Can Married People Have Friends Of The Opposite Sex?

A friend recently posted on Facebook:  is it OK or not for a married person to have a friendship with a member of the opposite sex? I started writing a response to her post and then thought it would be far better to blog my thoughts, so here I go!

Can Married People Have Friends of the Oppostie Sex?

In short my answer is: it depends.

Are you ruthlessly honest?

A man very close to God once said that our heart is more deceitful than anything on earth. That is pretty sobering. You and I can deceive ourselves and not even know we are doing it. Why do you want or need a friend of the opposite sex when you already have someone of the opposite sex to hang out with? If the answer is because your spouse is no fun, hard to get along with, or someone with whom you don’t feel safe, then by all means don’t have a friendship with someone from the opposite sex. That would most assuredly open a door for an unhealthy relationship to begin. And if you do have a good relationship with your spouse, why would you want or need a friendship with another member of the opposite sex?

What do you mean by friend?

I have had several women that I would consider friends, and Zerrin has had several men she too would consider friends. But they are mutual friends of ours. Even when I have had opposite sex co-workers as friends, my wife was brought into that circle one way or another. Furthermore, those relationships are not friendships either of us pursue on our own. Why would we? Jesus once said, “wherever you treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also.” Simply put, if I were to treasure, in any sense of the word, alone time with another woman, I run the risk of my heart not only being drawn towards her but away from my spouse, neither of which would be healthy.

Are you investing in the friendship with your spouse?

Nationally renowned marital researcher John Gottman says that the greatest indicator of a successful marriage is one in which the husband and wife are experiencing a friendship that continues to grow for life. Most of us enjoyed friendship with our spouse at the beginning of our relationship. Somewhere along the line however, other matters become more important. Our job, our home, our church, and our children become the focus. The connection we once enjoyed with our spouse begins to weaken. Annoyances become more apparent, conflicts more frequent, and the beauty of friendship is lost.

Rather than investing in an outside friendship, most of us need to spend much more time pouring in to the friendship with whom we share our home and bed. When we are honest, we have to admit sometimes that means we have to change. It will take work. It won’t be easy or always fun. We have to find a way to work through our differences and even forgive. Developing another “friendship” is far more tempting…and that’s the problem!

Question: Do you agree or disagree? What would you add to the question, is it OK to have a friendship with a member of the opposite sex when married? Join the conversation and let us know what you think! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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13 thoughts on “Can Married People Have Friends Of The Opposite Sex?

  1. Given that lasting marriage is initiated and maintained by a covenant relationship any
    serious friendship of married people with the opposite sex seems contrary to this covenant. Aristotle described three progressive levels of friendship: mutual pleasure, usefulness or shared values. Finding shared mutual pleasure outside of marriage is a violation of that covenant demonstrating a lack of self control and/or self deception. Being kind or useful to a partner in a extra-marital relationship may seem kind or even noble but is dangerous. It appeals to our pride, if long term help is needed surely you’re not the only help available. I remember a pastor friend who “helped” a widowed missionary wife. It lead to a divorce, a new wife, shattered relationships, and loss of vocation. Lastly given you and your “friend” both value the concept of a marriage covenant then surely the risks would outweigh the reward else you are just deceiving your self.

    • Thanks Sandy. Loving our spouse, and growing that friendship is a life-long endeavor. There is an ever deepening joy for those couples who do the necessary work both in themselves as well as in their marriage to see it happen. ~ Mark

  2. I find it sad that because the average Christian is so weak in their faith that they have to fear having a healthy relationship or friendhip with the someone of the opposite sex. I have a hard time picturing Jesus having this conversation about Mary, Martha or the woman at the well.
    This says the average man avoids any real conversation with over half of the population he encounters on any given day, because he is incapable of living out the truth of “Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world”….I guess this helps explain the current condition of our society. Instead we choose to live in fear of what may happen and not in the truth of “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” ……..mmm

