This question was logged by one of my male readers (I know I’m the ‘mummy whisperer’, but as I’ve been talking about Sex a lot, I’ve gained quite a lot of male readers too), and I have to admit that at first I kind of thought ‘well isn’t it obvious?’.
Then I realised that firstly we aren’t all socially savvy and secondly even when we are, we can be naive as well, including us women who are meant to be much more capable of understanding these sorts of things.
Plus, women have rules of engagement that we understand, like lionesses marking our territories, however men probably don’t notice these subtleties at all.
The question I got was:
‘I keep having friendships with women that seem to cross some kind of invisible line that my wife can see, but I don’t see. I really don’t want to be upsetting her, but I’m not as capable of seeing what is obvious to her. Do you have any tips for recognising when a friendship is just that and when in female terms it goes too far?’
So reading between the lines a bit, I suspect that hubby is a flirt, and wifey knows that he is too naive about the intentions of the women he is encountering, as one of the key attractors to a women is not being single but being with someone else. Athol Kay describes it as ‘pre-selection’; i.e. that the fact that someone else has already vetted them and thinks them Ok relationship material.
Now don’t shout at me ‘but what about sisterhood’ or ‘but they shouldn’t’; I deal in realities and the reality is that pre-selection exists and women can be very determined to get what they want. Other people will shout at me ‘but you should be able to trust your man’; again I point you to reality and the fact that trust can very easily turn into taking for granted;
So here is my answer, feel free to add any more tips you might have from your own experiences. On their own, none of them are obvious signs, but they are all potential markers of a friendship that could change in nature and if many of the points are true, then it’s much more worrisome …
1) If it was the other way around:
The first big rule is what would you think if your partner was having the same friendship with someone else? So if the shoe was on the other foot. This is one of the best measuring methods of whether the friendship is inappropriate.
2) Opposite sex:
I’m not saying don’t have friends with the opposite sex, but this is a good clue to their being a potential problem ;o)
3) Many years age difference:
Having a close relationship with a girl many years younger, or a guy who is much older (and of course it can go vice versa in this new world of the Couga!) is definitely a bit of a red flag, as it goes against normal social
4) Time of the messages:
Text/facebook (or whatever social media you use) messages first or last thing at night are a big red flag, because they show that you/they are the first or last thing on each others minds.
5) Frequency of the messages:
If you/they are in touch a great deal more than with other people, then it shows that the friendship has greater significance. For example, if you are in touch with them more than your own partner, then that’s definitely not a good sign.
6) Degree of innuendo:
It’s often considered quite normal for their to be innuendo within the office or social situations, and peer pressure can mean that people ignore what may be crossing the line, so I refer you back to the ‘shoe on the other foot’ rule!
7) Discussing partners:
You might think that this means that the friendship is safe, because you are clearly pointing out the fact that you are taken. But in fact it is a sign of pre-selection. If they don’t know your partner and you haven’t or wouldn’t introduce them, then you need to think twice about the friendship. Plus, if you are discussing things about your relationship with this friend and not your partner, then it is definitely going in the wrong direction.
8) Slagging off partners:
This is a big no no. If you are talking to someone of the opposite sex, they might be sympathetic to you because you are friends, but they should also be giving you an insight into the mind of your partner. If they are slagging off your partner, then this friendship is definitely detrimental to your relationship.
9) You/They are not happy in your relationship:
If there are already problems in yours/their relationships already, then be really careful. This friendship could be really helpful and give you insight into the other side of the story, or it could be with someone who will eventually take advantage of the problems.
10) Excitement about talking to them:
Now we get to the more obvious signs, which are when you miss talking to someone or look forward to talking to them. This should be highlighting the question as to why you are’t sharing this with your own partner.
11) Arranging to meet in a different scenario:
A friendship normally starts in a particular social setting, e.g. with friends or at work. So it’s a sign that there is a change in the air if you arrange to meet elsewhere for example coffee outside of work or lunch without your partners.
12) Fancying them:
If you ‘would do them’ as a male mate of mine used to say, then I can pretty much be sure that your partner won’t approve of the friendship.
13) They have a history of affairs:
If this person has a history of having affairs with other people, then a big red flag is waving at you!
14) You already have a history with them:
If they are an ex, then they could easily become a ‘present’!
15) You are tempted to keep it secret:
If you are tending to keep the conversations and meetings secret for some reason, then you know that internally you think your partner wouldn’t be happy, at which point I direct you back to point 1!
I’m all for having friendships of both sexes, because it helps to give us insights into the opposite sex, and because they will give us such a different viewpoint and approach to life. The key is to make sure that the boundaries are kept in place and that you aren’t naive; you know the saying ‘never say never’.
Of course, it is only inappropriate if you or they are in a relationship, if not, then heh ho!
If you are worried a friendship that you have could be crossing the line, or you are worried about your partner’s friendships, feel free to get in touch or pop a comment below (it can always be anonymous).
If you liked this Problem Corner, then you would definitely be interested in one two years later, where a wife was concerned about the friendship between her husband and a co-worker.
** UPDATE **
There have been so many hits on this post this year and so many comments, that I don’t feel I can give the required attention to. If you are reading this and need more help, please do feel free to get in touch via my Facebook page – I can always do a session with you via Zoom (a lot of my clients are international).