Can I Have Friends of the Opposite Sex?

Having spent our entire marriage in ministry together, it’s been natural to have boundaries with people of the opposite sex. We spent our first eight years traveling from church to church in a motorhome, so we were virtually never away from each other. When we came off the road and were hired as full-time staff members of a church, adhering to the “Billy Graham Rule” of never being alone with someone of the opposite sex was natural, ingrained as a way of life.

In church world and ministry, the stakes are too high to allow the enemy to subtly seduce us into an affair, so we are always on guard, and our Church staff even has rules set up to protect marriages. But what about outside of ministry? Work, hobbies, children’s extra-curricular activities, and even church couples’ groups often force us to spend time with people of the opposite sex. How feasible is it to set up boundaries in those relationships in 2020? It may be difficult, but we feel like it’s necessary if we want to protect our marriage.

Couples who end up on opposite ends of the couch in Daniel’s office for counseling after an indiscretion has occurred never start their session with, “I went looking for an affair and found one.”  Instead, Daniel usually hears the same phrases, “I never meant for this to happen.” “It started out so innocent.” “I don’t know how this happened.” We have to be aware of the fact that we don’t have to go out looking for evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us that it’s looking for us. Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). 

If we are to live wisely in a world that is evil, with temptation lurking around every corner, we must set up boundaries with people who are not our spouse. The first way to do this is by becoming aware of the fact that we aren’t immune to messing up. In Mark 14:38, Jesus tells us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  We can have all the best intentions and still fall in a weak moment. 

The next step is to talk with your spouse about establishing boundaries to insulate your relationship from a possible attack. We believe we live in a safe neighborhood. But we walk through the house before bedtime and make sure the garage door is down and all the doors are locked. Why? We don’t want to leave ourselves vulnerable for someone to just walk in while our defenses are down and take whatever they want or harm us. The same is true of our marriage. No matter how safe we feel or how much we trust our spouse or our self, it’s wise to lock down every area that could be vulnerable when we aren’t paying attention. 

Maybe you and your spouse have never had a conversation about opposite-sex friendships. Don’t wait! Find time to talk about ways to safeguard your marriage. Here are a few things you will want to cover when you discuss it. – Ask yourself questions about the friendships in your life that you may be tempted to keep secret. If you have an opposite-sex friendship you are hiding you must tell your spouse immediately and take the necessary steps to re-establish healthy boundaries or to end it.

– Ask your spouse if they are uncomfortable with any of your friendships and share with them any they have that make you feel unsettled.
– If you feel the need to defend and opposite-sex friendship, ask yourself why.
– Evaluate any close couple-friendships you have and make sure you are keeping your guard up with them.
-Set up general boundaries for co-workers or people you hang out with that you are both comfortable with.

Knowing that we could stumble and unintentionally fall into temptation should motivate us to set up boundaries and barricades to protect the treasured relationship between us and our spouse. A co-worker may initially think you’ve lost your mind when you won’t go to lunch with them alone. Your gym manager may laugh behind your back when you ask for a same-sex trainer. But, safeguarding your marriage and putting your spouse above all others is worth the inconveniences that boundaries could present in your world away from home. It would be easier to find a new cross-training group, or even a new job than it would be to manage the chaos and collateral damage caused by an affair. 

If you’re questioning whether or not to talk to your spouse about setting up boundaries with the opposite sex, don’t just listen to us. The advice found in Proverbs 14:16 is sound. “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.” Better safe than sorry!

Protecting our Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie

 

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