Drawing the line between friendship and intimacy

Set boundaries with friends of the opposite gender. PHOTO |FILE

What you need to know:

  • When in a committed relationship, setting clear boundaries helps the relationship thrive. All actions need to be intentional and mindful of the other

Stella is married to Andrew. They work together in a photo studio. Gloria, Robert’s wife, has often complained about her husband’s closeness to Stella.

Is Robert and Stella’s friendship just that- a platonic friendship with no benefits attached or is there something more to it? Are they too close for comfort? How much should their spouses trust them? How do they keep themselves from emotional involvement that may threaten their marriages?

Cross-sex, non-romantic healthy relationships are essential and common. Work and social spaces have brought men and women together more than ever before. According to Rubin etal. (1981), men, more likely than women, will initiate a heterosexual relationship, whereas women will control their emotions more effectively than men in such relationships.

Cross-sex relationships have benefits such as respect for humanity. God created us male and female. To refuse or to ignore to relate with people of the opposite sex for fear or pride is to miss out on an important aspect of what it means to be human. It is also a source of enlightenment of how the opposite gender thinks. This deepens your understanding and empathy for others.

A couple talking. PHOTO FILE

Set boundaries

You should not have a member of the opposite sex as a best friend, especially after you are committed to someone else in courtship or marriage. If your workmate is calling you after midnight for some kaboozi (chat) when you are in bed with someone else or if a friend is still calling you countless times a day and relating to you like nothing has changed since you hooked up with someone else, then maybe you have not yet communicated to them the new dynamic.

You ought to do so for when your significant other begins griping about your attachment to your friend. Maybe you are continuing to flirt with your friend oblivious that this will inevitably hurt your relationship.

Leave and cleave

Assure your significant other of your love and commitment. Some come into relationships when they are insecure and they want to mark their space as their own. And they are right. Allow them to do that with ease by assuring them of your commitment to them. Some familial relationships in some tribes in this country also bear close attachments to kin that a spouse from another culture may feel threatened.

However close you are to your kinsmen, where marriage is involved, the highest premium should be placed on the marriage relationship; not even parents or siblings. Let your significant other know you value them above and beyond any other relationship. Prioritise them. This will give them emotional security not to mind you when you are with others.

Be accountable

Keep no secrets between yourself and your partner, especially those involving the opposite sex. Let your partner know where you are at particular times, if you are spending time with someone else, what you are doing and how long. Volunteer this information to them and do not wait for them to call or to ask.

And limit involvement to certain times and places. If you are delayed because of work, it is prudent you call and inform your spouse about it. But if you are lurking around with an ex-flame or old boy, then take the reasonable person test (how a reasonable person would have behaved in similar circumstances) and see why your partner would not be offended.

Accountability for actions helps build a stronger relationship that can withstand the test of time . PHOTO |FILE

Don’t badmouth your spouse

Talking ill about them, especially to a heterosexual cross-sex friend can reveal cracks in the relationship, which they might exploit if they have a hidden agenda to destabilise or hijack the relationship. Stories abound how a best friend turned on their friend and took over their relationship.

Build a network

Consider bringing your partner into your social networks so they equally benefit. Be it games, dinners, concerts, fellowships, et al. But don’t force your partner to be friends with your friend if they don’t want or even don’t like them.

Know yourself

You must be aware of your weaknesses and fortify them against external influences. If thoughts about your friend inwardly and secretly elicit that frisson of excitement reserved for an erotic encounter, how about you recuse yourself from tasks that involve them or avoid getting very close and personal?

I have heard of a notable pastor in one part of the world who refuses to have staff of the opposite gender very close to him. This sounds dramatic but when it comes to protecting yourself, make no mistake about it.

Guard your heart

When the spirit of lust has entered, it will be difficult to control or satisfy with its corrosive effect that the lines between right and wrong will get so blurred that anything goes.

You will start to see your friends as sexual objects and it won’t be long when you start to make indecent proposals. Even if you were once promiscuous before committing to another person, choose to forever shut that door and exercise control over your loins.