Male or female friendships are usually a threat to the primary relationship, but they really don’t HAVE to be. What fears us the most is the sexual aspect of this oftentimes complicated relationship. It’s difficult to keep the friendship platonic, given that 90% of the time, one of the friends has experienced romantic feelings for his/her friend. Sometimes this is talked about, and sometimes it isn’t, but the feelings are there. The primary relationship can then be affected with secrets, lies, and avoidance.

But limiting our friendships with the opposite sex once we’re in a serious relationship doesn’t allow us the richness and perspective that we can get from a member of the opposite sex. With some foresight and consciousness, it is possible to have friends of the opposite sex and keep your primary relationship strong and healthy. To make these relationships work and beat the odds, follow the “opposite sex friendship” ground rules below:


1. To ensure comfort and trust, there needs to be a high level of maturity and self-esteem with all involved. Evaluate this with your spouse and really talk about everyone’s concerns and fears.
2. Ground rules need to be established from the beginning, i.e., what’s okay and what’s not for all the people involved. For instance: Is it okay for the friends to get together when one of their spouses is out of town? How much time is spent with the friend on a monthly basis? What do the friends do together? Is dancing okay? Is dinner okay? Each couple will have their own individual concerns and questions to consider.
3. Everyone needs to be in agreement that it’s okay for the friendship to take place. Now one should be left out of the process.
4. The person having the friendship needs to have strong, clear personal boundaries and open communication with their primary partner and their friend, and be up front at all times with their primary partner, letting him/her know when they’re seeing their friend, etc.
5. If the primary partner ever feels uncomfortable with the arrangement, he/she can speak up at any time. His/her feelings and concerns need to be considered and taken seriously.


1. No secrets! All parties should know each other and know about the friendship. If anything should change in the friendship, the primary partner needs to know.
2. Time spent with the friend should never supersede time spent with the primary partner, unless there is a dire emergency.
3. Never make an agreement that can’t be changed. The agreement should always be negotiable, so that if the friendship isn’t working for the primary partner, it can ALWAYS be modified or cancelled.
4. Never make your spouse feel that he/she isn’t the most important relationship to you. This is basically uncharted territory, so be aware and sensitive of your partner’s feelings.
5. Never put your friend’s needs first. By keeping your spouse as your number one priority, the mystery surrounding the friendship diminishes, and your spouse will more likely view “the friend” as a real person and not just a fantasy of your partner’s.

In theory, most couples want their spouses to be happy and to have friends of the opposite sex. In reality, this can only happen by following ground rules. The main issues surrounding these friendships are usually jealousy and sex. If you can talk about your friend freely and make him/her a real person to your partner, there is less likelihood of these types of problems occurring. Keep the lines of communication open at all times with everyone involved. Be honest with yourself about your ability to have good boundaries, and clarity about what is appropriate in a friendship and in your primary relationship. There are differences. As long as everything is out in the open, with appropriate ground rules, friendships with the opposite sex ARE possible.

Author's Bio: 

Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in O Magazine, O Newsletter, Reader's Digest,,, and She's an expert at, where she contributes monthly articles on hot relationship topics. She's appeared on TV, Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit