Marriage is hard enough on its own. But sometimes when 1 spouse starts spending a lot of time alone with someone of the opposite sex, it can create a lot of headaches in their marriage. So, should a married man have female friends?
Here’s what I know from being in my current marriage 15 years:
Yes. It is OK for a spouse to be friends with someone of the gender they are attracted to. But, they should never put them over their spouse. And including the spouse sometimes is even better. Clear boundaries, communication & empathy can help all of the individuals navigate the friendship without it causing problems.
But that’s just 1 example.
There are a lot of ways a spouse can be friends with someone of the opposite gender (or the same gender if that’s how their attractions align). And, more importantly, there are a lot of things that a spouse can do to really damage the marriage by having a friend they are potentially attracted to.
Even though times are changing, the idea of a married man and woman being friends can still be a touchy subject for a lot of couples out there. Indeed, being friends with the opposite sex can sometimes be difficult to navigate with your partner.
But with precautions, awareness, proper boundaries and good communication, friends of the opposite sex can enrich you and your partner’s lives exponentially. In fact, it would be an absolute shame to dismiss the idea.
Opposite sex friends offer perspective and advice that we can’t get from our partner. They’re key to growing an understanding of how to maintain relationships, needs, expectations and communication styles of the opposite sex.
You CAN save your marriage — even if a female friend is starting to come between you and your husband.
You CAN get back to feeling like the #1 woman in his life and make your marriage better than ever.
And you can bring back that electricity you felt for each other when both of you said, “I love you” for the first time. Isn’t the chance to save your marriage and avoid all the heartache and money worth just a few moments of your time?
If you feel like your marriage is worth rekindling, then do yourself a favor and check out all the info and free video at Mend the Marriage.
Your marriage is worth it!
Can a married man and woman be just friends?
Yes, they can.
Let me type that again just to clarify. Men and women absolutely can be just friends. At best, this is an issue of trust in your partner vs. protective instincts. In this best case, an honest, open conversation could be enough to ease your mind.
But for the sake of this article, let’s take a look at the worst possibilities. This may be an issue of:
- Ignored red flags
- Unclear expectations of your partner
- Unset or no boundaries with your partner
If you’re reading this before marriage or are still somewhere in the dating phase, then now is the time to iron out these concerns. Let’s start with the first. It’s the biggest and worst.
Let’s say your man is meeting a female friend very often, going out with her alone or texting her during the time spent with you. By themselves, even these drastic behaviors could be entirely innocent. This is especially so if your man doesn’t realize this behavior makes you uncomfortable.
But, if you’ve voiced these concerns and nothing changes, that’s red flag city.
A successful relationship means hearing each other’s worries and finding a compromise. And most of all, it’s following through with promises to change hurtful behavior.
If any man doesn’t try to understand your perspective or empathize with your worries, you may need to ask yourself some hard questions. If you’re feeling like your marriage is in a stalemate, it may be time to get some help.
Marriage counseling has helped my marriage and hundreds of thousands of others.
And therapy doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable. It is simply a way for a neutral 3rd party to help you and your spouse figure out how to communicate better.
But if you’ve never done it, you probably have a lot of questions: Cost, insurance, what they do, and how many times you need to go. If that sounds familiar, check out the facts in my recent article
Just click that link to read it on my site.
How do I set boundaries with my husband having female friends?
Before you bail prematurely on a salvageable relationship, I’ll let you in on a not-so-hidden secret that might turn everything around: Men are not as good as women at recognizing emotional cues. That brings us to points 2, 3 and 4: Communication!
Communicate your feelings, concerns, and expectations directly and clearly. Anything hidden in the subtext could easily be lost in translation.
As I often say to my wife; “my mind-reading skills are not what they used to be”. If she wants me to hear what she’s saying she has to say it clearly, directly, and without beating around the bush.
To communicate effectively, make sure your message has two important qualities:
- Direct and clear, nothing is hidden
- Not an attack, contextualized through your expectations and needs
There are a few expressions to make these hard conversations easier. They are well known and used to the point of cliche for good reason – they work!
Here are a few examples…
“When you (behavior) it makes me feel…”
What not to say: I hate you seeing her so often.
Say this instead: When you see her so often, it makes me feel like you’ve lost interest in me as a romantic partner.
“I think (clearly stated expectation) would make me feel …”
What not to say: You should put some distance between you two.
Say this instead: I think putting some distance between you two would make me feel more comfortable.
“What do you think about (boundary or expectation)?”
