If a relationship of any depth is to succeed, partners need to be emotionally faithful to each other. This faithfulness is often tested when an intimate bond develops with someone else. When there are relationship stresses, a partner may turn to cross-gender friends for sympathy and understanding. Those “friendships” seem easier and less fraught with tension. As a result, deeper and often sexual feelings may develop and threaten the stability of the partnership. Sad as it may be, the best way to prevent emotional affairs is to avoid developing too close a relationship with the opposite sex.
How Do You Know If an Opposite-Sex Friendship is Too Close?
If any of the following statements is true, your relationship with a member of the opposite sex (or same sex for LGBT relationships) is too close:
●You compare your partner unfavorably to your opposite-sex friend (OSF).
●You share more of your emotions with the OSF than with your partner.
●You feel more negatively towards your partner after being with the OSF.
●You want to spend more time with the OSF than with your partner.
●You would have less fun if your partner were to join you and the OSF.
To make it simpler, your relationship with the OSF is too close if your partner, as the proverbial fly on the wall, would not feel comfortable with everything that transpires between the two of you.
What Makes Opposite-Sex Relationships So Attractive?
A committed relationship can feel more transactional, often mired in the daily grind, with partners feeling less emotionally attended to. This may be due to the number of years in the relationship, dual career stresses, child/elder care responsibilities, or different recreational interests. As a result, it may seem attractive to have an OSF where there is no agenda other than to listen and respond to each other; or to share common experiences; or to provide a shoulder for your OSF to cry on or vice versa. Who can deny that it feels good to be appreciated just for who you are?
How to Avoid Having a Too-Close Relationship with the Opposite Sex
Most opposite sex friendships begin at work. Truth is, we spend more time at work than at home and it is easy to develop closeness when you spend so much time around a co-worker. So, how does one avoid turning a warm work relationship into something more intimate? The best approach is never to share anything negative about your partner with the OSF. Do not, under any circumstances, say anything to your OSF that you would not say in the presence of your partner.
It is important to develop greater awareness about the nature of the time spent with an opposite-sex co-worker, especially when it is becoming more social than work related; for example, when a working lunch is really a lunch-date with someone you enjoy being with. If you had opposite sex friends before meeting your partner, you may need to discuss the nature of those friendships. In some cases, it may be necessary to modify those relationships or adroitly move away from them. If you go to social events with an OSF, bring along your partner. I must note that certain opposite sex friendships may have evolved to a state of (rare) kinship, almost like a family member. If that is the case, the guidelines expressed here may not apply.
Remember, make sure that your behavior does not jeopardize the primary relationship. Admittedly, this involves restraint on your part, often difficult because, in an ideal world, we prefer to act spontaneously. However, if your opposite-sex relationship seems so important that you hesitate to give it up, then you may need to question what is wrong in the relationship with your partner.