Keep Your Opposite-Sex Friendship From Going Too Far

opposite sex friendship at work adobe stockThis marriage article was written specifically with the men readers in mind. But keeping opposite-sex friendships from going too far is something every spouse should be aware of.

You may have heard before that your spouse should know your business and you should know your spouses’ business. At first glance that may seem like a critical way of living, but read on and see if you feel the same way:

You interact with them every day, sometimes up close and personal. You can’t help but be around them. In many cases, they’re women you see more often than your wife.

They’re women at work —opposite-sex friendships —and unless you’re on guard, they can be the single biggest threat to your marriage.

Innocent beginnings

How do you know you could be in trouble? It’s not easy, because relationships tend to be progressive …and almost all opposite-sex friendships begin innocently.

You start at a very basic level of getting to know each other. But before you know it, she begins to open up and express her concerns, hurts and problems (particularly those relating to her husband or boyfriend). Being a gentleman, you give her a sympathetic ear. In appreciation, she gives you attention and caring —perhaps more so than your wife. You find her flattering, and a nice little boost to your ego.

Before you know it, that opposite-sex friendship becomes the most important relationship in your life —surpassing even your relationship with your wife. When that happens, that workplace relationship has become a real threat to your marriage.

Here’s how to tell when an opposite-sex friendship is becoming dangerous:

• You find yourself sharing personal information with her that you otherwise wouldn’t share with someone else or your spouse.

• It becomes common to begin looking for her when you get to work, and find yourself genuinely disappointed when she’s not there.

• You start creating opportunities to be alone with your opposite-sex friend during the workday, such as through non-work related lunch appointments, or lingering too long at her office or cubicle.

• You’re physically attracted to the person, and think about her when you’re not at work.

Now, I know there are many of you thinking, “Look, I’ve had an opposite-sex friendship at work with (insert the name here) for years. Nothing has ever happened, and nothing ever will. It’ll never become inappropriate.”

Okay, then please ask yourself this: “Are you sure she feels the same way?” You might not intend for anything inappropriate to happen. But because of her own issues —ones of which you are completely unaware —she may be starting to drift from concentrating her husband or boyfriend.

She’s not dealing with problems they way she should be with her spouse, and she’s starting to find more fulfillment from her relationship with you. Even if nothing inappropriate ever occurs, you may be unknowingly preventing your opposite-sex friend from facing issues she needs to deal with only with her husband or boyfriend. You can’t risk letting that occur.

Here’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind.

In the workplace, it’s best to keep a professional barrier between you and others. Frankly, you’re not at work to have an opposite-sex friendship anyway. You’re there to get a job done. That should be your sole focus.

Finally, take to heart this sound advice from Proverbs:

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, and ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. Proverbs 3:21-23

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

Demonstrate God-honoring character in all your relationships, especially those with women at work. You’ll avoid the pitfalls that come with opposite-sex friendships. You will also strengthen your bond with the one person that matters most—your wife!

The above article came from an E-mentoring message sent through the ministry of Intentional Living Theintentionallife.com with Dr Randy Carlson, which also includes the ministry of Family Life Radio. This ministry provides many free articles you can read on their web site, as well as Dr Carlson’s radio program that you can listen to.

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Comments

52 responses to “Keep Your Opposite-Sex Friendship From Going Too Far

  1. (UNITED STATES)  I know this is an older discussion, but I’m dealing with this right now. As a newlywed couple I don’t like how defensive he get’s when the subject of oposite sex lunches comes up. I agree with him that we can have opposite sex friends, but I disagree when we should see them.

    Example ~ for me, it’s ok to see them in groups for lunch or during their work relationship. My husband is an engineer and I find it hard that he will dedicate an entire hour to another woman uninterupted, but will come home to me exhausted and is just not up to talking. I can understand this because much like him I work long days from 5am-5:30pm coming home to cook and clean, but I look forward to seeing him.

    When he get’s home exhausted and a little grumpy I don’t know what to do. It makes me feel empty and unwanted inside. Over dinner we both vent about work and the day, but there is never a happy “friendship” conversation. We had the conversation of opposite sex lunches last night and the only thing he could say was “well, we will agree to disagree.” I feel brushed off and uncared for. Grant it, it was late when the conversation came up.

