Over the years I have been blessed to cross paths with some wonderful men and women who I have had the privilege of calling friends. Among those friends, the connection I have made with certain female friends have been some of the most rewarding. They often included regular lengthy conversations about the deep issues of life and faith. However as these young women have married, the nature of our friendships changed. I remember when my first very close female friend married. While I was very happy for her and her husband I did feel the loss of our friendship not being able to continue at the same depth and frequency. And now that I am engaged I find myself having to look at friendships in a new way.
To cite one example; I have a female friend that I met close to 15 years ago and for a good proportion of those years we have caught up every other month for a movie and a meal. Our friendship is a purely platonic one and while I enjoy having a movie buddy once I got engaged I found myself having to consider in what way this friendship would exist into the future. My fiancé Jane is a wonderful and trusting woman and she has never given me instructions on who I could or could not see, but of my own accord I began to wonder if my movie friend and I had seen our last film together.
I asked a couple of people for their advice about this and their responses confirmed what I had felt; that prudence and respect for Jane and our future marriage meant that some things in my life had to cease or take a ‘back seat’. It is not a matter of me distrusting my friend or myself and our ability to watch a movie together. Primarily it is about the basic idea that in choosing Jane I freely choose to limit other choices. And it’s not just about friendships with the opposite sex. If I was meeting with a group of male friends for a beer and to watch sport twice a week then I might need to consider if the level of time I was giving to that was still suitable. From the little experience I have of marriage, I would guess that some of the problems couples can have may be around one or both of them trying to keep the same level of commitments and relationships in marriage that they had prior to being married or engaged.
Apart from that there is always the issue of scandal and potential risk. The simple fact is that this friend is a woman and I am a man. Something would not look right if I was spending regular time in a dark cinema with a woman who was not my wife. If the marriage of Jane and I does anything for others I would like it to be an example of a path that can be lived with success and joy. However it may not appear as strongly that way if I was spending ongoing one-on-one time with another woman. The potential risk comes about not because of what may happen physically (although one needs to always be conscious of that) but what may happen emotionally. If I am having regular meetings with a woman who has known me longer than my own wife, the normal course of events would be that I would share with her what is going on in my life. But what happens when there are tough times in my marriage (as there are sure to be). Am I going to find myself confiding in someone else and seeking emotional comfort somewhere else? I asked myself how I would feel if Jane had a regular movie and dinner friend that was male.
It was not easy to tell this good friend of mine that our very old friendship had to undergo changes. After all she remains a good friend and I still need my friends, male and female. I hope we will be able to catch from time to time in group situations instead. I want my marriage to Jane to be the preeminent focus of my life and while that is easy to say unless my life reflects changes that are focused on Jane and on us as a couple then my words do not carry much credence.