The idea that men and women can’t just be friends has been around for decades, and people still debate it hotly. Regardless of your sexual orientation, it is important to set friendship boundaries if you think attraction might be an issue between you and another person. This is especially important if the other person is an ex, if you are married or in a committed relationship, and if there are kids involved. Setting boundaries in relationships is easier said than done, but it is well worth it in the end.
1. Clarifying Wants
Before you talk to this person, clarify what you want from the relationship, and what you think the other person wants. Are those two things at odds with each other, or do you both probably feel the same way? It is also worth considering what level of flirtation is acceptable to you in a friendship, and who else in your life this relationship could affect. Figuring out what you want and what friendship vs. romance means to you will help you to articulate ground rules when you speak to the other person.
2. Setting Ground Rules
Strong friendships are often emotionally intimate. You might share secrets with a friend, spend a lot of time together, and rely on each other for support. However, for most people, friendship crosses a line when physical intimacy is involved. If you want to avoid romance, decide how often you can hang out with your friend, and how much you will share with him. Avoid touching, holding hands, or cuddling, if maintaining the boundaries of friendship is a priority for you. Doing these things makes it clear that you want friendship and not romance.
3. Friendships and Marriage
Having clear boundaries for friendship is especially important if you have a husband, wife, or significant other. Do not keep any secrets from your partner, the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center recommends. Assure your significant other that this is just a friendship, and then make sure to include your significant other in the relationship so that everything is out in the open. The resource center also urges readers to maintain the intimacy of the marriage by continuing to spend the majority of your time with your partner and putting your spouse’s needs first. Your spouse should be able to bring up any concerns he or she has.
4. Boundaries for the Kids
If you are not married and you may be single or dating, it is important to be clear about the line between friendship and romance for the sake of your children. If your friend is always at the house and at times may act like a parent to the kids, the kids are likely to get confused. Set some clear ground rules for how your friend is to act around the kids, or make plans to see your friend when the kids are engaged in other activities. You may need to discuss the relationship with your kids. Do not be afraid to tell your friend if something she did was inappropriate to you, and overstepped the boundaries of your friendship. It is important that your family comes first.
- Stewart Cohen/Lifesize/Getty Images