What about "Just Friends?"

What about “Just Friends?”

Is it possible for married people to have single friends? In other words, as a married (heterosexual) woman is it ok for me to be friends with a single (heterosexual) man? We have a lot in common but my husband is kind of the jealous type. I don't want to upset him but I also really enjoy my friend's company.

If you are wanting to be friends with a single man, this is an issue to discuss with your husband. For some couples, there are no relationship rules about this. They can go out, male and female alone, and have a great evening. They can text each other late at night. They can go out drinking together, or just hang out in one or the other's apartment freely. They can even remain close to a former boyfriend, and hug and kiss good night.

Some relationships go further into a polyamorous or open marriage arrangement.

For other relationships, some or all these behaviors would be considered not only inappropriate but an emotional or physical betrayal.

I like the late Frank Pittman's answer to the question of whether a particular behavior is "cheating." He replied simply: "Ask your husband or wife."

In other words, this is an issue you must work out, just the two of you.

I have a few imaginings that I share with couples that help them sort out this problem: I ask them to imagine being on a second-floor window of their home and gazing down at the friend or friends below. There are windows in your house to look out into the outside world, and there are doors that you can open to let people in, or lock to keep people out. You can talk together about the people you see outside and how you feel about them.

The problem for many couples is that some relationships create a situation where you and your male friend are outside the house looking up at your husband. These are the ones that almost always cause the most heartache in monogamous marriages.

Lovers are sensitive to intrusions into their intimate relationships. They want to be the first person you call when you get good news or bad. They want you to ask THEM to a social event that has meaning to both of you. They often don't want certain people to hug or kiss you, no matter how "innocent" it appears to you. And they want you to not only hear them out but to understand where these feelings come from.

Sometimes jealousy comes from insecurity. Sometimes it comes from the desire to dominate and control. In still other cases, the spouse knows they aren't being a good partner, but they don't want to have to make the necessary changes to become one. How to come to some understanding of whether you keep your single male heterosexual friend is going to depend upon the type of jealousy you are dealing with.

I've seen this in situations where one person is a runner or engages in a sport, and the other does not. If you run with your male friend, your husband will be hard-pressed to be upset that you aren't running with him, because he has no interest in that type of activity. On the other hand, the issue of how OFTEN you run, how excited you seem to be off running with that other man, how long the run is for, or where you go could all become issues in your marriage. It may sound like the subject is "running" but it may be your relationship with your male friend.

In some cases, going out, all three of you is a good alternative, however, it doesn't work in every case. Particularly if your husband senses competition, or believes your male friend is sexually interested in you and waiting for the marriage to end, he may not want to be friends with this man.

In other cases where he senses this competitive situation, he may want to be VERY close to this guy to monitor his intentions. He might want to take up running, or that particular sport.

From your partner's point of view, you may also have a What about Bob? situation. No matter where he suggests you go, you suggest bringing your friend along. Or it seems that way to him.

What about you? Don't you get to do what you want, or must you be "controlled" by your spouse? This is not easily answered because I've seen cases where the marriage was stretched to the breaking point because the woman's husband guarded her to the point of being upset if a male coworker approached her desk (he picked her up from work each day) or if the father of a newborn was too friendly at the christening. Her husband had behavior that bordered on OCD, and anxiety that worked against him in allowing his wife some breathing room. And he wasn't willing to own his anxiety, and instead blamed her for being "flirtatious." Another marriage ended in divorce because her husband looked at other women when they were out together. She felt he was being disloyal and rejecting the efforts she made to be the beautiful and attractive woman she was.

So take the time to talk about your relationship with this man with your husband. Be candid. Tell him what type of relationship you want with your friend and hear him out about how he feels about it. It might be a "give and take" situation, or it might be a perpetual issue that exists between you for quite a while. But don't give up or give in simply because he "doesn't like it." If you end up giving up your friend and resenting your husband for it, this, itself, may do more harm than good.

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About the Author Kathy McMahon

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online private couples retreats.

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