What place does a close friend of the opposite sex have within the sphere of the marriage?
Many couples ask themselves this question once they become engaged. It might be a childhood friend or someone you met in your professional or social life. Some say these friendships enrich our romantic relationship and that life would be very sad if we had to limit our male-female relationships to only our spouse. Others feel that the intimacy inherent in any friendship should be kept for the man or woman we share our married life with. How can we get clear on this issue and faithfully make appropriate adjustments?
Our spouse, our closest friend par excellence
Looking back on how their relationship started out, many people remember those special moments of sharing personal details. The more intimate they were, the more a reciprocal trust and connection was felt. Sharing personal information brings us, sometimes in spite of ourselves, down that road that of romance we’re not always in control of.
Nevertheless, a marital relationship lived in fidelity requires exclusivity, above all at the level of physical intimacy and sharing your inner life. If our spouse feels a lack in the love relationship and the sharing of intimacies, they may be tempted to vent to a close friend. It is important to reserve the most important intimacies of our married life for our spouse’s ears. If a third person comes in, through the indiscretion of one of the spouses, that intimacy is broken. It’s a good idea to keep spousal intimacy at a much higher level than the intimacy we might have with another person.
Ask the right questions about friendships
Does this mean there can be no close friendships between men and women? Great saints, like St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi or St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal, were close friends. And they were not united in matrimony. But there must always be prudence.
We can ask ourselves a few sincere questions: If I have a close friend of the opposite sex: what am I really looking for in this particular situation? What do I get out of it? Can I tell my spouse about it without needing to hide anything? Would my partner feel a bit sad or jealous?
Friendships should never expect a degree of intimacy that would risk harming the communion of the couple, of their matrimony, which is considered a sacrament. In reality — be it from the heart, soul, or mind — a married person cannot maintain a deeply intimate friendship with a person other than their spouse without risking putting their relationship at risk.
12 Truths about making lasting friendships from St. John Henry Newman