What Do You Think About This Approach to Extramarital Attraction?


I didn't say you'd like it

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

Two hands holding coffee cups

If there is one truth about marriage, it’s probably that at some point in your life (or every day, depending on your hormones), you’re going to be attracted to other people. That’s being human, after all. We all go into marriage knowing this—the question is how we choose to deal with it.

For a long time, I assumed most couples (except for the ones in open marriages) dealt with potential attraction more or less like we did. In short: we acknowledged it as fact, trusted that the other person wouldn’t act on it, had the realistic knowledge that people make mistakes, and if that happened we’d work to deal with it. Lemonade out of lemons, and all that.

Writing APW for eight years has taught me a lot of things, and one of the things it’s educated me on is the fact that many people don’t take this approach… at all. And increasingly I’m seeing a specific way of handling potential attraction come up in the comments, and it worries me.

In short, it’s this: You and your partner don’t spend time with members of the opposite sex, particularly one on one. (How this approach would work when applied to same-sex couples is a bit of a mystery to me.) This tactic seems to be employed in a variety of different ways, from no one-on-one conversations with otherly gendered people (my husband, who works with lots of women: “Do these people have jobs?”), to no serious friendships with the opposite sex (me: cries for days).

I find this alarming.

First, the idea of cutting yourself off from half the human race just makes me profoundly sad. That’s the Orthodox Jewish/fundamentalist religion (and not at all egalitarian) way of dividing up the world. Second, the idea that I (or my partner) can’t be trusted to keep it in our pants seems profoundly problematic to me. Marriage has to be based on trust, after all.

While our particular rules of the road are more liberal than some people might be comfortable with (harmless flirting? Have at it. Life is so boring without it, anyway) the idea of not trusting my husband to be friends with a woman strikes me as frankly… bonkers.

So I’m tossing it to you. How do you manage extramarital attraction? Do you think it’s okay to block yourself and your partner off from any humans you might be attracted to? Do you find this idea troubling, or do you embrace it? Personally, I’m all… out.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Amy March

    I would be so sad if my non-single male friends stopped seeing me alone when they coupled up. It would really be such an expression of lack of respect for me: as a person who is not looking to hook up with someone single and as someone who brings more to the table in a relationship than her lady parts. And it would mean we have a completely different understanding of our relationship as friends- I see it as never being romantic, you apparently see danger.

    Which isn’t to say my focus or goal is exclusive one on one time with my dude friends – I’m happy to hang out in groups or with their partners- but if we are the only two in a group available for dinner I still want to go, and if he is in my town on business we’re obvi getting drinks, and if I can’t call you up on the phone to chat? Then we aren’t friends.

    • idkmybffjill

      Yes! This hasn’t happened in my post college, adult life – but when I was in college, I was so upset when male friends would suddenly disappear once I became attached. It made me totally feel as if they were only friends with me because of the possibility that it could become more.

    • Meg Keene

      Also, it somehow implies that everyone wants to sleep with your spouse. I guarantee you this is not the case.

      • Emily

        I think that idea that “everyone wants to sleep with your spouse” has for some reason been made popular by kind of crappy sitcom television (the same shows that perpetuate the idea that a man is a helpless idiot without a woman and that women on the whole spend more time gossiping in coffee shops than at work).

      • lottie

        Indeed, as someone who has been single most of her adult life, I can assure people that not everyone wants to sleep with me. Truth.

        And frankly, there aren’t that many people I want to sleep with. So fair’s fair.

      • Annie

        See, I’ve found that sometimes it’s not about sexual attraction as it is general intimacy. Like straight men and women don’t have emotional “space” for more than one person of the opposite gender.

        I’ve found that this can even extend to family members. I’ve noticed that a lot of couples who tend to respond this way also tend to be believers in things like that asinine, “A son is a son ’til he takes a wife…” saying, as though a wife inherently supplants all other women, even including his MOTHER.

        It’s a very odd phenomenon, but one I’ve seen a lot.

        • MTM

          I think this hits on the idea of your partner being your primary person, and some people only have enough for that one, while others have space for folks, but they should come after the partner.

          • Annie

            Sure, and I don’t disagree that partner should be the primary person and that sometimes friends/family members need to be managed along those priorities.

            What gives me pause is when discomfort seems to be strictly along gender lines. Like, if a wife thinks it’s sweet/neutral that a man is close to his father or brother, but sees an equivalent relationship with his mother or sister as invasive, I sometimes wonder if there’s some internalized/systematic gender bias going on. And I don’t think that scenario is as rare as it should be, in my experience!

            (Admittedly, this kind of jealousy (? not sure if right term…) does seem to be more common with men and their mothers/sisters than women with their fathers/brothers)

        • PunkGemini

          I told my husband that our marriage and our commitment to each other comes AFTER our commitment to our parents/siblings/grandparents. And that our children get equal, not greater, consideration to our partnership — because I’m not DOING the single parent thing ever. It was one of the first things that we ever agreed upon with so little discussion and a “oh thank goodness this person shares my values that family comes first” insight into who we are as people. We harbor zero jealousy over each other’s families and time spent with them.

      • lady

        And even If someone *is* attracted to/does want to sleep with your partner, I’m not sure that’s necessarily in-and-of-itself a friendship deal-breaker either! This might be more unpopular, but I feel like as long as everyone conducts themselves within normal boundaries and no one is getting inappropriate OR led on, crushes can happen and they don’t have to be that big of a deal.

        I mean, we have a gay friend who definitely thinks my husband is super hot. It’s so not a big deal and it’d be WEIRD/controlling if I said, “Well you can’t spend time with him one-on-one because he finds you cute” despite the fact that he’s never been anything but respectful of our marriage, even if he gets a bit harmlessly flirty with a few drinks in him. And even though my husband is straight (and recognize that would be a factor in a lot of people’s comfort level), I also like to think that my trust of him is so great that if one of our straight female friends was actually attracted to him, I wouldn’t just try to knee-jerk banish her from our life either.

        • Ilora

          Yes to this. We have a female friend/coworker of my husbands who is nursing a bit of a crush right now. She’s been unhappily single for a few years now and rather than actively seeking dating opportunities she’s been just getting more and more flirty with him (the flirtiness has just been a couple of months). We both know that she’d never act on it (and he wouldn’t either even if he was interested) and that it’s just become a bit of an outlet for her.

          For now we’re just hoping it will run its course without any intervention but are prepared to take steps if she crosses any lines. As it is they still get together one-on-one for movies (since I don’t like to watch movies) and work ‘alone’ (customer service) together regularly. Neither of us feel that our marriage is threatened by this situation and expect to still have a good friendship with her when things die down.

          I feel like I’m not expressing myself very well, but the TL;DR version is that a friend having a minor crush on my husband has so far been a complete non-issue and we’re fairly certain it will stay that way. And even if it doesn’t it won’t change our future handling of similar situations anyway.

    • lottie

      Yes. This. One of my best friends is male, we lived together as roommates when he met his now wife, and if he stopped doing the things we do — talk on the phone for an hour (we don’t live in the same place anymore), travel together, hang out — alone and with his wife (when we’re in the same place), I’d be incredibly sad and angry. We’ve always had an incredibly close and incredibly platonic friendship, and while we love many things about one another, there is nothing romantically tempting about him to me or me to him. To assume so would be insulting to both of us.

      Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had with a (single) friend recently about other friends dating people and then focusing on couples as friends rather than the full range of pre-existing (so to speak) friendships. There’s something incredibly insulting to me about an assumption that friendships — same or opposite gender — need to change because a friend couples up. We are human, we are connected, and our friendships and friendship quality shouldn’t be dependent on relationship status. Being cut off from friends or being cut out of coupled gatherings b/c I am single is one of the worst things I’ve experienced.

  • Erica G

    We are super open about our past relationships and new attractions while still being firmly monogamous. We would never dream of restricting who we could or couldn’t be friends with! Honestly and communication are the way to go!

  • Christina McPants

    You and your partner don’t spend time with members of the opposite sex, particularly one on one.

    With any members of the opposite sex/attracted gender? If you can’t trust your partner that much, why did you marry them?

    • Christina McPants

      Is that too harsh? Maybe that’s too harsh. But my mother said something to me once, that she’d fallen in love with multiple people over the course of her life, but she chose to marry my father and that wasn’t a commitment they were going to break. They are happily married 40 years later.

      (Side note – I later found out she had an emotional affair with my (female) elementary school principal. Never acted on it, just a very intense romantic friendship. She could have chosen to act on it, but didn’t and told my father about it.

      Also, I could write a book with all of the randomly thrown out anecdotes my mom shares that completely reshape my existence.)

      • Lawyerette510

        My cousin and I were talking a lot this weekend about how as adults the things your parents share with you can really change your view of parents and it shakes you because it is your parents.

        • Christina McPants

          My mom is a constant oversharer, but sometimes the bombs she drops, you’re just like… but this was not my childhood? But you were there? In charge of it?

        • AP

          There’s a recent episode of the Longest Shortest Time Podcast where W. Kamau Bell interviews his mother about her sex life while she was raising him as a single mom, and it touches on exactly this. It was fascinating.

          • Eenie

            It was so good, I’m in love with his mom. She sounds like an awesome lady. I only hope I’ve lived my life half as good as she’s lived hers.

      • Meg Keene

        I mean, I’m with you.

        Also, if you’re attracted to men and women do you live in a BOX? This whole thing makes no sense to me, when taken to any logical conclusion.

        • Maggie Dragon

          As as someone who IS attracted to both men and women, it becomes an aspect of biphobia. I am still a human being with a relatively average (as far as I can tell) libido. The idea that all bisexual people are somehow sexually ravenous is a really harmful stereotype. It’s awful to come out and then have to go “and no, I don’t want to sleep with you!”

          • Anon

            Yeah, I’m not bi but it seems like it wouldn’t be any different, as a straight person I have to choose that I’m not going to be with other people I’m attracted to, and bisexual people have to as well. Gender wouldn’t really play into it? If you are craving something else it is because you are not getting something out of your current relationship, same as anybody right? Not because you innately need sexual/romantic contact with someone of both genders at all times..

          • laddibugg

            Never understood that. If you’re bisexual and in a relationship or marriage, you don’t get a pass to act on your attraction to other genders if you’ve promised to be monogamous. We acknowledge that heterosexual and gay people can be in committed monogamous relationships yet be attracted to members of their preferred sex, so why not bisexual?

        • PunkGemini

          Good freaking lord. My husband and I both identify as queer/pan/bi. We’re in an openish relationship now, but that’s a very recent development in our 4.5 years of being together. Previous to that, we just DISCUSSED it like rational human beings — I know which friends of mine he’s into and which of his I’m into and acknowledged that attraction DOES NOT EQUAL action.

          We also agreed early on that one’s fantasies are one’s own business unless one feels like sharing i.e. “Baby when you worked late yesterday, me and Mr. Buzzy got some quality time and I thought about trying X with the cute ginger cashier at Whole Foods. Would you want to try X with me sometime/Grow a beard like he has/watch some porn with me that has a redhead in it?” If you’re sharing, it’s generally to point out what turned YOU on about that. My husband likes shy, nerdy, seemingly corruptible women which we’ve then parlayed into roleplaying.

          Also people think it’s shameful to admit to your object of desire that you’re attracted to them, even if it’s never going to lead to anything. Secrets fester, but honest communication just leads to more of the same. Now it’s weird if it’s a coworker or like, the nanny, or anywhere there is a power imbalance. But when I’m around my friends, I am a terrible flirt and love to make sexual jokes, even at the mature age of 30something. I had actually said “I am attracted to you, but I am also deeply in love with my husband,” to a couple of friends so they wouldn’t misinterpret things. Even after we opened things up, I made it clear that I really wasn’t comfortable sacrificing our friendship for a fling, even if I thought the friend was really sexy.

          And we’re so rarely attracted to the same people that the opportunities for threesomes or foursomes are VERY few and far between, even if we WERE into group sex. Which, mostly, I am not.

      • sofar

        “But my mother said something to me once, that she’d fallen in love with multiple people over the course of her life, but she chose to marry my father and that wasn’t a commitment they were going to break.”

        OK that is just too perfect. I am giving your mom a standing ovation.

      • My grandmother used to tell the story of how there was once a woman who told her she was going to steal her husband. My grandmother said to the woman, “If you can steal him, you can have him.” (And nothing ever happened with that woman and my grandparents were married ’til my grandfather died.) But three years ago, long after my grandmother’s death, her words came back to me when I was faced with situation, and they gave me courage and strength. And I try to remind myself of them periodically when I’m afraid of finding myself in the same situation again and my trust being broken again. If they can steal them, they can have them…. Wise words from previous generations. :)

    • Danielle

      I’m bisexual, and apparently last year I was embarrassingly and somewhat tipsily flirting with a girl at a dinner party who wanted nothing to do with me. She was totally gorgeous, and according to my husband’s later retelling, I was staring at her and inching closer to her while talking. Also according to him, she inched away and (along with her girlfriend) looked really confused and disturbed by my attention.

