Focus on the Family

Healthy boundaries are important with opposite-sex friends

Q: Is it OK for married persons to have friends of the opposite sex? While my husband was away on a weeklong trip, I had a male friend from work come over to help me care for our 18-month-old daughter. After she fell asleep, we hung out watching movies together. I told my husband about it, and now he's upset and feels that I've betrayed him. Do you think he's overreacting? 

Jim: I'm afraid you won't find my answer very reassuring. While your motives may have been innocent, it's my opinion that inviting over a male co-worker while your husband is out of town oversteps appropriate boundaries. Obviously, many married people enjoy healthy, non-romantic friendships with individuals of the opposite sex. But it's important to handle these relationships wisely and to be on guard against hidden pitfalls. If you want to preserve the health of your marriage, it's critical to place protective "boundaries" on these relationships.

The truth is that it's far easier than you may think to cross the line from a platonic friendship into a seemingly "harmless" romance. The danger is especially high when you and the other person have a lot in common. If these shared interests and compatible temperaments lead you to entertain "innocuous" thoughts such as, "This person understands me far better than my spouse," you're already treading on treacherous turf.

I imagine your marriage is very important to you. If so, I'd encourage you to talk things through with your husband. Acknowledge that you made a mistake and reassure him of your love. If he's unable to let it go, it may be because there are some deeper trust issues that the two of you need to work through. Our Focus counselors would be happy to help you, so please give them a call.

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Q: My 13-year-old son has a real penchant for irresponsible and selfish behavior. I took off early from work the other day so he could audition for a local community musical production. When I arrived at the school he was nowhere in sight, but his friend told me he was goofing off with a bunch of his classmates in the band room. After trying to reach him by phone and waiting 15 minutes, I headed back to work. He missed his audition and had to wait for me after school until I finished my workday. I thought I'd done the right thing, but other parents have suggested I was a bit harsh and now I'm starting to wonder. What do you think? 

Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Personally, I'd love to give you a standing "O" and shake your hand. What you did was courageous, and a huge favor to other parents who need the benefit of your inspiring example. Sadly, we've witnessed an unfortunate trend in recent years that has seen moms and dads "over-functioning" for their kids. This is typically displayed in parents doing things for their children that they should be doing for themselves, or in refusing to let their children experience character-building instances of discomfort and inconvenience. Often what is considered "helping" is instead stunting, in terms of equipping their children to become responsible and independent adults. Regrettably, when parents over-function, they usually end up raising under-functioning adults.

So stick to your guns! You did the loving thing by allowing your son to suffer the natural consequences of his poor choice and selfish behavior. Keep it up, and chances are he'll thank you for it someday.

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Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus. Focus on the Family counselors are available Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). Focus on the Family's website is at www.focusonthefamily.com .



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