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Friendships between people of different genders can be wonderful things. Men and women that are just friends can be great sources of support and insight.
But when it comes to romantic relationships, they can sometimes be problematic if not handled well.
Whether you’re the person with a friend of the opposite sex or your partner or spouse has a close friend that’s a different gender in their life, this can be a delicate thing to negotiate.
If you’ve got questions about opposite sex friendships and how they can work alongside romantic relationships, then you’ve come to the right place.
We’re going to look at both sides of the story.
On the one hand, if you’re the one with a friend of a different gender, what rules should you be following? We’ll share a few tips for making sure that your relationship and friendship happily coexist.
And on the other hand, if your partner or spouse is the one with one of these friendships, how should you handle it? What can you ask your partner to do, and what’s unreasonable to expect of them?
Read on to find out how you can make these relationships and friendships rewarding, happy and lasting.
7 tips if you have a friend of the opposite gender:
So, you’re reading this because you’re married to or in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex to you, and you also have a close friend who’s the opposite gender.
That’s great. Having a close friend of the opposite sex can be richly rewarding, as they can be a great person to confide in or just help you look at things from a different angle.
But this can get tricky, so here are some tips to help you keep your romantic relationship happy and strong without sacrificing your friendship.
1. Put your romantic relationship first.
Whilst a friendship can be extremely important to you, if you want your romantic relationship to last, you need to put your partner first at all times.
Hopefully it won’t come to this, but don’t tell your partner that your relationship depends on their acceptance of this friendship, as that’s putting far too much pressure on them.
2. Don’t expect your partner to be friends with them.
A big mistake a lot of people make is expecting their partner and their friend to become best mates. That would be great, but they probably won’t develop a close friendship.
Your partner is quite within their rights to choose his or her own friends, so don’t try to force them to spend time with your friend.
3. Be honest with your partner.
The key in situations like these is to always be totally honest with your partner.
If you don’t want to tell your partner about spending time with your friend, then there’s definitely something wrong.
Trust is the key to any relationship, and your partner needs to know that they can totally trust you when it comes to this friend.
Are you reluctant to tell your partner about something you do with your friend? Ask yourself whether that’s because it’s totally innocent but your partner would get jealous, or because it’s inappropriate and would be reasonable for your partner to get upset about it.
4. Don’t flirt with your friend.
You might have a jokey friendship or a close friendship but try to make sure that doesn’t cross the line into a flirty relationship. You shouldn’t be flirty with this friend at all, but especially not when your partner is present.
Things like leaning in or casually touching their arm or leg, or them doing the same to you, is probably crossing the line. If this is in front of a group of people, it can make your partner feel humiliated.
5. Think about what it looks like from the outside.
If your friend of the opposite sex is of a similar age to you, or has a similar background, or also has a loving, committed partner, then it’s probably appropriate.
But make sure you’re not forming inappropriate friendships. Is there a big age gap between you and your friend?
If a reasonable person who doesn’t know you would think the friendship was strange, then your partner is almost certain to question it and be bothered by it.
6. Treat your partner the way you’d wish to be treated.
In situations like these, before getting upset or annoyed that your partner or spouse feels threatened by your friend of the opposite gender, you need to turn things on their head.
If things were the other way around, how would you feel?
If your girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, husband, wife, or whatever you call your SO, had a friend of the opposite sex, how would you feel about it? If they treated their friend the way you treat your friend, would you be okay with it?
If they went on a weekend away with this friend or were flirty with them, how would you react?
If you wouldn’t be okay with it, that means you’ve got some real double standards going on here, and you need to be more considerate of your partner, and draw better boundaries in your friendship.
7. Don’t tell your partner they’re crazy.
If your partner is uncomfortable with your friendship and sees it as a threat to your relationship, don’t be tempted to dismiss them and say they’re jealous or crazy. That won’t help the situation.
Listen to their concerns, and be honest with yourself about whether there’s any truth in them.
If there isn’t, reflect on your behavior and think about what could be making your partner feel this way.
If it’s just a healthy, supportive friendship that doesn’t cross any boundaries, then you shouldn’t be expected to give it up entirely. After all, your partner should be able to trust you, and if they don’t, there’s probably a deeper problem there than this friendship dynamic alone.
But you may have to make some compromises on your friendship if you want this relationship to work.
If you realize you’re not willing to compromise on your friendship for your partner, then maybe they’re not the right person for you.
6 tips if your partner has an opposite sex friendship:
So, your partner or spouse is the one that has a close friend of the opposite gender.
This can be a tough thing to handle, but don’t worry. This doesn’t have to take its toll on your relationship.
Here are some tips for how to approach this situation.
1. Join them when they hang out.
There’s no need for you to be best friends with this person, and you might find that you’re more than happy to sit out their meet-ups in future. But it’s a good idea to spend some time with them both occasionally.
If your partner’s behavior toward you changes drastically when you’re with their friend, then that’s a warning sign.
But if there are no bad vibes and they’re both relaxed (you’ll probably need to be relaxed too for that to be the case) then you’ll be reassured that their friendship is entirely innocent, and it might even help you get to know your other half better.
2. Make an effort with them.
Maybe the two of you just won’t have much in common or much to talk about, so you won’t strike up a friendship.
But you definitely do have one thing in common, and that’s your partner, so you should be able to dig up at least some topics of conversation.
If you do have any concerns about this friendship, then try to spend some time with the friend, maybe even one to one.
They should be happy to make an effort with you, too, if they genuinely want their friend (your partner) to be happy.
3. Avoid the temptation to be passive aggressive.
If this friendship bothers you, then don’t fall into the trap of being passive aggressive toward this friend in the hope that this will drive them away.
Don’t try to exclude them from big events such as your partner’s birthday party, especially if you invite his/her other friends. And do not talk them down to your partner.
4. Talk things through with someone you trust.
Jealousy can really distort your outlook on situations like these, so it can be helpful to speak to someone else who you know will be impartial.
See if they think you’re just worrying over nothing or if you have grounds to be concerned.
Voicing your concerns will help you process them, which should help you realize if you’re being unreasonable, and is good practice for having a discussion with your partner.
5. If you have real concerns, have an honest talk.
If you’re nervous about speaking to your partner, consider writing down your concerns before you talk to them. Think about what the red flags are about this friendship that you want to bring up.
That will help you stay focused on what you want to communicate rather than getting upset and letting the conversation drift off topic.
Rather than telling them you need to have a serious conversation, just bring it up at a good time, perhaps when you’re doing some kind of activity so there’s less pressure. Don’t square up for a confrontation or put them on the defensive.
Try to focus on how the friendship, and their behavior toward their friend (or vice versa) makes you feel, and give specific examples of why.
Don’t be surprised if the conversation doesn’t last too long, as they might brush it off. But it should at least plant a seed, and mean they mull over the friendship and its effect on your relationship in their own time.
It could be a good idea to ask them to imagine how they would feel if the tables were turned.
6. Think about whether you can trust your partner.
You can try to stop your partner from seeing this friend all you like, but the fact is, if they’re important to your partner, they’ll probably be a permanent fixture, and you can’t spend your whole life being jealous.
Trust is the basis of any healthy relationship, so you have a decision to make. Either you trust your partner, in general but specifically with this friend, or you don’t.
If you can’t just accept this friend, then it might be time for you to accept that this relationship isn’t right for you.
Still not sure how to make your relationship work when friends of the opposite gender are part of the equation? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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