This blog was initially posted on YourTango.com
In a previous blog post , I explained that the best way to avoid having an affair is to be wary of people who don’t care about the happiness of your marriage. Many people worry that the only solution to this problem is to avoid anyone of the opposite sex—but that’s simply not true! Think about it: If you were to follow this advice to the extreme, half the world would be off-limits to every married person!
Men and women interact all the time despite the reality that a sexual attraction could spark between them. Well-dressed women sit at the boardroom table with dapper men, stylish female sales representatives drop in on male doctors during lunch breaks and well-built male physical trainers gently place their female clients’ body parts in the proper positions on the elliptical machine. Moreover, men and women interact in work cubicles, university lab benches, art, acting and yoga studios throughout the world.
Friend Or Foe To The Marriage?
Can people who are potentially sexually attracted to each other form friendships and still be true to their marriage? I believe they can. It is possible to be open to spending time with, work, study or create side-by-side with someone of the opposite sex (if heterosexual) or of the same sex (if gay or lesbian). But as the friendship evolves, it’s the responsibility of the married individual to pay attention to the nature of the relationship. Feeling comfortable around someone is a blessing. But if you or they are starting to feel very close emotionally, it may be a big warning sign.
When you are with someone who could tempt you to compromise your commitment to your spouse, ask yourself one question: Is this new person a friend of my marriage? If he or she is a great buddy of yours, but doesn’t care to know about, or interact with, your spouse, then that could spell trouble for your marriage. I discuss this in detail in my new book, The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity.
Drawing The Line Between Friendship And Something More
If you’re not sure about what kind of friend this is, it may take some soul searching on your part. There are instances when it’s not clear whether someone has crossed a boundary and become a threat to the marriage. In those cases, you must seek the opinion of the one person who matters most: your spouse.
If your friend is someone of the opposite sex (or of the same sex if you are so attracted), here are some guidelines to help figure out whether that person should be considered a true friend or someone who will put your marriage at risk:
1. Your partner must feel comfortable around this person. He or she doesn’t have to necessarily have to feel spiritually bonded to your friend, but there should be a sense of comfort about your spending time with him or her.
2. Keep family bonds. Your new friend must be willing to form a connection with your spouse and your family. Not just as a way to spend more time with you, but out of genuine interest in being a part of your complete life.
3. Hide no secrets. You should neither give nor receive any secret communications. Any and all contact with your friend should be in full knowledge of your partner. If you find yourself meeting with your friend by accident somewhere, you should immediately zip a text back home telling your partner that you ran into each other.
4. Speak no evil. Under no circumstances should your friendship include discussions about your mate’s faults in anything but the most general terms. Explaining a husband’s mismatched shirt and tie as, “Scott doesn’t have a good eye for color” is acceptable; commenting that the lawn isn’t mowed because “Scott is too lazy to get around to it,” is not.
5. Hear no evil. Likewise, your friend should not use your relationship to talk about faults in his or her partner.
6. No special understandings. Never be in a position to say to your friend, “I’m telling you this because my partner wouldn’t understand,” or otherwise hinting that your friend appreciates you in ways that your spouse does not.
7. No pillow talk. Under no circumstances should you be talking about any sexual issues with your friend. It’s fine to discuss the news of your favorite Karashian’s romantic exploits, but any discussion about your personal sexual preferences or experiences is strictly off limits. Avoid situations that can stir up physical intimacy, such as candlelight dinners, sitting in saunas without spouses around or entering a dance marathon together. You may not feel any romantic inclination toward your friend before doing these things, but the right situation can breed new interest.
8. Minimize rituals. You should not develop habits of exclusively having alone time with your friend. It’s critical that your family periodically be included in get-togethers. Be very cautious about regular rituals that you and your friend have. It’s okay to say, “We always watch the Bristol Fourth of July parade together,” but not, “Every morning, we go on a power walk together,” unless you have your partner’s OK.
9. Stay sober. You should never engage in excessive drinking or any illegal drug use with this friend, as sharing “sins” together develops false intimacy, and substance abuse lowers inhibitions.
10. Pay attention to your emotions. If you begin to feel a romantic attraction to the other person, or if this person begins to express one to you, you must immediately break off all relationships with that person.
I’m glad we live in a society where men and women can share time, thoughts and even friendships. But married men and women must be vigilant for risks of potential infidelity, and do everything in their power to be sure that any individual friend is also a friend of the marriage.