    Thanks for reading =0) Hurt and a little confused

    1. (USA) Hi Alexis, In praying about what you wrote, I’m so glad you’re addressing this issue as a newlywed. Hopefully, you (and eventually your husband) can straighten out some priorities so this problem doesn’t plague your marriage in the future (as it does so very many others). The Newlywed years are called the “wet cement” years where you can work on issues and change the course of them easier than if you continued on and on and THEN tried to make corrections.

      I truly can understand where both you and your husband are coming from — my husband and I have been there and done that. But eventually we saw (as we observed the problems it brought into other marriages, as well as our own) that we needed to put more intentionality into growing our relationship with each other and quit giving each other “the leftovers” of our energy and focus. That’s not the way you grow your relationship in a good direction — that’s the way you kill it through neglect. It’s also a way you give others the opportunity to “shine” brighter when they are with your spouse, than you are willing to do when you are together (and visa versa). That’s what helps usher in infidelity and the words said, “I/we never meant for anything to happen.”

      I’ve got a few links to some articles I recommend you read and ask God for personal insights as to what you can personally learn and do (each of these articles talks about giving and receiving emotional left-overs to and from our spouse): – “How to Date Your Spouse” – “When a Job Steals Time Away from the Marriage.”

      And then I encourage you to pray and then read the Quotes (and whatever articles the Lord shows you) in the “Romantic Ideas” section and articles that will help your relationship grow closer in the “Communication Tools” section of our web site.

      Whatever you do, don’t overwhelm your husband with all of this. Pray about what you should share, what you should just continue praying about, and what you should do so that the direction of your relationship goes into being a healthy and growing one, rather than a tired and disconnected one. I trust God will show you the best approach. NOW is the time to steer the course of your marriage in a good direction. Don’t buy the lie that “love should come natural” … it takes work for it to “naturally” grow into a good one.

      Right now your husband doesn’t see what you are seeing as far as the dangers ahead. But it may be that God is using your eyes to see the problem and address it, until eventually your husband will agree to agree and approach things differently (as mine eventually did — but it came as I became wiser in the way and timing and the actions I put forth to steer things differently, through the Lord’s guidance and strength). Now, my husband is stronger than ever on this point… but it came at a later time as I did what God prompted me to do. I believe God will give you wisdom on this as well, as you ask for it. I hope this helps.

  2. (U.S.)  “You start at a very basic level of getting to know each other. But before you know it, she begins to open up and express her concerns, hurts and problems (particularly those relating to her husband or boyfriend). Being a gentleman, you give her a sympathetic ear. In appreciation, she gives you attention and caring — perhaps more so than your wife. You find her flattering, and a nice little boost to your ego.

    My husband and I have been married for 7 years now with three little kids, the paragraph above is typical of him. Recently, I found e-mails btw him and a married lady in another country who was having sexual issues/probs with her husband and my husband started giving her advice on how to take performance enhancing pills for herself and her husband and the next thing you know, they are calling themselves, “dear”, “darling”, “missing you”. They started connecting on facebook, calling each other at odd hours, texting, sometimes it was just formal and friendly, sometimes it was kind of like btw lovers. When I confronted my husband, at first, he said he felt nothing was wrong and he was just helping her out because she was trying to reconnect with her husband. I e-mailed the lady in a nice way and told her I had seen all the communication btw them, she said my husband always talks about me and the kids to her so she saw in him a nice and loving husband and father she could trust for some counsel. I let her know I thought some of the words used were inappropriate and she never responded to that e-mail.

    My husband has since apologized and begged for my forgiveness. It is so painful because we are born-again Christains, we both work full time and have good jobs, blessed with amazing kids, I try my best (even after coming back from a full time job) to do most of the housework, take care of the kids and still save some time for him. Going to facebook to look at the lady, she is not near me in terms of physical beauty. The funny thing on her facebook page is that she preaches the Bible there everyday and I wonder “why can’t we sometimes see the log in our own eyes”.

    I want to stay with my husband but I always find my heart racing/jumping, I love him one minute and then I resent and hate him the other. Meanwhile he begs me to give him time to rebuild his life and that he is promising me and God, he will never let things go this far again, I just lost trust in him. It is indeed painful when you think you are doing all you can to make your marriage work, your partner is spending internet and phone time with someone else’s wife.