      Well. It was quite embarrassing to hear that later. I made sure to maintain a polite and respectful distance the next time I saw her.

      Thankfully Husband has a good sense of humor and was not too threatened by me.

  • Sarah E

    I find the whole friendship-restriction approach to be extreme. And in our household, my husband works primarily with females, and I work primarily with males. I sometimes have sex dreams about other men (husband is amused, unbothered). Our very best friend (who was very best friends with my husband first) is female. In fact, my husband regularly spends long road trips with our female bff, just the two of them, and they’ve shared hotel beds at conferences when as grad students everyone is trying to save some cash. It’s 100% fine.

    When it comes to crushes on other folks, I sometimes wonder if sexy dreams or mushy feelings aren’t often a result of growing up in a highly gendered society? Allowing for gender diversity and good sex education in my school might have helped me personally learn to have better friendships across gender lines. I do now, as an adult, have friends of different genders, but it took me some time to sort between flirtation/small talk.

  • tr

    I can’t even imagine living in one of those relationships where contact with the opposite sex is super limited–I mean, how can you trust your partner with your financial future, or to raise children together when you can’t even trust them not to have sex with every person they encounter?
    My partner and I take a similar approach to the author. We each maintain friends and acquaintances of the opposite sex. We don’t mention outside attraction, but we both know it’s a fact of life. Our general rule is to avoid doing anything that just feels wrong, but otherwise, it’s all pretty common sense stuff.

  • Rebekah

    I have no problem at all saying out loud when I think someone is good looking, but most often that’s a celebrity or athlete (or both) and not someone I’ve met in person. I also extend this sentiment to women (I’m a cis hetero female). My husband understands it’s just me letting him into my brain, which I do with a large range of topics and thoughts. I’ve found that even when I am eyes-dilated, heavy-breathing attracted to someone, if I allow my brain to continue down the thought path of attraction, the idea of having another man touch me intimately just gives me hives.

    This does not really address Meg’s question, but for us, it’s been almost 10 years together and we trust one another to keep the vows we made to one another in the end, which include fidelity, whether or not we are attracted to others.

  • These rules about no friends of the opposite sex or talking to people of the opposite sex seem so…juvenile to me. Like when I think about what grown folks do and how they handle themselves, laying out blanket arbitrary rules isn’t one of them. Both my husband and I came into our relationship with longterm friends of the opposite sex, and it never occurred to either of us to be jealous or try to force the other to end those friendships. My relationship with my husband is different than his relationship with his close female friends and I’ve never felt threatened by their bond. I’m grateful that he has such great friends who love him like a sister loves a brother, and that they’ve brought me into their friend circle and been so welcoming. His friends have become my friends and vice versa – isn’t that the way it should be?

    • Violet

      On the one hand, I agree it can be juvenile to have “rules” rather than treat people as, you know… people. IE, people are individuals, and as such, should ideally be treated on a case-by-case basis. In my own relationship (which began when we were very much juveniles, in the legal sense) I think we did use more guidelines than we do now, because we were just figuring things out. It’s a developmental process, to go from seeing only black-and-white to seeing shades of grey. We never said, “You can’t have friends of the opposite gender,” but there was a lot more insecurity, jealousy, and mistrust, because we were kids and didn’t know what the hell our adult relationship should look like. Guidelines at the time helped us grow emotionally past all that. We don’t use them now.
      That said, I can see someone evolving in the other direction just as healthfully. Let’s say a woman (or man) allowed her needs to be disregarded when she was younger. And as she aged and matured, learned to speak up and ask for what she wanted in future relationships. (I’m thinking of a friend of mine, can you tell?) It can be a sign of maturity to say, “Look, this thing is not okay by me. I know it seems a little rigid, but it’s what I need to feel safe. And if you can’t do that, I totally understand. It just means we’re not right for each other.”

  • Fiona

    I try not to bring attraction into the conversation because of a confidence thing – I want my husband to feel confident about my level of attraction towards him. However, trust is so huge and I would not deign to control my husband’s actions because I TRUST him. He goes out with his friends drinking on the weekend and they go to bars and go dancing (I’d rather be with a book), and it makes me happy he’s happy. Punto y ya.

    • stephanie

      Here’s my thing with your first sentence though: why? Why do we cater to this about the male ego? I love my husband, I compliment him, I give him ton of attention. He knows I am FULL STOP, all in. I know he is. I could care less if he said that someone is attractive and vice-versa—he knows my type, he could tell you what stranger I think is hot in any room and I’m the same. Saying these things from time to time makes us human, makes us real. I think spending a lifetime pretending like you have never found someone else attractive for a fleeting moment is not realistic, and that an ego shouldn’t hinge on something like that.

      • Fiona

        I’m not catering to his ego. He does the same thing for me. My mom recommended it, and it works for us. I have a general idea of what he might be attracted to, and he knows for me as well, but we don’t discuss it.

        • stephanie

          I don’t mean it as an attack on you, but I think this is something that… women are taught to do.

          • Fiona

            That’s fair. I didn’t mean it in a one-sided way. My parents were always super-loving with each other and had lots of opposite-sex friends, but always were super-clear to each other about how attractive they found the other person. They didn’t even say when they thought actors in movies were attractive – not as a denial thing, but as a respect for their partner thing. To be fair, my mom had an eating disorder growing up, so this could have been a factor.

          • Meg Keene

            Contextually, that makes a WHOLE lot of sense.

          • Meg Keene

            Agreed. I feel like we’re all taught this. Male ego first.

        • Violet

          Yeah, I like to feel confident that my friends really like me, my partner loves me, etc. And by the same token, I’d want my friends to feel confident in my friendship, my partner in my love, etc. Not from a gendered perspective, but from a “secure attachment” perspective.

          • Sure, everyone needs this confidence in their relationships, but how that confidence is founded and maintained is at question here.

            Does needing confidence in your relationship mean you must pretend you’re never attracted to someone other than your spouse (or vice versa)? Does it mean you have to pretend to not enjoy the company of anyone else?

          • Fiona

            I suppose the idea is to focus on your partner’s attractiveness and lift them up in the way you feel about them as opposed to putting the focus on other people’s attractiveness. It’s not denying it at all, but rather not putting thought or energy into it.

          • Violet

            Oh! Yeah, I personally don’t need the illusion of being exclusively adored. But I can see not wanting to put tons of energy into reminding my partner that I find other guys attractive.

      • Amy March

        I draw a distinction between pretending you never have attractions and just not bringing it up. Yeah, I see you checking out hot lady in the mall, I agree she is hot, it’s totally fine, I don’t particularly need or want you to tell me about it. Like closing the bathroom door- I obvi know what you’re doing, I don’t need a total cone of silence, but as a general rule surely there is something else to talk about?

        • Fiona

          This is pretty much what I mean, though perhaps I didn’t articulate it well. I think we’d both be fine discussing it now because we’re young and fit, but what happens if I get pregnant or my husband develops a huge pot belly like his dad? I just want him (and he wants me) to feel confident no matter what.

        • stephanie

          Yeah, to clarify: it’s not something we do regularly or even that… often. Neither of us is running around going “He’s hot, she’s hot, etc.” But if I catch him glancing at someone, I can just waggle my eyebrows, we laugh, and it’s fine. He doesn’t have to feel bad, I don’t feel bad, etc. It goes both ways.

          I mean, I also have a list of 3 celebrities I can sleep with outside our marriage. I 100% guarantee you I will follow through if the opportunity presents itself. ;)

        • Meg Keene

          Yeah, we don’t have total cone of silence. But at the same time, it’s not like, a general topic of conversation. We have far more boring things to talk about, like why insurance keeps screwing up our billing ;)

        • Lmba

          Agreed! Yes, in theory we both know that the other is/will be attracted to other people. But I don’t see any benefit to making that a regular part of our conversation. I’m OK with partner being attracted to some of else. But I don’t need the specifics up in my head space.

      • Anonny

        My husband has major body confidence and self-esteem issues. While I would love for him to be in a place where we can openly talk about attractive men we see (he is bi), it’s currently too much of a trigger for him. I don’t feel like I’m catering to his male ego, but rather that I’m doing what I know is best for him as a complex individual (and for me as the partner who would be exposed to the fallout). He’s not dense enough to believe I’m attracted to no one but him, but he also has no need to know exactly who and what I’m ogling. I’m being kind by keeping it to myself. I would never share this as blanket advice for all women in hetero relationships, because that would be stupid, but it’s where we are right now.

      • Jess

        I don’t think that it’s specifically male ego. I want to feel confident in R’s attraction to me, and I want to feel sexy. Part of that means that if I hear him constantly talking about being attracted to other people and not talking about being attracted to me, I’m going to feel bummed and like I don’t measure up.

        I know this about myself. I’d love to be totally confident on my own merits, but I’m not. Maybe one day, but today? Today I need affirmation and to be reminded.

  • Abby

    Here’s where we could probably stand to communicate a little better as a couple. We each have plenty of friends of the opposite sex that we hang out with individually, in groups, together, bla bla bla.

    Where I would struggle is if my SO was openly hanging out one-on-one with someone he admitted to finding attractive. This scenario has never really entered our lives as we only really trade comments on the attractiveness of celebrities. I’ll be the first to admit that trust is something I work at every day( even with a partner who has never given me a reason to distrust him) so is this crazy? I don’t know.

    • Kalë

      I’m really glad you said this! I have wondered myself – are we really BOTH comfortable with opposite gendered friends? Or am I just theoretically comfortable with it because my boyfriend doesn’t have many female friends, and it’s never really come up on his side? I’d like to think I really am cool with it, but it’s hard to be sure since it’s never actually been put into practice – especially with someone whom he found attractive.

      • CP2011

        As important as mixed gender friendships are to me, I have to admit that neither of us has developed any new deep friendships with someone of the opposite gender. I feel like I sometimes talk a big game about the value of opposite gender close friendships, but in reality I might very well struggle if all of a sudden my husband was close with a new female friend.

    • Jess

      This is exactly it for me. I don’t have a problem with the blanket of close friends of any gender, or about feeling attracted to someone outside of our relationship.

      I do start to be concerned if those two things coincide. It’s not a big issue, but it’s something to take note of and take a little bit of action – maybe scale back on hanging out with that person until the crush dies down.

      I’ve been the one to say to myself “Oh hey, I’m getting a little flirty with the dude I’ve been climbing with. I should probably not hang out with him for a few weeks.” After those few weeks? It totally wasn’t a thing for me any more.

    • EF

      I dunno — I used to work with a guy I found suuuuper attractive, like 100% my type, and we hung out pretty often/were good friends. i’d talk about hot he was to my partner sometimes, but it wasn’t a thing my partner felt threatened by. instead it just led to really great, frequent sex.

      but i think in our relationship, that’s what actually increases my partner’s confidence. i had a lot more experience than he did, going in. and i regularly check people out (and sometimes partner points out guys for me!). but he definitely digs that it’s him that gets the benefits of me getting all hot and bothered. so really, different strokes.

      • Abby

        That’s amazing! It’s great to know there are scenarios out there that work like that. Obvs you respect and trust each other and it leads to better things for you as a couple.

    • CP2011

      I would struggle with that too, despite the fact that my husband and I have close friends of all genders. But I think the emphasis there is on the word “friend” — to me, friendship means you are not at all trying to get in the other person’s pants. In my mind, you can have wonderful and friendly interactions with someone you want to get with, but if the end goal is more than platonic (even if it’s never actualized) to me that’s romance/wooing/intimacy and not close friendship.

    • Yeah, this is where my boyfriend and I are very careful. We tell each other when we spend time with past romantic interests or exes (even if they are no longer interesting to us in a romantic way), and we are careful about relationships if we know that the other person is someone we might be attracted to. We try to be completely open and operate in trust. But we tell each other and check in on this subject, due to past experiences with infidelity with partners. But in reality we almost never hang out solo with any exes or people we might be attracted to… Maybe a few times a year, combined?

  • confused anon

    People keep saying “How could you not trust your partner-”
    But sometimes, people set the rules because they don’t trust themselves. All types of people live on this planet. Yeah, maybe they have a problem, but it’s not your problem.

    • Amy March

      To me it is the “you and your partner” part that makes it about trust and control. If you, personally, think you can’t handle friendships with people you might be attracted to, I don’t see it as a rule that you both follow, you then just . . . don’t have those friends.

