I was recently asked to answer the question “Should a married person have a ‘best friend’ of the opposite sex?” A very important question to discuss. My response is below:
A ‘best friend’ could be defined as the ‘closest person to you’, ‘someone that knows you inside and out’, ‘someone you can talk to about everything’, and ‘someone that you can count on for just about anything’. In my opinion this role (best friend) is one that should be exclusively held for your spouse, or the person you are in a committed relationship with.
Having another person of the opposite sex being your ‘best friend’ is very dangerous and could eventually jeopardize your marriage. The slope is VERY slippery when you begin to cross emotional boundaries in friendships. Sharing your time, thoughts, hopes for the future, your feelings (good and bad) with another person creates intimacy; it draws people closer together.
It is natural to feel emotionally connected to the person you are opening up to, and who is opening up to you. As time passes and you continue to open up to this person they become more and more important to you. When this is happening in a ‘friendship’ it is easy to slip into what is called an ‘emotional affair’ and from there, the risk of becoming sexually involved is also increased.
Having friendships with people of the opposite sex isn’t problematic; it is having loose boundaries around these ‘friendships’ that can cause serious problems. In her book Not “Just” Friends by Shirley P. Glass PhD. She states “Assumption: Affairs happen in unhappy and unloving marriages. Fact: Affairs can happen in good marriages. Affairs are less about love and more about sliding across boundaries.” Pg. 7
I believe that the role of ‘best friend’ should be held exclusively for your spouse if you are married, or for your partner if you are in a seriously committed relationship. Continuing to work on strengthening that bond is imperative if a healthy relationship is what you are striving for. In addition to actively (daily) working on the health of your relationship/marriage it is also very important to guard your relationship against any possible betrayal. Avoiding ‘best friendships’ of the opposite sex is one of the ways in which I believe you can guard your marriage against the possibility of infidelity in the future.
USA Today printed a quiz “When platonic relationships get too close for comfort” in their June 20, 1988 addition. Taking this quiz can be helpful in determining just where things are in your ‘friendship’.
Has your friendship become an Emotional Affair?
- Do you confide more to your friend than to your partner about how your day went?
- Do you discuss negative feelings or intimate details about your marriage with your friend but not with your partner?
- Are you open with your partner about the extent of your involvement with your friend?
- Would you feel comfortable if your partner heard your conversation with your friend?
- Would you feel comfortable if your partner saw a videotape of your meetings?
- Are you aware of sexual tensions in this friendship?
- Do you and your friend touch differently when you’re alone than in front of others?
- Are you in love with your friend?
You get one point each for yes to questions 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 and one point each for no to 3, 4, 5.
If you scored near 0, this is just a friendship.
If you scored 3 or more, you may not be ‘just friends.’
If you scored 7-8, you are definitely involved in an emotional affair.