Last week I had a phone interview with a feature writer for a magazine. She wanted material for an article on platonic relationships with opposite sex, (opposite gender) adults. The interviewer began “let me start off with an easy question – is it OK to have opposite gender platonic relationships?”
That’s an easy question? I wondered what the hard ones would be. My interviewer had not considered the variables. Is one or both people single? Is one or both married or in a committed relationship? It was all the same to her. But it is not.
The interviewer was surprised I did not support her belief that opposite gender platonic relationships are largely healthy for married people. They, instead, can put the health of a marriage at serious risk.
What’s the big deal?
I talked with her about the serious risk of opposite gender friendships turning into emotional and/or physical affairs. Once this happens
- boundaries break down,
- values are compromised, and
- trust is broken.
Broken trust is arguably the most difficult marriage problem a couple can face. More people come to me for marriage counseling due to broken trust than for any other reason. My clinical experience finds restoring trust the most difficult and slowest marriage problem to heal.
“It will never happen to me.”
Don’t risk it. The statement I usually hear from someone who has had an extramarital affair is “I can’t believe I did that. I didn’t plan for it to happen. I never thought it would happen to me!” It happens – even to people who have a commitment to high moral character.
What should I do?
Traditional marriage vows include “forsaking all others.” This is old language to say “leaving other relationships behind and putting my marriage first.”
- Revisit your marriage vows and values.
- Be clear what they are.
- Recommit to them.
- Do whatever it takes.
I won’ deny I take a strong conservative stand when it comes to opposite gender platonic relationships for those who are married. I won’t deny that successful exceptions exist. I challenge you to search your heart to see if any platonic opposite gender friendships is or could risk damage.
What else can I do?
- Remember that grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. It is greener where it is watered and tended. The same is true for marriage.
- Seek a well-trained marriage counselor if your solutions to marriage issues aren’t working or if you believe you have done everything to solve them. Read this short article first: “Choosing a Martial Therapist.”
- One of my best received and most supported articles “Protecting Marriages from Past Friendships” tells the story of an opportunity I had to reconnect with a male college pal. Click on the title and take 3 or 4 minutes to read it.