and when they do, then you know there’s nothing you should worry about.
4. Don’t force your partner to also be friends with your opposite gender friend
There is nothing worse than forcing your partner to do something they’re not comfortable with. Just because you enjoy spending time with your opposite gender friend, this doesn’t mean your partner will enjoy it, too.
We all have freedom to choose our friends, so forcing them to accept your friend and spend time with them is kind of selfish.
Also, the main reason why many people start insisting that their spouse be friends with their opposite gender friend is because they want to spend more time together with their friend.
They don’t want to choose between their friend and spouse. I mean, why would they when they can have both? Or perhaps not.
The bottom line is, if your spouse wants to hang out with your friend, that’s okay. But, if they don’t, there’s no need to insist they change their mind about it.
5. Limit time spent together with your opposite gender friend
This one is closely connected with the previous one. If you don’t limit your time spent together with your opposite gender friend, you might end up spending more time with them than your spouse.
If your friend is your colleague, then spending time together at work and sometimes going for a drink or similar should suffice.
Imagine if you spent a few hours every day at work with your colleague and after that spent all of your free time with them.
It would be a little bit too much, right?
You wouldn’t have time for anything else, like spending quality time with your spouse or family members. As with everything else in life, balance is the key to happy and healthy relationships.
Spending too much time with someone can gradually turn into a toxic habit. Neglecting other people in your life, your hobbies, and similar is not healthy because diversity is the key to happiness.
6. Don’t accuse your spouse of being overly jealous, insane, or “crazy”
If your spouse is showing any signs of jealousy or if they are freaking out about something you did or said, don’t take it for granted.
There’s probably a reason why they are acting that way and that reason might be connected with your inappropriate friendship(s).
The thing is, we all experience jealousy in a different way. Perhaps you don’t see your actions as something your partner should worry about, but they do because that is their jealousy trigger.
When that happens, don’t accuse your spouse of being overly jealous, insane, or crazy. Partners who truly care about each other always make sure they show understanding and sacrifice some things when needed.
For example, spending less time with your opposite gender friend or avoiding going on a trip with them might not be a drastic change for you, but it might mean the world to your partner.
7. Don’t form inappropriate friendships with the opposite gender
You’re probably thinking: Oh really? Like I didn’t know that already. Joking aside, what I mean by avoiding forming inappropriate opposite gender friendships is that you need to pay attention to inappropriate factors.
One of the most common inappropriate factors is age.
Imagine that you’re a 65-year-old man texting and hanging out with a woman who is in her thirties on a regular basis. Do you think your spouse would not find this a little bit odd and start suspecting things?
Chances are they would and that’s why you need to pay attention to those factors because they are often a true measure of inappropriateness.
8 Warning Signs There Is/Was A Romantic Interest In An Opposite Gender Friendship
If you notice any of the following signs, chances are your opposite gender friendship is or was more than that:
1. Constantly repeating that you’re “just friends”
If you say We’re just friends once or twice, it’s really not a big deal, but if you keep repeating it, then it’s something you should worry about. Why?
Because repeating things doesn’t only mean reassuring others that you’re just friends, it often means that you’re trying to convince yourself to believe something you know is not true.
This happens on a subconscious level, so we’re mostly unaware of it.
But, if you notice that you keep repeating it even though no one has said anything to you about it, then you know you have the urge to justify things, obviously, for a reason.
2. Sharing intimate things and troubling aspects of your marriage with your opposite gender friend
Even though friendships are becoming more and more flexible as time progresses, there are some things that should stay within your marriage.
Sharing intimate things or troubling aspects of your marriage with your friend of the opposite gender is a red flag because you should be doing it with your spouse and not your friend instead.
It means you feel as if your spouse doesn’t understand you, whereas your opposite gender friend is the one you trust.
Sharing intimate things forms a deep emotional connection, which is the first step to establishing a physical connection as well.
3. Constantly comparing them to your spouse
Your spouse and your friends should be two separate worlds because they’re on a different list of priorities.
If you find yourself comparing your opposite gender friend to your spouse, it means you’re prioritizing them equally.
You compare them because they lack something your friend has and vice versa. You’re literally weighing up with whom you are more compatible in every aspect of your relationship.
4. Pulling away from your regular obligations and activities
You used to play football or go to dance class, but now all of a sudden you don’t have time for it or you’re not interested in it because you want to spend more time with your opposite gender friend.
Or you’re texting them 24/7 and as a result you constantly feel restless because you don’t get enough sleep, which might influence your job performance, for example.
You’re gradually pulling away and the reason why you’re doing so is your best opposite gender friend.
5. Constantly thinking and fantasizing about them
Do you often find yourself thinking about them in between your tasks, when you’re feeling bored, or when you’re trying to fall asleep at night.
Do you daydream about them all the time? Do you fantasize about being intimate with them?
If yes, then you know your friendship is starting to reek of “inappropriate”.
Constantly thinking and fantasizing about them are signs of infatuation. It means you like them so much you can’t stop thinking about them even though you know it’s not right.
6. Hiding things from your partner
Do you hide your phone from your spouse when you’re texting with your friend? Do you lie to your spouse about your whereabouts when you’re about to hang out or go on a trip with your friend?
If yes, then you’re deliberately hiding things from your partner because you know you’re doing something you shouldn’t.
By doing that, you’re creating a gap in your marriage and giving your spouse legit reasons to be jealous and suspect you’re having an affair or similar.
7. Showering them with personal gifts
How many times have you gone to the store and thought about buying something for your opposite gender friend? How many times has something reminded you of them and you thought they would totally dig it?
Showering them with personal gifts means trying hard to make them feel special, which is something you should do in your marriage instead.
If you can’t remember the last time you surprised your spouse with a personal, unique gift, then it’s time to question your priorities and your friendship as well.
8. Intending to spend time alone together and just go with the flow
Do you often fantasize about being alone with them and that fantasy includes intimacy as well? Have you thought about going with the flow and indulging yourself despite the fact you’re still married?
This is the biggest red flag that you’re definitely not “just friends”, given that you’re seriously thinking about being more than that.
If you’ve just realized that you or your spouse are suffering from a trending syndrome called “inappropriate friendships when married”, reset your priorities, talk to each other and, most importantly, be honest with each other.
Remember that there’s nothing worse than doing something behind each other’s back.
Always set boundaries to protect your marriage and in case your friendship with the opposite gender becomes inappropriate, press the pause button and reset your priorities (of course, assuming that you’re still in love with your spouse and you care about them).
If not, sometimes going separate ways is necessary because it’s better than hurting each other or wasting each other’s time.