Married Friends?


Married Friends?

            The
other day, a friend pointed out something very interesting to me.  We were talking about two rather public
personalities who are also good friends. 
One is a single woman, the other is a married man.  My friend mentioned that, in various
broadcasts, this woman seemed to be making quite a few offhand references to
this married man.  And it just didn't
sound quite right.  "Can't she manage to
refer to his wife every once in a while, too?"

 
            Around
this same time, I had a conversation with another friend.  Her marriage fell apart because her husband
fell in love with a "friend" from work. 
She told me "No friendships between single women and married men.  I just don't believe in it. Period."

            As
a single woman who calls several married men "friend," this made me think.   What kind of friendship is appropriate, or
even possible, between a single person and a married person of the opposite
sex?   

            First
of all, I firmly believe that, in any opposite-sex friendship that goes beyond
being casual "work buddies", the single person must be friends with the couple
The three of you need to spend time together, and be comfortable
together.  At the very least, the spouse
has to know you and be comfortable with the fact that you're friends.

            But
what if the spouse doesn't want to be your friend?  Well, that depends.  Is it because his wife hates your guts? Is
her husband jealous or threatened by your relationship?  If that's the case, then there will be no
friendship for you.  Period.  Even if the spouse's objections are
unjustified.  Even if the friendship is
completely innocent.  "But she's a
terrible wife.  Why should she get to
tell him who can be his friend?"  It's
not about her right to control his friendships. 
It's about your "right" (or lack thereof) to make yourself a source of
division between them.  Because, no
matter how many problems they have in their marriage, you don't want to be one
of those problems.  Because you don't
want to be even a tiny part of the reason a marriage breaks up.   Because you only know one side of the story,
and you're just a stone's throw away from "my wife doesn't understand me like
you do."

            I
always think of a line I heard Condoleezza Rice say.  She was asked if she would continue to serve
as Secretary of State, and she said, "I serve at the pleasure of the
President."   In other words, if the
President no longer wishes a cabinet member to serve, that member is gone.  Just like that.  It's the same here.  If you have a married friend, you serve at
the pleasure of the spouse.   He or she
has full veto power at all times.

            But
what if the spouse doesn't have a problem with the friendship, but just isn't
interested in getting to know you?  Maybe
he's just too busy at work.  Maybe she's
busy at home with the kids and trusts her husband's judgment.  Maybe vice versa.

            Okay,
fine.   But, you'd better have very healthy boundaries that respect the
sanctity of their marriage.

            This
is a different kind of friendship.  There
are – or should be – significant boundaries. 
You can't call another woman's husband the way you can call a girlfriend
– or even a single male friend – to talk about your problems or for a shoulder
to cry on.  You should never, ever listen while he complains about his
wife or she talks about the problems in her marriage.  If the problems are significant and this
person clearly needs someone to talk to, you find someone else and bow out immediately.  Again, you don't ever, ever get into the
middle of their marriage.  You don't keep
secrets between them – unless it's about a surprise party or an anniversary
gift or something.

            On
one of the soap operas I occasionally watch, a husband just had an affair with
his wife's best friend.  I watched it
carefully to see how they set it up, because these shows always have a way of
making these little trysts seem inevitable. 
"We didn't plan it.  It just
happened."  Of course it all starts very
innocently.  She loves them both.  She's being a good friend.  Then the couple starts having trouble, and
the wife leaves town to sort things out. 
From that point on, I started to pause the TV and make a mental note
every time they made a "little" choice that led them to their "inevitable"
affair.  He confides in her about the
trouble in their marriage.  She comforts
him.  They share a horseback ride.  They remain silent while a camp counselor
assumes they're married and assigns them to a shared bunk (apparently a common
situation in soap-opera-land).  And so
on. 

            Maybe
they didn't "plan" it.  But if they
hadn't stomped on all of those boundaries along the way, "it" wouldn't have
just "happened."

            I
have several very good friends who are married men.  And we have some pretty good talks.  The thing is, more often than not, it's the three of us involved in the
conversation.  Their wives are there -
they are an active part of the conversation and the friendship.  And, if occasionally there's a deep
conversation without the wife present, it's only because she has been there so many times, it's like
she's there.  The conversation is no
different because of her absence.  And if
she were to walk in halfway through, she'd be welcome and we'd be eager to have
her join in and add her perspective.

