Be honest: Are you suspicious of opposite sex friendships?
If your experience with them has been negative, then I totally understand your hesitation. But consider this: maybe some people suck at opposite sex friendships because no one taught them how to do it the right way.
Though there’s varying opinions out there on opposite sex friendships, I believe that there’s a few guidelines that most people can agree on to have them successfully:
Some Behavior is Completely Off Limits
Let’s keep it real: opposite sex friendships will have more boundaries than same sex ones.
Opposite sex friendship boundaries can include:
- Not undressing in front of each other
- Minimal physical contact
- No sleeping in the same bed
- Declining an invite from your friend to an event that your partner, specifically, isn’t invited to
For instance, I don’t call or text my male friends late at night [unless it’s an emergency]. I think this boundary is a small, yet impactful way to show that: a.) the woman in his life can trust our friendship and b.) I respect him, her, and their private time.
For your opposite sex friendships to work while you’re ‘taken’, both parties need to respect your relationships. If your friend or partner doesn’t respect the other, then consider their motivations and decide how (and with whom) you want to move forward.
Bottom line: Boundaries are our personal rules, and we write our own rulebooks–make sure that your people know and follow yours.
Absolutely NO Existing Sexual Tension
Remember the movie Brown Sugar when the main characters tried to convince us that they were strictly platonic, failed miserably (also dragged their significant others into the mess), and ended up being a couple?
Though the ‘you are Hip-Hop’ metaphor is a cute story and I’m glad they got together, I’m begging you: don’t be like Dre and Sidney.
Not only is it messy, but it’s selfish to everyone involved (even if we think the articles and songs we wrote about it are fire).
Also, notice that I said “existing” sexual tension, meaning that it’s not currently happening (but might’ve been a factor before). Though opposite sex friendships with a romantic or sexual history can get awkward at times, I believe that people can genuinely move past it (and, again, set and respect boundaries.)
Avoid Secrets–Especially Concerning Your Relationship
We need two things to successfully balance romantic relationships with our opposite sex friendships: trust and communication.
Unless you want to break that trust and communication, and you love chaos, do not share any huge relationship or life challenges with your friend before you discuss them with your partner.
Do not confuse this with seeking advice from a friend. There is a difference between wanting another perspective and oversharing private details of your relationship.
It may seem harmless at first, but trust me, you are begging for trouble if you tell too much. I’ve seen it all — from the “friend” making snide remarks about your personal business to honest conversational slip ups [that you have to explain to your partner later]. Oftentimes, the aftermath isn’t pretty.
To avoid this problem, it’s best to solve problems in-house. In other words, your partner should already know any sensitive details you share with friends about your relationship.
Do Include Your Partner & Embrace Your Friend’s
When at least one of you in the friendship starts to date someone more seriously, the best way to eliminate suspicion of something deeper is to include and embrace the newcomer(s).
It can be tricky to navigate the new dynamic at first, but group hangouts can be fun when executed properly and everyone’s comfortable.
This isn’t a cue for you to jump through hoops, be phony, or kiss anybody’s ass, but you can make small gestures to show that you’re making an effort to acknowledge and consider them.
Some small gestures that I personally take (that can work on both sides) include:
- Asking your friend about their partner/saying hello during a phone call (and vice versa)
- Following and [positively] interacting on social media (after you’ve already been introduced)
- Telling your partner/friend explicitly to invite the other person to an event
Though it takes mutual effort to get along, it’s more effective and genuine when the person who has been around the mutual party longer takes the first step. Whatever the case, just be sure to approach new relationships with open arms and an open mind (because, otherwise, it looks like you’re hiding something.)
Though these guidelines specifically address opposite sex friendships, it’s important to highlight that these can apply to any type of friendship. But before you completely swear off of opposite sex friendships, ask yourself: are they really impossible or have you just been breaking the agreements?