Some things are built for two. Teeter-totters. Loveseats. The Porsche Boxster. And yes, marriage. Say what you like about men and women being able to be “just friends.” If there’s no attraction between them, it’s true enough.
But if there is some level of attraction between them, and if one or both are married, platonic friendship is both impossible and disrespectful to their respective spouses.
No, they might not end up having sex; however, the simmering erotic tension between them – hey, who wouldn’t get a kick out of that! – is a form of conscious betrayal all the same.
If a married person is having a flirtatious friendship with another woman or man, it’s a problem.
The classic defense, “We aren’t sleeping together!” just doesn’t hold water. Why not? Because sexual activity is not the sole determining factor for whether a person has violated the intimate, exclusive connection that should exist between a husband and wife.
Nonetheless, overly intimate opposite-sex friendships in marriage continue to happen. They also continue to wreak havoc in marriage, leading to countless arguments, frustration and hurt feelings.
When a spouse notices that their partner is excessively texting an opposite-sex friend, perhaps setting up yet another “lunch date” at work or sharing yet another inside joke, they’ll at first gently express their concerns. After all, nobody wants to come across as the stereotypical insecure wife or husband, right?
At that point, their partner will typically dismiss their concerns. They’ll insist they’re “just friends” with the other person. They’ll then proceed to guard their phone more closely, change their password and delete their text history.
If their spouse presses the issue, they’ll defend their opposite-sex friendship – sometimes quite passionately. They’ll accuse their spouse of being paranoid, controlling or even crazy. They’ll say, “You don’t want me to have any friends!” They’ll say whatever it takes – however insulting or berating – so that they can continue to enjoy the erotic buzz and ego boost of their opposite-sex friendship. That’s just how these things tend to play out, especially in more serious situations.
In fact, that’s one of the ugliest parts of these friendships. A partner will deliberately lie to their spouse’s face, will continue to insult or ridicule or bully their spouse into silence, all so they can continue to exchange those hot little texts or electric eye gazes with someone they know full well is up to no good.
As time goes on, the strain on the marriage increases.
Hard feelings build up between spouses. The concerned spouse tries to explain, again and again, why the friendship is inappropriate or why they feel hurt or threatened by it.
And the texting spouse continues to feign bafflement, innocence or outrage. Relations continue to sour and eventually even their kids begin to notice the tension in the home.
Sometimes, the texting partner will actually share this information with their “friend.” They’ll complain that their wife or husband is controlling and that they aren’t happy.
And their friend will console them. She or he will say, “That’s awful! We’re just friends. Your wife/husband should trust you!” Eye-roll.
It’s right around this time that the sharing escalates to the point of a full-scale emotional or sexual affair.
But back to the title of this article – is your spouse’s opposite-sex friendship an emotional affair? Is it on its way to becoming one? Well, if you’re worried enough about it that you’re actually reading this article, then it’s quite possible you have cause for concern. At the very least, the friendship may be beginning to drive a wedge between you.
However you choose to handle this, I recommend against endlessly complaining or crying about how your partner’s opposite-sex friendship hurts you or the marriage. Bite your tongue. Stop demanding to look at their phone, only to find a suspicious text and then descend into an argument.
At the very least, stop doing what isn’t working. Stop saying or doing things that are only bringing your spouse and his or her friend closer, while at the same time pushing you and your spouse further away from each other.
You CAN break the spell that your partner seems to be under.
Despite the complexity of the situation and how you feel right now, you can prompt a change in your marriage. You can break the spell your partner seems to be under.
Many spouses have decided to handle things smartly – instead of just angrily or emotionally – and they’ve been rewarded with the return of a more devoted and loving partner. Yet that’s often easier said than done.
If you’re tired of the drama, pain and frustration, and if you’re ready to make a real change, I offer plainspoken, practical help that you can access immediately. Thank you for reading.
• Debra Macleod’s Marriage SOS practice now offers immediate online relationship help. See your options.