            I
can't speak for men in this regard, but I do have some passing familiarity with
women.  God created us with a built-in
desire to want to see ourselves through a man's eyes, to depend on a man, to
share our lives with a man.  When that
doesn't happen, some women get tempted to place other men, even partially or
imperfectly, into that role.  That's
probably not such a big deal if the man involved doesn't belong to someone
else.  It may not be such a great idea,
but at least nobody else is dragged into it. 
But it's a different story when that man is married.  A woman may rationalize it all kinds of
different ways, but that bottom line is that it's not only a very bad idea –
it's wrong. 

            The
thing about being a friend is that it involves looking out for what is best for
that friend.  And if your friend is
married, part of that means respecting the sanctity of his or her marriage.

            To
behave any other way is very, very bad form.     

           





14 Comments

  1. Laura-330128 November 1, 2008 Reply

    A wonderful article. I feel the same exacty way!

  2. Celia-378458 November 3, 2008 Reply

    The married person's best friend is the espouse not anybody else. The only way a married couple to reach out to a distress single is through group support. Men or women who confide their problems to the opposite sex friend exhibit mental personality disorders. It is a form of flirting. I will not even encourage a single person to go out with a couple for socials nto unless they are picking her up for her to join others. It has to be a group activity. It is about time that we Christians should be aware of psyhological disorders not just all spirituality. See a professional Christian counsellor or turn to Jesus for comfort.

  3. Janet-307917 November 6, 2008 Reply

    As more and more of my friends marry, I was often left with the questions this article addresses. With the married couple I talk with the most, it's more of a situation where I share Interest-set-A with the wife and Interest-set-B with the husband, though he overlaps more into Interest-A more than the other way around. Still, this article does well to indicate "warning signs" that a socially-dense person like myself may miss were such problems to arise.

  4. MaryBeth-382377 November 11, 2008 Reply

    I have married friends that are men. I am also friends with their wives. If you are blessed with their friendship, I think it's a good thing.

  5. Glynne-385398 November 14, 2008 Reply

    I have a rule that I must know the wife and she must be comfortable with me and our relationship. Marriage is a gift sent from God and must be cherished and nourished as such.

  6. Danielle-361319 November 17, 2008 Reply

    My solution to this is simple: remember that most of the good looking men are almost always spoken for- and if that's not the case by some chance, then something is wrong with the guy. This is especially true for men over a certain age- like say, those in their 30's and 40's, for example. If you happen to meet one of these men, be careful- and in the case of someone who is married, get to know his wife first, before you make any real attempt to know him. Enough said.

  7. Matt-434154 May 2, 2009 Reply

    I face just this very kind of situation with a close female friend who recently married (in 2007). We are good school buddies and there is some affection. However, I have made every effort to be friends with both, only visit or telephone both and respect her partners wishes at every moment. Happily, I have two great friends now and an even deeper appreciation for the true meaning of the Sacrament of Marriage and the sacredness of the roles that husbands and wives play. I look up to my friend for demonstrating what it does mean to be a good wife. Her honour and respect for her husband at all times serves as a constant reminder of the very important role husbands and wives play in a marriage; individually and together. It is a blessed union!!

  8. Margaret-463521 October 13, 2009 Reply

    I agree with you. I got myself into a bad situation with a married man and I regret it deeply. It stemmed from lonelinees and low self esteem. Also an inability to protect myself. I still feel bad about it and it has lessened my self respect.
    Don't do it.