      And if you legitimately don’t trust yourself to have any friends of the gender to whom you are attracted, I think that is honestly very sad, and reduces people of that gender to just potential sex partners instead of actual people.

    • emilyg25

      There are people I don’t spend time with because I don’t trust myself around them. My husband has never said a thing about it. It’s a rule I set myself. That’s the difference.

  • Elizabeth

    Yeah, I’m largely with your husband on this because I work in a male-dominated industry and yes, the fact of the matter is that I have more in common with the men I share a career (and a workplace, and mutual colleagues, and a passion for our work, and an educational background) with than…idk, I have with their wives. I also believe myself perfectly capable of respecting the line between friend and romantic or sexual interest without, well, needing those kinds of efforts of cutting myself off from everyone of an opposite gender.

    And maybe part of it is that I have had opposite gendered friends since middle school, so I’ve grown pretty well accustumed to that and still not wanting to engage in a relationship with them. A large part of it is undoubtedly that I’m bisexual so if we cut me off from ‘people I could potentially be attracted to’ that leaves me with no one at all, and that seems pretty harsh considering it isn’t at all like I was blurring those lines even when I was single and theoretically completely ‘free’ to do so.

    • stephanie

      “I’m largely with your husband on this because I work in a male-dominated industry and yes, the fact of the matter is that I have more in common with the men I share a career (and a workplace, and mutual colleagues, and a passion for our work, and an educational background) with than…idk, I have with their wives.” Since we’ve moved back to the South, I’ve found myself equally involved in conversations with the mothers and the fathers of the kids my son hangs out with—largely because I can chat with a lot of the men about internet/tech work. It’s been super refreshing, and really fun to make friends this way. I like being able to relate to the male or female parents of my kid’s friends, and feel comfortable with everyone.

      • Elizabeth

        I struggled with figuring out how to phrase that, because my intent is not at all to disparage the wives of my friends, I like my friends and generally they date neat people and I enjoy spending time with the women my friends love.

        But, for instance, I was invited to a friend’s bridal shower, along with our one other female coworker, so I could hang out in this clasically feminine space when I’ve met his fiancee at a couple of parties and gone to dinner at their house once and that’s it. And I’ve been in situations where it’s like ‘well clearly the women want to talk about…women things’ and I don’t know what those things are but it’s not comfortable to be sort of shoved in that space and separated from the people I actuallly know due solely to my gender.

        (Because maybe personally I don’t want to talk about sports *and* I don’t want to talk about shoe shopping, (to divide things to truly arbritrary gender lines) but I’d rather talk about sports with people I know than shoe shopping with people I don’t…and the other way around.)

        • friendly wife

          PREACH. Yes, yes, yes, just because men are talking doesn’t mean women should talk separately. For goodness sakes, can’t multiple genders find a way to be in the same conversation in a way that works for everyone?

          • stephanie

            ” just because men are talking doesn’t mean women should talk separately.” YES!!!!

          • Amy March

            There’s one group of friends I basically no longer hang out with in large groups- up to 6 people and we all talk and hang together. More than that? Strict gender segregation, no effort made on either side to be welcoming. I do not need to spend a weekend sipping lukewarm white wine and cooking while watching the menfolk play beer pong in the next room.

          • ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

          • Elizabeth

            Yesss. Like, I was recently at a friend’s wedding and I noted that there was a big circle of the guys and a big group of the women and it was just a moment of uuugh, so I decided to start talking to the male group and one of my allies in this realm helped me break up the groups entirely to several smaller more mixed groups (which was ideal for socialization anyway).

          • rg223

            Just as an aside, not related to gender segregation… There’s actually research that shows that in small groups of up to six, people can all join in on one conversation, but with seven or more people, smaller groups begin splintering off and having their own chats. (and interestingly, I was first heard about this in a mixed-gender group of six all having one conversation).

          • Eenie

            Can confirm. Group of nine consistently get together, but when it drops to six we have a table discussion instead of two conversations.

        • the cupboard under the stairs

          My husband and I are friends with another married couple who had a sort of regrettable baby shower a while ago. While my husband, the father-to-be and a bunch of other dudes got to go out to a splurgy lunch and drink cocktails, I had to meet up with the mother-to-be and a bunch of women I only sort of know at a church hall for tea, cucumber sandwiches and crafts. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of tea AND crafts. But tbh bourbon > tea.

        • Caitlin

          Plus this gender segregation can hold back your career. Taking to your coworkers is *networking* and being shuttled off to the opposite gender table leaves you out of that function.

  • Violet

    For me, it’s about my preferred mode of friendship. Not everyone is going to feel this way, but I want to be able to share anything with my friends. Not that I tell them every little detail of my life (boring!) but I don’t like having to withhold something from them, especially not something big or for a long time. If I were attracted to someone, that would be a big thing I’d have to keep from them (because I’d view it as disrespectful to my partner if I did). It would feel like this big elephant in the room, getting between the intimacy I like to have with my friends.
    So, I have male friends. My partner has female friends. We’re in a strictly hetero, monogamous marriage. When it comes to my husband’s female friends, I trust him and them. When it comes to myself, I just know that I am not personally interested in a friendship with someone I’m attracted to, because it wouldn’t be the kind of friendship I like to maintain.

  • JLily

    Yeah we both acknowledge that there will be attraction to others, and its not a big deal. However, there are SPECIFIC people with whom I no longer text/see because my FH and I both know that their intentions are not pure–or however you want to put it. I have a (married, older, male) friend from a previous job who would always come a leeettle too close (flirting, gifts, etc.. harmless stuff and really nice guy but just crossing the line a bit), and I have chosen to keep him at arms length since starting the relationship with my FH. On the flipside, FH and his ex-girlfriend are such old friends and were together for over 5 years, but there’s really nothing between them romantically anymore. I am totally fine with them going and getting lunch together, even alone. I think part of being in an adult relationship is deciding for yourself which relationships to pull back on and which ones are ok for yourself, and trusting the other person to do the same.

    • NolaJael

      This. That’s more or less our approach. Work friends? No big deal. Exes who reminisce a little too fondly about when the relationship still existed? One-on-one time is not prohibited, but definitely not indulged out of respect for the current partner.

  • friendly wife

    So… here’s what I see happening. We have not, nor have our friends that I know of, established any such (ridiculous?) agreement not to interact/befriend/maintain friendships with folks of genders we might be attracted to. Pish posh. If hubby wants to hang with a cool chica, yay! more friends for everyone!

    And yet, I distinctly feel like there is some minor or maybe even subconscious stepping back slightly from one-on-one time/conversation/activities happening between men and women in opposite couples. I assume it’s a sort of way of showing respect for your partner and theirs – not giving them anything to worry about. I don’t like it, tbh, but I kind of accept it as what people do to establish some space and not get into any murky waters. Does anyone else see that in their lives?

    • Meg Keene

      Interested. I’m not sure I experience this, but curious what other people think.

    • JLily

      Totally experienced this, yes.

    • I don’t think I’ve experienced this? Not in a noticeable way so far, at least…

    • Annie

      I notice it with new couple friends. We tend to be closer friends with the respective gender and I’ve been trying to figure out why that happens. At least in our world, hanging out one-on-one with my new girlfriend’s husband just…wouldn’t happen. Not because we don’t have a lot in common, but because I would worry that I’d be overstepping a boundary. I think APW is a very liberal space and that’s awesome, but for a lot of couples, I think I’d be seen as, like, a Jezebel if I innocently invited their husbands out for coffee one-on-one (and these are people I really like and enjoy spending time with@ It’s just not something that’s *done,* I guess.)

    • Arie

      Yes. FH and I both have a major hobby in common with the husband-half of our new friend couple. We’ve done things where the three of us (husband-half, me, FH) are together doing said hobby, but I’ve been surprised to realize that I would not be comfortable hanging out with him by himself in any other circumstance. It’s not really like a rule, just–it wouldn’t make sense. If we were going out to dinner or something, we would invite wife-half, because we would all want to.

    • This convo and this Meiko song (https://open.spotify.com/track/7ClI9DYrhOb2P6jVrphLuK ) brings up an interesting point. Is there a difference between friends from before the relationship, and making complementary-sexually-attracted friends?

    • Jess

      Totally. Especially as we meet opposite-sex couples together, I try harder to be friends with the woman. I haven’t stopped being friends with the guys that I always have been friends with, but I definitely spend new-friend-energy more frequently on women.

      Part of this is that I’m trying really hard to have girl friends, which I haven’t been great at in the past, and part of it is probably because I’m slightly pulling back from people I’m kind of crushing on a bit.

    • Sara

      I grew up with a lot of male friends who went on to marry women that I have become good friends with. For our group, we have a tenancy to do ‘girls nights’ as a get together and it drives the men of the group nuts. Granted, they don’t want to necessarily go to mani/pedi night but they’re into checking out the new bar down the street. One guy I’ve known since kids complained to me recently that he never sees me because its always ‘girls’ night and never ‘everybody’ night.
      For us its less of a ‘respect for partners’ deal and more of a space/planning issue – do I want to go out with 4 couples or four women? But it still creates a bit of space that’s unintentional.

  • Kalë

    Uhh, nope. While my boyfriend has mostly dude friends, some of my closest friends are guys. And it’s not a big deal, at all, even though I’ve slept with a few of my close male friends in the past. Honestly, if it was, the relationship would have been extremely short lived. Our relationship was built on trust and openness – we both trust that we’re here because we want to be, and if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be together, period.

    I’m also a lot more social/drink more than my guy, so often I will go out with a group without him. However, I get TONS of unsolicited comments from casual friends/acquaintances, like “OMG can’t BELIEVE he LETS YOU hang out with ALL THESE GUYS!” “Wow, so awesome that your boyfriend is cool with you going out without him.” “Wow, doesn’t BF mind that you’re out with another guy?” – a lot of it is definitely gendered, because he doesn’t get the same kind of comments (I’ve asked). It’s infuriating and 100% sexist – like I would really have to ask my boyfriend for permission? Ick.

    • lottie

      I dated a guy who, after we’d been together for a couple months, went to a bar and read one friday night — as he typically did before we met — when I was out of town for work. When I returned, he very sheepishly told me, and I was like, “uh ok. Sounds very pleasant.” He responded, “you’re not mad?,” at which point I was like, “I’m not sure what I would possibly be mad at. You were done with work, you went home, you grabbed a book, you went to a bar, you ordered dinner and beer, you ate and drank, and eventually you returned home.” At which point he explained that a previous girlfriend had reamed him out for going alone to a bar while they were dating, and told him that was unacceptable. I told him I trusted him (relationships work b/c of trust) and I couldn’t possibly want to police what he did on his own time. Besides, what’s wrong with reading in a bar? He was amazed. I was amazed that he dated a woman who thought it was ok to try and regulate what he did. Live and learn.

  • Anon

    How do y’all handle it when someoneattracted to your partners’ gender has a clear lack of interest in spending any time with you?

    I get that partners can make friends with people that don’t cross the venn diagram with liking both people, but for me my hackles raise when it comes to someone who wants to spend time with my husband, but *never* wants to hang out with me or acts like I’m a burden if/when I’m there. Of course, it could just be because we don’t get along, but we’re both apt to think that there’s ulterior motives in that case since to us we’re sort of a package deal to an extent (i.e., we obviously don’t always come to hang outs together, but sometimes it’s gonna happen because we have limited free time and we prioritize spending time together)

    However, if a straight/bi lady or gay/bi man is generally cool with me, it doesn’t even cross my mind and I find it weird that anyone would prevent those kinds of friendships.

    But maybe even this is weird/overly restrictive?

    • Annie

      Being courteous and accepting of my partner is a pre-requisite for all my friendships, full-stop. They don’t have to be best friends, but there has to be a foundation of respect there and an understanding that my husband is my FAMILY. Occasionally spending time with him and being respectful/tolerant (at *worst*) is completely non-negotiable. For that, that has nothing to do with attraction or not…it’s a fundamental of marriage to me.

    • Kara E

      That would probably bother me.How did your husband react when you talked?

      • Anon

        Not a specific instance, really…more musing on times my husband and I have been uncomfortable and why.

        Hopefully more clearly stated, my question is: Is it restrictive to be uncomfortable with someone of the opposite sex (or same sex, if attracted to your partner) because they aren’t interested in being your friend as well?

        The crux is that I’m admittedly more comfortable if one of my husband’s pre-existing straight male friends isn’t that fond of me than I am if a new straight female friend feels the same way. And I’m trying to unpack how fair/unfair that is!

