Welcome to the SprocketInk Shrink, your home for slightly less than professional advice. Your host for today is, Angie Uncovered.
Dear SprocketInk Shrink,
Can a man and woman truly be close friends when one or both are in a relationship with other people? My spouse and I argue about this all the time.
-Seeking Supervision in the South
Dear Seeking Supervision,
Thanks for not asking about politics. I was sort of worried this was going to get nasty. First of all, you said “spouse”, so you’re married! Admit it! Oh… okay you did. Anyway, the Puritain part of me who believes the things I agreed to when I was a bride of 19 says, “ABSOLUTELY NOT! YOUR BEST FRIEND IS ME!” However, she died a long long time ago in a land called, Iowa. Let’s forget about her. Instead, let’s put my angry, bitter, 19 year old self aside and tackle the real issues here. So let me give a clear and concise, “YES! You totally can!” before I bring you down with my muddled rules and regulations.
Close friends share a lot of confidences. Sometimes they are as simple as, “I don’t think my new boss likes me.” Occasionally it’s something as significant as, “I don’t think my spouse finds me attractive anymore.” There are different levels of comfort and different levels of confidence that we share with our “close friends” that we don’t share with our spouses.
Sometimes in life we make friends with someone of the opposite sex and the connection is great. We are able to communicate with each other without fear of alientation or condemnation all without the desire for something more to come from it. It’s common. The more we interact with each other on a daily basis the more likely the “close friends” situation is going to occur, regardless of sexual orientation. Whether it’s a shared job function or a shared hobby, the more time with you spend with like minded people, the more likely they are to be close friends. Still, there are guidelines we need to be wary of.
1. Is one of you really really ugly? Just kidding… sort of. It does help though.
2. Is this conversation or flirting? Are you flirting with me right now?! Seriously kidding there.
3. Are you able to ask your spouse the same questions you ask your friend?
4. Are you absolutely POSITIVE that neither of you harbor sexual feelings for the other? (My 16 y/o son would say it’s impossible, but then again… he’s 16.)
5. Are you allowing your “close friend” to intrude upon your marital and family time?
If it’s a matter of daily work BS, are you sharing information because of a shared interest? Are you sparing your partner from boring “work talk”? If so, then by all means, carry on the conversations… or perhaps let your spouse join in and see how long it takes them to get tired of your crap and bow out. Either way, keep it within the confines of work and work hours.
What it comes down to is this. Your close friends should never be entitled to something you can’t share with your spouse (Remember the thing about your spouse not having to testify against you). If confronted with the information would you be willing to say to your significant other, “Why, yes.. I did say that.” or “Yes, that’s how I feel.” without feeling guilt?
Often we cultivate an image that we’re hard pressed to reliquish. Perhaps it’s that of the provider or the nurturer. Sometimes we share our lack of confidence with someone who shares none of our daily burdens, simply because we just need outside reassurance that we haven’t completely lost the plot. Still, I urge you to take the information you gain from your close friendships to make your relationship with your spouse stronger.
It is possible… just know your boundaries. Know where the lines are drawn in your friendship. Remember the confines of your marriage, and if at all possible, for the sake of house and home… try to include your partner whenever possible. Secrets don’t make friends. They also don’t make for healthy marriages.