Can a Married Man Have Close Female Friends?

Gregory Blake —  July 12, 2012 — 7 Comments

FriendshipI admit that I am an anomaly. I was married at 19 and we have been together for 29 years now.

I also, for as long as I remember, have had a woman as my best friend. I do have guy friends who I appreciate, but when it comes down to “who would I turn to” for support in a time of distress (in addition to my “better-than-a-best-friend” wife, of course) there are at least four women ahead of the first guy on that list.

There are many ways life has conspired to make this a reality in my life, not the least of which is that I work in a profession dominated by women. When work is stressing me out, the ladies understand the context. I also was never the “let’s get drunk and do stupid things” type… which, when I was a teen, most of the guys in my small town were. I also like to talk about the world around me in a way that most of my guy friends do not. I have always been “one of the girls.”

Is this easy? No. On more than one occasion an outside observer has assumed I’ve been up to something. Or that I’m gay. Sometimes, I just don’t fit in with my best friend’s activities (e.g. having a guy at a stagette would be lame!). And yes, there have been moments of attraction that I’ve had to work through.

But it has been SO, so, so, worth it! I am in a job I love because of encouragement from a girl-type friend who saw the new job as a fit for me. I overcame my deep fear of public speaking because of this same BFF. I rediscovered basketball (and subsequently running & other healthy living habits) because of my girl-type friends. My wife recently overcame her struggle with clinical depression in part because of a book I was given by another caring female friend. My writing/blogging partner here at WEfulness is a fabulous woman, friend and mentor who has helped me explore my interest in the psychology of human relationships. These are life changers – serious, mind-blowing, your-world-will-never-be-the-same, life changers – that I would have missed without the fabulous ladies I’ve had in my life.

So, how do my wife and I make it work?

Our rules:

1)      All of my friends, male and female alike, know that anything we say can be, and often is, shared with my wife. We are one brain. I warn people in advance. It is amazing what a marriage shield this rule is.

2)      It is a given that my wife gets my “firsts and bests.” A new restaurant or recreational activity in the area? She gets asked first. A new movie? She gets dibs. The corollary is that I try to do things with my girl-type friends that I want to do but I know my wife would not enjoy. E.g. She really doesn’t like chick-flicks and none of my guy friends do either, so I saw movies like “Titanic” and “Benjamin Button” with a GTF.

3)      We live with full disclosure. There are no secrets. In the couple of instances in our three decades together where I was attracted to a female friend, my wife knew about it and helped make sure that getting back to the “friend zone” happened. Through truth we are accountable to one another.

Note that, ignoring for a moment the complications caused by attraction, all of these rules are gender neutral. I apply them equally with my girl-type friends and guy friends. Failing to apply them could cause problems whether my friend was a man or a woman. And at their root are the notions of trust and respect.

Is an opposite sex friendship for everyone? Of course not. I wouldn’t, for example, recommend it for a person who has had a history of serial infidelity.

Is there risk? Of course. But there is risk in many fabulous things in life. I, for example, do not drink wine because of my awareness of my own obsessive tendencies. For me, alcohol is not worth the risk. But some people would consider skydiving, scuba diving, and surfing even more dangerous, yet I have felt confident doing those things and they have been part of the “wow” in my life – just like my female friends.

Is it complicated having female friends at times? Yes, mostly because of the reactions of other people. Fortunately my wife knew I had girl-type friends when we got married and, thankfully, she has been ok with me keeping that feature of my life. For that, I will always be grateful.

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Aside: It is interesting to note that the awkwardness of male-female friendships has been implicated in perpetuating the “glass ceiling” for women. While it is common for a young male employee to be mentored by the “old boys club,” many male senior executives are reluctant to offer the same opportunity to members of the opposite sex for the reason of appearances. It isn’t the same going to lunch or for beers with a member of the opposite sex. And that is sad, especially given the implications for advancement. E.g. This article in USA Today.

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For further reading:

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Married readers: Do you have a close friend of the opposite gender?

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Gregory Blake

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Husband, father, middle school teacher, and editor at RatedGRomance.com. Married 29 years & still looking for new ways to show her I love her. My job is to ask the silly questions around here.

7 responses to Can a Married Man Have Close Female Friends?

  1. Gregory, great post! I am a happily married man (30 years). I have a couple of close cross-gender friendships. Very close. I totally affirm the need for transparency with spouse. I wrote a book on the subject from a Christian perspective, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. It looks like your book might take things to a level even I’m not necessarily comfortable with but it’s hard to tell from the description. I’d have to see your arguments. Intrigued. But we both can certainly agree that opposite gender friendships have value and can be important for some people.

      • Greg, I get that. I think marriage, romantic love, fidelity, friendship, masculinity, and femininity have changed dramatically in the last 50 years. I do see many good and robust themes in the Christian tradition to nurture solid trust, fidelity, and commitment to one’s spouse while wisely integrating close friendships (same or opposite gender). I recently hosted a conference on the subject and had a small group of Christian thinkers, pastors, and authors come together to explore some themes on the issue. An article was written about it here.

  2. Being securely attached to your partner, and ensuring your relationship is protected from infidelity is so important.

    What Greg makes obvious here is in secure relationships the first priority is privileging and protecting your most important relationship – after that – what does it matter what gender your friends are? *smiling*

    Staying close to your wife is key and you do that through open communication even about sometimes difficult things – keeping her first – and only having “secrets” with her and no others.

    Those are “rules” for creating and keeping a successful relationship, no matter if we’re talking opposite gender friends, bank accounts, hobby buddies or etc…

    We need others and outside interests in our lives, all of us to different extent, and what we most need is our marriage, or couple relationship to be deep, close and emotionally intimate.

    We’ll keep talking about ways to develop that here.

  3. Foppo Leeuwerke March 13, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    We might need others outside our live but a married man having a female friend.No.It does not work in my opinion a shoulder to cry on to your female friend .Can quickly become a bed to sleep in.Forget it.

    • If you think “crying on a shoulder” would lead to problems for you, maybe you could set that as a reasonable boundary in the friendship? That is very different than saying “no female friends.”

  4. It depends on the capacity. Two people can have an emotional involvement on a work-related task without practicing emotional infedility.

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