        • Amy March

          Do you think you’d be uncomfortable if your husband made a new straight male friend that wasn’t fond of you?

          • Anon

            Definitely if he were hostile (we’d never tolerate that), probably if just seemed uninterested. But it’s unlikely that I’d question if he was attracted to my husband and that was part of the coolness.

            Probably not fair, then, but not sure how to turn that off…

    • G.

      I would first wonder how much is personality — there are less socially adept people who may act like someone is a burden unintentionally. I’ve seen it most in hobby-friend circles. E.g., married dude is friend with woman b/c they bonded over auto-racing. Dude’s wife doesn’t know a thing nor care about auto-racing. Auto-racing lady isn’t interested in non-auto-racers or thinks time with married dude is just about sharing a love of auto-racing and doesn’t want to change that. This is the charitable version, anyways…

    • emilyg25

      If someone was rude to me, I’d be pissed, but generally, it would just mean I stepped back and let my partner see them solo. I don’t really enjoy hanging out with his friends that much. But if I felt there was something more there then that person just being an ass, I’d say something to my husband, see how he responds and go from there.

      • Jessica

        I do not like one of my husband’s closest friends. I find her to represent the antithesis of everything I believe in, and would rather not see her ever again.

        But I ask my husband if he’s talked to her recently, how she and her family are doing, and politely decline when the invite when they are hanging out during her visits.

  • Sarah

    Is this a trend in recent comment sections here? I seem to remember folks stating they and their partners have more restricted friendships because they little free time they have after family, job commitments, etc is reserved for their partners.

    • Yeah, I’m having a bit of cognitive dissonance with regards to this post’s main premise. Let’s wait until tonight and see if anyone actually agrees with the rule? lol.

      Maybe it’s just external behaviors, the behaviors of others/friends, that commenters have observed? Or believe they have observed?

      • Meg Keene

        Sadly, no.

    • Kalë

      At least in my relationship, I spend most of my free time with my partner. We have a ton of fun together and frankly, it’s easiest to default to hanging out together – we live together, we get off work at the same time, and like doing similar things. But in our case, I don’t see it as restricted friendships, at least not in the way that Meg is talking about. I see it as a natural progression of a relationship and life, mostly due to convenience. It’s way, way easier to hang out with my boyfriend than it is with anyone else – and I think this is probably true with other cohabiting couples, too. Plus, I have just as much fun with him one-on-one as I do with a group of friends, or one-on-one with a friend. I probably spend 50% of my “free time” with my partner, 30% alone, and 20% with friends (of either gender). But by no means have I “pulled back” on my opposite gendered friendships because of restrictions due to my relationship.

    • Meg Keene

      Yes, it’s really coming up regularly. I could have shown receipts, but that feels rude. I’m not sure people following this particular line of thought are going to jump all over this post. But. This has come up in a NUMBER of posts over the past year or so, it took awhile for me to think this was enough of a thing to write about it.

      TRUST me on this: we don’t ever need to make up things to write about over here. Because we are not as creative as the real live stuff we see. The number of times we get questions where we’re like “They must be trolling, RIGHT?” and then research away and find out they’re not? Oof. Y’all. The world is… full of… things.

      • Jess

        I’m going to push back a little here.

        We’ve had Monogamy Monday as a series – it’s totally reasonable that people have been showing up more frequently and saying “this is what we do” and having those things include “Nope, we’ve chosen not to do one-on-one with opposite sex friends”

        Just like some people are fully cool with having sex with partners outside their marriage, some people are fully cool with not spending intimate time with people who aren’t their spouse.

        We could sit here and say that people with open marriages are immoral and sex-crazed or that people who don’t want their husband to meet up with a woman for a drink at night are jealous and repressed, but realistically, people do whatever makes them feel fulfilled and secure.

        That may include allowing casual friendships, but not private meetings. It may mean you look at the cute barista, but keep it to a subtle glance. It may include telling your wife the girl at the bar is super hot. It may mean flirting is ok, but nothing more, or it may be ok to take that person home for the night. There’s a whole range of what people feel comfortable with doing and with hearing from their partner.

        As long as both people in the relationship are on board with that decision, I’m not sure why we’re scoffing so loudly at it?

        (This is said acknowledging that there is a long history of male fidelity being practically non-existent and female fidelity being iron clad, which is another topic all together.)

        • Nikki

          Totally agree with you. This post came off as a little judgemental to me, and I think you really hit the nail on the head of why. For the record, my husband has female friends, and I have male friends, and 99.9% of the time it’s been a non-issue. But there have also been times where one of his female coworkers was being (too, in my opinion) flirty, and times when a male friend of mine was making my partner uncomfortable. And we talked about it, and out of respect to each other, both backed off those friendships a bit. We would both never just completely forbid or even ask one another to not have any other gendered friends, but some couples might be totally comfortable with that, and as long as both people are on board, so what? It feels mean spirited to say what works for some couples is “bonkers,” when like, for instance, for me, an open relationship is just not my jam, but I’m not going to sit here and say open relationships are “bonkers.”

        • Lluviata

          Lluviata

        • Lluviata

          Whoops. What I meant to say was that I agree fully with your post. Especially that there is a full range of activities that people feel comfortable with when it comes to their partner. Why is drawing the dividing line between friendship and kissing considered better than drawing a line between acquaintanceship and friendship? It’s more common, for sure. But I don’t think the ubiquity of that particular boundary makes it better than other options.
          Discus is choking my phone so I won’t elaborate. Hopefully my perspective is clear. Since any boundary is arbitrary and according to the comfort of the partners, why is one better than another?

    • Her Lindsayship

      There definitely was a fidelity question post in the last few weeks where at least one person said that in their (hetero) relationship, neither party was allowed to spend alone time with the opposite sex. I was wondering where this was coming from at first too but I’m guessing if I’ve seen it once, it’s probably safe to assume Meg’s seen it a few more times!

  • Wait. So does anyone in the comments actually follow the rule put forward in the post, or was it just an exaggerated thought question to spur discussion?

    “And increasingly I’m seeing a specific way of handling potential attraction come up in the comments, and it worries me…In short, it’s this: You and your partner don’t spend time with members of the opposite sex, particularly one on one. “

    • Amy March

      Yes. Although I can understand not wanting to jump right in on this post after Meg’s lead in.

    • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

      A friend of a friend and her husband have this rule. They’re NEVER allowed to be alone with a member of the opposite sex, including people at their church. It feels incredibly sad to me, that they can’t or won’t trust themselves enough to not do this.

      • Kara

        That makes me sad, too.
        Those rules remind me of my friend’s highly restrictive christian college. They were allowed to have members of the opposite sex in their room’s one Sunday a month, the door had to remain open, and everyone had to keep their feet on the ground the whole time (0__o, the last rule was mind boggling).

        • Jessica

          I mean, there are so many things two people can do with clothes on and both feet on the floor…

          • Kara

            I know! But I come from a very liberal mind set, and this was just like—really?!?! This is a rule???

            The girls at the campus also had an earlier curfew than the boys–never mind the fact that these people were all legal adults.

            I wish I were kidding.

          • Jessica

            I’d love to hear someone try to justify that to me in person so they can see my face. Also–curfews??

          • Kara

            Yup.. there just aren’t words.

        • Stephanie B.

          I used to — LONG ago — belong to a conservative evangelical church that tried to win new members by being the “cool” church, like with barbeques and concerts and it was fine if we have beer at everything because it means we’re cool and approachable! (No, really. You all probably know a church like this.)

          Anyway, they were dead serious that men and women should NEVER have one-on-one friendships, because it “leads the mind places it can’t help going.” And they even gave the stink eye to a man and a woman just having a conversation if it lasted for more than, like, 5 minutes (again, “leading the mind,” blah blah blah).

          A lot of the single women lived in a house together, as did the single men. And there was a rule that a man and a woman could NEVER be alone in a room of the house together without a third person — even if the room was the kitchen and they were just going to eat dinner. And I am not kidding. Once, a friend asked me if I could come to the group house because she wanted to eat Subway with her fiance (they were like 2 weeks away from getting married), but no one else was around to “remove the temptation.” Seriously. These were people in their mid-20s, and they acquiesced to the rule that they always had to have a chaperone. Even when eating Subway in the kitchen.

          (I am no longer a member of that church, and haven’t been for a LONG time.)

          • Kara

            Sad but true…I’ve seen this in several super conservative evangelical churches here in the South (I’m full on atheist, so I don’t attend, but in high school I saw this all . the . time). I swear, this sort of “fear” of the opposite sex can’t be healthy.

      • Jess

        I know a few people that follow a similar line of thinking. I don’t know if it’s as extreme as never ever be alone, but they definitely try to minimize close contact with opposite genders in non-professional, private settings.

        For them it’s less a concept of “I’m not trusting myself/my partner” or “I feel attracted to this person and am afraid of what I’d do” and more a mindset of “I respect and value my partner and this other person’s partner, so I’m going to keep a distance to honor that.” It seems a bit to-may-to/to-mah-to to me sometimes, but for them there’s a pretty big difference between how those two things feel.

        They are comfortable talking with people of the opposite sex in group situations, so it’s not like they never get to know people or make friends.

        It’s not something that I buy into, but it also doesn’t have to be.

      • EF

        yup. my sister and this husband have this rule too. it bums me out to no end.

    • Meg Keene

      NO, not at all an exaggerated thought to spur discussion. It’s come up over and over in the comments recently. (It feels like an invasion of privacy to quote comments, so I didn’t, but there have been… lots.) It took me awhile to actually believe it was a thing, because it seemed so implausible to me. But it seems to be very much a thing, given how many comments we’ve gotten on the subject, from a wide variety of folks.

      (One of the most interesting parts of this job is for sure the inside look we get at people’s marriages, between submissions and comments, over a whole lot of years.)

  • Kara

    To me this goes hand-in-hand with today’s discussion.

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/22/health/why-some-dont-cheat-on-partners/index.html

    My husband and I have friends of the opposite gender, and we just aren’t
    bothered by it. It’s not denial, it’s just not an issue. We do find other people attractive, but for usit’s like — “nah, I’m happier with what I’ve got”.

    This line pretty much sums it up:
    “Well, researchers from Rutgers University have a theory: When you’re in a
    happy relationship, you subconsciously think that people who pose a
    threat to your bond are less attractive than they really are.”

  • AP

    Maybe I’m alone here, but for us it’s just case-by-case. I’ve asked my husband to back off from texting a female coworker, because it was disrupting our together time and yeah, I was insecure about the fact that they frequently travel alone overnight together for work and due to the nature of their job, sometimes spend more time together than he and I do. And you know what? He did it without complaint. I shared my insecurities and concerns, he agreed that he’d be uncomfortable if the situation were reversed, and he brought their relationship back to a more professional, less buddy-buddy place. We don’t have blanket rules about being friends with the opposite sex, but we also leave room to talk about stuff like this when it comes up. The argument could be made that it was on me to manage my jealousy and insecurity, but we also needed to set some boundaries.

    • Lawyerette510

      This is how we are. No baseline prohibitions but at the same time we want to respect each other’s feelings and concerns.

      • emmers

        #truth! Plus openness and honesty.

    • Jess

      Nope, not alone! I’ve done the same thing (“Hey, I’m not comfortable with this because I feel like she’s getting more of your time and attention than I am”) for a friend of ours, and I’ve backed off of a friend for a while because I felt I was too flirty (ok, I knew had a small crush).

      I think case-by-case is exactly what works for us. We’re mostly fine, but there are times we’re not, and what’s most important is that we’re respected when those times come up.

    • Abby

      I think your situation is hugely important to this discussion.. You aren’t making blanket rules and you’re looking at situations on a case by case basis to determine how you feel and then communicating appropriately. Cheers to you both for communicating so well in your marriage.

      Also – as a side note from another person in a relationship where my SO travels almost every week, I even get jealous of his male coworkers sometimes for getting to spend all that extra time with him. (you’re not alone.)

    • Annie

      Boundaries are crucial! And healthy! You’re talking about good communication here.

      Blanket rules and knee-jerk prohibitions based on *unmanaged* jealousy and insecurity are what set my alarm bells off.

    • laddibugg

      Yes. I tend to feel uncomfortable about specific people not general situations.

  • Rose

    As a same-sex couple, we tend to acknowledge if we find someone cute (generally women), and appreciate together. I have close friendships with a lot of women (so does my wife), and neither of us are at all threatened by them. I honestly would never be in a relationship with someone who tried at all to curtail my friendships with anyone; I get that for some people that’s important (like, if they have a history of being cheated on), but it would never work for me. There was one friend of mine who, it turned out, had feelings for me, and that made my then-girlfriend uncomfortable, but I wasn’t attracted to her, and we worked through the discomfort. I have to have strong female friendships, it’s just how I work, but they are completely different relationships than my romantic one.