    1. (UNITED STATES)  Cindy, Thank you for your advice =0. My husband and I have since worked on our issues and things are running smoothly now. We take time out for dinner dates, eat dinner and speak about anything but work and have in general taken care of eachother. I love how you described the newlywed stages as “wet cement” he..he..so true. We are building a strong foundation, attending church and I believe we are now ready to have children and be positive role models to them. We are soon leaving on a month trip to Europe in April please keep us in your prayers for fertility. Thank you sooo much for giving me the tools to better my marriage, Alexis

  3. (USA)  I am a very open and engaging person. This is one of the traits my wife finds attractive in me. I’m not an extrovert, but what some would call an ‘open book’. I base relationships on truth, integrity, and being straight-forward (no game playing). My wife and I have been together for 40 years and what I consider (as does she) ‘soul mates’.

    I recently befriended a female near my place of business 15 years younger, but with issues regarding an abusive husband. Because of the line of work I am in, I listened and offered suggestions on who to see professionally. It seems that this lady is starved for communication with the opposite sex because her husband is extremely domineering and emotionally abusive. She chose me to communicate with and feel human again. I told my wife about her and she was more concerned with the lady’s husband’s actions if she goes to him out of anger and tells him “…(she has) a new male friend who listens to me, why can’t you be like him?”

    My wife knows how I am with ALL people and she is secure in the fact that I do not cheat. However, in this day and age, by becoming a friend and listening, it is leaving the door open for the husband’s mayhem (jealousy) or even an attack on our family by starting malicious rumors about this lady and I so as to cause embarrassment and friction between my wife and me. It is so sad that when wanting to lend an ear to another human being, there comes a great risk of being non-politically correct with those nasty little perceptions that affairs of the heart and sexual trysts ‘just have to be’ occurring.

    I assure my wife every night that I am the luckiest man in the world to have her and that my heart and soul comes home to her every night unotuched by another. But will I stop being an approachable sounding board or earnest ear to help someone sort out a path to get on for help? No. I am who I am, and I have the strength and resolve to not cross the line, I will be one of those people who can be confided in to maybe listen and advise just enough to stop a suicide, …or to help a person logically see through a problem instead of allowing their heart to tear them apart and/or do something drastic. If it gets too hot and heavy on their side, I will see it and act according (tactfully steer them to professional help at that point).

    Anyway, … this works for me but unless you have GREAT resolve and honor to not cross that line; moreover, a great love of your spouse, DO NOT get too close and let ego rule what happens below the belt-line. It can and will destroy most marriages.

  4. (KENYA)  I have a friend who to me, is like a kid brother. He got married two months ago and any time they have issues with the wife, he will call me to speak to the wife. Even before he made up his mind to settle for this girl they first came to us as a couple so that I would walk with the girl. It is interesting to note that he has to call me (big sister) almost on daily basis. Is there a problem with that?

  5. (UK)  Of course it is possible to have friends of the opposite sex, provide council and support! The question is would you introduce them and talk it through with your spouse too? Do they know your friends too? If not, then think why are they separate? I have friends like family who are the opposite sex and over the years we have gone through many life traumas together. You should never have to give up your friends due to your partners insecurities.

    1. So what I perceive you’re saying is that your friends are more important than your partnership with your spouse? If your spouse sees a certain friendship to be a threat to their marriage, the friendship is more important to keep “secure” than your marriage relationship?

      If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard it said, “We never meant for anything to happen… we were just friends,” I’d be doing quite well financially.

      My heart breaks for the multitude of spouses who are given that excuse and then they watch their spouse and their “friend” run off together, leaving behind shattered hearts and lives. The unfaithful “friends” feel justified because they “never meant for that to happen.” But it did. And the spouse who was cheated on and the children’s hearts whose home is torn apart are supposed to feel better because the one parent didn’t THINK it could happen?

      Things happen. This isn’t la la land that we live in. “Friends” are hooking up everywhere –finding each other “again” on Facebook and all over the place. That which may start out innocent doesn’t always remain that way. That’s the real world.

      In a perfect world, we could all leave our doors unlocked and not have to watch over our purses and wallets and “identity” in the credit card world. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Things happen. So, we lock our doors, secure our purses, wallets, buy Identity Theft Protection AND do what we can to guard our hearts and our marital relationships from falling into temptation as best we can, even though we can’t imagine anything could or would happen. It can and does everyday.

