• Keeping Friends

Three Rules for Opposite Sex Friendships

Published: February 6, 2013 | Last Updated: March 31, 2022 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
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These three basic rules can help maintain and avoid problems with opposite-sex friendships:

1) Establish clear boundaries from the onset

Whether you’re single or married, platonic friends need to talk about what’s acceptable in the relationship and what isn’t. For example, if one is a touchy-feely person and the other isn’t, they had better get on the same page quickly.

If any gesture or behavior makes you feel uncomfortable, it is important to raise the issue with your friend and resolve it as soon as possible. In some situations, you may need to reaffirm the boundaries.

2) Respect the feelings of your romantic mate or partner

If one or both platonic friends are married or in a romantic relationship with someone else, they need to be especially careful not to undermine that primary relationship.

Some partners are open and forgiving, but maintaining a platonic relationship with someone of the opposite sex is inadvisable if your spouse or romantic partner is insecure and jealous. Never fan the flames by keeping secrets, or by sacrificing time and closeness with a primary partner for a friend. Be inclusive and make opportunities for the three or four of you to be together as well. Even non-sexual relationships can be intimate and have negative consequences.

3) Be cautious about appearances

You both may have agreed on the rules — and your romantic partner may have blessed the plan, too — but people in your workplace (for example, an older supervisor) may still associate cross-gender friendships with romance. Flaunting a relationship with a “work spouse” (someone you’re closely tied to at work) can create misunderstandings among supervisors and co-workers that undermine your reputation at work.

Always maintain your professionalism and exercise caution about drinking too much at office parties (think TV’s “Mad Men”) or burning the midnight oil together too often.


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Do you have any rules that have helped you maintain opposite-sex friendships?

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Category: Creating and maintaining boundaries, KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Although I strongly agree with #3 and part of #2, I don’t agree with #1 at all.

    To meet a new co-worker or a new person in your church or at a neighborhood party and immediately talk about your “boundaries” is like talking about your skin rashes…and assuming they have rashes too. It’s “too much information.”

    I would wait until you sense some sort of testing of the boundaries to say or do anything. Usually a subtle, nearly imperceptible shift away gets the message across. And if it doesn’t, then verbalizing is required.

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