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 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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Filed under: Emotional & Physical Affair

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

  1. What if your husband has become friends with another woman for 14 years and she knows me too as wife but never call me for spiritual advice? She would alway’s call my husband 4 time a day before coming home from work. This was a problem for me and he say’s he’s having spiritual dreams about her just witnessing to her; so he open the door to call her back again on his job. I was so hurt… I want this relationship with my husband back too. What can I do? I’m praying but it’s growing some bitterness in my emotions badly. I need your response soon. Please email me back. She has shared what she’s been through with her problems and cares with him; she have cheered him on and giving him money after her spouse passed away. What is this woman’s motive? Please I need some truth and insight? I feel he missed her through those dreams to call her just to witness to her at his job on the phone. What do you think?

    1. This is tough. She sounds lonely. Your husband has to realise she has an emotional attachment to him and it needs gently to be removed. He cannot solve her problems, she has to figure it out for herself or with other more appropriate people. If she doesn’t step back, your husband may need to be firmer and say ‘I can’t help you, and it’s not appropriate for you to keep contacting me.” He could encourage her to call you (which she won’t) and say “WE will keep you in our prayers.” It’s a gentler way to let her know he won’t be available because you are his priority. He or you can refer her to someone like a counselor or church member to guide her through her issues. She sounds very emotionally dependent on him and should not be only talking to hm. He has to accept he has caused her over-contact, by continually ‘being there’ for her. It’s kind of him, but not fair on you. You should be first in his life, no matter what this other lady says or does.

      Talk to him and explain that this is a problem for you. If he listens and agrees then good, make a plan together. If he promises change but nothing changes because he won’t do anything, you may have to offer later on a serious consequence. Like a separation and he must move out, if he doesn’t end the contact or face the problem.

      You have to be prepared to go through with it as well. Then he will know he is about to lose something important and make his decision. But no one should come between the spouses. You can also ask someone in leadership who he respects to counsel you both on what to do. God bless.

  2. My husband only works with women. He has time and time again pointed out that they always talk about their personal lives with him and that he cannot avoid it. One in particular has made a point to pursue him and only signs up for projects that include him. He only wants to talk about work and what goes on with his co workers. It has gotten to the point that is all we really discuss is his work and the contacts he has with these women. He says that he has to engage with them so that he can get his job done but all I see is how unprofessional and personal it has gotten. He doesn’t see it and gets very defensive when I bring it up.

    Up to him taking this job we worked together and always talked about everything. Now we only talk about his work and when I talk about mine he is less enthusiastic and yet defensive when I point it out. He completely denied that he did anything to welcome their attention but if I show up at an office function, party or dinner they are either very hostile to me or they all avoid any contact at all including with him. I went to the bathroom at our last function this past week as we were leaving. We had been there for a while and none of the women talked to me or him while we were there. I came back from the bathroom and they were all around him talking to him.

    I mention it and he gets defensive and that I am looking for things that are not there. I really do feel that he appeases them at work all day and plays to the attention they give him and then he comes home and tries to appease me and it is as if he is actively engaging in making sure all the women in his life are happy and I am on the same level as them. One day he said he had been very distant at work with them and they got all hostile and it was not going well. So he went out and bought everybody pizza and dropped one off at my office too. He said he was trying to make everyone happy. He said that they all were then in good moods for the rest of the day and he was able to get his job done.

    Time and time again I hear stories of how he had to deal with them and their drama and that he was there for them, but I am not supposed to be angry or be bothered about it because he tells me that he is doing it all for the family so he can get ahead. He tells me that I can trust him and that he has no interest in them at all. But then he mentions about one in particular who pursues him and that he had to block her on his phone. I then find out that he never blocked her but that he just deleted her messages. So then when he tells me that he is trying to avoid some in particular I find out that he really hasn’t done so and then again, I am the bad guy for bringing it up. I am at a loss of how to handle it. Part of me just wants to stop feeling anything about it and just let it take its course because the more I push the more I send him to vent and get support and comfort from the women at work.

    1. Belinda, I don’t know your husband, but I do happen to be a man so I know some of the things that have caused me to behave in similar sorts of ways in years past.

      When I found myself being tempted to build a closer relationship with female co-workers it was during times when I was craving more emotional closeness with my wife but I was not able to get her attention. In retrospect, I have learned that the emotional distance in our marriage relationship that I was wanting to somehow overcome was the result of our dysfunctional communication at the time. I would try to share what I felt as a need for more closeness, but she would feel pressured to do more so she would explain to me why I needed to be more content. Each time that I tried to share, she seemed to try to explain why I shouldn’t feel the way that I did. I was craving for her to come close to me emotionally, but she always felt insecure in the conversation and pulled away to protect herself instead. That ended up leaving me continually vulnerable to the temptation build a closer relationship with someone else, instead of my wife.

