Editor’s Note; Marriage is not a bed of roses. There will be ups and downs in it. And more often than not, sharing the troubles with a close friend and confidante helps to ease out the anxiety and sorrow. But can we and should we share it with members of the opposite sex? Share your thoughts here. The IL family would love to know what you think and feel.
Here is what Ansuya, one of our active members from the forum, feels about it, and I quote her.
“Not the first time I’ve been called idealistic, and I’m guessing it won’t be the last, but here goes. I believe in marrying your best friend, not marrying someone and hoping he/she turns into your best friend. A life partner should be the primary human being you turn to in times of trouble. Ideally, this relationship should be established well before marriage (it was the main reason I decided to marry my husband), or at the very least, within the first year. Besides, intimacy means more than just touching with no clothes on (sorry to be crass, but it seems to me that this distinction is often missed). Intimacy means deep and meaningful connection on many levels.
The best person to counsel one on relationship issues is a health professional. The second best person is someone who is a close, trusted friend (preferably of the same sex), who is preferably not close to the spouse, too. I think it is wrong to share intimate knowledge/secrets/problems about marriage with a third person who cannot possibly be impartial or neutral. It is an invasion of the other spouse’s privacy that his or her marriage-related “dirty laundry” is aired to a third party.
Women often feel like they are “innocently venting” to third parties, but I believe that putting this negative energy out into the world has real-life repercussions for both spouses and the marriage. Spouses should be able to solve their problems with each other – this is the point of caring for someone so deeply that you want to marry them. If the spouse is the problem, then they should still be able to turn to each other. For me, turning to a third party means communication and intimacy is suffering to such an extent that a third party option is the only one available. Again, a health professional is the safest and most effective “helper” here.
The other issue that is pertinent here for me is a cultural one. In more traditional cultures, romantic relationships before marriage are not exactly encouraged. Yet, it is a very real fact of human biology that we will be attracted to members of the opposite sex (or same sex) prior to marriage. I’ve noticed that many of my friends from traditional cultures have unnaturally close relationships with people of the opposite sex, yet insist they are “just friends”. In psychology, this is called sublimation – a socially unacceptable impulse (sexual feelings) is converted into a more palatable form (just friendship), but it is a temporary measure and nothing more than a defense mechanism. In other words, you’re just trying to trick your own mind to escape responsibility for breaking “the rules”.
I have often come to the conclusion that these people are in denial about their true romantic feelings, and just use the “friendship” label as a way to fool others, and even themselves. If these “friendships” eventually turn into romantic relationships, then all well and good. But if these “friendships” persist even as the participants go on to marry other people, and these marriages don’t even come close to replicating the intimacy and connection felt in the original “friendships”, then this is a problem.
I strongly agree with others here who have maintained that pre-marriage opposite-gender friendships necessarily change in character and tone when the friends marry other people. Marriage does, and should, change a lot of things. My friendship with my best female friend (a friendship that has lasted 23 years) changed when I got married. We’re still best friends, but age, distance, and other people and things have not allowed us to be as intimate as we were when we were 15 years old.
Even though she is female, it would not be fair to my husband, daughter, and home if I spent hours every day chatting to her about EVERYTHING in my life. Plus, she knows and likes my husband and spends time with us as a family. It is not fair to him that she should be privy to personal family matters, no matter how much she and I have shared in the past. This does not mean that I do not like or respect my best friend, but it means I like and respect my husband and marriage enough not to allow anyone the kind of access only my husband and I should have.
Imagine, then, how annoying and ethically questionable it would be if I regularly “ditched” my family for a male friend. Any way I look at it, this is unacceptable to me. Maybe others have more relaxed standards for this sort of thing. I do not consider myself a prude, and I believe in premarital romantic relationships. I don’t care for the external trappings of marriage (the vows in a language/rituals I don’t understand, wearing rings or other marriage jewellery, having a grand wedding, anniversaries, etc.) but I do believe in doing what is right and good for my marriage every day.
Yesterday, a friend told me she practically dozes off while trying to read my ridiculously long posts here on IL. Congratulations and a cinnamon bun (it’s a day old, but it has frosting) to anyone who has made it this far.”