If you're uncertain whether an outside relationship has begun to edge toward a “special” friendship that poses a risk, ask yourself the following:
- Would you be willing to give up this outside friendship for the sake of your marriage? If not, there's a good chance that it has already developed a “specialness” that threatens emotional or physical bonds that your partner expects to be unique to your own relationship.
- Would you be willing to confront the other person about the “mixed signals” you're getting about the boundaries of your friendship-knowing that he or she might very well pull back from the relationship you're currently enjoying? Are there elements of flirtation or emotional closeness that have already become something you look forward to and would miss if they ended?
- Are there any aspects of your interactions with the outside person ou'd be reluctant for your partner to know about? Are there any discussions you would not disclose fully to your partner? Are there any times when interacting with the outside person that you'd be uncomfortable in receiving a phone call from your partner?
Thanks, But No Thanks
To reduce vulnerability to outsiders who may wish to pursue an affair--or who may simply be “receptive” to such a relationship--it's important to maintain appropriate vigilance. That doesn't mean rejecting all friendships with colleagues and others. It doesn't mean rejection all expressions of caring or interpreting them as implicit sexual advances. But it does mean being clear about the boundaries of such relationships-that you don't pursue or accept suggestions of separate time together in inappropriate settings, that you guard against personal discussions that push a friendship to a level you can't handle, and that you commit to never keeping interactions with others secret from your partner.