Unmet Expectations: Friends Outside of Marriage

Karen: “Hi, honey! What are you doing?”

Ben: “Just catching up with some old friends on Facebook. Why?”

Karen: “Wait a second, isn’t that the girl you took to the high-school prom?”

Ben: “Yeah…why?”

Karen: “I’m not very comfortable with you ‘catching up’ with her, that’s why.”

Ben: “It’s no big deal, really. It’s completely innocent chit-chat. See for yourself.”

Karen: “I see that it’s completely innocent chit-chat for now. But who knows where these conversations may go.”

Ben: “C’mon. We’ve been married for years! I thought you trusted me.”

Karen: “Oh, I do trust you. But I’m not sure I can trust HER. Don’t you see the difference?”

Ben: “Not really.”

Karen: “Listen, I trust you. I love you. I adore you. I’m thrilled to be married to you. But I’m quite uncomfortable with you communicating with old girlfriends from high school.”

Ben: “Are you saying you want me to “unfriend” some of the people I went to high school with? We have lots of memories together. We grew up together. I can’t just forget about them.”

Karen: “I’m not asking you to forget about them, I’m just asking you to not communicate with some of them now.”

Ben: “I’m not sure I’m willing to do that for you. Again, I need you to trust me.”

Karen: “And I need you to guard and protect me. To guard and protect us.”

Ben: “But I do those things don’t I?”

Karen: “Right now, I’m not so sure.”

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We recently participated in a group study on Timothy Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage”. In our first week of discussion, one question seemed to set the tone for our group. The sixteen of us learned more about one another by discussing this question than any other, including conversations about our childhood, marriage communication, or even sex.

The question: Do you think it’s necessary for somebody to give up their personal interests, hobbies, or friendships for the sake of their marriage? Please explain.

The question was worded purposefully with several different elements to help get to heart of how a person sees marriage. It requires one to not only state their opinion, but defend it based on how they understand the marriage relationship.

Some believed the word “necessary” was too strong.

Some believed that some things would have to be given up in some seasons, but not in all.

Some believed that having friends outside of marriage was “no big deal” and their spouse shouldn’t have any concerns.

Some believed that a line could be drawn in how much should be given up, but the expectation of giving up all of those things was too great.

Some husbands believed one thing.

Some wives another.

Understand: The marriage relationship is a one-flesh relationship. In the eyes of God, you’re now one unit. This means that email, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, and any other forms of communication must be an open book for your spouse. As soon as you’re married, you spiritually give your spouse permission to read anything you write, and they do the same for you. “Trust” takes on a new meaning for you, your spouse, and your marriage.

Do: Willingly talk to your spouse about who you communicate and interact with on a regular basis. Years ago, I (Justin) worked for a non-profit agency dealing mostly with childcare education. I was the only male employee in the region. I traveled regularly with my female colleagues. Once, when visiting a child care provider’s home she said to me, “Feel free to stop by my house anytime.” It was awkward, and I was glad to have one of my trustworthy colleagues with me. Every day, I talked openly with Megan about who I was with, where I was going, and what we talked about. She felt better about my career, and I did everything I could to protect our marriage first. Whether you’re a husband or a wife, you need to be willing to do the same. Your marriage comes first.

Understand: Talking with former high-school, college, or other friends outside of your marriage can be done in the right way, and can be done in the wrong way. If you’re open with your spouse about who you’re talking with, what you’re talking about, etc., then they will have nothing to worry about. But if you catch yourself sneaking in a Facebook or Twitter private message without your spouse’s knowledge, you’re putting your friendships ahead of your marriage. The small thrill of sneaking in an “innocent” conversation has the potential to turn into something not so innocent.

In fact, we have a friend who works as a full-time counselor. Over the past 10 years of marriage counseling he has seen the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Email, and texting ruin dozens of marriages. It’s not that these forms of communication ruin the marriage, it’s how they’re used. Be sure you use them to communicate with others in the right way, and continually show your spouse how much you love, respect, and trust them.

Do: If at all possible, eliminate private conversations with members of the opposite sex. Eliminate them completely. As a pastor, I have female ministry leaders contacting me on a regular basis. Some of them CC their husband when they email me, just so that he can see who she’s communicating with and why. Depending on your job, you may not be able to completely eliminate all private conversations with members of the opposite sex. But you can still openly discuss your day with your spouse. The more you do, the more they’ll love and appreciate you and how hard you’re working to protect your marriage.

Understand: Outside your relationship with God, your relationship with your spouse is most important. I’m going to say that again just to help it sink in: Outside your relationship with God, your relationship with your spouse is most important.

Do: If your spouse is uncomfortable with you ‘catching up’ with some old friends, you may need to defer to them. Maybe they trust you and not those you’re communicating with. Maybe they have emotional needs you’re not meeting, and they’re frustrated to see you putting energy into others outside of your marriage. Whatever it is, ensure you’re meeting the emotional needs of your spouse first. It’s very likely that your spouse is OK with you having friends, he/she just wants to know that they’re your best friend. When they know this, maybe you’ll determine together that it’s OK to ‘catch up’ with a few old friends. Just be sure to make that decision together.

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Have you ever had to give up friendships for the sake of your marriage? How did you and your spouse work through that together?

This is Part 8 in a series on Unmet Expectations. Feel free to read the rest of the series here:

Unmet Expectations: Introduction

Unmet Expectations: Rewriting Your Story

Unmet Expectations: Orgasmic Conflict

Unmet Expectations: Better Than The Best

Unmet Expectations: Guilt vs. Shame

Unmet Expectations: Quality Time

Unmet Expectations: Holidays & Family Time

Unmet Expectations: Friends Outside of Marriage

 

3 thoughts on “Unmet Expectations: Friends Outside of Marriage

  1. I WILL VOUCH for this 100%

    Private Facebook conversations are how my affair began. I saw him in class, but would have NEVER had feelings for him if we hadn’t begun to have private conversations on line (all of which started as just joking around).

    The friend is not worth it.

    GREAT POST!!!

  2. I am having to deal with this discussion right now. My wife had an affair a little more than a year ago, and is now getting ready to head back into the workplace, as well as get re-involved in some of the group activities she once participated in. I know I have to have a talk with her about boundaries, but am pretty sure she wont take it well. She will see it as an assault on her trust, rather than me trying to protect her and our marriage. I do trust her, but still struggle with maintaining that trust at times.

  3. I have never had to give up a friendship for my marriage. But if I had a friendship that made my husband feel threatened or that brought my trustworthiness into question in any way, I would immediately back off. My first commitment is to my husband, not to people I knew in high school or someone I happen to work with. No outside friendship is worth the risk of damaging our marriage.

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