    • Hey Kim. Thanks for your reply. I have several thoughts. I agree on the one hand that it is sad that the average Christian may indeed be so weak that friendship with a member of the opposite sex is ill advised. We all have a lot of growing to do! At the same time when I think of David in the Old Testament, he was probably seen as one of the most mature and Godly men around and yet he still gave in to temptation. I think there is a real danger for anyone young or old, male or female, mature or immature to not take real precaution when married and interacting with someone else of the opposite sex. I am not saying don’t do it. That would be ridiculous. But as I said in my blog, we have to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves when we do. Are we getting a level of enjoyment out of the interaction that makes us want to come back for more? Do we find ourselves arranging our schedule in such a way so our paths cross again? Is our mind thinking about that person throughout the day or week? If the answer to any of those question is yes, then the relationship is already going in an unhealthy direction and should be curtailed if not ended. For me, I don’t experience it so much as a matter of living in fear as you mentioned (although to a very real degree that is true as well because of the failed relationships I have seen) but living in the awareness that any man or woman (including me) can fall prey to the temptation of an extra-marital affair be it emotional or sexual. And thus caution is always in order.

      In reference to your thoughts regarding Jesus, He wasn’t married, He alone had a 100% pure heart, and He was completely other-centered in His concerns. With Him as our model, our challenge (as you alluded to) is to let Christ continue to change our hearts, as He lives in us and through us to purely love whomever crosses our paths in life.

      Thanks again for sharing – good to hear from you! ~ Mark

  3. I agree with your thoughts Mark. As in every area of our lives the main question to ask is , “does it bring God glory?” My wife and have many mutual friendships that we cultivate regularly. But above all of those friendships we remain exclusively devoted to one another & we continue to be BEST friends with one another to the glory of God!

    • Great to hear from you Bret! Awesome to hear you and your wife are BEST friends. Zerrin and I have had that joy throughout our marriage as well, though it has taken focus and work to keep it that way at times! Can’t believe it has been so long since Grace – but glad to hear you guys are doing well!

  4. Ah Mark,
    Another universal truth. So we’ll put My Friend. As I read your words I can see so many past friends who have made those arguments for a “friend” who clearly may have once been “just a friend” but you are right Sir. Our hearts do deceive us and an honest inventory of our hearts for ourselves as well as for our spouse prior to deepening a friendship with another could likely be a most valuable insight. Let me add, couples would serve themselves and their marriage well to establish ahead of time the boundaries and ground rules in preparation for this likely inevitable question we each will face in our married lives. In other words, “How do we feel as a couple about the benefit to our marriage by at some point either of us pursuing friendships outside of our spouse?” Mark, this is just a guess but I feel if newly married couples or couples preparing for marriage were posed your questions and inventory of heart and motives and further clarification on how deceitful our hearts can be, appropriate boundaries could be established and memorialized upfront long before our hearts are deeply enough involved to have to consider the question in the first place.
    You’re doing it Brother!!! Thanks for being a light and shedding insightful truths in our deceiving world.

    • Thanks Ben. Great thoughts about making this a point of discussion right up front at the beginning of a marriage, and deciding together on any necessary ground rules or boundaries to assure the protection of their hearts and relationship. You gotta wonder, if a person’s relationship with their spouse is really good, why are they wanting to hang out with someone else? And if it’s not good, why are they wanting to hang out with someone else? My challenge would be instead for them to do ALL they can to make their marriage the best it could be!

  5. Mark, I agree with you that instead of investing in and outside friendship, the emphasis should be to continue building on the friendship with your spouse that was there before and led to the marriage.

  6. This is a subject I feel strongly about and am both eager and able to debate. Yes – married people not only can, but should have friends of the opposite gender.

    This does not make one more prone to sin. The opposite is true – healthy friendships with the opposite gender means you’re less likely to engage the opposite gender in unhealthy ways.

  7. Mark, you wrote:

    ” Are we getting a level of enjoyment out of the interaction that makes us want to come back for more? Do we find ourselves arranging our schedule in such a way so our paths cross again? Is our mind thinking about that person throughout the day or week? If the answer to any of those question is yes, then the relationship is already going in an unhealthy direction and should be curtailed if not ended.”

    But isn’t this the essence of friendship? What if we were speaking about your friendship with other men? Is it wrong to want to revisit your same-gender friend or make adjustments in your schedule to see them? Does this mean you have homo-erotic desires? If I think about my friend during the week am I falling into a ‘gay emotional affair’? Of course not. Why invite the unnecessary guilt upon a sincere desire just to see someone you care about? Why does this desire need to be seen as pathological or evil?