The Boundaries Quiz

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on March 2, 2011

Does Facebook put marriages in jeopardy? This question came up recently on Twitter and has been on my mind ever since. While I’d agree that the ease of getting back in touch with old flames and the temptation to participate in mild flirtations could pose a risk, I also think there are things couples can do to safeguard their unions in the face of these social media seductions.

For instance, my husband and I share all our passwords. We didn’t start out doing that as a safeguard—we simply rely on one another to access our respective personal accounts once in a while to do something or another—but I definitely think it’s helpful. It demonstrates trust and transparency; both of which are crucial to a healthy marriage.

I’m not sure which article promoted the Twitter discussion I mentioned, but I thought this article did a pretty good job of examining the issue fairly. A few excerpts:

Clearly, one online divorce service’s observation doesn’t mean that one in five divorces is Facebook-aided, a stat that has been spreading virally with little regard to accuracy. But no doubt Facebook can be a hazard to many marriages. If a spouse isn’t busy fanning an old flame or engaging in Facebook flirtations with new “friends,” something as simple as the amount of time some spouses spend on social networking sites can hurt relationships and intimacy…

Setting up boundaries to protect your marriage in life and online doesn’t mean you’re an untrusting or jealous person. It means you recognize that even people with the best of intentions can compromise themselves.”

Setting up boundaries. Yes. Absolutely. But where exactly do we place the boundary lines? I’m curious to hear your thoughts. If I may present a few questions…

1. What would you do if a friend of the opposite sex dropped by around noon to pick something up while everyone else is out of the house. Would you invite him/her in? Would it make a difference if your children were at home with you?

2. What would you do if a married person of the opposite gender wanted to have lengthy and private discussions about personal matters with you via email? What about on the phone or in person?

3. What would you do if faced with the opportunity to go on an out-of-town business trip with someone your age of the opposite sex if it were going to be just the two of you? Would you go?

4. What would you do if you encountered an old flame on the Internet? Is it ever appropriate for spouses to maintain friendships with ex-girlfriends/boyfriends with whom they were physically intimate?

5. Do you and your spouse share passwords? Is it ever appropriate for spouses to withhold email or social media passwords from one another?

6. What would you do if a stay-at-home parent of the opposite gender invited you to a playdate where you two would be the only adults present?

What say you? I look forward to reading your responses!

Take care!
Signed, Betty

P.S My dear friend, Arwen, felt inspired to discuss this issue recently, as well. You can read her insightful thoughts here.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Harkins March 2, 2011 at 3:59 am

Ok, I'm totally not being helpful in regards to your questions, but I'd like to put my two cents in. I think the most important matter here is guarding your heart in all matters of purity. Everyone knows for themselves when a simple glance or friendly conversation has impure intentions, or is flirting with the idea of something that they cannot offer. Even if you have the most pure of intentions, Because this subject matter is so grey and varies so much on each individual, it's almost impossible to assume that the person of the opposite sex has the same pure intentions and can therefore be trusted in the situations you mentioned. Leading others on to sin is as great if not greater than sinning yourself, so why not just close the door and not invite any temptation to sin inside?

laura March 2, 2011 at 4:02 am

My grandpa was a really good man and advised to avoid "even the appearance of scandal." I think it's wise, without being weird, to have a rule about avoiding extended exclusive time with people of the opposite gender for so many reasons – even if nothing bad actually comes of it, it could set others up to follow your example and be put into temptation.

And I think it may be fine to have a long personal conversation with someone of the opposite gender if a particular circumstance pops up, but then you need to direct that person to a more sutible friend/priest/counselor for the future. Sharing an intimate friendship is probably also really unwise.

And I'm so freakin' jealous, if my husband was looking up old flames I'd find them and run them over with my car.

Well, not really. But I wouldn't like it. My neighbor next door who really does love her husband (they have 8 kids!) went through a phase of looking up and contacting her ex's, and I just could not understand that. But it didn't seem to bother them….?

laura March 2, 2011 at 4:05 am

I meant "suitable."

Teresa March 2, 2011 at 4:06 am

I just had to weigh in on #6. I think male/female playdates are so inappropriate, especially if its just one man and one women. Definitely crossing major boundaries. But they're very common in my area. Everyone things I'm old fashioned.

Am I crazy?

Kimberlee March 2, 2011 at 4:08 am

We don't use social networks, so that's not an issue for us.
Many years ago we read a book entitled "Hedges" by an evangelical author which discussed this very concept (albeit pre-internet era), and we have long followd its advice. The basic premise being if you take care of how things appear, you take care of how they are. We would never allow ourselves to be in a situation where we would be alone with a person of the opposite sex. In your examples, 1. only if my kids were around, but my children are older. 2,3,4 and 6 are no way! 5 – we share all passwords, are free to read each other's email etc. We're married. :-)
Great topic!

bearing March 2, 2011 at 4:15 am

Interesting questions.

I find the question about the "opportunity" to go on an out-of-town business trip a little bit odd. I mean, a lot of people don't get to pick and choose when they go on trips or with whom (my spouse included). I can't imagine what the repercussions would be for telling your boss, "Sorry, but I can't go on such-and-such a trip because I don't travel with female co-workers."

That aside: A lot of these questions, the answer is "it depends." (I know, that's not very satisfying). I would normally have no problem letting a male friend into the house to borrow an item, for instance. But if I had been disturbed by concerns that the friend might be attracted to me, I probably would want to avoid being alone with such a person as much as possible.

No, spouses should not withhold passwords (barring extreme circumstances that I would have to work hard at hypothesizing).

I personally choose not to keep contact with any old "flames," of which, fortunately, there are not many. My husband is still casual friends with a woman he dated briefly in high school, and goes on ski trips with her husband. It has not occurred to me to object to this.

Lengthy private discussions on personal matters = not appropriate. I can imagine some situations in which short private discussions on personal matters could be appropriate.

