10 Ways To Prevent Your Friendship From Crossing The Line & Turning Into An Affair

Photo: getty
10 Ways To Prevent Your Friendship From Crossing The Line & Turning Into An Affair

In a previous article, I explained that the best way to avoid having an affair is to be wary of people who don't care about the happiness of your marriage.

Many people worry that the only solution to this problem is to avoid anyone of the opposite sex, but that's simply not true. Think about it: If you were to follow this advice to the extreme, half the world would be off-limits to every married person.

Men and women interact all the time despite the reality that a sexual attraction could spark between them.

Well-dressed women sit at the boardroom table with dapper men, stylish female sales representatives drop in on male doctors during lunch breaks, and well-built male physical trainers gently place their female clients' body parts in the proper positions on the elliptical machine. Moreover, men and women interact in work cubicles, university lab benches, art, acting and yoga studios throughout the world.

RELATED: If You're Doing These 6 Things, It Means You're Having An Emotional Affair

Can people who are potentially sexually attracted to each other form friendships and still be true to their marriage? I believe they can. It is possible to be open to spending time with, work, study or create side-by-side with someone of the opposite sex (if heterosexual) or of the same sex (if gay or lesbian).

But as the friendship evolves, it's the responsibility of the married individual to pay attention to the nature of the relationship. Feeling comfortable around someone is a blessing. But when friendship crosses the line and you or they are starting to feel very close emotionally, it may be a big warning sign. 

When you're with someone who could tempt you to compromise your commitment to your spouse, ask yourself one question: Is this new person a friend of my marriage? If he or she is a great buddy of yours but doesn't care to know about, or interact with, your spouse, then that could spell trouble for your marriage.

If you're not sure about what kind of friend this is, it may take some soul searching on your part. There are instances when friendship crosses the line, and it's not clear whether someone has crossed a boundary and become a threat to the marriage. In those cases, you must seek the opinion of the one person who matters most: your spouse.

If you're wary of a friendship that may end up crossing the line, keep these guidelines in mind. Is this person considered a true friend, or someone who will put your marriage at risk? 

1. Your partner must feel comfortable around this person.

He or she doesn't have to necessarily have to feel spiritually bonded to your friend, but there should be a sense of comfort about your spending time with him or her. 

2. Keep family bonds.

Your new friend must be willing to form a connection with your spouse and your family. Not just as a way to spend more time with you, but out of genuine interest in being a part of your complete life.

3. Hide no secrets from your partner.

You should neither give nor receive any secret communications. Any and all contact with your friend should be in full knowledge of your partner.

If you find yourself meeting with your friend by accident somewhere, you should immediately zip a text back home telling your partner that you ran into each other.

4. Don't speak poorly of your relationship.

Under no circumstances should your friendship include discussions about your mate’s faults in anything but the most general terms.

Explaining a husband's mismatched shirt and tie as, "Scott doesn’t have a good eye for color" is acceptable; commenting that the lawn isn't mowed because "Scott is too lazy to get around to it" is not.

RELATED: 5 Signs Your Innocent Friendship Has Turned Into A Full-Blown Emotional Affair

5. Dont' let your friend speak poorly of their own relationship.

Likewise, your friend should not use your relationship to talk about faults in his or her partner.

6. Never value your friendship above your partner.

Never be in a position to say to your friend, "I'm telling you this because my partner wouldn't understand," or otherwise hinting that your friend appreciates you in ways that your spouse does not.

7. Refrain from talking about sexual subjects with your friend.

Under no circumstances should you be talking about any sexual issues with your friend. It's fine to discuss the news of your favorite Kardashian's romantic exploits, but any discussion about your personal sexual preferences or experiences is strictly off limits.

Avoid situations that can stir up physical intimacy, such as candlelight dinners, sitting in saunas without spouses around, or entering a dance marathon together. You may not feel any romantic inclination toward your friend before doing these things, but the right situation can breed new interest.

8. Minimize alone time.

You should not develop habits of exclusively having alone time with your friend. It's critical that your family periodically be included in get-togethers. Be very cautious about regular rituals that you and your friend have.

It's okay to say, "We always watch the Fourth of July parade together," but not, "Every morning, we go on a power walk together," unless you have your partner's approval.

9. Stay sober.

You should never engage in excessive drinking or any illegal drug use with this friend, as sharing "sins" together develops false intimacy, and substance abuse lowers inhibitions.

10. Pay attention to your emotions.

If you begin to feel a romantic attraction to the other person, or if this person begins to express one to you, you must immediately break off all relationships with that person.

I'm glad we live in a society where men and women can share time, thought and even friendships. But when friendship crosses the line, married men and women must be vigilant for risks of potential infidelity, and do everything in their power to be sure that any individual friend is also a friend of the marriage.

RELATED: There Are 6 Different Types Of Affairs (& You Might Be Having One Without Knowing It)

Scott Haltzman, M.D., is board certified in Psychiatry and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has appeared on the Today Show, 20/20, Good Morning America, Rachael Ray and in TIME Magazine, as well as others.