      If you and your spouse agree together to leave your doors unlocked, purses and wallets and credit cards out wherever, and be involved in opposite sex friendships (where you can’t imagine anything could happen, as so many before you have found out differently), then that’s your decision together …and come what may. I hope it works for you.

  6. (USA)  People, if you have to ask the question “Am I doing something wrong?” then YOU ARE. That is called your conscience! Keep yourself FAR from the point where lines between right & wrong are blurred.

  7. (USA)  For many years I longed for my husband to say or write words of affirmation to me. He said he could not, adding that was “just not me.” It hurt my feelings but I tried to accept it. Then one day not long ago I received a text about his looking forward to seeing my bright, smiling face. Only he made a big mistake – it was intended for a woman he works with, not for me. He said it did not really mean anything. I explained that if it had been meant for me, those words would have meant the world to me.

    I am thinking of a legal separation. All along, it was not that he could not affirm me verbally; it was that he did not want to do so.

    1. (CANADA)  Betsy, I also experienced the very same thing with my husband. I expressed that it would be so nice on special occasions like Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or my birthday to write a card. A present was not necessary, but a card was more special especially if he just wrote a few words to me. It didn’t have to be a lot, but just something. He told me that it is not easy for him to do because of his English. I told him that it didn’t have to be anything fancy, just simple, or even a picture. Well, on the next holiday, he didn’t prepare anything, not even a card. I felt very unloved and unappreciated. I was even more hurt when I found out he was regularly writing emails, texts, and letters of encouragement to people at the Church who are part of his fellowship group. Everyone tells me he is such a great guy, so caring, and so generous. They tell me how lucky I am to have him as a husband. I just smile. I would agree too if I was on the receiving end. I have mentioned this to him, but he doesn’t think it’s a problem. Instead, he thinks i have issues and need to be more mature.

  8. (USA) I NEED HELP. I’M MARRIED BUT I’M HAVING A AFFAIR ON MY CURRENT HUSBAND WITH MY EX-HUSBAND. I LOVE THEM BOTH, BUT I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH MY CURRENT HUSBAND. PLEASE GIVE ME SOME INSIGHT ON WHAT I SHOULD DO. THANK YOU

  9. True, I agree with everything you have shared. I am born again and am dating a Christian man but my dissapointment is that he has a lot of female friends in his place of work and outside work and he flirts with them. He checks on them every time. Even when I am with him he just chats enedlessly and intimately with them. I am hurt and find it so painful. I have try to help him to understand it’s wrong especially, for us Christians, but he says he doesn’t see an issue with it because they are his friends and he won’t stop. It’s so painful.

    1. Shirley, This is just a peek into what your future would look like if you go beyond dating and someday marry. Your desires will be secondary to his need to be “friends” with other women, and be involved in their concerns. He sees nothing wrong with it, and if he sees nothing wrong with it even though you have expressed your hurt, he will continue, despite your pain. He is a player, and as a result, what he wants to do with other women will take precedence over anyone else’s desire –yours or God’s. I’ve seen this time and time and time and time again. Beware!

      1. Hello, My wife and I are having major issue after she found out that I went to dinner with a female counter part with a buddy of mine while we were stationed in Texas in the U.S. Now with this person, I stopped having contact with her a while ago. She told me that she saw me as a brother but my wife thinks otherwise.

        She puts me with my back to the wall and I do not know how to react to a situation like this because she’s my first real relationship and marriage. I have been lying about it to make the arguments and fighting stop but she keeps going on and on about it stating that she can’t deal with it anymore. The God giving truth is that I talked to her before her and she was nothing but a friend… I didn’t have any feelings, nor desire to have anything else than a friendship. My wife keeps asking questions like, oh, then what did you guys talk about then. But I cannot answer those questions as I do not recall. She will basically call me a liar and says you just try to get under it… but I really don’t remember because things like that aren’t important for me enough to remember.

        I want to save my marriage but my wife keeps spinning around the truth and adding things that never happened. How can I fix this when she will call me a lair when I can’t answer questions like what did you guys talked about then?

  10. So…my wife has a relationship with a gay male half her age. She thinks his being gay makes it ok to flirt. Should I be concerned?

    1. Marc, it isn’t so much the “who” she is flirting with, it is the fact she is flirting, period. I don’t know what the two of you promised each other in your wedding vows, but there should have been something about being faithful and exclusive to one another. You know, the “love, honor, and cherish one another…” part of the wedding vows.