Gina March 2, 2011 at 4:16 am

I don't know. Part of me agrees with you but the other part of me thinks that if two mature adults DO trust one another they will allow each another to spend time with a person of the opposite gender. How is it trusting to always be checking up on your partner? How is it trusting to not give them the freedom to choose their own friends? But I kind of see your point, too. Mixed feelings here.

Anonymous March 2, 2011 at 4:22 am

Gina,

the other part of me thinks that if two mature adults DO trust one another they will allow each another to spend time with a person of the opposite gender.

I think that's a great sentiment, and I see what you're getting at, but I think that it's dangerous if couples go so far as assuming that their trust or love for one another is stronger than any temptation. I guess it depends on the level of friendship in question, but it seems like the donut shop isn't the place to hang out if you're on a diet, ya know?

Anyway, not trying to be argumentative, just wanted to share that thought.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary March 2, 2011 at 4:28 am

Great questions!

My answers:

1. If I were the only person in the house, I wouldn't invite him in — for appearance's sake, if nothing else. Isn't there some line about avoiding appearances of evil? :)

2. IMO, it's just not appropriate. I've seen too many of those type of situations get out of hand. It gives the devil too much room to come in and make a mess of things.

3. I guess it depends on how important the trip was, who the person was, etc. but I would definitely try to avoid that sort of thing if at all possible.

4. I'm not a fan of keeping up with exes with whom a spouse was in a serious relationship. (Casual dating and/or dating within, umm, the bounds of Christian morality being a different story.)

5. I don't know all my husband's passwords, but he definitely doesn't intentionally withhold them, and vice versa. I would definitely be put off if he did.

6. I wouldn't go. It would just seem weird to hang out alone with someone else's husband.

Just my $0.02!

Kimberlee March 2, 2011 at 4:34 am

Gina, we don't see it as a matter of trust, but rather as a matter of wisdom and prudence. We mutually seek to protect our marriage – no other relationship can compare in importance. And it's not a matter of 'allowing' or forbiding each other to do something – we just have a mutual understanding. (and we've been happily married for close to 25 years!)

Lady Caitie in the Pretty City March 2, 2011 at 5:55 am

Since I am not married, may I speak from the other side? The respect for a married couple should be present from the outside too.. For example, I recently stopped correspondence between an old flame and myself, though just friends, because he's recently become engaged, out of respect for their impending nuptials. Its just as important for us single folk to respect the boundless of marriage for our neighbors.

Lady Caitie in the Pretty City March 2, 2011 at 5:57 am

Darn it! ** boundaries **

Anonymous March 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm

The Military makes me so irritated because they have no regard for these issues. Thanks to Woman serving in most branches, (except combat units because they can't risk it) I have seen so much infidelity. Long deployments or even the schools where they are working from 8 until 5 and then have all of the night to just hang out on the gov't dime lead to big problems. They do dining ins where spouses aren't allowed and they all drink to much. My husband has made excuses so that he doesn't have to go to things that aren't completely necessary. But somethings like deployments and schools are unavoidable. He also tries to avoid the super awkward combatives training where men and woman are on top of each other in very gross positions. He's been told that is childish, but he doesn't care. I think prayer, lots and lots of prayer and lots of communication and love and prayer and sacrifices offered up for each others purity and more prayer and God's grace has helped us. But many military families suffer from these problems due to the nature of the job. I have seen it!

Jen Ambrose March 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I have several friends whose divorces came about because of Facebook. Perhaps they would have divorced anyway, and facebook just accelerated it. I also have friends whose marriages crumbled because one spouse was into going to the gym and the other wasn't.

Before answering your questions, I should clarify that for 10 years before I was married or had children, I worked in a male-dominated field. I spent 10 years surrounded by men of all aged, travelling with men, dining with men, hanging out in airports and hotels with men. In that time I developed a comfort with having conversations and platonic relationships with men that steered towards work, movies, and sports. Now that I am married with children and not working, I find myself needing to force myself to interact more with other women because my interests still not terribly feminine.

1) Yes, if that person were someone that the kids were already comfortable being around. Otherwise, it's just a meet and greet at the door.

2)This would actually make me uncomfortable. I would probably listen or email once, then try to steer them to a more appropriate audience. But then again, I am uncomfortable giving anyone advice.

3) I've done this hundreds of times. No problem. If it were in the company of someone who had made and advances toward me, then I would find a way out of it, but I wasn't faced with this problem.

4) This can go very badly. Very, very badly. I have been lucky that the only boyfriend I had in high school and later became good platonic friends again. And by later I mean 10-15 years later. Generally I would say no, absolutely not, no way. I've been lucky this way.

5) Yes

6) Right now I find myself in this situation. It hasn't been awkward, but I can see how it could be.

Michelle March 2, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Military or civilian, either way, any married person has a responsibility to keep non-relatives of the opposite sex at arm's length, physically and emotionally. It is rare that infidelity "just happens." Generally, there has been a build up of emotional intimacy which situations 2, 4 and 6 could easily lead to.

As for situation 3, my husband, who is military, has been deployed with women and he often has to go out of town on business with women. He has no choice. Fortunately, he has not yet had to go just as a pair, but it certainly is a possibility. He is not stupid of the peril of the situation, and always takes precautions. He flies separately, and would stay at a different hotel if possible. He always seeks the company of other people, as a group, and never "hangs out" with just one female. He calls home frequently. He is the same at work, and does not ever have lunch with just one woman, even if it would help to get his work day ended sooner. The nature of his job (medical, right now) requires him to have closed door meetings with one woman and he is hyper aware of the delicacy of that situation, so he keeps them as brief as possible and if he can have another person present, he encourages it.

As for deployment, which I completely agree is very dangerous, at least the "brass" is on the side of the faithful spouse and punishments can be severe if infidelity is proven. My husband intentionally sought the company of other married men and avoided being with the few women outside of the "office". Beyond that, I am left to trust that he remained faithful.

