A few weeks ago, a friend and I wrote an article called “Friends Beyond Marriage.” It was about making the transition in friendship when one of you gets married. A male reader sent us the following email:
I recently read your ‘Friends beyond Marriage’ article. As a guy, I found useful things in the article. The funny thing was that since I RSS to Boundless Articles, I only see the title. I actually thought you would be talking about opposite-gender relationships beyond marriage. I was wondering if you (or the male staff writers) had any good insights into opposite-gender relationships beyond marriage.
I’m six months into marriage, so I can speak to how my opposite-gender friendships have changed. There is a basic biblical principle that guides this issue whether you’re single or married. Timothy says: “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
If you are sticking to Timothy’s advice in your pre-marriage opposite-gender friendships, it should be a seamless transition when one of you marries. But the details of the adjusted friendships may depend on the specific married couple’s preferences. One couple I know agreed to not correspond by email (outside of work) with any opposite-sex friends without the spouse reading them. This may sound extreme, but you have to respect the steps a couple is taking to protect their marriage.
If you are single and your female friend has married, your primary responsibility is to respect her new husband’s authority over their relationship. They have become one, and any actions on your part that threaten their relationship are out of place. Jon Acuff offers this advice in his blog post “Awkward opposite sex friendships”:
I don’t know. I don’t have the answer on this one. Just the idea that things get a little awkward when you get married and have to figure out friendships with the opposite sex. But of the two camps, ‘You’re such a Puritan, loosen up’ and ‘Better safe than sorry, can a dude drive me to the airport,’ I know which one I want to fall into. Because no one ever wakes up and says, ‘Today I’m having an affair.’ Affairs are slow burn decisions, with a wick a mile long made of little steps and little compromises.
For those navigating opposite-gender friendships with married friends, I offer two principles: 1) Have a friendship that is above reproach — if others think it seems fishy (or if the new spouse is not OK with it), it probably is; 2) Honor the couple above the friendship. This may mean modifying the level of friendship you have had in the past for the good of your friend’s marital relationship. On a personal note, I have appreciated how Kevin has welcomed in my male friends as “our” friends. I don’t do things with male friends alone, but instead my husband and I extend friendship to them together. Plus, if Kevin even has a hint of uneasiness with a particular friendship, I respect his wishes on the matter.
Again, if you have maintained appropriate friendships with the opposite sex pre-marriage, there should not be a big change after one of you ties the knot. At the same time, understanding that things will need to change (no more one-on-one coffee meetings) will keep your friendship on the up-and-up.