      If you are uncomfortable with her flirting, then she should NOT be flirting. Trust is one of the key components in a marriage, so as married partners we need to be hyper-vigilant to build and keep trust in our relationship.

      Very few people who engage in what they think is “innocent flirting” ever intend for it to go any farther. But it puts them in a vulnerable position to go to the next step – either emotional or physical adultery. If your wife were to even fantasize about a sexual relationship with her (gay) friend (because she rationalizes that a physical act is “out of the question” with him), it’s the same as if she committed the act.

      It would be the same as if you fantasized about a relationship with a woman you viewed on the Internet (porn). If you “did it” in your heart, you DID IT!

      You didn’t say if one or both of you are Christ-followers, but if you are she needs to know that she is not only dishonoring you, she is dishonoring God. I pray this helps you. – Steve Wright

  11. Please kindly pray for me & and my husband. My husband said he loves me but he is not in love with me. We’ve been married for almost 6 years and have 2 kids. I’m aware of the stuff I’ve done that hurts him and I’m trying my best to make amends and be a better wife to him. Recently, I found out he’s talking to a female co-worker at his job and opened up about his life to her. I expressed to him how uncomfortable and inappropriate it is that he’s befriending a female co-worker at this difficult phase of our life because what they have might lead into an affair. They’ve been texting and calling each other even after work.

    I’m beyond hurt by all this because this is so out of character for my husband. He is a very private person. I know that he loves me; he is a family man. I’m trying to be strong and keep it together because we have 2 kids. They deserve a complete family and I truly love my husband. He refused to go to church with us now. I know what’s happening is beyond my control. To this point all I can do is pray that God will touch his heart. Please pray for us. Thanks.

  12. My husband has told a couple of single women that they could come to our apartment if there is a tornado warning. However he gets off anytime he wants (he’s a manager),I dont get off work till 5pm getting me home around 5:30pm. I am very upset about this. My husband said I need to trust him!!!

  13. My husband admitted flirting with a female co-worker. He said he liked the attention and didn’t feel loved at home!!! At the time I was going through medical problems (diagnosed with breast cancer) and dealing with emotions. We have had many discussions and rows over this as I found out via-text messages, although every one was deleted. He still has contact with her and swears that that he is doing nothing wrong and three’s nothing going on. The other woman knows all about me and my problems. This is destroying me as the trust is broken down in our relationship. I made him text her in front of me to test if contact was still there, even though he promised he had stopped. I can’t really deal with this for much longer. Don’t know what to do. Thank you for listening.

  14. I cannot for the life of me get my husband to understand that there should not be any exchanges of phone calls between him and his single female co-worker, especially when he deletes the calls right after he talks with her. I did not even know he knew the woman like that until last year when he called her after she had knee surgery to see if she was okay and if she needed anything. She returned his call after he called her to find out if she was okay.

    After he got off of the phone I asked him why was she calling. He said she was just a friend and he had known her for many years. I explained to him that this was inappropriate. I advised him he was playing with fire even though on his end it was innocent. I told him he has no idea how this woman feels about him and she may see him as a nice man that she can catch at a vulnerable moment. He said there would be no chance of that happening. I told him to stop communicating with this woman because I do not like this friendship. A married couple should not have any opposite sex friendships, just acquaintances, associates, and clients. I advised him that we are each others best friend period.

    1. I think you’re insecure and maybe your marriage is not strong. I’ve had a best friend for over 37 years and he and I communicate almost daily whether it be just hi, hope your day is good to a long winded 2 hour conversation. My husband is fine with it and is many times included in our conversations. I think people need to realize men and women can be friends if significant others would not be so insecure and untrusting.

  15. Some men can have a female ‘friend’ without any issues, thoughts, or questionable situations. Me, I can’t. I don’t have any female friends excluding my wife’s friends. I have to keep all women past arms length away. Am I a pervert? No. We all know our weaknesses. We all have them, admit it or not. So, I tell other guys, don’t have friends of the opposite sex & keep your eyes at home.

    1. Bob Tn, I love it when a guy is willing to be transparent about his own weaknesses, and not only recognizes them, but takes steps to keep from falling into sin and risking destroying his marriage. Men, take notice and follow Bob’s example. You and your marriage will be happy you did. Thanks for sharing.