A'ine March 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Here's my 2 cents on the issue (interesting discussing this after the Dr. Phil show yesterday, btw).

1) If a friend of the opposite sex came by around noon to pick up something, even if the kids were here at home, I wouldn't invite them in.
2)No email, unless cc'd to my husband. No phone or in person conversations of that kind unless it also included my husband.
3)This has never and likely will never apply to me, but I'll answer with my husband's answer when I asked him about this a few years ago: he'd either not go, depending, or if he did, he would tell me about it, and make sure the only interaction he had with her was strictly business related…no lunches together unless with a group from work, etc. etc.
5)My personal feeling on this one is to let sleeping dogs lie.
6)I wouldn't go on a playdate if it was this situation.
That's my 2 Canadian cents worth…eh?! :)

Anonymous March 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I've been thinking about this for ages! I'm currently FB friends with my brother's ex and it's just weird! There are no clean breaks now. My husband and I also have each other's passwords and really, he doesn't actually ever use FB. But he did once friend an ex – and yeah, that was mildly irritating. But she declined (ha!).
1. Yes, I would invite the friend in. Why not?
2. I would be hesitant to enter into a conversation of that nature with anyone, save my sisters.
3. Probably no out-of-town business trip.
4. The ex my husband friended was a sibling of his very best friend and they all grew up together. Yes, it was irritating, but I didn't find it odd at all. So yes, I think it can be fine.
5. If I did not have access to my husband's cell phone and passwords etc., I would be suspicious.
6. I wouldn't be comfortable with the play date.
OK, I'm commenting anonymously out of respect for my marriage and my sweetie!

melody March 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm

1. I know this will sound odd to most of the Westernized world but… No. I don't think anything untoward would happen but I would do it out of respect for my husband. It's a very small thing to do to make sure the treasure of marriage is preserved and to show him I intend to fight for it.

2. I guess this depends. You write "discussions"…as in plural. I would say no to that. And I would tend to shy away from such a thing. If I did do something like this for some reason, I would involve my husband in every step.

3. No.

4. No.

5. Yes. We have a central place for all our passwords. No, I think withholding something like that is a huge red flag and a problem. If a person is upset by the thought of giving all passwords to a spouse, something is very wrong in that marriage.

6. I would say no.

Am I untrustworthy that I need so many boundaries? I don't think so. But I would do a great many more difficult things to honor my marriage and demonstrate faithfulness to my husband.

Suzanne Temple March 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm

These are all good questions and I say no to all, except number 5. I think sharing passwords is the best way to insure you don't use media in any way you wouldn't want your spouse to see. It is good for accountability and that's important even for strong marriages because in this age of virtual relationships, things that would strike us as highly inappropriate in a real life setting suddenly seem much less dangerous and that is where facebook contributes to divorce, I believe. Boundaries are much less defined in the virtual world and this allows for more situations where something that seems harmless can become harmful. It falls to the spouses, then, to set the boundaries themselves. This isn't some kind of jealous control, but insurance for one of our greatest investments, our marriage and happiness.

Laura March 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Interesting questions! I agree with those that said, basically, "it depends". You have to know your own heart and trust your instincts.

Re: passwords, I just wanted to add that I do not have access to my husband's email because he's a physician and it violates privacy laws. I am completely fine with this, even though he uses the account for personal email as well. I trust him completely; there's never been any problem.

Lynn March 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm

here are my answers -
1) If this was planned I would invite that person in because my spouse would already know about it.

2) This would be dependent on our relationship. I have male friends from prior to both of our marriages and I still speak with them. However, my husband knows about these friendships.

3)If my job was dependent on it I would have to wouldn't I. That does not mean that I have to socialize with the person after work is done. I used to be a consultant and times I was the only female on the project and never had any issue.

4)NO

5)Yes we do but we do not read one another's email.

6)I do not see anything wrong with this because you are out in public and the play date is for the kids not for you

Janet in Toronto March 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I'd answer all these questions in the same way as I would if the person in question were of the same gender. That is, "yes" to all of them. No problem. I've been faithfully married for 28 years and my husband and I have always had opposite sex friends. It's a non-issue for us. We share passwords and are completely open about our relationships with others.

It would be weird for me NOT to invite the person in, I have had lengthy and personal email discussions, I have been on out-of-town business trips with someone of the opposite gender (as has my husband) and there was really no issue (or choice in the matter.)

Erin March 2, 2011 at 5:17 pm

1) I don't have children yet, but either way it's an odd situation. Even when someone of the same gender visits my home when I'm alone, I feel slightly tense. Maybe I'm just no good at hosting. LOL

2) The "private discussion" thing always makes me nervous, because even though I would have NO intention of discussing intimate matters, sometimes you just never know what the other person has in mind. I try to (a) avoid these requests altogether or (b) if the discussion is obviously not intimate, request that my husband be "in" on the conversation since he is trustworthy and I value his opinion.

3) I really don't enjoy ANY out-of-town trips (business or not) without my husband. I always feel as though part of myself is missing.

4) I think friendship is okay, but somehow it rarely works out that way. Most of these circumstances are too awkward for everyone involved.

5) We do share passwords, but usually only because we share a lot of files and pictures on the internet. We've never shared passwords because of trust issues, however, if my spouse did purposefully withhold his passwords when I asked for them, I would be a bit suspicious.

6) Playdates with opposite genders should always be conducted in public places — like at the park or the mall — or not at all. For example, a playdate with my brother-in-law would be okay, if my sister or husband wasn't available to attend, but I would still suggest that it occur somewhere public… to avoid awkwardness.

