Opposite-sex friendships are tricky and can be a direct threat to the relationship you have with your mate, but they don’t have to be. For most people, fear comes not from the friendship, but in keeping the friendship platonic, which can be difficult given that 90 percent of the time one of the individuals has experienced romantic feelings for his/her friend. Sometimes this is talked about and sometimes it isn’t, but the feelings are there.
But limiting our friendships with the opposite sex once you’re in a committed relationship doesn’t allow us the richness and perspective that we can gain from a member of the opposite sex. With some foresight and consciousness, it’s possible to have friends of the opposite sex and keep your love relationship strong and healthy.
To beat the odds, follow these ground rules for opposite-sex friendships:
Tip #1. No secrets! All parties should know each other and know about the friendship. If anything should change in the friendship, your partner needs to know.
Tip #2. Time spent with the friend should never supersede time spent with your partner, unless there is a dire emergency.
Tip #3. Never make an agreement that can’t be changed. The agreement should always be negotiable, so that if thefriendship isn’t working for your partner, it can always be modified or cancelled.
Tip #4. Never make your partner feel that he/she isn’t the most important relationship to you. This is basically uncharted territory, so be aware and sensitive of your partner’s feelings.
Tip #5. Never put your friend’s needs first. By keeping your partner as your number-one priority, the mystery surrounding the friendship diminishes, and your partner will more likely view the friend as a real person and not just a fantasy.
Tip #6. To ensure comfort and trust, there needs to be a high level of maturity and self-esteem with all involved. Evaluate this with your partner and really talk about everyone’s concerns and fears.
Tip #7. Ground rules need to be established from the beginning, i.e., what’s okay and what’s not for all the people involved. For instance, is it okay for the friends to get together when the partner is out of town? How much time is spent with the friend on a monthly basis? What do the friends do together? Is dancing okay? Is dinner okay? Each couple will have their own individual concerns and questions to consider.
Tip #8. Everyone needs to be in agreement that it’s okay for the friendship to take place. No one should be left out of the process.
Tip #9. The person having the friendship needs to have strong, clear personal boundaries and open communication with their partner and their friend. They need to be up front at all times with their partner, letting him/her know when they’re seeing their friend.
Tip #10. If the partner ever feels uncomfortable with the arrangement, he/she can speak up at any time. Their feelings and concerns need to be considered and taken seriously.
In theory, most couples want their partners to be happy and to have friends of the opposite sex. In reality, this can only happen by following ground rules. The main issues surrounding these friendships are usually jealousy and physical intimacy. If you can talk about your friend freely and make him/her a real person to your partner, there is less likelihood of these types of problems occurring.
Keep the lines of communication open at all times with everyone involved. Be honest with yourself about your ability to have good boundaries, and clarity about what is appropriate in a friendship and your relationship. There are differences. As long as everything is out in the open and with appropriate ground rules, friendships with the opposite sex are possible.