    In a lot of ways I guess this is a non-issue for us. This may be partly because I’m very, very rarely attracted to people in general, and my wife is just absolutely not the kind of person who would get involved with someone outside of our relationship. I’m also very much of a general mindset that you set the important boundaries/rules/guidelines, and trust the other person to respect them. For me there’s not that much difference between trusting that she’ll manage her paycheck well enough to cover her part of the rent, and that she’ll manage her emotions and her friendships and not get into a romantic/sexual relationship with someone else. In either case, we’ve agreed on the important outcome, and the intermediate steps are each of our responsibility, unless we want to share them. Mostly, it’s nice to notice cute girls together. Surprisingly, given that we’re quite different in appearance and gender expression, we tend to like the same looks in other people.

    • Violet

      “we’ve agreed on the important outcome, and the intermediate steps are each of our responsibility, unless we want to share them” Nodding. YUP.

    • Antonia

      Exactly – this is so, so smart: “For me there’s not that much difference between trusting that she’ll manage her paycheck well enough to cover her part of the rent, and that she’ll manage her emotions and her friendships and not get into a romantic/sexual relationship with someone else.”

  • toomanybooks

    I’ve actually heard the “opposite sex friendships / what about gay/bi” people conversation a couple of times today so I’ve been thinking about this aspect of the post already!

    I’m gay and my fiancée is bi. Of coooouuuurrrrse we don’t have rules that we can’t hang out with anyone else who is a queer lady or a man or whatever. The bottom line is, you know when, on a personal level, you shouldn’t have a certain type of intimacy with someone because you can feel that you could be attracted to them, and you know when someone is just a good friend who you like hanging out with a lot. And then as for your partner, you trust them, but if one of their friends is seriously creeping you out, that’s when you can talk to your partner about your comfort level regarding them hanging out with that friend.

    This may not be the case for everybody, but I personally like to have pretty clear boundaries about who’s a friend and who’s not (and the boundaries are very clear and easy when I am engaged to someone).

  • anon for this

    I really can’t imagine a “rules” based approach to this. I trust my husband, he trusts me – and I trust him to stay out of situations where there will be a slippery slope to something uncomfortable. I do really appreciate that he’s introduced me at some point to nearly all his colleagues (female and male) that he spends significant time with – and that transparency is important to both of us. I think that, for us, if there is a “line” it’s about who comes first. If someone else started coming ahead of me…we would have some issues. I think AP hit the nail on the head in her comment.

    I will say that a long time (now former) colleague ghosted on me recently – and I’m fairly sure some relationship insecurities with his wife may have had something to do with it. They’ve had some ups and downs over the years and while I miss him (both professionally and friend-wise), since he is/was my friend, his relationship with his wife has to come first.

  • Anon

    This post simultaneously amused and horrified me. My husband works in video/film production and has worked on some shoots that are frankly porn – so for him “a day at the office” can often equal a day of looking through a camera lens at naked women. People have reacted in horror the few times I’ve honestly shared what my husband sometimes does and asked me “how are you ok with this?!” And the honest truth is I’m totally fine with it. When your trust is rock solid, you can literally know that your hubby is taking close up shots of women’s wiggling butts and be totally blase about that (Actually, while these shoots are the envy of all his male friends not in the industry, adult film/photograph shoots are actually just as professional and boring as any office job – trust me, I’ve accompanied him on them!) When we first started dating, he was very upfront with me that sometimes he does this sort of work (and volunteered to stop taking these shoots if it made me uncomfortable) I was initially a bit wary – but I told him honestly I didn’t know much about the adult entertainment industry, and he asked me if I’d like to attend a shoot, meet the models, talk to them etc…? I did and seeing it for what it is made me feel totally safe. I have now formed really wonderful friendships with several of the models and their husbands, as has he! So the idea of making “rules” for your spouse about not seeing the opposite sex just makes me smile. But the moral of the story is that I don’t think you can ever make rules absent of context – everything is a case by case situation. The key is of course communication. If something feels uncomfortable – speak up to your partner of course! But when you feel really safe and secure in your relationship, it’s amazing what can actually be totally comfortable. Just food for thought!

    • I went to a fully nude Turkish hamam in Istanbul with my mother, and people would react the same way: “how are you ok with this?!” tldr; people have varying levels of conservative-ness about life ;)

  • Jessica

    Amusing anecdote: the hottest guy I’ve seen in real life lately was the doctor who examined my newborn son before we could leave the hospital. Of course he came in while I was attempting to nurse (so basically topless, since I was new to breastfeeding and figuring out positioning) and still generally a mess after giving birth, and I’m sure I turned 20 shades of red as my thoughts went something like: hotttt! omg I am so embarrassed to be seen like this WHY AM I THINKING ABOUT THIS IN FRONT OF MY NEWBORN CHILD. My husband was in the room too and was rolling his eyes at me. It ended up being a funny shared memory for my husband and I, since it was such a ridiculous situation. :)

    • OMG this is an amazing anecdote. Hot doctor story x 100000

    • Me too!

      OMG I can relate. I went to a new GYN recently for my annual exam, and the doctor was incredibly attractive. I was blushing so hard and trying not to giggle as he did my breast exam. It was hilarious and mortifying.

      • emilyg25

        I could not handle a not gyno.

      • Kayjayoh

        So, my #1 reason for always having a woman gyno is that they can relate more. But man, that has to be somewhere on my list.

        It was hard enough having a hot dentist, years back.

        • stephanie

          Same.

        • Lawyerette510

          I have a hot dentist, and I didn’t know he was hot when I first went to him 5 years ago via a groupon. He walked in and I blushed so hard, because in my mind’s eye dentist were kindly old men, not hot contemporaries of mine. It’s become less awkward over the years and he’s a great dentist, but I still warn people who I refer to that office that both he and his business partner (a woman) are very attractive, just so they aren’t caught off-guard.

          • Meredith

            Our realtor was so hot. One day he and my husband wore the same shirt. It was amazing.

          • Aubry

            My Chiro is smoking (and 10 years older than me with 5 kids…) but I do warn/gossip when I refer people to him. He is also an amazing Chiro, and tall enough to actually manipulate my giant flexible frame properly. Makes the appointment nicer when he does painful A.R.T. on my neck!

      • Kris

        My OB is also a total (silver) fox ?
        I noticed he was cute the first time I met him (@8 weeks pregnant), but my heart really went pitter-patter the time I complained of leg pain and got a leg rub (pretty sure he was doing normal and proper doctor exam stuff, but that’s not the point). It was really awkward when my husband came along to my 36w appointment and got to see the OB give me cervical check and a GBS swab (which tickled, so I giggled).

    • emilyg25

      Oh my gosh, the anesthesiologist who placed my epidural was ridiculously hot. Even though I was crippled by contractions with back labor, I still paused to point him out to my husband. Husband was like, “Really? Now??”

    • Katie

      My fiance is a hot doctor! Sometimes if I think too hard of all the bodies he sees/touches it weirds me out. Best not to think about it!

      I will add to the conversation that my fiance has A LOT of female friends, and two of them are now also my best friends (and in our wedding party). I think those relationships are a huge bonus to our life! However, there was a time when he become uncharacteristically close to a female classmate while I was abroad for 6 months for an internship, and I felt jealous. We talked about it a lot (and fought about it too), and eventually it fizzled out. The whole situation is still perplexing to me…

    • macrain

      That was actually something I loved about recovering in the hospital- not the hot doctors, but- it was just like boobs out, all over the place, nbd. It was a good initiation into viewing my boobs as baby feeders and not… my boobs. I had forgotten about that!

  • Natalie

    I’ve felt attracted to other people all through my relationship, as you say it is natural.
    I don’t talk to my partner about it, but I do examine myself and our relationship to work out what might be driving the attraction to be bigger than just a passing thought of “oh s/he is attractive”.
    And this is how I deal with it. By confronting the issue head on. This was something I learned from observing relationships around me and my previous relationships. I don’t believe that cheating is something that happens in a vacuum, there has to be something underlying that triggers it.

  • Dolly

    My husband’s closest friends are all women. He is not a fan of cultural constructions of masculinity and doesn’t feel as if he can be himself (very quiet, not at all conventionally masculine) with most (though not all) men. He’s more comfortable with women and always has been – these women friends are people he’s known since grade school. If I were to restrict or be suspicious of his friendships, it would really hamper him at the level of his comfort in himself and his body. It would be cruel. So there’s that, too, in addition to all the other… questionable things about limiting your partner’s interactions that have been identified here.

    • Ashlah

      Yes, this is my husband too.

    • Eenie

      This is me but with men! I’ve found very few female friends where we just clicked, and I treasure those relationships. Otherwise, it’s so much easier for me to become friends with men.

  • Jessica

    I had an ex bf cheat on me, and I asked that he not hang out with that particular woman alone. They were in the same program and a lot of the same clubs. I cannot imagine trying to dictate something like that without a previous transgression, nor can I imagine making it a blanket request. If something like that were to happen with my husband, there would be a little bit more of a push for him to not see her, and lots of counseling.

    In general, I’m more comfortable with my husband hanging out one-on-one with women I’ve met before, but he goes out with coworkers all the time and I never question who was there. I can’t say I hang out with just guy friends a lot, but there aren’t a lot of activities I do with friends one on one–there’s usually 3-5 of us together.

  • Lu

    Thank you so much for writing about this! It seems like such a hugely important discussion. And also I completely understand the mindset of just like. . . assuming other people have *basically* the same broad expectations/policies in relationships, even though we know it’s not the case! So it’s really great to see this. It stresses me out to read/think about, and I think I’ll read/think about this more. I think accepting that attraction is normal and fine, and that you and your partner will talk about it if anything comes up that makes someone particularly uncomfortable, is so good and healthy.

    but it seems so good to name this thing, this broad expectation that seemingly a lot of people have! it feels very foreign to me so. . . i just wanted to lodge my thanks and now i’m going to quietly read and think about this more. thank you Meg!

  • Eenie

    My husband has his best friend’s face tattooed on his calf. A few of his friends have been carried home from the bar by him. There is no universe in which any kind of rule described above would work for him (or me).

  • emilyg25

    This is unacceptable to me. We both have friends of all genders. In fact, one of my best friends is a guy I used to bang. My husband has no problem with it because he trusts me. I’m of the mind that you either trust your spouse or you don’t. Who you hang out with doesn’t matter.

  • Her Lindsayship

    Reading these comments I’m starting to realize that I don’t spend any time one-on-one with any dudes. Not intentionally, and it’s DEFINITELY not a rule between my (male) fiancé and I, but I just… never establish close friendships with men. I think I have a pretty problematic, not logical but emotionally rooted assumption that men don’t really want to be friends with me.

    Every time I made friends with guys in high school and college they either tried to date me and were too pride-hurt if I “friend-zoned” them (rage), or they used me as a straight-scapegoat (straightgoat?) because it was hard to be openly gay in the South (actually happened about four different times to me). I can’t think of any close male friendships that lasted in my adult life. I certainly don’t think that every man in the world wants to get in my pants (or pretend he does so he can get in some other guy’s pants?), but I guess I have a hard time trusting friendship from men. Anyone else have this issue? Now that I’m seeing it I want to work on moving past it, because that’s a lot of people that are apparently excluded from my inner circle.

    For the record it doesn’t at all apply to queer women, probably because no lesbian has ever pretended we were friends and then gotten pissed when I didn’t want to date/sleep with her.

    • chris

      I’m more or less the same way, in that I don’t have close friends who are men (maybe fore the same reasons you mention?), but I don’t really think it’s a problem. I have friends who are women, and I do enjoy their husbands company, but it would seem weird if I invited them to a 1:1 coffee date or something. I mean, I so rarely have time to see the friends I already have that “excluding half the worlds population” seems OK, given that I can really only maintain 3-4 close friendships outside of my marriage. I’m just not a ‘lots of close friends’ person, and I’d rather, right now, use up that close friend emotional energy on the women I already know and love, rather than seek out friendships with this husbands and deal with the tiny risk that it makes my spouse or theirs uncomfortable.

    • Carolyn S

      I’m similar. Most of my male friends were either people I was interested in or it was a big group hang situation, so I just don’t have any close male friends. My coworkers are almost all male, and I’ve grabbed a beer with one or two after work, so obviously we are both comfortable with the occasional solo hang with opposite gendered people. But neither of us have really close friends of the other gender, and I think it would be sort of weird at this point if we made a new friend that the other person didn’t know who was opposite gendered.