Calah March 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

1. The only friend I have of the opposite sex (who lives near enough to pick something up) is married to a good friend of mine and is a good friend of my husband. I'd invite him in, sure, but if he stayed longer than it took to exchange pleasantries and give him what he needed (which he wouldn't) I'd find a way to politely shoo him out the door. As far as the children being home, I can't imagine why that would matter unless you going to be doing something with this person that you didn't want them to know about.

2. If this was someone I knew prior to my marriage, I would be very uncomfortable with it. I would only agree after discussing it at length with my husband, and only via emails that I would show to my husband. I doubt I would consent to phone or face-to-face…that would just be weird for me. All of these stipulations are not because I don't trust myself or my husband doesn't trust me, but just because anything else would feel sneaky and unnatural. If it was someone I've known since my marriage, I would encourage this person to go to my husband for his advice.

3. Depends on the importance of the trip. If it was vital, sure, I'd go. But I'd make sure my husband had met the guy, and would not do any sort of dinner/drinks with him after work was concluded.

4. I really think it's not. I wouldn't want my husband to contact an old flame and I'm sure he'd feel the same. No matter how innocent your intentions, it is just bound to bring up old feelings of attachment. It's like playing with fire.

5. Yes, we share passwords (when I can remember his), and no, I think it's inappropriate to withhold those things. That would be a huge red flag for me. Even if there's nothing going on that he's trying to hide, the only reason I could imagine him keeping a password secret is that he's anticipating needing to hide something.

6. If it were at a public place like a park I might go, but I think I would not look forward to it. It would be awkward. If it were in a home, I definitely wouldn't go. Again, not out of any sort of self-doubt, but just because it would be frankly uncomfortable.

Great questions, Hallie! Good post! I'm an avid fan of facebook and I tend to think if a marriage is broken up by a re-connection, the person doing the re-connecting was looking for an out anyway. But I can see how facebook would make it easier.

Brandon Vogt March 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm

1. If at all necessary, I try not to be alone with any woman who isn’t my wife or a family member. I’m no Billy Graham—who wouldn’t even ride an elevator alone with a woman—but I try to generally follow this plan. If a woman came to the door, I would only invite her in if it was a serious situation (she was distraught and needed a place to stay) or if I knew it would only take a minute or so to gather whatever she came to pick up.

2. On e-mail I would generally engage, but only if I knew I was the best person to help. Otherwise I would refer her to someone else. But if I did engage, I would let my wife know about it (she also has access to my e-mail, anyways). I wouldn’t do it in phone or in person.

3. I wouldn’t do this unless it was absolutely unavoidable. And if I had to go, I’d put on my introvert hat and go straight to my hotel room after any work duties during the day.

4. I’m so awkward and socially-inept that I try to avoid any contact with old girlfriends. I do think its OK for people to keep up friendships, so long as the exchanges are public (through Facebook walls, for example).

5. Yes we share all of our passwords. I don’t see any way that withholding passwords would be beneficial for one’s marriage.

6. I would probably find some excuse not to go, but at the very least would run it by my wife first to see how she would feel, and would feel some solace knowing that the kids would be playing (i.e. you wouldn’t be alone.)

Sarah March 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm

I may have to write a blog post answering these questions! Great questions (I do not have children yet, so may answers are based on that fact):

1. It depends on the friend. I would invite them in especially if they are friends with Hubby too and I *know* he would feel comfortable with that person, but I would probably keep the visit fairly short. If the person was not mutually friends with Hubby, than no I would prob not invite them in.

2. I have ONE friend like this who is 100 percent trustworthy and sometimes needs to vent. But Hubby and I are friends with this couple and *anything* that is ever said to us as individuals is not "special." In other words, our spouses always know the most about any given situation and are always aware of what we tell our friends (and any conversations without spouses physically present are in platonic situations like midday, in public etc). My basic rule for a situation where a guy wants to have a lengthy, personal back and forth though is to keep my reaction light and recommend they seek out a mutual guy friend or counselor.

3. No, I would not go.

4. Hubby and I both agree it's not okay to maintain relationships with old flames *especially* if there was physical intimacy. I refuse to accept friend requests from a former fiance and former boyfriend in spite of their multiple attempts. A few guys I casually dated are on my FB friends list, but I never interact with them. If need be, I will tell a guy point blank that a friendship can no longer exist between us (I have done that before). Once I got engaged, most of my former flames disappeared anyway because they "got it."

5. Yes, we share all passwords.

6. Not a parent yet!

McBorn March 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

1. I would invite him in. If I became uncomfortable I find a reason to ask him to leave. If my son was home, I would probably be more at ease, but it wouldn't change my decision. I would discuss the incident with my husband and we would decided together if it was "weird" or okay.
2. I don't think I would be comfortable with lengthy personal conversations of any format with a man and would direct him to someone else whom he could lean on for support and advice, possibly my husband.
3. I would go if I needed to go. I would be on my gourd during the entire trip to make sure everything was on the up & up.
4. You can say hi and be a casual friend to a former girl/boyfriend. I would discontinue the contact if I believed they were interested in being anything more than an acquaintanceship. While we were dating, I was friends and went to school with a former girlfriend of my husband's. I let the friendship end when she began to post things on her blog about wanting to get back together with a guy she used to date.
5. We share passwords for many reasons.
6. I haven't been in this situation, but I don't think it would be a problem. The bottom line I come down to is: I will talk to my husband about almost everyone I encounter and if I have concerns about the intentions of anyone I am with, he and I will make a decision about my contact with that person. He does the same with me. I love my husband and I want to stay married. It can become a funny joke between us as a couple if an old flame "wants" us. The biggest reason why I don't have a problem with most of these things is because I am not looking for anything else. Any potential threats to my marriage would be from the outside, but I think we would talk about it and make a decision on how to best deal with that person and the threat to our marriage.

Joanne March 2, 2011 at 6:36 pm

1. Yes I would invite him in. I do some consulting work for a friend of mine, he is male and married to another friend of mine and I just – it never occurs to me that because he is male and I am female that I can't be alone with him. This is only because I work with him, though. I don't have any straight male friends that I would have over.