  9. Robert-3483 October 14, 2009 Reply

    Best reference on this topic is handled by Church Doctor and Gentleman Saint Francis de Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life". Jesus had friends of the opposite gender. Chaste friendship is an example of the eternal friendship in Heaven. Look for the chapters on friendship online. "The highest grace does not lie in being without friendships, but in having none which are not good, holy and true." ("Intro to the Devout Life: True Friendship", St. Francis de Sales)

  10. Holly-219212 October 14, 2009 Reply

    A few years ago I became very good friends with a lady from my church. She was always inviting me to go places with her a nd her husband. At first I felt uncomfortable but she insisted. She really wanted me to hang out with them and would even come by my house and insist we all go out together. Eventually we all became good friends. As time went on her husband and I discovered we had a lot of things in common. We had a similar educational background and family background, more so than he had with his wife. We had a lot of similar tastes and opinions on things. Over time, he started wanting to pop by my house on his way home from work or call me on his own. He began developing an attachment to me that I knew was not going to be good. While he and I did get along great and were terrific friends, it became clear to me that he was becoming more attached to me than his wife. When I began to distance myself from him, his wife insisted that I still stay friends with them. She said her husband was upset at the thought of me distancing from them. It seemed really odd to me how his wife never picked up on the situation. Eventually he had a conversation with me admitting that he felt closer to me than his wife and I had to end the friendship Since that time I have become very wary of becoming close friends with married men.

  11. Salvatore-131650 October 15, 2009 Reply

    Yeah, the spouse of the friend needs to be kept in the loop. They need to be invited everywhere and let THEM make the call if they don't want to join the two of you if you are meeting somewhere for lunch or a drink.

  12. Charlie-494323 October 15, 2009 Reply

    I believe this is true with opposite sex friends, veto power etc of the other spouse. I can say that as a non intruding laid back friend that women dictating their husbands friends gets real old fast.
    There is a double standard here. I've had a friend for over 10 years that's been married 2. They're between honeymoon and lets have kids phase of the marriage. For some reason his wife disdains me, and I'm not the Owen Wilson type of friend who drags him to bars or gets him into temptations way etc. I've always understood the dynamic between a married man and his single male friend, and that some things, even pointing out an attractive woman in a crowd etc are off limits.
    She has her girls night out, but even watching the game at his place or playing some xbox from time to time is meddled with, and it's over controlling and shallow. I remember something about love being patient, kind, etc in the Bible. I've never addressed it outwardly or talk about her in a negative way to him, and her behavior gets worse and more aggressive. Keep in mind because of our busy schedules and responsibilities we get to see each other maybe once a month.
    I am sensitive not to encroach or interfere with household duties or things she's asked in to do, as in distracting or preventing him from doing them. I've even helped him with landscaping projects when he asked for it.
    I do not want to be a splinter in this marriage, but it seems like he simply isn't allowed to have friends, while she has several over weekly for get togethers.
    From my point of view, I've known him a decade and he's like a brother. She's known him 3 years. Hmmmm. I'd love to hear the ladies' comments on this one.

  13. Marita-101601 December 13, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for your comments, Charlie. My initial thought was “of course, Mary Beth was talking about opposite sex friends… knowing the inevitable attraction that God created in us”. And several of the other commenters have seconded her comments about the dangers there. But for single-sex friends? On the one hand, I don’t think it’s the same danger, and I wouldn’t expect my spouse to understand my girlfriends & what I need from my single-sex friends. I also don’t think that my spouse will be able to provide the same things for me that they can. But on the other hand, I also liked Mary Beth’s comment that “friendships are at the pleasure of the spouse”… that’s the relationship that God has called you into & you’ve accepted this when you marry. When I talk to my married friends, they don’t think that they have the right to make all of the choices for their spouse – including friendships. So, several have talked about old buddies from college (same sex) that they’re not crazy about, but they don’t dictate that they can have time together. It may be the same thing with family members of their spouse that they don’t like, but they’ll spend time together – even without the spouse – because they’re family & even because they like each other;) I think that there will be differences like this within a marriage. But, if a friend married someone & their spouse didn’t want me to spend time with them, I would just have to accept it. Perhaps I can speak better about it as a family member where my brother’s wife doesn’t like several of my family members & doesn’t like him to spend time with them. I can see several of her points, but don’t think it’s worthy of complete dismissal. Nonetheless, my brother has chosen her & committed to her. I can only pray for change as I think it will be healing for all to find a compromise.

    • Marita-847688 December 15, 2012 Reply

      I found my long lost twin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) Hi, Marita. I was just looking at the sight, and I thought, I didn’t comment on that.

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