“What would be your advice to a wife on male friendships?”
That’s the question one of my readers sent in a few weeks ago. From the signature, it appears to have been written by the husband, not the wife. Which tells me the matter has likely become a point of contention in their marriage already.
By way of response, I’m going to post a chapter from my book, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect. What I’ve written there deals with this topic. But we first need to address an underlying question:
Can a married woman have male friends?
Roughly half the world’s population is male. So a woman will inevitably need to interact with the opposite sex at some point during her married life. She will encounter male bosses, physicians, and police officers. Male sales clerks and waiters will try to serve her. She’ll have male coworkers, pastors, teachers. And she will likely meet countless other men as she goes about her daily business.
Hopefully, all such interactions will be on friendly rather than antagonistic terms. So, in that sense, my answer is yes. A married woman can have male friends. Absolutely she can.
But this sort of friendly acquaintance is not anything that would bother most husbands. And I doubt that’s the problem troubling the one who wrote to me. No, his question runs much deeper than that. He is really asking:
Should a married woman have close male friends?
- Should she cultivate an opposite-sex friendship that excludes her husband or makes him feel displaced?
- Is it appropriate for a wife to pour time and energy into any male-female relationship outside her immediate family?
- Should she be texting, flirting, or spending time alone in the company of a man other than her husband ?
- Is a wife free to ignore her husband’s reservations concerning the amount of time she spends with a male colleague?
My answer to all these questions is no. No. A thousand times, no. Not if she wants her marriage to last. (Incidentally, the same can be said for married men in regards to other women. My husband addresses that topic from a man’s perspective here: Husbands, Be Careful with Female Friendships)
Cultivating a Close Friendship with Your Spouse
Getting married changes a lot more than the marital status of the bride and groom. It also affects every other relationship either spouse is involved in. Family dynamics shift. Responsibilities change. And old friends take a backseat to the new spouse.
Marriage calls for a leaving and cleaving. When a man and woman become husband and wife, they should leave home and family behind. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.
Instead, they should pour themselves into establishing a new family. Building their own home. Investing in their joint future.
Roles change after marriage.
Sure, family’s still family, and we still love them. But the dynamic is different. No longer are we children under parental authority, bound by their rules and dependent upon their provision. Rather, we’re mature adults who must make our own way and answer directly to God for the path we choose.
But marriage not only changes the way we relate to our family, it also alters how we handle friendships. Yes, our friends are still our friends. But time spent with friends can no longer dominate our lives or free time.
This is especially true when it comes to male-female friendships.
Time spent socializing with friends of the opposite sex should probably be scaled back to zero, unless spouses are present. Such a practice would be consistent with traditional marriage vows. Didn’t we pledge to “forsake all others and cling only unto thee?”
You must exercise caution in all other relationships
Want to safeguard your marriage and assure your husband of your undying love and devotion? Then you must be extremely careful in the way you relate to, speak of, and think about other men.
Once you’re married, there is no room for flirting with anyone except your husband. You must be more guarded when interacting with the opposite sex. Let there be no ambiguity about your commitment to marriage in general or to your husband in particular.
Never compare your husband unfavorably to another man.
It is neither fair nor respectful. Doing so will only breed trouble and discontent.
Don’t compare your husband to your:
- family members
- fellow workers
- Facebook followers
- fictional characters
- fantasy of ideal manhood
Assure your husband that he has your whole heart
Affirm and admire him every chance you get. You may want to avoid even positive comparisons, because they still send the message that he is being measured against other men. This can cause feelings of insecurity. For if you make a habit of comparing your husband to others, he may fear you’ll eventually draw a comparison in which he comes up lacking.
Take care not to rave too enthusiastically about a member of the opposite sex, real or imaginary. Many wives would feel slighted to hear their husband go on and on about how drop-dead gorgeous another woman is. Even if it were true, and the woman in question were strikingly beautiful, it would seem inappropriate for a married man to provide gushing commentary on that fact.
Likewise, most husbands would prefer not to hear the rapturous praise of another man being sung by their wife. If ever your eyes are going to light up when you speak about a man, you’d better be talking about the one you’re married to.