2. I would not feel comfortable talking about personal matters with my married, male friends, especially via email, or on the internet at all. I've had perfectly normal people act much differently because we were on IM or whatever.

3. I think I would, if it were for work. My husband travels for work and I can't imagine saying you can't go. He's an attorney with the federal gov't, what would he say? I can't try this case because my wife doesn't want me to travel with this female attorney? No.

4. I am friends with some people I used to date, but I don't think my husband is. I don't find anything untoward about it, I was 36 when I got married, I had dated people and it didn't work out, I can't imagine not being friends with them because I'm (and they're) married now.

5. We know each others' passwords and we look at Facebook and stuff all the time on each others' phones. I can't see any reason to not share your password, although we do have separate accounts.

6. This is a hard one. I don't think I'd go to a playgroup with just one other parent, anyway, but especially not if it were a man. I suppose, since I am a SAHM I would just be doing my work with another SAH parent but I think it might be giving scandal and I just think it would be best avoided. I feel sorry for stay at home dads sometimes, because I think their social possibilities are fewer but there's not much that can be done, I suppose.

Sitka March 2, 2011 at 6:46 pm

1) I live pretty far out of town so it would be pretty weird for someone to show up "unexpected" but if it was someone I trust I would let them in (it's cold outside!) but I definitely am not going to sit down on the couch and chat. I can see one of our friends chatting with the kids or something. I may make a casual call to my husband and mention that so and so is here.
2)NO! As far as private conversation, a few short and sweet answers and that's it. I don't trust myself! It's not that I don't love my husband, but it is so easy for me to get emotional about things.
3) I will have to answer hypothetically b/c this will never happen. If my husband had to go, I would be SO jealous and I would be constantly calling him. If it was me I would keep as much separation as possilbe- there's no reason you have to have meals, etc. together. I would go out of my way to pay things for myself just to avoid having to be together ALL the time. But we are self employed, so…
4) Maybe friend them on facebook, be polite, say hi- but not be "friends". Other people may be able to, but not me.
5)Yes- but my husband barely knows how to turn on the computer.
6)NO! I would think a "stay at home dad" inviting me to a "play date" (and I HATE that word!) is just totally weird. Not that one couldn't happen on accident, but otherwise I would tell him to get a job. Mind you, I'm not talking about people that have lost their job or something, but I think any man that chooses to be home with the kids is a big time wienie. (You know, I mean all the time.) I have playdate w/ women only about once every two months. I just don't think people or kids need that.

Rebekka March 2, 2011 at 7:08 pm

1. It depends on who it is. I don't have any personal friends who are guys, so they are all people I interact with as part of a couple. I can think of a few guys I wouldn't let in – one in particular I avoid like the plague because he always makes passes at me in a joking way, so it is almost always my husband alone who sees him. One couple in particular we are very close to, we've gone on vacation with them for weeks at a time and such, I wouldn't hesitate to do something alone with the husband and it wouldn't bother me if my husband did something alone with the wife.

2. No. Since I only have guy friends via my husband I can't imagine why they would talk to me instead of him, unless it's because I'm a nurse, in which case it wouldn't bother me.

3. Hmm. Not really relevant for my field, but I don't think I would turn it down unless some of the arrangements were very inappropriate, such as having to share a room.

I have to say, I know people have flings with their colleagues, but I've always considered it unprofessional. A few of my nurse coworkers are guys and I've had night-shifts where we're alone on a whole ward except for a doctor who comes and goes and it has NEVER been a problem. We also work closely with doctors, the majority of which are male. (Where I live the doctor-nurse power scale is much less imbalanced than in the US, we call doctors by their first names, boss them around, and laugh at them.) Part of the problem is also the workplace culture – on the ward where I work we have a reputation for being prudes, which is fine with me. Upstairs they apparently have tons of affairs, which would make me so uncomfortable that I wouldn't be able to work there. Like I said, it's a question of professionalism. We're there to take care of sick people and, you know, save lives, not screw around.

(er, sorry, rant over)

4. My husband was my first and only boyfriend, so I don't have any old flames. And while my husband had girlfriends they were never physically intimate, so I can't answer this one except to say – I wouldn't like it.

5. We don't share them but we don't withold them either. I know some of my husband's passwords but not all of them.

6. It would depend on who it was.

Anonymous March 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm

1. I think it would depend completely on who the friend was, how long we'd known each other, and how well I knew him.
2. Of course I would say yes! If there's someone who needs help, and I can help them, I'm always going to extend a hand. If you have a spouse who would get jealous about that, then maybe you need to have a long talk.
3. No, that's pushing things too far. Unless we could stay in different hotels and always find ourselves a third party, and probably not even then.
4. The past is the past. Let it stay there, and try a new friendship in the now.
5. No, no sharing. And I think that it's fine to have your own, secret passwords. Marriage is not an automatic ticket into your spouse's head!
6. Again, so much depends on the friend and the friendship. I can't answer that well in a generality.
~Alexandra

bearing March 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I have to say I'm really stunned at some of the reactions regarding the hypothetical business trip. By "stunned" I'm not trying to say "horrified" but really I am quite surprised that the reactions are so overwhelmingly negative. Maybe I'm just really used to the idea of business travel? (Full disclosure: My dh travels for work a lot, with a variety of different coworkers.)

I am trying to figure out how exactly one could tell one's boss that you cannot travel on the same plane with a colleague of the opposite sex, without opening yourself up to serious repercussions. This strikes me as an unrealistic expectation.

I definitely understand doing one's best to avoid socializing outside of work, except in groups of co-workers. It's the appearance of impropriety. But "on the plane" = "work." It's during work hours and many business travelers have to use that time.