      I’m just sharing this because you may want to consider the possibility that your husband is trying to send you the signal that he wants you closer emotionally in his life. Men sometimes communicate in very odd ways.

  3. My husband and I have just come through a traumatic revelation of his decade-plus long life of infidelity, affairs and sex addiction in person and on the internet. He was going to leave me but with the help of the Holy Spirit and a miracle we pulled through, he has come back to Christ and we are better than ever. However, there are some areas of his life he is not willing to look at where I – now hypersensitive to anything unclean and un-Godly – can see he has not faced the truth or is still hiding what actually happened.

    Where the problem got out of hand is he has spent extended periods living and doing business abroad in South East Asian countries. With not having to account for his time he fell into temptation in a big way. Anyway, there is one specific person that I still feel very uneasy about but that he refuses to discuss, saying she is really just a friend and nothing wrong has ever happened between them. I know this woman, she is in the same business as us and he has lived in the same town as her, working out of her premises, so they have become good friends. The problem is that I have always been uneasy around her when we have met at conferences. There is just something inappropriate about the way she greets him, and then how she turns and sees me and her behaviour around me. I can’t put it into words, I pick something up in the spirit.

    I know (he has told me this) that her (now estranged) husband (they are Catholics, live in Indonesia) has affairs with other women, and she has confided in my husband and he has comforted her. This is his weakness, women seeing him and using him as counsellor – “the hero on the white horse riding to their rescue”. He has even confessed to having sex on camera (mutual masturbation) with a woman he “met” on a forum for a particular health condition, because they became friendly and she started sharing how she “cried herself to sleep every night because her husband was out having sex with other women every night”. He gets sexual with these women “to comfort them” but of course really it’s because they hang on his every word and it makes him feel wanted and powerful.

    Anyway, I digress but just to show why I am suspicious of this particular woman who he was ACTUALLY living in the same town for months and they were working together. It may even be true that they have never been physically intimate, but to me, emotional infidelity is just as serious because I define infidelity as the keeping of intimate secrets from your spouse. I know that if she has told him all the woes of her marriage and trouble with her husband, he would have also in turn complained about our marriage and me to her – and that accounts for the odd looks she always gives me when we meet at these events.

    I know he has told lies about me and our marriage, and complained to others online (I have found the messages on Facebook and other platforms), so for me it would be out of character if he HADN’T shared about our marriage with her in turn. I am working up courage to speak to him about this and other things that are still unclear and muddled, please pray for me. I would just welcome some other people’s thoughts on this as I can’t really bring it up with anyone at church, for obvious reasons, and only one friend knows the truth about his secret life and she is not here right now. It has already helped to type it out and read it. Thank you.

    1. Hi Anne, Please post a prayer request on the Prayer Wall. I have prayed for you, but I’m not sure how many others will see this so they would pray for you. But I do know that many, many people pray for the requests that are posted on the Prayer Wall. You will see the link to it on the Home Page.

      I’m glad it has helped you to type this out and read it. It is our prayer that this web site will be a place where those who aren’t able to voice their problems out loud, that God would give them this platform to voice it here and He would minister accordingly. Anne, it’s difficult to know what to say to you, but upon praying about it, here is what I feel impressed to write to you. First off, please know that my heart goes out to you. It sounds like you have a good guy, but he is so misguided in how he is “helping others.” In doing it the way he is, he may be helping them and is receiving a great high on rescuing and helping others, but he doesn’t realize that he is throwing you and your marriage under the bus while he is doing this.

      Guys like to fix things, and “come to the rescue” whenever they can. But sometimes they can be shortsighted in what this does to those in their own household when they get involved in this way. Also, some guys (and many women too) get addicted to the high and fawning over they receive from these victimized people. It sounds like your husband is in that place. I don’t know if he has an addictive personality in other ways but it sure appears he’s addicted here.

      He definitely sounds like he could never go into counseling. He has shown that he steps over the line into being inappropriate. It appears that you and your husband need to talk about this. He definitely needs to stop “helping” other women. It is a weakness for him to step over the line. We all have weaknesses and this is definitely his. So he needs to put up boundaries as far as this issue, and more (we have a lot of articles on this issue on this web site). He needs to minister instead to his marriage and his wife’s heart, as you minister to his. Please pray about this. You have gone through some deep, deep issues. It would be horrible to go through all of what you have, and yet stumble on this. Pray and talk and hopefully, your husband will come to his senses on drawing good boundaries with those who are hurting. They need to find someone else.