A wife should avoid watching movies or reading books that cause her to stumble in this area, as well. Jesus said that when we lust in our heart after someone to whom we are not married, we are guilty of committing adultery. (Matthew 5:27-28) Notice that Christ’s warning applies as readily to women as it does to men.
So before you pick up that romance novel, or buy that movie ticket, or pin that portrait of some shirtless star onto your (real or virtual) bulletin board, ask yourself whether doing so will be a snare and a trap to you. If so, choose the high road.
Pray with the psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) The word for “meditation” may also be translated “thoughts.” And there are many more verses that address the importance of our thought patterns:
- “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
- “For out of the heart come evil thoughts… adultery, sexual immorality…. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:19)
Having eyes only for your husband doesn’t really start with your eyes. It begins in your heart and with your mind. So take the battle there and prevail.
Put It into Practice:
- It’s good for married couples to develop friendships with other married couples. Look for couples who share and support your values and vision for family. Couples who are in the same season of life will be able to identify closely with your struggles, which can be good for encouragement and brainstorming. But you should also form friendships with older couples when possible. Couples who are a little further down life’s road can point out the pitfalls and provide wise and godly counsel.
- When praising your husband, use comparisons only in the most general (and superlative) terms: “You’re the sexiest man alive” is acceptable. “You’re a bit better looking than our mechanic” probably isn’t. Let your husband’s good qualities stand on their own merit rather than measuring him against a specific person. Build him up without tearing others down.
- If you’ve developed a habit of comparing your husband negatively to others, either verbally or mentally, turn over a new leaf. If faults must be addressed, do so prayerfully and respectfully without dragging anybody else into the picture.
This post was adapted from my award-winning book 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband: A Handbook for Wives. Revolutionize your marriage. Get your copy today!
Mariam Fasipe says
This is really nice, I deliberated search for this and i got the answer i needed and also from the few comments about keeping opposite sex friends. I’m glad that the write-up didn’t shun it but everything should have limits. I meet people quite alot both same sex and opposite sex that are interesting and i enjoy both company, is just that the opposite sex seem to be more encouraging, helpful and generous and our conversation is usually on the phone and during work when am actually bored.
Anyway I will try and keep my distance, find some other things to replace the act because as much as am free to discuss with my husband, I don’t think he will like me keeping many male friends.
Jennifer Flanders says
So glad this post helped clarify the issue for you, Mariam!
This is why so many marriages fail. It’s the lack of friendships with the opposite sex. Having close male or female friends is equally important than being happily married. Most people just don’t realize or deny that! This article made me sad. But it’s cultural. In Europe it is totally okay to hang out with friends of the opposite sex. I can’t believe anyone could say it’s not allowed or inappropriate. It’s natural to desire a connection with more than one person. Just on a non sexual basis. I agree you should be faithful and respectful. But keeping the opposite sex reduced to just a brief conversation is like putting a leash on their neck. It would eventually lead to divorce too.
Jennifer Flanders says
I cannot speak as to why people in Europe divorce, but the idea that divorces there are due to married individuals not having enough close friendships with the opposite sex seems ludicrous.
The vast majority (though not all) of stateside divorces I’ve personally witnessed have been the result of one or both spouses becoming much too close/intimate with some other opposite-sex friend. So I stand by the advice in this article.
Of course married men and women will still have interactions with members of the opposite sex, but for the sake and sanctity of their marriage, each should consciously and willingly limit the scope of such interactions and avoid spending an inordinate amount of one-on-one time in the company of any opposite-sex friend other than their spouse.