At any rate, score one for you, because you've definitely encouraged me to bring this one up to my husband! I'm really curious now how he would answer this question and what he would think of the notion that he should travel on separate planes from female colleagues (as if the travel schedule wasn't a pain enough to sort out).

Sarah March 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Bearing… I travel a lot for work (or have in the past), and in my company it's uncommon to travel with your coworkers. It's more common that we all book our own flights (using a company card etc) separately – the goal is to get there by a certain time, not travel together. I honestly don't think my boss would feel comfortable traveling with *only* me (but I work for a Christian company). I also have been in a situation where I was supposed to travel with a male coworker by car for an assignment. I was so relieved when he said it wouldn't work out to carpool.

Now, if it's a bigger group, it's not such a big deal to me. But yeah, in all the travels I've done for work, I've never traveled alone with a male boss or coworker, and I think they weirdness would ensue for all parties if I suggested doing so!

so many things to love... March 2, 2011 at 11:36 pm

It's funny that you bring this topic up because I've had several conversations with friends about this sort of stuff recently. Our big dilhemma was what if I was walking with the baby and it started pouring and my friend's husband pulled over and offered me a lift home but it was only the two of us. Would I go? Should I go?

Domenico March 3, 2011 at 1:23 am

Interesting questions and perhaps I approach the topic differently because I've been using online networks for so long (30 years now) that's it just second-nature to me. That said, I'm also aware of boundaries. I have a rule against hugging women I'm not related to, not because of what others think, but .. I'm a guy! Maybe it's not a big deal for other guys but close physical contact opens doors that should remain closed. That said:

1. I would think nothing of a female friend dropping by in the middle of the day while everyone else is out. It wouldn't occur to me that there is something wrong with it, although I might briefly consider what our elderly and nosy neighbors might think.

2. I actually deal with this at work, although I'm careful to be sure we're never alone. A female co-worker has been having serious relationships problems with her live-in boyfriend and is breaking up with him, and has sought my brotherly advice. I'm a little uncomfortable in this role, but I don't want to alienate her either, especially when I might offer a good Christian influence. I don't think I would do this via email because there's too much room for misunderstanding when you don't have visual cues to decode emotional responses.

3. As others said, out-of-town business trips are rarely "opportunities" and rarely optional. Nevertheless, I don't think I'd have a problem with it. I'd be sure that we'd avoid any socializing in situations outside of the work time that resembled dating: i.e. dinner in a romantic restaurant, going out to a bar or club. Certainly, being in one another's hotel room would out of the question.

4. I think I'd be cordial and matter-of-fact, but I wouldn't seek anything further than that. In fact, I am Facebook friends with an ex-gf who once came to dinner at our house with her husband when they were in town. (It was her idea and at her insistence; truth be told, it was awkward, at least for us.) She's often written to me about the pro-family apostolate she's involved in, but while I've been polite and offered advice and encouragement and general assistance, I've avoided extended chats. I definitely would not wander down memory lane with any ex, reminiscing about the old days through rose-colored glasses. So, I think remaining cordial and even Christmas card sort of buddies is okay, but the right to even platonic intimacy ended with the relationship's end, and certainly when your marriage began.

5. We don't share passwords, although we should, if only for practical reasons. If anything were to happen to me, I would want her to be able to access all my accounts. But I don't feel a need to keep track of her email or other accounts. Frankly, I think if the knowledge of your spouse finding your emails or text messages is what's keeping you from straying into inappropriate relationships then the problem is more fundamental. For some people, rules give them comfort and if Melanie insisted that she would feel better with my passwords even though she trusted me completely, then I would have no problem. I don't think it's healthy for the relationship to refuse to disclose the passwords or insist that you need a private account.

6. Like with #1 above, I wouldn't think twice about it, as long as I didn't have any sense that something inappropriate was on her mind. I don't see what could possibly be wrong with it, unless you're worried about what others might think. Otherwise, if you're not tempted to be unfaithful then what's the problem?

Jen Ambrose March 3, 2011 at 4:34 am

Bearing–I'm with you in the surprise about the work travel. If I refused to travel with male coworkers (not all of it was by plane), call on male buyers and engineers, take male customers out to lunch or dinner I would have lost my job. In fact, I was terminated at the end of my maternity leave because there was a need to have someone in my role to keep up my work and travel schedule. I didn't fight it because I was on the fence whether to go back anyway.

Kate March 3, 2011 at 5:22 am

Wow. I find myself deeply in the minority here.

1. Yes. My kids are always home with me, but that doesn't really play into it. I just feel like it would be rude to turn a good friend away just because of his sex. If it was someone with whom I felt there was tension or who I didn't trust to respect my marriage, then I would say no.

2. I would be open to a certain amount of personal conversation with a married person of an opposite gender, but I would probably suggest that he talk to either his wife or my husband, if one of those would be more appropriate. But I certainly wouldn't refuse an initial conversation.

3. I don't work, so it's purely theoretical, but I would go if my husband were comfortable with it.

4. Neither DH or I have exes. I do keep in touch with all the boys I once flirted with in highschool, mostly through Facebook. DH is aware of this.

5. DH and I share most passwords. For years I checked his email for him bc he couldn't be bothered with it. I don't tell him all my passwords but he knows the 3 or 4 I use most often. It does occur to me that I should probably write them all down in a secure place, otherwise if something happened to me he wouldn't be able to get into our online banking, among other things!

6. I'd go! If it's someone I don't know well or am not comfortable with, I'd set the playdate in a public place…I do that most often anyway since I never feel like my home would be presentable for a reciprocal playdate. But the life of a SAHD would be pretty depressing and lonely if he were not allowed to socialize with the SAHMs.

I think what influences most of my answers is that I am completely incapable of not telling my husband every detail of my day. I've occasionally made him uncomfortable with oversharing. ;-) But I know that he would let me know if he was uncomfortable with a friendship or interaction of mine long before it became problematic.