What not to say: Can’t you not hang out with her alone at least?
Say this instead: What do you think about not hanging out with her alone?
While these sentences are all clear and direct, the first in each example feels like an attack.
This could escalate a civil talk into an argument real quick. In the third example, framing a request the second way gives the listener a sense of control that opens them up to a dialogue. Asking the first way presents a demand that leads to a reactive, defensive response. Not good for a productive discussion.
Again, if your man does not respect or hear these concerns, it is a major red flag. That might mean revisiting the issue. If that has failed, it might be time for some hard choices. Don’t let anyone disrespect you or your wishes, intentional or otherwise.
If your marriage is failing, then check out this short video on how to Mend Your Marriage that will help get yours back on track.
Can guys have close female friends?
In fact, everyone benefits from a close friendship with the opposite sex. You can learn so much about relationship issues from the other side. You gain a new perspective from someone who can probably see the situation better than you can. Through a friendship, you learn how to communicate in a way that your partner is more likely to understand.
You can even get the bad news that it’s you who’s been the jerk this whole time – information a friend would be willing to share, where a lover may not.
It is more than just absurd to still be asking if opposite sexes can be friends in 2020, it would be stunting your own growth. Besides, all these great things and lessons learned can benefit your man’s romantic partner most of all – you!
I think some more important questions to think about are:
- “What is the nature of their friendship?”
- “Do he and she keep healthy boundaries?”
- “Do they have any history together which may compromise their judgment?”
- Is she friendly with you?
- Is she single?
Let’s look at each one.
1. The nature of their friendship and how they first met
This could be a good indicator of any foul play.
For example, if their friendship came about from a shared interest, as part of a mutual friend group or started in childhood, there’s probably not much to worry about.
If their friendship is new, based on some chance meeting or formed without a logical explanation of why that’s a different story.
Ask questions about the friend to get a clearer picture of what you’re dealing with, a genuine friend or something else.
2. Clear boundaries
Second, when you’re friends with the opposite sex, there is a certain vigilance you need to maintain.
Feelings can come up unexpectedly. And no matter how in love you are with your partner, if your eyes still work, you can and will notice physical attractiveness.
So, it’s important to make sure that both parties have and respect each other’s boundaries.
Cheating is not only physical, so a keen awareness of self and the friend is essential. Couples should check-in and make sure no one is getting stepped on.
Ask before getting yourself into a potentially problematic situation.
A simple “Looks like it’s just going to be me and her tomorrow. But, I can cancel if that bothers you.” or “Do you mind if I invite him to our plans or did we want to keep it just us?
Both are okay with me.” is a good start.
3. Is there a romantic history?
The third concern is whether they have any romantic history.
If there is, that adds another layer of difficulty in maintaining a healthy friendship. The person trying to maintain a friendship with their ex should understand this and act accordingly.
If they get defensive, that’s one more red flag. Even in the case of deep history, not all hope is lost. For example, while it’s 99% a Facebook friendship, I am still friends with my ex-wife. We’ve been split up well over a decade and there’s no romantic interest there whatsoever.
But we shared over a decade together and that means something to me. But not in a romantic way.
4. Is the female friend friendly with you?
If your husband’s female friend isn’t friendly to you and doesn’t make an effort to connect with you, that’s a very bad sign.
After all, she is spending time with your husband. There should be respect for you that comes with that. But, instead, if she makes an effort to be friendly with you and takes the time to get to know you, that’s a much better indicator that there’s nothing to worry about.
If she makes an effort to be your friend too and/or invites you out sometimes too; even better!
5. Is the female friend single?
Make no mistake. Married people of both genders have affairs all the time.
But a single woman wanting to hang out with a married man just has a few extra red flags. To be clear, I’m not suggesting a married man can’t be platonic friends with a single woman.
I am suggesting that it warrants greater effort on her part and the part of your husband to ensure they aren’t doing things to create mistrust with you. If, as I mentioned in #4, she also doesn’t make an effort to be friendly with you, that’s almost a sure sign her motives aren’t 100% pure.
That doesn’t, however, mean your husband has impure motives. I can tell you, as I mentioned above, that guys are not usually good at picking up small signals. So even if the woman has intentions on your man, he might be totally clueless.
Can a man just be friends with a woman he is attracted to?
As mentioned, your sense of physical attraction does not magically stop once you commit to someone. But acting on those impulses, must.
The common stereotype is that men are powerless against our “little brain.”