  • sofar

    My two main hobbies are social latin dancing and grappling. My husband does NEITHER of these things with me. So, I spend hours every week in very close, physical contact with various men (and women too sometimes). Often, I’ll spend one-on-one time with training/dance partners to practice before/after a class.

    And SO MANY people (men and women) say things like, “Wow, it’s so great your husband still *lets* you do that stuff!” And “I’d never let me girlfriend/boyfriend do those things.” And “Is it hard to be faithful?”

    And I just laugh because, honestly, my husband is just happy I don’t drag him along to these things so that he can play video games/play D&D in peace.

    I try to be respectful of different people’s relationships and I get that every couple has different comfort levels. But I still find those comments insulting because it 1)Suggests I’m doing something wrong 2) Suggests my husband is wrong to trust me 3) Suggests that someone should sacrifice their passions and friendships for a relationship because they involve socializing with members of the opposite sex 4) Suggests that my relationship for my husband is so flimsy that I’d throw it all away because of a nice dance with a good-looking dude and 5) Suggests that I use dance and martial arts (challenging skills I’ve worked hard at for many years) as just a way to get off/cheat on my husband.

    • Elizabeth

      I had a conversation recently with my fiancee that went sort of like that, because she was auditioning for community theater and was asked if she was comfortable performing on stage in underwear’ and I was just like ‘welp’ because that is my idea of hell hahaha and it turned out she felt comfortable with it but wanted to know if I was, and I’m just…entirely in support of her doing it if she wants to but I was surprised to be asked because yeah, as long as I’m not being asked to do this thing I don’t see it as blurring any lines of our relationship. But I can see why other people might be less comfortable with the idea.

    • Kayjayoh

      [bristling on your behalf]

    • Juliet

      I had a similar thought- that my husband and I would not be able to participate in our favorite hobbies if we were uncomfortable with the other spending one on one time with members of the opposite sex. I have a little hobby podcast I do with my friend and and now neighbor that requires us to spend time alone together weekly. My husband is the captain of a co-ed ultimate frisbee team with a woman, and they have frequent one on one meetings to plan practices and strategize. If we couldn’t do these things because it made the other uncomfortable simply because of the gender of the other participant? We’d be so sad!

      When my podcast friend moved in next door recently we had a conversation about boundaries, but that was about managing our own time as a couple when we had a friend living next door, not about the appropriateness of him and I spending time together. I’ll say though I know other couples that really run the spectrum of navigating this- I know couples who are actively friends with the ex of someone in the couple and would be fine with that partner spending one on one time with the ex, and I know couples who become uncomfortable when their partner spends time with a coworker of their opposite gender. The latter just seems like… a lot to navigate and care about, all the time. So much effort, right?!?

  • I think open communication is key here, as is understanding the context. We have no hard and fast rules on who gets to hang out with whom and when. However, we do generally try to protect our time together and communicate clearly. So that looks like trying to keep texting/messaging with other people to a minimum when we’re spending quality time together (no matter the gender of the friend texting) and giving each other a heads up about plans with friends. But in general, extra-marital attraction is not something we worry about– sure it happens, but like Meg said, we trust that neither of us will act on those feelings.

  • TeaforTwo

    This is more or less my approach, but it hasn’t felt as rules-based as it’s made out to be in a lot of the response here.

    My friendships with men have tended to be either not that close or not that platonic. I didn’t have any men in my life who I was spending a lot of one on one time with before I was married (except men I was dating or sleeping with) and so that hasn’t changed. And when I do meet new men who I get a charge from being around and would like to be alone with…it’s probably because I’m attracted to them, so I don’t.

    I wouldn’t describe that as a rule, and if anything it’s something that I have chosen for myself, not that my husband has requested. It doesn’t feel that extreme to me: I have male colleagues, we work well together, talk during the workday or sometimes get coffee together, but don’t go out for drinks one on one after work. When I have done that, it has felt weird every time.

    My husband, on the other hand, has lots of female friends and does spend time with them one on one. I trust him 100%…it’s myself I keep an eye on, and for me that means not striking up new and close friendships with other men.

  • be our guest

    1) someone posted a comment recently saying something like open marriages were not for them but they’d like to think they’d be okay with the occasional extramarital affair (sorry if I just butchered your comment) and meg responded and liked it, and I was secretly hoping this would be about that.

    2) my husband and I have a friend circle/lifestyle where it just wouldn’t work for us to not hang out with members of the opposite sex one on one, but something we’ve realized lately is that we really don’t want the other to talk about any of our fights or relationship problems with members of the opposite sex. I don’t know if either of us felt that way before we got married, so it’s kind of funny, but it is what it is!

  • anon

    Hi APW – as an observant Jew who’s been reading APW for almost 2 years, I don’t really appreciate the gratuitous reference to my religion as being particularly fundamentalist (especially not when that’s not how the authorities I follow interpret the issue, but that’s beside the point).

    • Meg Keene

      Hey! I’m also an observant Jew, which should give that comment more context. That is how the Orthodox divide up the world, and I do view the Orthodox as being a fundamentalist branch of Judaism. It’s (I think obviously?) also not how our form of Judaism approaches the world. I hope that helps clarify what I was saying.

      • Tzvia

        As an Orthodox Jewish woman, a feminist, and longtime reader of APW I was also surprised and offended by this line in the post. There are many strands of Orthodox Judaism – and *not all* require complete separation of men and women. There is even a whole organisation, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, working “To expand the spiritual, ritual, intellectual and political opportunities for women within the framework of halakha.” (Jofa.org) This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, as it is not 100% egalitarian as you might find in a Conservative or Reform context, but it certainly doesn’t require cutting oneself odd from half the population. It isn’t correct to paint all of Orthodox Judaism with this broad brush. Perhaps you meant the Haredim or Ultra Orthodox – but even then I would venture that you would find more nuance in some of those communities if you spent time in them.

    • Rhie

      FWIW I’m an observant Jew too and I also felt this was a strange and somewhat gratuitous call-out when the sentence could have just as easily been a blanket statement about fundamentalist religions. Although maybe it’s time to share and share alike since Muslims always get called on their fundamentalist brethren and we Jews really don’t. Either way, totally get where you’re coming from.

  • Michela

    This is a super interesting discussion.

    My husband is a professional soccer coach and on the rare occasion that I’m with him on the field, I see the moms getting very flirty with him. And why not? He’s attractive and has calves the size of milk jugs AND he has an accent! It doesn’t bother me at all. He’s friends with these women, too, and hangs out with them alone more often than not. Again- it doesn’t bother me. It’s difficult enough to make and maintain friendships in adulthood, so neither of us imposes rules to further strict an already challenging environment.

    That being said, neither of us goes out of our way to mention when we find someone else attractive either. That just seems- unconstructive. We both know we’ll find people attractive throughout the course of our marriage; we trust each other not to act on it– I don’t feel like it’s necessary to be reminded. And I don’t feel that way because I’m salty that my husband will find other women attractive; I feel that way because extra-marital attraction is a constant, so if the status hasn’t changed, why bring it up again? Does that make sense?

  • Kayjayoh

    A thing I have noticed since I got together with my husband: I’ve found men to be good looking in an aesthetic way, of course, but I haven’t had a single crush or longing.

    Now, I’ve often had crushes while involved with other people. Didn’t usually act on it, depending on the relationship, but they happened. Heck, when I met him (2007), I was crushing on someone else. When he and I started having a bit of a courtship via email (2008), I was non-exclusively dating that person I’d been crushing on in 2007. I’d go on a date with the guy, have a great time, be very attracted, and then come home and be excited about a new email from M. But once he and I went on our road trip and started seeing each other for real (albeit long distance), I told the other guy that I was seeing someone else and that we’d be ending things now. (Which went fine. Stayed friends.)

    Ad since then…never looked back. Which is interesting to me. Granted, we’ve only been married two years, but we’ve been together almost eight now.

    • Kayjayoh

      We are also in a social circle that includes a lot of polyamorous folks. We ourselves are not, but neither of us thinks badly of it. Just not our thing.

      And…we are both LARPers (live action role playing…like D&D, only not just high fantasy, and you get to put on costumes and play your characters instead of sitting at a table and talking about it–something like this, only we haven’t actually done this one) and that hobby involves a lot of role play with other people that could get very emotionally intimate. Neither of us tends to seek out or play romance plots (even before we met each other…and we met in a LARP (and didn’t have a romance plot), but there is still a lot of emotionally heavy role play that is possible. Sometimes LARPs involve going away for the weekend, and sharing a room or a cabin with other people, usually a mixed gender group. So, I think at this point, neither of us inclined towards jealousy.

  • Meredith

    My husband and I are very open to talk about extramarital attraction, but I do feel like there’s a line. Maybe that’s because most of our friends are couple friends or friends of our same gender? We don’t see a problem with getting lunch with a co worker of the opposite sex, or with an old friend who predates our time together, but if I made a new male friend, at the gym for example, and started getting dinner or texting a lot with him? That seems date like, doesn’t it?
    P.S. I don’t even belong to a gym so I’m never going to meet any guys. hahaha!

  • Meredith

    Somewhat related funny story: Husband and I were watching the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics with our best couple friend and I noticed my husband and I were often pointing out when someone carrying the flag was attractive. Neither member of the other couple did it! I wondered if we should not talk like that in front of other people or if they have boundaries we were disrespecting.

    • Ashlah

      I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all. You could decide that you want to keep that talk to yourselves in front of couples who don’t share the same philosophy, if you’re worried they’ll judge you for it. I I don’t see how it’s disrespectful, though, unless you were to force them to participate.

      • Meredith

        haha definitely didn’t make them participate! That would be weird.

    • Kate

      I think unless it makes them visibly uncomfortable, what of it? We both did this too :-).

      • Meredith

        SO MANY HOTTIES!

    • emilyg25

      The Olympics is like 100% astonishing human hotness. It’s beautiful. We’re like you. Both my husband and I appreciate attractive people, and we’re pretty flirty to boot. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m glad I found my match.

    • Kyla

      My partner and I do this a lot, we love people watching and part of people watching is commenting on addractiveness! Haha

    • raccooncity

      Was it Tonga? It was Tonga.

  • Kate

    I’m so pleased you wrote this Meg! I have been staring at my computer for many of these comment threads just feeling confused. How could I have a marriage but still not be a whole, complete, independent person with friends of any sex? How could I have a marriage where there’s no trust in our declaration of fidelity unless we ban all levels of other relationship? How do people make this work without resenting their significant other?

    I get we are all different, and that the strict guidelines are appropriate for some, but wow, it does seem like a lot when you read the comments! And full respect for those who have agreed on certain boundaries with their partner. We definitely have some in our household – there’s just a LOT of trust involved.

    Just as an extra layer in how much that wouldn’t work for me – my husband and I lived apart for a year before we got engaged. I moved in with a very close male friend, who my partner knew was attracted to me. I’d been incredibly open that I was friendly with this person, was attracted to them, and that in another time, I’d be dating them. We were all clear on that. And living with him? No big deal to any of us. That kind of relationship wasn’t on the cards, so nothing happened. We all lived happily ever after. The end.

    • guesty guest

      I shared a hotel room with a male friend after a mutual friend’s wedding, who was attracted to me (but I didn’t/don’t return the sentiments). And this is a male friend made years *after* I started dating my partner. And guess what? Nothing happened. Because I have control over my actions and my friends are respectful of my relationship. Fin.

  • JC

    There was an excellent comment here a while back on this topic, on not letting others share the same level of intimacy that is reserved for your romantic partner. This strikes me as a perfectly reasonable “limit” to a friendship. It’s also possible– and healthy– for this to mean that some of your friendships change after you become committed to another person. I think when I was single, I was filling a lot of emotional needs through friends of both sexes, including romantic and semi-romantic feelings. When I found a partner, it was healthy and respectful to back off those really intimate friendships. (Nope, not cutting them off for good, not never being alone together, but choosing what to share.) Now that we’ve been together for a few years, I definitely have a better understanding of what that intimacy is shaped like, how it fulfills me, and where my friendships can fit. This means further growing in the friendships I already have, as well as being more cognizant of the best friendships to create. It’s definitely a learning process, and not one that happens overnight with any newly created “rule.”

  • Shawna

    The first wedding the two of us attended together, which felt like a HUGE step at the time, was of a former coworker of his and her partner who she hadn’t dated that long. The only thing we knew about him was that he had canceled the last lunch my guy and she had tried to have together (they didn’t work together anymore, but they worked in the same part of the Bay and liked to catch up over lunch like people do) because he didn’t feel comfortable with her doing things like that with other guys.

    Their wedding was lovely, they came to our wedding, it’s all fine, it’s just…it’s still the first piece of information that comes to mind about him.

