Q: I am currently engaged and I have a question. When I get married, do my friendships Have to change? How about friends that are the opposite sex?
A: Thanks for your email. This is a question that comes up a lot when people get married, and it is one that is worth talking through with your fiance and whoever is conducting your premarital counseling. This is something I always talk about with engaged couples in counseling, because it is an area that can cause conflict in a marriage. The question I bring up to couples is this…Will it be ok for your spouse to have his/her own friends? How about friends of the opposite sex?
I do think that it is ok for a spouse to have his/her own friends. Naturally if you work at different locations, you are going to spend time with other people that your spouse does not know as well as you do. To some extent this is unavoidable. I also think that it is ok to have friends of the opposite sex…if, your spouse is also close friends with them. If you have a friend of the opposite sex that your spouse does not know and does not spend time with, this relationship will have to adjust when you get married.
I do not feel that it is acceptable for someone who is married to spend time alone with someone of the opposite sex when their spouse is not present. Many people don’t like that stance, but I believe that it is an important boundary for a marriage relationship. This might mean that after marriage some close friendships that a spouse had might have to change after marriage. Marriage changes things, and this is one of them. I think that it is important to talk about what boundaries you will have for other relationships with your future spouse. If you are interested in reading more about this subject here is a great article that also answers this question. Let me know if I can answer any more questions for you.
I also wanted to add to this Q &A some of the boundaries that I have put in place in my life in dealing with this topic. I have found these to be very helpful and honoring to my wife:
I do not ride alone in a car with another female or travel on any business trips alone with a female. I also do not have any lunch appointments by myself with a female (I realize that due to the nature of some people’s jobs that some or all of these things are unavoidable, but it is worth talking through with your spouse when this does have to happen to make sure they understand the frequency and specific circumstances that these meetings/trips will need to occur). We also strive to not have counseling sessions at the church alone with someone of the opposite sex. Whenever possible, we match men with men and women with women for counseling. These are just a few boundaries I have set up that work well for me.