But that’s an excuse for bad behavior or low willpower. If your man is genuinely committed and respects you, he will maintain boundaries and guard his heart accordingly.
Besides, the emotional attraction is a more serious threat.
It’s perfectly fine to respect, enjoy the company of, or even admire a person who isn’t your lover. It’s even okay to have rogue thoughts of what they would be like as a partner.
But entertaining and transforming any of those thoughts into real desire is obviously not okay.
If a slip-up happens, even if just a minor infraction like a touch or kiss, a respectful, committed partner would either create some distance on their own or admit these feelings to their partner.
Approach the second option cautiously.
People say “honesty is the best policy”. But be clear with yourself about your motives. Are you trying to help your partner or just ease your guilty conscience?
While it could build trust to admit a transgression before it becomes a bigger problem, you don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings either.
That said, it is possible to be friends to someone you’re attracted to without issue at all. Following the same boundary-setting advice laid out above and a bit of vigilance should be enough for any truly committed, emotionally intelligent person.
How being attracted to a female friend contributed to the end of my relationship
I still recall being friends with a woman named Heather.
This was a friend I met at work in between my 2 marriages (roughly 20 years ago). I was, however, in a committed relationship at the time with a serious girlfriend. To be clear, Heather, who was also living with her boyfriend, and I never did anything I haven’t done with my male friends.
Not even a kiss. I also have no idea if she had any romantic feelings for me whatsoever.
But I was attracted to her on a physical and emotional level. I kept my boundaries in place and told myself as long as I did that, it was OK. In truth, my relationship with my girlfriend did suffer and we eventually split.
We didn’t split because of my emotional connection to Heather, and they were friends too.
But I can see in retrospect that I neglected my girlfriend in wanting to spend time with Heather. While I kept my physical boundaries in place, I should have recognized how my emotional desires were negatively impacting my relationship with my girlfriend.
Eventually, my girlfriend went looking for a connection elsewhere and found it.
How do you know if your husband is in love with another woman?
While there’s no surefire way to tell, since as many of those probably involve some deception on your part, there are a few signs you can look for.
Unexplained changes in routine are one obvious one. Especially if they are recurring and habitual in nature. Sudden late nights at work or social events that exclude you specifically are a sign of something fishy.
Showering or washing hands as soon as they get home is another classic example.
Some more subtle cues might be:
- A decrease in sex drive
- Texting in the early mornings or evenings
- Keeping the phone locked and nearby at all times
- Turning the phone down on its face when you’re around
- Overall more distant and detached with you
I mentioned deception above.
Let me be clear. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of doing bad things hoping to catch your spouse doing bad things. 2 wrongs, as they say, don’t make a right.
Hacking into emails, social media stalking, or reading your spouse’s text messages when they are in the shower might give you an answer. But more likely, it will just increase your insecurity and paranoia. If you get caught, especially if they aren’t actually doing anything wrong, now you’re the bad guy.
Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. If they are doing really questionable things, ask them directly. It’s OK to feel suspicious in the face of suspicious behavior.
It’s NOT ok to resort to doing suspicious things yourself.
This is a tricky question that involves intuition and feeling just as much as evidence.
But there are some more concrete signs your husband is considering a divorce. If you think that’s where he might be heading, check out my recent article. I get into all the signs to look for, including the 1 sign that almost assuredly means he’s thinking about divorcing you.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Did I cover all you wanted to know about whether a married man should have female friends?
I hope this article allays some typical fears and instills some confidence that having friendships with the opposite sex is not only okay but recommended!
Remember that above all, good communication is the foundation of a successful marriage or relationship.
If your expectations and needs are expressed clearly, your partner monitors his feelings and maintains healthy boundaries, there should be nothing at all to worry about.
But, if your partner fails to respect your feelings or is unwilling to compromise his female friendships, there is something wrong. It’s not OK to ask your man to be a prisoner and never spend time away from you or work. I ended my first marriage for that (and other) reason. But you should also be the #1 woman in his life and come before all others.
Respect yourself and don’t ever tolerate emotional neglect or abuse.
Are you looking for ways to rekindle your marriage?
A marriage or relationship is not a black and white thing that either works or doesn’t. It’s a living, breathing thing. Like all living things, it requires attention to survive and thrive.
Even if your marriage has fallen on hard times, that doesn’t mean it’s done.
You can get your marriage back on track! I know because I’ve done it myself. Check out my recent article where I break down every step to take to rekindle and restore a relationship. I’m not even talking about just making it like it was before, but better than it ever was!
Just click that link to read it on my site!