Approximately
a year ago, just before the Christmas and New Year holidays, a friend of mine learned that her husband had been unfaithful with several different women during the course of their five year marriage. With one of these women he had grown emotionally attached. They have two young children and she was naturally devastated to learn of his infidelity.


After
much crying and soul searching, she decided to fight for her marriage. While still
emotionally difficult and battling feelings of guilt over what she could have
done wrong to cause him to step outside of the vows they made before God and her judgment
to trust anything he says, she remained steadfast in her decision to stand firm for her marriage.


Shortly
after learning about the affairs she sent me two text messages asking for my
advice. As soon as I read the questions I knew that they were questions that
could not and should not be responded to via cell phone text messaging
technology. And because her husband had been home a lot lately, I also knew it
would not be wise to call her. So, I did the next best thing, I e-mailed her.

Before
I actually sat down to reply to her, thoughts started forming in my head, so many
that I felt as if I were about to give an answer in a column. I strongly believe that
was what I was being guided to do, so that is how I answered her two questions.
Once I sat down and began to write, everything flowed out of me so quickly
that at times I couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with my own thoughts.

The
following is part one of the questions she asked me, my answers, and the reply
she sent to me after reading them. I’ve changed her and her husband’s names to
protect their identities and privacy.

How
important is outside friendship in a marriage? Does ensuring
friendships
on the outside make for a healthy balance in the marriage?


Outside
friendships can be very healthy and fulfilling to married couples. Both individual
and couple friendships help to bring balance and fresh perspective. In fact, I
daresay it is required in a marriage, or any intimate relationship, to have the positive
influence of friends.


Both
old and new friends bring value to your life. Old friends know you well and sometimes
longer than your spouse, and therefore can keep you in touch with who you
are as an individual. New friends balance out old friends by introducing you to new
experiences and ways of thinking. The connection with both the old and new helps
you to see who you have been and who you would like to become as a complete
expression of your individuality.


Communing
with other married couples is also very important in a relationship, especially
when you have married friends at various stages in their relationships. You can
learn a great deal from someone who has been married 10 – 20 years longer than
you have. But, it doesn’t mean that you cannot learn from and appreciate the advice
lent by someone newly married, or who has been married the same length of time
as you.


The
most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to having other married couples
as friends is that you share something in common. There is a conversation and
an understanding amongst married couples that your still single friends cannot appreciate.
The same is true of married couples with children. It is difficult to discuss parenting
frustrations with couples who are not parents.

When
you are faced with a challenge in your marriage, or even a minor squabble, being
able to talk it through with other married folk who understand and know where you
are coming from is one of the greatest forms of therapy available. You may not agree
with everything that is offered up on the table, but nothing beats the advice of someone
who knows from firsthand experience.


Probably
one of the greatest assets of having other married couples as friends, in addition
to bonding with others who share similar views and interests, is that by being
around and observing other couples, you have the opportunity to see aspects of
things that could be missing, should be eliminated or should stay the same in your own
marriage. Every friendship brings with it an opportunity to learn and grow.

With
regards to non-couple friendships outside of the marriage, there are limits and boundaries
that shouldn’t be crossed. At the point when you met your mate there were
probably friends that existed before you came into each others’ lives, some of them
being the opposite sex. If those were true friendships that were not tainted by any
type of sexual interaction, then it is safe to bring those friendships with you into your
new relationship.


It is
also equally safe to create new bonds along the way with both the same and opposite
sex and introduce them into the fold of your marriage. This is usually most common
in workplace situations where co-workers become good friends. As you share
your experiences about work with your spouse, also talk about the new friend, or
friends you’ve made and how much you have in common. Some of the best friends
are created through workplace experiences.


By
talking openly about your friends, old and new, male and female, and even inviting
them to spend time with you and your spouse lowers the guard of suspicion. Openly
sharing your friends sends the message, “I have nothing to hide and my heart
is only with you”. On
the other hand, however, it is dangerous to create friendships that are kept in secret.


Even if the friendship is strictly platonic and there are no sexual feelings on either
side, if your partner ever found out about this person the level of trust they once
had for you would be violated because you were never open about your new friend.
Again, even if the friendship is nonsexual, if you don’t bring that friend into your
partner’s awareness, even if only by talking about them, you run the risk of appearing
as if you have something to hide once they do find out about your new friend.


Tomorrow I will share part II on this topic. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and don’t forget to take the free Early Midlife Assessment if you haven’t already over at www.kitarawilson.com.

In Celebration,

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