other day, a friend pointed out something very interesting to me. We were talking about two rather public
personalities who are also good friends.
One is a single woman, the other is a married man. My friend mentioned that, in various
broadcasts, this woman seemed to be making quite a few offhand references to
this married man. And it just didn't
sound quite right. "Can't she manage to
refer to his wife every once in a while, too?"
this same time, I had a conversation with another friend. Her marriage fell apart because her husband
fell in love with a "friend" from work.
She told me "No friendships between single women and married men. I just don't believe in it. Period."
a single woman who calls several married men "friend," this made me think. What kind of friendship is appropriate, or
even possible, between a single person and a married person of the opposite
of all, I firmly believe that, in any opposite-sex friendship that goes beyond
being casual "work buddies", the single person must be friends with the couple.
The three of you need to spend time together, and be comfortable
together. At the very least, the spouse
has to know you and be comfortable with the fact that you're friends.
what if the spouse doesn't want to be your friend? Well, that depends. Is it because his wife hates your guts? Is
her husband jealous or threatened by your relationship? If that's the case, then there will be no
friendship for you. Period. Even if the spouse's objections are
unjustified. Even if the friendship is
completely innocent. "But she's a
terrible wife. Why should she get to
tell him who can be his friend?" It's
not about her right to control his friendships.
It's about your "right" (or lack thereof) to make yourself a source of
division between them. Because, no
matter how many problems they have in their marriage, you don't want to be one
of those problems. Because you don't
want to be even a tiny part of the reason a marriage breaks up. Because you only know one side of the story,
and you're just a stone's throw away from "my wife doesn't understand me like
always think of a line I heard Condoleezza Rice say. She was asked if she would continue to serve
as Secretary of State, and she said, "I serve at the pleasure of the
President." In other words, if the
President no longer wishes a cabinet member to serve, that member is gone. Just like that. It's the same here. If you have a married friend, you serve at
the pleasure of the spouse. He or she
has full veto power at all times.
what if the spouse doesn't have a problem with the friendship, but just isn't
interested in getting to know you? Maybe
he's just too busy at work. Maybe she's
busy at home with the kids and trusts her husband's judgment. Maybe vice versa.
fine. But, you'd better have very healthy boundaries that respect the
sanctity of their marriage.
is a different kind of friendship. There
are – or should be – significant boundaries.
You can't call another woman's husband the way you can call a girlfriend
– or even a single male friend – to talk about your problems or for a shoulder
to cry on. You should never, ever listen while he complains about his
wife or she talks about the problems in her marriage. If the problems are significant and this
person clearly needs someone to talk to, you find someone else and bow out immediately. Again, you don't ever, ever get into the
middle of their marriage. You don't keep
secrets between them – unless it's about a surprise party or an anniversary
gift or something.
one of the soap operas I occasionally watch, a husband just had an affair with
his wife's best friend. I watched it
carefully to see how they set it up, because these shows always have a way of
making these little trysts seem inevitable.
"We didn't plan it. It just
happened." Of course it all starts very
innocently. She loves them both. She's being a good friend. Then the couple starts having trouble, and
the wife leaves town to sort things out.
From that point on, I started to pause the TV and make a mental note
every time they made a "little" choice that led them to their "inevitable"
affair. He confides in her about the
trouble in their marriage. She comforts
him. They share a horseback ride. They remain silent while a camp counselor
assumes they're married and assigns them to a shared bunk (apparently a common
situation in soap-opera-land). And so
they didn't "plan" it. But if they
hadn't stomped on all of those boundaries along the way, "it" wouldn't have
have several very good friends who are married men. And we have some pretty good talks. The thing is, more often than not, it's the three of us involved in the
conversation. Their wives are there –
they are an active part of the conversation and the friendship. And, if occasionally there's a deep
conversation without the wife present, it's only because she has been there so many times, it's like
she's there. The conversation is no
different because of her absence. And if
she were to walk in halfway through, she'd be welcome and we'd be eager to have
her join in and add her perspective.
can't speak for men in this regard, but I do have some passing familiarity with
women. God created us with a built-in
desire to want to see ourselves through a man's eyes, to depend on a man, to
share our lives with a man. When that
doesn't happen, some women get tempted to place other men, even partially or
imperfectly, into that role. That's
probably not such a big deal if the man involved doesn't belong to someone
else. It may not be such a great idea,
but at least nobody else is dragged into it.
But it's a different story when that man is married. A woman may rationalize it all kinds of
different ways, but that bottom line is that it's not only a very bad idea —
thing about being a friend is that it involves looking out for what is best for
that friend. And if your friend is
married, part of that means respecting the sanctity of his or her marriage.
behave any other way is very, very bad form.