    I agree with the tone the comments have taken on as they continued – people set boundaries they need to set and we can’t judge them from the outside too harshly – but… I guess I just don’t understand it and couldn’t imagine being comfortable with it for us. My take (our take, really – we’ve talked about this) is very like Meg’s in the OP. Plus, keeping in contact with your former coworkers is an essential part of networking and moving up in most/their industry. The kinds of jobs they’re each looking for aren’t posted – you have to keep in touch and make people think of you. I can’t help but think he’s holding back her career with that attitude because that very much wasn’t what she was like before she met him and that is what makes me especially nervous/unsettled.

    • tr

      I wonder if they’ve changed their approach as they’ve matured in their marriage.
      I know that early on in our relationship, my husband and I were much more conservative about those things, because quite frankly, we didn’t yet have the level of trust we do now. We weren’t crazy jealous types or anything, but since we didn’t have a great handle on what’s normal for the other person, we tended to err on the side of caution. As the years have passed, we both have a better handle on our relationship, and as a result, we both have a much higher comfort level with things. Even though ideally a person doesn’t marry until they’re both suuuuper comfortable with one another, the reality is that true trust takes years to build, and a lot of people marry before they’ve fully matured in their relationship.

      • Jess

        “we didn’t yet have the level of trust we do now.” oh! This is super important!

      • Shawna

        This is a totally fair point. I don’t know the answer in their case because we haven’t had a chance to socialize with them in double date fashion. I think my husband is waiting for her to initiate, though, given that we’ve extended invites that haven’t been accepted (for various busy life reasons) and because he wants to make sure her husband is on board.

    • E

      Once upon a time I told my now-fiance that I liked his friends who were women way more after I had met them than when I had just knew they existed! That was really early into our relationship, but I never ‘forbid’ him from hanging out with his friends. Because trying to control someone else’s life based on vague insecurities is not a reasonable thing to do.

  • Meh

    Summary: Meg is “alarmed” by people who make different choices than her in their marriage. When this counts as a post, I think I’m officially over APW…:(

  • Alexandra

    *Raises hand. Looks down.

    Er, um. My husband and I kind of have a rule like this. It’s not a rule, exactly? More like a value? And I’ve written about it in comments on Monogamy Monday posts. I didn’t realize this was thought of as alarming, profoundly sad/problematic, or evidence of a mistrustful marriage.

    Time and emotional energy are limited resources. We both work full time. We’ve got a 2 year old and another baby on the way. I barely have time to have a one-on-one conversation on the phone with my mother, let alone another man. (Why am I commenting on here? A break from grading papers…)

    I have male co-workers, some of whom are good friends of both of ours. I’ve had one-on-one conversations with them about work stuff. I don’t really like riding in cars or being in rooms one-on-one with them, but I will if circumstances make it unavoidable and I tell my husband about it afterward. I just…I dunno, that’s just how I roll. People have varying degrees of comfort with stuff like that, and I’m on the wicked conservative side.

    I’m not jealous or mistrustful of my husband, but I know he feels the same way. He wouldn’t be one-on-one with another woman unless it were for a work-related thing. And he would tell me about it immediately. I guess this could be seen as mistrust? It doesn’t feel that way. It feels like honoring our unique relationship and the fact that we are each other’s first priority for time and emotional energy.

    I almost didn’t write this.

    • tr

      No, I’m super happy you opened up about the way you do things–even though I’m far less conservative on those matters, that doesn’t mean there’s any one right or wrong way. The right way to do things is the way that feels right to the two people in the relationship! You had an excellent point about how time and emotional energy are limited resources–I actually use a similar guideline for all friendships. While I think it’s essential to make time for friends, I refuse to do so at the expense of my husband. I try to plan my time with friends around my husband’s schedule, so I mostly go out when he has other plans, or when we’ve been fortunate enough to see quite a bit of one another recently. If we’re going though one of those periods where it feels like we’re two ships passing in the wind, I try to avoid any social plans that could interfere with our very limited time together.

    • raccooncity

      I guess the thing that confuses me about this (I wouldn’t say bothers, because I don’t mind how other people live their lives) is all the ignoring of situations outside the sexuality/gender binaries it creates.

      I have a lot of gay friends and gender non-binary friends and how would these rules apply to them? Should I be more concerned about my husband hanging out with the female lesbian coworker that he has so much fun with? Or his male childhood best friend who is gay? What about my friend who literally doesn’t define themselves by any gender? I met them later in life and have literally no idea what’s going on in their pants, genitals-wise, so how can I know whether myself or my husband are allowed to be one-on-one with them?

      This is why the concept is too hard to work into my own life, even if I wanted. If things work for you and your husband I certainly don’t think that your life is sad for that. But I do think the CONCEPT of this rule is problematic because it makes invisible so many people by the very nature of the ‘rules’, and that is sad.

      • Alexandra

        Ok, I didn’t really want ot mention this, but the Orthodox woman above gave me the courage. Some of my reasons for avoiding men as close friends/being intentional about how we spend our time with others come from deeply held religious convictions. It was a little hurtful to have them called out here…or maybe not hurtful, but very surprising.

        We are Christian. We like to think we’re “cool Christians” in that we make our spiritual/lifestyle decisions for ourselves and do not expect other Christians or secular people to do the same thing that we do. But we also don’t find the implications of these decisions “profoundly sad”. We actually find them very freeing, as they come from a context of honor and respect as opposed to oppressive rule-keeping.

        Re: April (downthread) My husband is a social worker for the VA and has a lesbian co-worker whom he likes and respects and works with closely. Would he spend a few hours with her outside of work, say, golfing (as he occasionally does with his guy friends) just the two of them? No, he would not. A. We don’t have time for that. B. Even if we did have time for that, we’re married. Regardless of sexual attraction issues, it just wouldn’t feel appropriate. Lesbian co-worker could come over for dinner with the two of us any time. I don’t think she’s craving one-on-one time with my husband. But why wouldn’t he? I have to think about it, but I know it’s mainly based on her being a lady. One part of not hanging out one-on-one with opposite sex people is avoiding the appearance of an intimate relationship with someone who isn’t your spouse. But arg, I don’t even want to go there, can already hear the boos and hisses.

        So secular people are probably not going to understand that. Which I don’t ask them to. I was an atheist until I was 26 and I remember the worldview pretty well, which is why I generally feel comfortable here.

        I just don’t know where to begin, except that there are many ways of looking at marriage in this world. What I find saddest of all is a mindset that refuses to consider the complexity of people’s decision-making. Just as there are folks who see marriage as fluid and not bound to one person, there are folks who have religious convictions (or just personal convictions) that define marriage as one person for life above all others and take a careful approach to the “all others”.

        • Amy March

          Christian people aren’t necessarily going to understand this either. Which I think you get, but the implication of “secular” people not understanding just makes me want to re-emphasize that I am deeply and profoundly Christian and this is not my faith.

          I think where my struggle lies is not with your definition or marriage as one person for life above all others, it’s with the fact that you’d be uncomfortable alone in a room with a male co-worker. I can’t see how that isn’t confining. And refusing to play golf with a female co-worker, just because of her gender, honestly frightens me. In a world where men still have more power, I just can’t support the segregation of women from male spheres because of vague religious concerns about temptation and keeping up appearances.

        • raccooncity

          I appreciate what you’re saying and again, I don’t want to imply that I am judging how you and your husband spend your time. In practice, my husband and I spend 98% of our time together alone or in large groups because that’s just how it works out, so I think for lots of people this problem is largely theoretical. The details of that other 2% of the time are pretty tricky to work out, I find, and require a lot of parsing out of feelings (why can my husband not hang out with lesbian coworker but can hang out with gay male friend? why not? who is the issue of trust with? whose judgement am I fearing based on the appearance of this?, etc.) They’re the exact same issues that everyone works on, and whatever conclusion you come to is fine. I just don’t appreciate the assumption that all women are going to attract husbands away, all men will attract wives away, all people are straight and all men and women look one kind of way that is inherent in some of this. You and your partner don’t make those assumptions, so that’s great, and I get that after not holding any of those assumptions you came to the same conclusion, and that’s a personal choice between you and your partner. NBD. I just think it’s a silly situation that not everyone does work through their assumptions in their thinking about this issue.

          I do have to say, I didn’t really tie my original comment to Christianity or any religion, myself, so I assume you’re referring that part to the conversation at large.

        • april

          Thanks for the thoughtful response. Here’s what I take issue with (re: your example of your husband’s lesbian work acquaintance): “Would he spend a few hours with her outside of work, say, golfing (as he occasionally does with his guy friends) just the two of them? No, he would not. A. We don’t have time for that. B. Even if we did have time for that, we’re married. Regardless of sexual attraction issues, it just wouldn’t feel appropriate.” I don’t mind “B” so much – if that’s how you feel, then that’s how you feel. But “A” strikes me as inherently sexist. Your husband has time for golf with his male friends, but doesn’t have time for golf with his female friends? I’m assuming here that your husband gets along equally well with the lesbian co-worker and his guy friends (or that he would, if he could/would spend the time to get to know her). I think that’s what Meg is getting at when she says she finds this particular approach to monogamy “sad.” Writing off half of the human population as potential friends based only on their gender means missing out on some amazing friendships.

          • rg223

            I am, respectfully, also interested in this “time” comment as well. Alexandra, you mention “time” as being a factor in opposite-sex friendships but seemingly not in same-sex friendships. Do you see “time” your husband would spend as “time” that could be devoted to your relationship, like you would share “time” with a female friend but don’t share “time” with male friends? Or do you see it like, you have time already devoted to same-sex friends and your relationship, and same-sex friends cost additional “time” you don’t have? Is it none of those? FWIW, I really appreciate and respect you coming forward on this post that wasn’t particularly welcoming to you, and I am really interested in hearing your viewpoint!

          • Alexandra

            Yeah, I don’t know. I thought about the example a lot. The only thing I could think of is…voluntary one on one time with someone is a big deal, no matter what your convictions are. It’s intimate space and it’s time you’re not sharing with anybody else. Kind of like choosing a charity to support regularly. There are all kinds of implications on what you pick, you can’t pick everything, you actually can’t even pick almost anything, so your choices are going to be intensely personal and not always perfectly rational.

            My husband isn’t going to cultivate a special friendship with regular one-on-one time with a woman of any type. I’ve been trying to think why that is…I wouldn’t cultivate such a relationship with a man of any type, gay or otherwise. There’s religion involved…I used to have relationships of this sort with men before I was married, and I cut them all off once I was dating seriously.

            I guess for a combination of factors. I remember talking inappropriately with an ex-boyfriend about a current boyfriend long ago, and it getting back to the current boyfriend and me realizing it was an awful betrayal, even though it wasn’t “cheating”. I also remember a guy I had a life-threatening crush on being my “friend” for three years as he called me once a week, telling me everything rotten about his girlfriend. I kept thinking and thinking he would break up with her and finally get with me, but then he broke up with her and started going out with someone else. And I realized…those phone calls weren’t about him being my friend. He was using me for emotional intimacy that he had no intention of reciprocating.

            The friendships I cultivate outside of my marriage are pretty intentional…I try to form friendships with people who influence me in good directions and for whom I can do the same thing. When it comes to high-level emotional intimacy, the complications of sexuality just make it a can of worms. I know that reduces people to a sexual binary, which is problematic and lacks ambiguity, and I don’t know what to do about that other than to say it’s flawed but I prefer it to the worldview I had before, which led to a lot of misunderstandings and pain.

            That being said, I have friendships with men, we just…don’t talk about anything in the high-level emotional intimacy realm. Somebody wrote in a comment chain long ago that they wouldn’t share anything with a man that they wouldn’t say if their husband was there, too. So that’s a good rule of thumb. I had a long and stimulating discussion one-on-one with a male co-worker the other day about Roth vs. Traditional IRAs, for example. I told my husband about it when I got home, mostly because it was a neat conversation but also because I like him to know about all my conversations with men as a sort of…not having secrets thing? This isn’t an expectation he has of me (which would be controlling and weird). It’s just something that I do. We haven’t even really talked about it.

            This is very long. I better get back to work.

    • april

      The “limited time and emotional energy argument” is a compelling one — but what is it about friendships with people of the opposite sex that makes them inherently more draining than friendships with people of the same sex? I mean, I definitely know men that I avoid spending time with one-on-one for exactly this reason, but that’s because they’re flirtatious and/or clearly attracted to me, and it’s just not worth the time and energy to deal with that. But grabbing a coffee with a close work friend and hearing about his new baby and his woodworking hobby? Or talking on the phone with an old friend that I spent 4 months volunteering in Africa with? I find those interactions uplifting rather than draining. (On the flip-side, I have a close female friend from high school whom I love very much, but who is always caught up in some drama. I have to limit my interactions with her, or risk getting totally overwhelmed.)

