You tied the knot. All of a sudden, It seems like all the rules have changed. People assume you’re RSVP’ing for two. You get to have a second driver for your rental cars. And things may seem a bit weird with the opposite-gender friends from your single days. If you’re married and you’re wondering what the new rules for friendships are, read on.
In a healthy marriage, where both spouses are comfortable with it, a married woman can be friends with a single man. But it may not always be the best thing for your marriage or your friend.
These days, one of my closest friends is a single man. He’s someone my husband also considers to be a good friend. This man lived with my husband and me as a housemate for a few years. Our friendship works well because we both love and value my husband, and neither of us would want our friendship to jeopardize my marriage.
In contrast, I had a male friend in my teenage years that I was thinking about a few months ago. I realized I still had his phone number, so I sent him a text to see how he was doing. We exchanged a few friendly messages, catching up on where our lives had ended up.
Then, he asked me this: “So, are you still married?” I was a little taken aback by the question (and underlying assumption). I quickly responded that yes, I was still married and that my husband knew I was texting with him. He never replied- and I haven’t heard from him since.
So before you grab your phone to text your single (or married) friend, think it through. Just because a married woman can be friends with a single man doesn’t automatically mean they should be. It can be challenging to discern whether a friendship is appropriate. Furthermore, even if a relationship is technically proper, it may not help you have a happier marriage and life. Various considerations can help you decide which friendships to keep and which to leave behind.
- First, A Caveat
- Your Husband Should Be Your Priority
- Discuss It With Your Partner
- Include Your Husband in Plans
- Keep Things Honest in Your Marriage
- Can a Single Man be Friends With a Married Woman?
- Times It’s Not Okay For a Married Woman to Be Friends With a Single Man
First, A Caveat
All of the below advice is written for women who:
- Aren’t married to an abusive man
- Wish to remain in their marriage
- Are willing to work for a healthy marriage.
If you suspect that you may be in an abusive relationship, go to www.stopthehurt.com to learn more.
Your Husband Should Be Your Priority
Marriage works best when both partners put each other first. That means that your husband is more important to you than your friends or even your family. No, he doesn’t get to control you, but he does get the most significant say in how you live your life. If something negatively impacts your marriage, think long and hard about whether it’s worth it.
Does it make you cringe to think about your husband having a say in your friends? If your husband has tried to be unfairly controlling in the past, perhaps you need to seek professional advice. A therapist can also help if you find yourself reluctant to include your husband despite having a happy, respectful marriage.
We’re prone to think that marriage should feel effortless. That’s not the case for most happy marriages. As one couple’s therapist puts it, “So many people do lifelong training in so many things — if you’re a golf enthusiast, you go to the driving range a couple times a week. If you’re a lawyer, you take continuing education. If you’re an artist, you take workshops. And somehow, there’s this belief that we don’t have to work at learning how to be a couple, it should just come naturally” (Miller, 2014).
Discuss It With Your Partner
Ideally, it would be best if you had a conversation about boundaries early in your relationship. I recommend that engaged couples talk about expectations before tying the knot. How do you expect your friendships to change after marriage? How would you like your partner’s friendships to change?
If you haven’t already made these decisions with your husband, now’s the time. Ask your husband how he feels about you being friends with other men- especially those who are single. Perhaps he would be comfortable in some circumstances, like if he’s also friends with the man. He might want to decide on a case-by-case basis.
This conversation should be a two-way street. Share honestly with your spouse about what you want. Keep in mind, though, that whatever you ask of your husband in his friendships, you should be willing to do in yours. If you would like to have access to his text messages with his female friends and coworkers, you should be ready to share yours. If you don’t want him having a meal with a female friend alone, don’t expect to grab drinks with your male buddies.
Include Your Husband in Plans
When I met my husband, and it became clear that we would be getting married, my male friends did one of two things. Either they put in the effort of becoming friends with my husband, or they stopped hanging out with me. Those who weren’t interested in being “just friends” weeded themselves out of my life. Everyone else gained a new friend.
The best buffer between you and guy friends who don’t mean well for your marriage is your husband. Ask him to get to know your friends- invite them over for a movie night or drinks. If your male friend only wants to see you alone, chances are he’s looking for something more than just friendship.
Keep Things Honest in Your Marriage
Conversations about boundaries are only the start. Keep checking in with your husband about his comfort level. If your friend invites you to hang out, run it by your husband first as a courtesy. Are you tempted to hide things from your husband? Then you probably have more than ‘just friends’ feelings for this man, and it’s time to put on the breaks.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: your spouse should be able to see any interaction you have with your friend and not feel uncomfortable. I’m not saying that you need to report everything! But if you’re wondering if an exchange is inappropriate, imagine your husband is watching or listening. Would he feel disrespected by the way you’re interacting with this person?
Can a Single Man be Friends With a Married Woman?
It might be easier for you to have a platonic relationship with your single male friend than for him to have one with you. One study suggests that your single friend is much more likely to be interested in you than you are to be interested in him (Ward, 2012). He’s also more likely to think you’re attracted to him.
If you’re getting vibes that your friend might be interested in being more than friends, don’t hesitate to pull back. After all, you are married- you have your husband to share your life with, not to mention romance. You’re not doing your husband or friend any favors by sticking around. You’re just keeping him from being able to move on to someone who can give him what he wants.
Times It’s Not Okay For a Married Woman to Be Friends With a Single Man
If You Have Feelings For Him
Trying to be friends with someone you’re attracted to is asking for trouble if you’re married. If your marriage isn’t worth avoiding such disaster, you should be looking for a divorce lawyer, not advice on maintaining friendships.
If He Has Feelings For You
Another non-starter- if you’re married, you can’t be friends with a man who is interested in you. Surround yourself with friends who root for you and your marriage. Sure, it can be exciting to have someone flirt with you, but it’s not worth the toll it will take on your relationship and life.
If Your Husband Isn’t Okay With It
You have a single male friend, but your husband doesn’t like him. Instead of getting defensive, ask him why. Does the friend make inappropriate comments when you’re not around? Does he seem into you? Does he have a reputation for hitting on married women? Just as you have a good sense for other women, your husband can probably detect creeps with some accuracy. If your husband asks you to avoid or tone down a friendship with a single male friend, you should consider doing so.
The question of whether it’s okay for a married woman to be friends with a single man is a complicated one. In some circumstances, it may be perfectly acceptable. Other times, it may be inappropriate. If you want to keep your marriage happy and healthy, make sure your husband is in the loop and onboard with your friendships. No true friend would want you to have to choose between their friendship and a happy, healthy marriage.
Megan Cornish is a licensed clinical social worker in Washington State. She has worked in the field for 10 years after receiving her MSW from the University of Washington. She has experience working with children, teenagers, and families.