Dear Rabbi and Shira
Thanks so much for your column. My family and I read it every week! Here’s my question. My husband and I agreed when we were engaged that we would cut back on friends of the opposite gender, as both of us saw it as an important part of our first year of marriage. We have now been married for over three months and he still is very close to all his friends who are women. He has made no effort to distance himself from them. Am I being controlling? Jealous? What should I do?
Too Friendly in Flatbush
Dear “Too Friendly”
Hi! Mazal tov!
It sounds like there are several issues appearing here. On one hand, he isn’t not keeping his word, and that’s troubling you.
Second, he’s talking with friends of the opposite gender, which makes you uncomfortable about the relationship that you are trying to build together. A marriage consists of a relationship which you share with each other, to the exclusion of the rest of the world. Having close relationships with members of the opposite gender confuses these boundaries. The fact that you do not want him to have close relationships with female friends does not make you a controlling jealous wife. There is much research to support distancing oneself from platonic friendships once you are in a relationship.
We’d like you to consider the following questions.
How do you know he is still close to his female friends? Is he open about it or more secretive? Is he secretive about other things as well? What have you personally done to create limits between you and you male friends?
When you both decided that you would distance your friendships with people from the opposite gender, did you create an action plan about how you were going to pull this off? Lasting change takes time. While you might have wanted him (and maybe you did,) to send out a memo saying, “to whom it may concern, I am no longer speaking to my female friends as of 12/31”, it is not necessarily a healthy way to make change. Allowing things to grow apart is a better idea.
Not being able to get together all the time , nor responding to messages immediately, as well as not sending out texts after a specific hour each night can allow a distance which you might be more comfortable with.
Furthermore, you will also need to decide how you’d like to set boundaries regarding your relationships with married friends as the same thoughts and concerns that you have with single friends can occur with married friends as well. Better to deal with this challenge now.
The more clear the both of you are about boundaries, the more room your relationship will have room to flourish.
Rabbi Reuven and Shira Boshnack