    • Nell

      If I suspect that a colleague has some sort of rule/agreement/negotiated deal like this, what is the right way for me to be a good friend, without crossing boundaries?

      In my world, offering a ride to a coworker or suggesting we get lunch together is a friendly gesture, and it’s important to me to show people around me that I value them and think of them as friends. So how would you recommend that I negotiate that with someone who (I suspect) is more aligned with your thinking than mine when it comes to male/female friendship?

      • Emily

        This is my question too. It had never occurred to me before reading this essay that people would not be okay being one on one with the opposite sex. Women working in male-dominated fields are mentioned below; my workplace is 75% men and 25% women. After reading this essay I’m wondering if this might be the reason for some of (what felt like) the odd behavior I’ve experienced.

  • Fundamentalist Anonymous

    Orthodox Jewish lurker here. (But, like, really Orthodox. The kind you call “ultra.” The men in the family wear black clothes, sidelocks, and interesting hats. I’m liberal enough to have Internet access, but am otherwise a straight-up card-carrying nut job fundamentalist.)

    Like the other anon, I’m a little disturbed by the gratuitous references to Orthodoxy. Tossing in a random minority faith’s practice for the express purpose of explaining why it is “troubling” just seems super out of character for the APW I know and love.

    Anyway, the rule you mention up there, yichud? Not being alone with the opposite sex? That’s not a marriage thing, at all. In Orthodoxy it applies to everyone across the board – adults, anyway. It’s not about trusting your spouse any more than taking Communion is about dieting. I’m not sure how to delineate this, exactly—it’s just like keeping kosher. God said (play along for a minute, k?), the rabbinical consensus explains, and we do it. These practices aren’t between you and your partner, they’re between you and God. They don’t have anything to do with marriage.

    (Side note: if you really want to showcase the fundamentalism, I don’t touch the opposite sex at all. Not as crazy as it sounds, just a quick, “Sorry, for religious reasons I don’t shake hands with men,” and go on with your life.)

    But socializing is trickier, since it’s not in the “rulebook.” This is the part where you figure out the boundaries together in a way that works for you as a couple. (Religious whack jobs: they’re just like us!) Myself, I work and go to school with plenty of guys; I’m friendly and professional, and I show enough of a human side to keep the gears of productivity greased with cordiality, but the personal stuff ends at the classroom door. I don’t have any male friends, period. My family members don’t have opposite-sex friends (that I know of, lol).

    Does this worry you and make you profoundly sad? Whatever, I’ve followed my faith’s code of behavior for my entire life, so it obviously doesn’t sound bonkers to me. You are, however, totally free to write us all off as insane.

    • AF

      I work with a Muslim man who also does the no touching thing, and every so often I get really curious about why. Is it about sex? I can’t really think of a reason other than that. And if it is about sex, honestly I’m offended by it, a little. Not only does the rule ignore gay people, but it sexualizes other people in a way that makes me really uncomfortable. I don’t want to know that you think I’m too sexy to touch. I want you to think of me as any other human coworker/friend, and value me for me work/sense of humor, not fear me cause my body.

    • Hope

      Thank you for this. I appreciate your comment and explaining yichud, and how you handle it socially.

    • Alexandra

      Thanks!!! I also have religious reasons (in addition to other reasons) for not having close opposite sex friendships. Kind of an eye-roller to be written off as profoundly sad and insane. I actually have only had my faith for half my life, so I understand how it would sound bonkers even to myself fifteen years ago. But I have a rational understanding of how I operate in this capacity. It works for me. I try not to roll my eyes at people who do things differently from me as far as what they’re comfortable with in monogamy…

    • kara e

      Thanks for your articulate explanation here. Especially putting it into context.

  • Anon1234

    Regular posting going anon for this (I should probably try to parse out why at some point) but what struck me about this was the attraction to someone else, not the opposite gender part. I’m in a hetero marriage that is very accepting of opposite gender friendships. I’ve never thought of myself as bi, but I have had crushes on women, and for the last year or so I’ve been crushing hardcore on a female fitness instructor for a class I attend regularly. I’ve felt the need to share it with my husband because I was having frequent dreams about this woman and just experiencing all the “symptoms” of a crush. He thinks it’s harmless, but I wonder how he’d feel if I had ever explored romance with a woman before. I go back and forth on if I should stop attending her class just because I am so attracted to her, but I know I would/will never act on it. So there’s my (bicurious??) rambling on the topic.

    • raccooncity

      So here’s my 2 cents on that: I identify as bisexual and have had experiences, romantic and sexual, with women previous to marriage. My husband is a very non-jealous guy and so when I get a crush, whether on men or women, he’s like “ok, cool”. He also knows that I’m open to non-monogamy, and to some extent so is he, but we’ve always agreed to take that concept very slowly if we wanted to make it a reality, and I think we trust each other a lot to not force things on each other that way.

      I also have friends whose boyfriends are more apt to jealousy and they are just as jealous of female crushes because they’re just really into monogamy – “why would i not be jealous of someone my girlfriend wants to make out with just because they’re not a guy?”

      So i guess in my experience jealous people be jealous.

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  • Bear Mustard

    Well, I’m bi, so no, this is a rather stupid idea from my perspective. It’s never really been an issue, though. My partner knows that I’m not super concerned and that I trust him, and it’s the same for him. Also, I can’t hide stuff like that, I’m hopeless.

    • macrain

      Yea, I was going to chime in and say that my husband is bi. I guess if I really wanted to get crazy I forbid straight women and gay (or bi) men…? But that’s nutty, and his gay friends are awesome, so.

  • Ebloom

    To answer the question regarding same-sex relationships, it varies couple to couple. I’ve dated a lot of women who were uncomfortable with me talking to men because I once had sexual relationships with men. I think that when anyone has a binary understanding of gender, it can lead to fears about what one’s partner could do with the gender they are most attracted to, leading to the phenomenon of straight people only having same-sex friendships.

    But…that leaves so much room for interpretation and nuance. Like the similar phenomenon where some straight people don’t feel like it’s cheating if the flirting is with someone of the same sex. There’s this song not by Katy Perry but by Jill Sobule from the 90s called I Kissed A Girl. The music video is all about two 1960s housewives have crushes on each other. In the real world, I volunteer for a hotline where callers explain this to me every week. A hypothetical male caller might tell me that they can’t be cheating on their wife because it was with a guy. There are all kinds of “rules” that make no sense where gender is broken into two pieces, and attraction is only considered through opposites.

    And yes, lots of straight men have sexual relationships with other straight men, and still identify as straight. It’s more common than people realize.

  • raccooncity

    You know whose (fictional) life ends up the exact same under this set of relationship rules? Grace and Frankie.

  • Antonia

    My husband’s maternal grandfather was apparently quite a sight to behold back in the day – tall, dark, and handsome, and frequently told he looked like Errol Flynn. He was a dapper dresser and a bit of a flirt. But he was 100 percent head-over-heels in love with his wife and absolutely committed to her. When people would ask his wife if his (harmless) flirting bothered her, she would say “No, because I trust him, and if he did cheat on me, I wouldn’t want to be with him anyway.”

    That’s basically how I feel. I trust my husband to live his own life and make smart decisions. If he starts acting like an idiot and frequently getting in over his head, then he’s not the kind of man I want to share my life with. Simple as that.

  • Jennifer

    My husband and I have worked very hard to develop close friendships with each other’s friends. Our close friends are all mutual, and that allows us to feel a level of trust that we might not otherwise feel. Sure, I spend more time alone with my close friends (and he with his) than we do all together, but we are together at least half the time. We both have friends of both genders and all sexualities. We also get to know each other’s colleagues, and we do not maintain any private communication or non-joint banking.

    This may not be necessary for some people who trust their spouse completely, without question. I come from a family with infidelity and other problems. I trust my husband more than anyone else on the planet, but I still need to know who he is spending his time with. It just puts my innate anxiety at ease.

  • Megan

    When I was growing up, one of my dad’s closest friends was a woman he met in grad school. She was a single mother a few years younger than him. My mother never once expressed a single concern about their relationship; she was happy that my dad had a good friend to go through the process of going to school with. The three of them socialized together and my brother and I played with her daughter frequently. My parents’ trust in each other was so implicit that it never seemed to cross either of their minds that a friendship with someone of the opposite sex could be a threat to their marriage. My dad grew up with many women around him, and although he had male friends as well, he liked spending time with women. My fiance has many close female friends, and frankly I would find it unnerving to be with someone who did not connect with and form friendships with women. I think the fact that my fiance has always had friendships with women shows that he respects women and sees them as people, not objects. I don’t want to judge anyone else’s marriage, but I must admit that I agree very much with Meg that the idea of people completely forsaking friendships with people of the opposite sex after they get married is really just…so sad.

  • Anon

    I realize that I hold a very unpopular opinion on this particular thread but I absolutely don’t feel comfortable spending one on one time with a man. It’s not a “rule” in our relationship but I do think that it keeps from promoting a level of emotional intimacy that I wouldn’t want to share with anyone other than my husband. I’d also like to note that attraction has nothing to do with it. I’m not attracted to any of the men I work/interact with on a daily basis. Still not going to hang out with them.

    That being said, I find it “alarming/profoundly sad” that, in a place that I would generally consider to be open-minded, you would write a post basically condemning what is a fairly common approach to relationships.

    Were I to write a post detailing how my spouse and I find polyamory alarming (well gee, how do they even have time to run errands dating more than one person at a time? Do they live in a crazy world where groceries buy themselves?) people would say that I was close minded.

  • ladyjanegreysanatomy

    i’ve never been in an explicitly monogamous relationship in my life, but have been functionally monogamous in technically ‘open’ relationships many times, including now. as far as i can tell, Meg’s description is almost exactly how i/we treat it in these relationships. it’s the first time i’ve ever heard a monogamous person express that sentiment and frankly makes intentional monogamy sound way less arbitrary than it often does to me. i might rephrase as: we acknowledge it as fact, trust each other not to act without thinking of how it could affect the other and the relationship, have the realistic knowledge that people are complicated and sometimes things happen that surprise us, and if
    that happens we’ll work to deal with it. pretty similar.

    this is more or less the entire reason that i prefer an ‘open’ structure. the point is not sleeping around (we’ve been functionally monogamous for over four years now and frankly i don’t see that changing anytime soon), but that the communication is honest and open if something does change. tbh i just never want anyone i’m seeing to feel like they need to lie or withhold information from me, including about other attractions. i’m not saying i want details, but i want to figure things out together.

    • Amy March

      Yeah for me monogamy has nothing whatsoever to do with pretending you’re never attracted to someone else, or lying, or withholding information. It’s about not actually entering into intimate relationships with other people. I think what Meg is describing is more often than not the case.

  • Sarah E

    Seeing the number of folks who say this rule doesn’t make sense but they still just happen not to have mixed gender friends convinces me even further that much of this has to do with growing up in a starkly gendered environment. Our society makes that the default, and personal circumstances can underscore it even further. When you don’t have those friendships modeled for you, it’s tough to learn.

  • CatHerder

    I am a man in a same-sex relationship but I had a deal breaker that actually stopped some relationships before they ever started: I live with my two most recent ex-boyfriends and they are my best friends. With both of them the romantic/sexual side of the relationship ended but we worked to save the rest of the relationship because we loved each other. Many guys I dated were really put off by this fact (I never hid it and it comes up a lot in my stories) but my current partner understood that I had these important relationships, even if he was jealous at first. He is now close friends with them as well and, because we are in a long distance relationship, we talk openly about our attractions to other people often. I send him pictures of men and women I am attracted to, he sends me pictures of men that he finds hot (off the internet, not taking pictures of strangers on the street). We both work jobs where we interact with many many people every day and have active social lives so we just maintain the basic rule “We don’t want to cheat. If we feel like we might cheat or want to have a differently structured relationship, we will talk about it before acting.” I’m close friends with men and women and have significant sexual and romantic attractions to both since the relationship started without any “slip-ups”, but I also want to eat ice cream and cheese all day every day but I don’t. Hope that comparison isn’t disrespectful.

  • Lily

    So, I agree with the personal opinions expressed in this post, but I was really put off by the tone, which struck me as unnecessarily judgy and not in keeping with the rest of APW. I love APW’s overall vibe of “hey, if it works for you and your partner, more power to you!” The no-opposite-sex-friendships rule wouldn’t work for me, but hey, if it works for others, more power to them, right?

  • Tabitha Madison-Carmean

    I form flirtationships.