Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Marriage Series: Healthy Boundaries

I recently wrote a speaking topic on The Season's and Value of Friendship.  A small segment included the topic of friendship with the opposite gender.  This is apparently a hot topic and I felt it would be appropriate to share my thoughts with you on the first blog in the  Marriage Series

(*If you are interested to hear an interview I did with 94FM The Fish- Doug and Jaci Velsaquez -on this topic CLICK HERE )

There are two areas we will look at:  
1.  If you're married and you have a friendship with the opposite gender
2.  If you're single and you have a friendship with a married opposite gender

I know some will have to agree to disagree, while some will wholeheartedly agree.  That being said, I want to convey this is only me sharing my thoughts and values on the subject. I am not here to say if you're not doing it my way, you're wrong.  It's up to you and your spouse to ultimately decide if boundaries need to be in place or not and what they may look like. 

There is nothing wrong with having a friend who is the opposite gender, however, very clear and secure boundaries need to be in place. If you're married it is my opinion that your best friend should be of the same gender.  Men and women think differently. Women are much more emotional and men are more physical. 

I believe the key to having healthy boundaries in an opposite gender relationship, if you're married, is to include your spouse.  Because of my husbands job, I have been very fortunate to gain valuable friendships with women that I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet.  I would encourage if your spouse has an opposite gender friend or close co-worker that you offer to have coffee or lunch with that person and get to know them. After all if your spouse seems to enjoy spending time with them, the likelihood is that you will as well.

There should be nothing discussed with your (opposite gender) friend that you don't share with your spouse. Your spouse should totally support and approve of your (opposite gender) friendship.  If he/she does not, that is a red flag and you both need to address it.

Some other red flags you need to be aware of if you're married and have a friend of the opposite gender OR if you're single and have a married opposite gender friend:

1. You meet alone with your friend
2. You meet with your friend without telling your spouse
3. You discuss intimate details of your life with your friend
4. You speak negatively about your spouse to your friend
5. Your friend meets needs that your spouse does not
6. You are physically and or emotionally attracted to your friend 

My husband and I have opposite gender friends but we also have boundaries.  We call this our Billy Graham Philosophy. We have agreed to never be alone in a car or go to an event or a restaurant with an opposite gender friend, unless, there is a third party involved. It has created some interesting dynamics personally and at the work place, however, once we explain this is our agreement it eases the awkwardness.  Bottom line for us is that we value our relationship and the trust factor that is between us. Neither one of us wants to put our self or the other in an uncomfortable situation. We do not hide any communication from opposite gender friends.  We are respectful when the other may feel uncomfortable.  We desire a strong marriage and to have a strong marriage means open communication and living above reproach in all areas.  It's about keeping our armor on. 

No one that I know  has ever gone to lunch with a opposite gender friend and had intentions of any inappropriate behavior, just like an alcoholic never takes his/her first drink, with the intention of becoming a raging alcoholic who destroys their family or career.  We become desensitized and it starts as a slow fade.

If you're single or married and have a friendship with a married opposite gender you need to make sure your boundaries are firm. It's imperative that you do not use the habit of using physical touch (i.e neck rubs, back rubs, lingering fingers on an arm).  It's also important to be aware of compliments. This doesn't mean you can't compliment someone, but, you need to check your motive and not be overly complimentary. Remember this is a married person and they need to hear those comments from their spouse. You may not mean it in the way it may end up being taken. You may also not be aware of how your actions or comments are affecting your friends spouse and possibly your own spouse as well (if your married). It's best to keep the boundaries healthy and clear so there are no misunderstandings. 

Again, it's about living above reproach. Living with honor and integrity in all areas of your life whether you're married or single.

In this day with the divorce rate as high as it is (especially within christian families) we need to be willing to fight for our marriages and protect them from the slow fades of the world!

There is always HOPE!

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