As you experience the gravity and commitment of engagement and new marriage--the weight of love, in the best way--have you wondered how your friendships with the opposite sex could, or should, change?
Throughout our relationship, my husband and I have learned the value of clear boundaries in friendships only through our error and blindness. There was the time his female study partner began sharing deep emotional scars with him, appreciating his sympathetic ear, only to develop romantic feelings for him. It made me wish they spent less time together.
There was the period where I felt out of place at my first corporate job, as one of the youngest employees and as someone just beginning to navigate the social politics of office life. When I met a male technical writer who was also a recent hire, one who shared my sense of humor and had similar tastes in music and literature, we became fast friends.
My husband was hurt when he learned my friend spent significant time chatting one-on-one at my desk and that we shared inside jokes and instant-messaged throughout the workday, sometimes more frequently than I communicated with my husband himself.
There have been the times of hesitancy when we have made plans with another couple and struggled with the awkwardness at being alone with the opposite-sex partner while waiting for the other to come home or meet up, not wanting the other person to feel uncomfortable.
What’s at the root of these experiences? My husband and I have been blessed with the grace to be honest and forthright with one another and have never wrestled with distrust or jealousy.
Perhaps, though, in the past we took our deep mutual trust for granted: in knowing our level of fidelity and commitment to each other, maybe it became too easy to be overly open with friends and to drift into conversations of an overly personal, intimate nature.
If you’ve experienced something similar--that is, the challenge of establishing boundaries with your friends of the opposite sex while in a healthy relationship with your beloved--I encourage you to have a conversation with your fiancé or spouse about each of your expectations and opinions on the matter. The answers will look different for every couple; so long as a spirit of good will is present and your expectations are not rooted in envy, control, or fear, talking about your friendships will help you navigate them in a prudent way as you enter into marriage.
Consider matters like not spending individual time with opposite-sex friends outside of professional or public settings, eschewing terms like “work husband” and “work wife” out of respect for your spouse, and avoiding keeping texts and emails private if your beloved inquires about them. Ask yourself: how can I honor my beloved?
I truly believe it’s possible to have authentically virtuous friendships with those of the opposite sex. Keep respect for your beloved at the forefront, cultivate an awareness of and sensitivity to any development of romantic or emotional attachment and establish boundaries accordingly (either by confronting the issue or limiting time together, particularly if your friend is single), and invite your friends into your life as a couple, not as individuals, when possible.
What about your female friendships? Read 3 Tips for maintaining quality time with your girlfriends after your wedding day.
Writer and Christian convert Sheldon Vanauken describes falling in love with his wife Davy in his memoir A Severe Mercy. As they grew in trust and tenderness, Sheldon and Davy expressed a desire to nurture their relationship by means of a boundary that would protect their hopes to serve one another over themselves and to let love flourish; they called it “The Shining Barrier.”
What The Shining Barrier signified, he says, “was simply this question: what will be best for our love? Should one of us change a pattern of behavior that bothered the other, or should the other learn to accept? Well, which would be better for our love? Which way would be better, in any choice or decision, in the light of our single goal: to be in love as long as life might last?”
As you and your beloved develop your own shining barrier, your own ways to prioritize your vocation, may clarity, freedom, confidence, and peace be poured out over your relationships.
We’d love to hear your own experiences of how your opposite-sex friendships have changed throughout serious dating, engagement, and marriage. Share your stories in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.