Mitch March 3, 2011 at 2:38 pm

1. Not a problem at all. Especially if it is a friend both my wife and I know. Both my wife and I have friends of the opposite sex that we have no problem with. We often make jokes about it (e.g. "Who is this Brian guy your always talking about? Is he your secret boyfriend?" DW: "Yup and I'm gonna run off with him next week.") because we are comfortable with each other having friends of the opposite sex, although we both prefer to meet these friends at some point.

2. Not over email. Happy to have some talks in person, would suggest they talk to my wife, or one of my female friends who could help them more. If she is looking for a shoulder to cry on then I'm not so comfortable.

3. Sure. Separate hotel rooms would be important but otherwise, why not?

4. Not with someone you had a physical relationship with. But otherwise its not a big deal. One of my wife's bridesmaids and I had dated quite a while ago (albeit for a very short time) but things like that don't bother my wife or I much because neither of us had a relationship that lasted for more than one or two months until we met.

5. We share as need be.

6. Again sure why not?

While I think you can be too familiar with someone other than your spouse of the opposite sex. It is also problematic if you are too shut off from the opposite sex excepting your spouse and children. IMO you should not feel so uncomfortable around members of the opposite sex as not be able to be their friends.

Mitch March 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I meant to include this with my first comment.

I think my answers are shaded by the fact that my wife and I are seniors in college. We have a lot more opportunities for temptation and scandalous situations; so things like what was suggested in this list are not all that disconcerting.

Melanie B March 3, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I think my answer for almost all of these is "it depends".

1. Depends on who the male friend is, how well I know him. Someone I don't know very well I might not invite in. A close family friend who my husband knows and with whom I feel comfortable I would feel churlish not to invite him in.

2. Depends on the person, how well I know him, and what the private matters are.

In any case, the likelihood is I'd be telling my husband about it. We generally discuss any lengthy correspondence I engage in as a matter of course just because I talk to him about everything I do, whether he wants to hear about it or not.

3. Unlikely since I'm a stay at home mom… but given the hypothetical I wouldn't necessarily feel uncomfortable traveling with someone just because he was a man. It would depend on the man. But given that it's a business relationship, I'd expect to conduct it in a professional manner.

If it was my husband, I wouldn't necessarily be concerned about him traveling with a woman.

For one thing, I know most of his business colleagues. The kids and I visit him at the office frequently. We talk about his work and the people he works with every day.

4. Both my husband and I do have limited Facebook contact with "old flames". He does tend to keep a distance with the old girl friends, not having any direct communication with them. Though we did once have a previous girlfriend of his over for dinner with her husband.

The one former boy friend of mine I've "friended" actually doesn't really use his facebook account. We've never had direct contact except for one email exchange in which I told him I'd just been married. After that he never emailed me again.

I don't think it is appropriate for married people to have any kind of intimacy with former exes but a formal relationship of sorts kept within careful boundaries can work. Let's face it, sometimes you have to have some kind of professional or social contact with old flames via school alumni events or church or business.

5. We do share passwords to some extent but not for accountability but just because it's sometimes necessary for one reason or another. However, I don't know all of his passwords nor does he know all of mine. It's not a matter of withholding but just apathy. I just don't care about that level of accountability. I'd feel that if the only thing keeping him from engaging in illicit contacts was my knowing his passwords, then there would be a bigger problem with our relationship.

6. It would depend. I don't know any men who are stay at home dads. But if it was someone I knew well, felt comfortable with, I wouldn't have a problem with meeting so our kids could play together. If it was someone I'd just met at the park or library or something, I'd feel uncomfortable being alone with him.

I had many male friends in college and after college with whom I was close but never had any romantic attraction on either side. I believe men and women can be friends and I don't feel a need to have a hedge with someone just because he is male. It's more about how well I know someone and whether I sense that there is an attraction. If I knew or even suspected there was some kind of problem, I'd be careful to avoid any kind of intimacy or even seeming of intimacy; but to me it would be a judgment call based on the situation.

Jen Ambrose March 4, 2011 at 3:41 am

Mitch-In twenty years you will be shocked by how much more scandalous people act in middle age.

Erika Evans March 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hello, visiting from Conversion Diary today; thanks for inviting us in!

Thought I would give my two cents:

1. What would you do if a friend of the opposite sex dropped by around noon to pick something up while everyone else is out of the house. Would you invite him/her in? Would it make a difference if your children were at home with you?

Yes, I would invite the gentleman in. Unless there's some kind of weird out-of-the-ordinary tension or drama, which would be a whole other story, I can't imagine why an innocent stop by the house should have some kind of sexual slant. If the person sticks around for a few minutes for a of coffee and a short visit, it's an opportunity to get to know the person better and strengthen the ties through which ministry works.

2. What would you do if a married person of the opposite gender wanted to have lengthy and private discussions about personal matters with you via email? What about on the phone or in person?

I would serve the person as best I could at the time, then try to refer them to someone who was in a more appropriate/equipped position to help them. I would tell my husband all about it. I think the key is whether you're allowing a deeper intimacy than what you have with your husband to develop.

3. What would you do if faced with the opportunity to go on an out-of-town business trip with someone your age of the opposite sex if it were going to be just the two of you? Would you go?

Yes, but I would take sensible precautions to maintain space and prevent intimacy from developing as appropriate to the situation. If I was attracted to the person, if he was unmarried, I would not share meals or a flight if I had a choice. If he wasn't a temptation, I would have no problem going out to dinner or even to a movie in the evenings with him.

4. What would you do if you encountered an old flame on the Internet? Is it ever appropriate for spouses to maintain friendships with ex-girlfriends/boyfriends with whom they were physically intimate?

