What boundaries should married people have with their opposite sex friends?
My husband recently came back from a co-ed recovery retreat. He did a lot of emotional work in this group and a lot of healing and expression of repressed emotions. A few women in the group that are also going through the same kinds of therapy and working on the same kinds of issues are wanting to meet with my husband for dinner or coffee.
My husband and I are Christians and want to have appropriate boundaries between us and our opposite-sex friends. Is it appropriate for husbands to meet with other unmarried women to talk about emotionally intimate things or married women to meet with unmarried men to discus intimate things? Where do the boundaries lie? What is God-honoring? I know emotional affairs begin this way and we want to avoid this at all costs.
Then do. Your instinct is right: For him to meet with other women, whether married or not, to discuss “emotionally intimate things” is not only inappropriate but unwise and dishonoring to you, to God and your marriage vows. It’s never appropriate for a married man to meet with a woman not his wife in a date-like setting (e.g., dinner or coffee). The same would apply if it were you wanting to meet with other men. The only proper place for emotional intimacy across the sexes is within family relationships, most obviously the marriage relationship.
Two further cautions. I think any future recovery retreats of this nature would be best attended by both of you together. What better way for him to heal than in the context of your respect, support and involvement. How much better it would be if the woman he’s bonding with during all this healing is not some single stranger, but his wife.
I can’t help but wonder if the retreat was explicitly Christian or biblical in its approach. That’s a must. It’s no good getting counseling to heal in one damaged area if the format lacks appropriate safeguards against other worse problems (like creating opportunities that lead to the break-up of Christian marriages).
Second, I believe this question, though asked by a married reader, has implications for our single readers. It’s a reminder that patterns of emotional intimacy that are set during dating or courtship have important implications for life after the wedding. Too much emotional intimacy too soon can be a red flag that the person you’re considering as a future spouse lacks appropriate personal boundaries.
Some things are meant for the marriage relationship alone. Most obviously that includes sex. But that’s not all. True emotional intimacy is only as intimate as it is limited to the two people sharing it. Any man willing to bond too deeply with women not his wife will be more likely to continue the pattern after he’s married. After all, he’s developed a habit in that direction.
Better a man who makes an effort not to do anything that could be misinterpreted as inappropriate attention than one who gushes over every new woman he meets.
Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.