Ingrid K says
Wow. After reading this, my mind is blown. How little confidence and trust must you have in your spouse, that you expect them to drop their previous friendships and lives because you’re married? I’ve been married for over 15 years with my husband, both of us have friends of both sexes, some from childhood, others from college, and some are colleagues from work that we have met after we have gotten married. I have several male friends that I am close to and we exchange advice, as he has several fenale friends. Me being a pediatrician and him being an aviation engineer and a pastor, we can hardly ask each other for professional advice in our respective expertise. However, I will put my hand into fire to state that he has never cheated on me, and I haven’t and will never cheat on him. We have complete faith in each other and three beautiful children to prove it. It’s when a marriage begins to feel like a prison and when you try to control each other that things begin to fall apart. As the famous quote says, “love one another, but make not bondage out of love. Rather let it be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. And stand together, yet not too near together, for the two pillars that support the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow, but not in each other’s shadow.” As a woman and a man of God, we shouldn’t discriminate which of our brothers and sisters will continue to be in our lives as friends, solely on the basis of sex. I have said my two cents on the subject. I feel sorry for other men and women that live in fear and insecurity because they can’t trust their spouse. It must be a truly stressful existence.
Jennifer Flanders says
If you really read my entire post, Ingrid, and not just the title, then you know I am not calling for married couples to cut off all contact with the opposite sex. That would be virtually impossible. But the husband’s question that prompted this post was not concerned about his wife’s routine interactions with male colleagues or coworkers. He was asking whether she should pour large amounts of time and energy into an intimate relationship with a male friend to whom she is unrelated. And I stand by my original answer: That kind of behavior is a recipe for disaster.
I have read your article about the said subject. It is a wonderful article.
So helpful. God bless you
Jennifer Flanders says
Glad to hear it, Adeola. Thanks for writing!
My wife recently asked for “space” in our relationship. We’ve been married for three years. She starting playing a social game that involves mostly the opposite sex. She has started staying in our rent house and I know she has had some of these guy friends over while I’m not allowed to speak to her per the separation agreement. I can’t help but to think what could be going on. This article reaffirms my beliefs that she shouldn’t spend time alone with other men no matter how innocent. Things happen sometimes and making a decision to hang around another man without me is setting yourself for failure. I’m so hurt and in an emotional tornado about the situation. I can’t sleep or eat. My therapist has been M.I.A. to give guidance. Lord help me!
Jennifer Flanders says
I am so saddened to read about your situation and am praying for you and your wife this morning, that God will intervene, bring her home, and transform your marriage into everything He designed it to be.
I cannot put into words how hurt I feel for you upon reading your story. This is unacceptable and IS ADULTERY!! May God give you the strength to either forgive and drive these men OUT IMMEDIATELY AND WITHOUT COMPROMISE, or to move on and start a new life, with someone who actually loves you, especially if you have not yet had any children. The devilish audacity!! Where are the men with spine, here??!! How can we sugar-coat something so despicable and completely unacceptable. These “men” must never set foot on your soil – PERIOD!! WHAT AN OUTRAGE!
This is true. No married man should have to deal with another man who does not get the clue that hanging with married women is ok. If a woman wants to run around with man friends and call it nothing then she needs to be single.
John Shucknose says
too soft. you are called to tell the truth. not sugarcoat it with ‘grey areas’. these so called ‘friendships’ should be off limits. period.
AMEN!! We are called to forsake all others when we become 1 with our spouse. Sharing time, activities, sharing a meal (“we’re co-workers, we gotta eat lunch!”) is a very intimate activity. “Ah, he laughs at my jokes, he really listens to me, and he compliments me, (unlike hubbie perhaps). This is the evil one’s perfect set up to put a wedge in and tear down marriages, even if “it started out innocent enough”. And it could be emotional infidelity, not necessarily physical infidelity.
I caution my NFP, Natural Family Planning (and GFP, God’s Family Planning) couples strongly against “innocent enough” meals or outings with someone of the opposite sex who is not their spouse. I have 2 examples of this, which ended in divorce, in my immediate family (we’re 8 kids), so it hits home sadly. My husband and I include each other on emails and texts that are going out to or responding to someone of the opposite sex. God bless you and your “yes!” to God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it!”
As far as Eph 5: “Wives, be submissive to your husbands…”, if a husband is Godly and following Christ and the spiritual leader of the family, wouldn’t a wife want to be under her husband’s mission (sub-mission), who is under God’s mission? We specifically chose this as 1 of our readings at our Wedding, because we knew it would rouse our families and get discussions going, and better understanding of what marriage truly is.
God’s many continued blessings,
Thank you so much for this! It was something I needed to read TODAY. God’s timing is amazing!!
Can you send No