Every situation is different and none of us can judge what is in the heart or intentions of another person. I don't need to worry about whether it's appropriate for someone else to stay in touch with their ex's. However, for me, I don't, but just because I don't want to. That part of my life is over and I see no benefit to any contact. But that is my personal choice which has nothing to do with my being currently happily married. I would consider my husband's feelings if he had strong opinions on the matter, but that's not his personality.

5. Do you and your spouse share passwords? Is it ever appropriate for spouses to withhold email or social media passwords from one another?

We don't make a point of sharing passwords, but we generally know them for utilitarian purposes ("Honey, could you get into my email and print that form for me?"). I can't imagine either of us deliberarly logging into the other's accounts to snoop around, so it's not really an issue. We don't purposefully keep them a secret.

6. What would you do if a stay-at-home parent of the opposite gender invited you to a playdate where you two would be the only adults present?

Go, unless I had reason to believe it was a clever ruse and when I arrived I'd find lit candles, chocolate strawberries and wine. And of course, someone to take the kids away while we have our tryst :P

Anonymous March 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm

These questions and the worries that come with them are the reason we don't do Facebook, Twitter, etc. Problem solved!

Those people who know us are already in our lives in a meaningful way. If not, no amount of internet gab is worth it.

Besides, who's got time!? I'm glad when I can read the occasional blog post in Catholic circles.

Hedge your marriages. People who spend excess time on social networks are often lonely and ironically socially deprived.

-DorkusAmongUs

priest's wife March 7, 2011 at 2:51 am

We have the same password for everything and we don't ever delete the history- that's just the way we have always done it- so far, so good! :)

Anonymous March 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I'm a single woman and grounded in morality. I am a professional.

I am so use to dealing with men at work and in school and in church that I'd probably say yes to all of the above. Believe me, I don't want to tango with a married man. Some of the men I know are just NOT attractive.

Wives, not every other women thinks your husband is a hot stud, or a good catch. Just because your guy is right for you doesn't mean he's right for someone else.

Sure I've had lunches, etc. with married men because they are fun and or interesting or we needed to talk about work. None of them ever made a pass at me and vice versa. I've met some of their wives and that's fine. If a guy friend needs to pick up an item, he is welcome to bring his wife or girlfriend along. If I had a feeling that the guy "wanted more", and he's married then no. If a single guy wanted more and I didn't want more, then no.

I see a lot of unnecessary insecurity in these answers (comments).

Let me repeat, I am very comfortable relating to men on a NON-sexual level.

Also, that's very mean and close-minded to call SAH dads a weinie. That is a situation that is between him and his wife.

Sometimes at parties I gavitate towards men because their wives are talking about children, which I cannot relate too. I am a very girly girl, but I don't want to listen to potty-training stories.

I do not want someone else's husband, I want my own.

If you can't trust your husband or wife, then see a marriage counselor.

Anonymous March 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I don't want to spend anytime alone with a creepy guy. I avoid creepy guys.

If a married man tried to get close to me for romantic reasons, I would hit him with my purse.

If I'm friends with a married man through work or church, I'd love to meet his wife. Many times I have.

Some married men are attractive, but I'm not attracted to them. Some married men are not handsome.

If a married man has a nice single brother, that I would like to know. : )

Stay at home dads are not wienies, and I think one needs to broaden her mind.

If other people's minds are in the gutter, then that's on them.

I am very use to dealing with men on a non-sexual level and thinking of them in a sexual way would be icky.

Sarah March 7, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Anon – a married man or woman does not have to fit the standard definition of "attractive" to end up in a scandalous relationship. :) There's a lot more to these situations than looks, and I don't think us wives are delusionally imagining our husbands to be supermodels! (Although, I have to say, my husband is rather handsome and yes, ladies have made comments about his looks before in ways I find inappropriate given the ring on his finger).

I agree that there's nothing inherently wrong or weak about being a SAHD.

Rosie March 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm

1. What would you do if a friend of the opposite sex dropped by around noon to pick something up while everyone else is out of the house. Would you invite him/her in? Would it make a difference if your children were at home with you?

I'd let him in. I don't have children, but I don't see why it would be an issue. I have male friends who are "un-biological brothers" to me, though.

2. What would you do if a married person of the opposite gender wanted to have lengthy and private discussions about personal matters with you via email? What about on the phone or in person?

Depends on what one means by personal matters. Total case by case basis here. I would never go into any sort of "bedroom" detail, but then, I don't do that ever. But if it was something of another nature (ie if they had a family member who was diagnosed with the kind of cancer my grandma has survived and needed someone who'd been there) then I'd be fine with it.

3. What would you do if faced with the opportunity to go on an out-of-town business trip with someone your age of the opposite sex if it were going to be just the two of you? Would you go?

I'm a stay at home wife, so it's not an issue. However, as long as they didn't share a room I would have no issue with my husband doing this.

4. What would you do if you encountered an old flame on the Internet? Is it ever appropriate for spouses to maintain friendships with ex-girlfriends/boyfriends with whom they were physically intimate?

This doesn't apply to me. In general, I think the answer to this is no, however.

5. Do you and your spouse share passwords? Is it ever appropriate for spouses to withhold email or social media passwords from one another?

We do share passwords. I think email passwords shouldn't be shared if it is a work email that is not supposed to be shared.

6. What would you do if a stay-at-home parent of the opposite gender invited you to a playdate where you two would be the only adults present?

I would have no problems with this. Honestly, if one has that much of an issue that they cannot even hang out together while their respective children play — they have larger issues. And God forbid the cable guy or the plummer come by.

Lantz March 11, 2011 at 5:02 am

Too often we pretend to be someone we are not when behind the screen. A recent story indicated that one in five divorces in the US involved facebook.

It's almost like if someone can't see our transgressions, we feel we can get away with them. Whether cyber-bullying or cyber-sex, the end result is too often tragic.

http://lantzzsrantzzs.blogspot.com/2011/03/anti-social-media.html

Enjoy your blog.
Lantz

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