Krista J.'s husband is hanging out with another woman. Is that wrong? "He told me they are just friends, but he has been leaving me to go hang out with her," she frets.
As readers offer Krista advice, another question emerges: can married men have female friends? Ideally, they say, the members of a couple should be able to maintain individual friendships with the opposite sex, but in reality, a friendship like the one Krista's husband is developing is often a slippery slope.
Friendship can lead to flirtation, and what once seemed harmless can grow and grow. So how do you prevent this? Here, readers share some ground rules for a spouse's opposite-sex friendships.
1. Make sure there's no double standard.
"If he can, I can," is the guideline many members live by. But when Carol M. proposes this approach to her husband, his response was the very definition of the double standard and one that many members feel spells trouble: that while it's OK for a husband to talk to women, it's taboo for a woman to have friendships with men. "No guy is just a friend," he insists.
In contrast, Jill says that, in her marriage, both she and her husband have friends of the opposite sex. "The rule in our marriage is what is good enough for you is good enough for me," she says. "If he wants to talk to girls. Fine. I get to talk to guys. It works both ways."
2. Agree on appropriate boundaries.
Makena D. feels that "interaction between people of different sexes even after marriage is part of life," and that because male/female friendships outside of marriage are inevitable, a wife should not only "limit the kind of talk [she has] with other men," but let her husband know that "he needs to do the same."
Explaining further, she shares that "your partner comes first."
3. Give (and expect) the benefit of the doubt.
Many readers feel comfortable with their husbands' female friendships because they trust each other completely. "There is no way I would tell my husband who he can and can't talk to and vice versa," says Michelle W. "I've even met up with an old school friend (male) for coffee. My husband trusts me completely, and I trust him."
Megan R. agrees, sharing that she has no problem with her husband's female friend. "One of my husband's closest friends is a woman," she says. "I also have some guy friends, and my husband knows about them. I trust my husband enough to know he won't cheat on me."
4. Include one another in the friendship.
Many readers believe that if your husband wants to cultivate a friendship with a woman, whether a colleague or someone from his past, he should invite you and the woman's spouse (if she has one) to dinner or into the circle of friendship, too. This kind of transparency makes everyone more comfortable.
When It's More Than "Just Friends"
All of this said, some members simply won't abide a spouse's opposite sex friendships, no matter what. Tabitha R. points out that it's very difficult to watch your spouse have female friendships if he has a history of cheating: "I honestly think once someone has cheated that we loose respect for that person, and it makes us think that every woman they are talking to they are sleeping with."
Lisa P. agrees, but for different reasons: "I don't think a married man should be hanging out with another girl or woman even if they are supposedly 'just friends.' He should be home with his family. If his priorities are elsewhere and not with you and your family, then you should be questioning the marriage."
Where do you draw the line on your husband's female friendships?