Even if you’re in a serious relationship (whatever that may look like to you), that doesn’t mean you have to stop hanging out with your friends of the opposite sex. At least, it shouldn’t.
In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you’re both single, neither single, or just one of you is single, the same rules still apply in order to maintain a fulfilling and respectful relationship with friends of the opposite sex. We had Toronto-based relationships expert Jen Kirsch weigh in on the dos and don’ts of spending quality time together, and how to manage expectations and feelings, while avoiding awkward situations.
Use this advice to navigate the sometimes murky waters of co-ed companionship.
Number one, don’t have sex
Sounds obvious, right? Well, it might not be for some people. Just so it’s clear: do not have sex, especially if one of you is committed to someone else. “If you’re cheating, you need to reevaluate your entire relationship,” says Kirsch.
If neither of you is taken, talk about what could potentially change if you take your platonic bond into the bedroom. Sex can alter the dynamic–one individual may end up feeling more strongly about the other after the deed is done, or unwanted/surprising sexual preferences might show face, making one party uncomfortable.
Be open and honest with your lover about your friendship
Honesty really is the best policy. Kirsch suggests a friendly get together so all parties can meet and hang out in a casual setting. “Don’t try to have an intimate dinner party by way of introducing them” she says. “People feel more comfortable when on familiar ground like a restaurant or bar where they can move around freely.”
And be open and honest to your friend about your lover
If that new colleague is quickly morphing into your Work Husband or Wife (someone you dish on office gossip with over coffee and lunch and coffee again), be completely transparent about your nonsexual feelings towards them, and, if you’re in a relationship certainly don’t try and hide it. “Be straight up, because it will cause a lot more tension down the road,” Kirsch says. “As honest as possible, as soon as possible is always the best play.”
Recognize when “communicating” turns into flirting
“Humans flirt, we compliment each other, and that’s totally natural,” says Kirsch. “I flirt with everyone to some extent.” But she warns against it turning from playful banter into racy communication, laced with sexual undertones.
It’s like this: If the words shared in confidence with your friend would turn your cheeks crimson should you have to repeat them back to your partner, they probably shouldn’t slip off either of your tongues.
Beware of social media interactions
Those goofy IMs on your office communicator, or extra ‘likes’ on old Instagram photos have a way of escalating a friendship from neutral grounds into uncharted territory. And while Kirsch admits it’s “totally normal in this day and age to develop fast friendships thanks to social media” she warns that ‘liking’ certain content–say, your friend’s sexy selfies or shirtless snaps–should be avoided.
At the end of the day, trust your gut
If you’re deleting text messages so your partner doesn’t spot them, that’s a serious red flag, notes Kirsch. “We know when we’re doing something wrong,” she adds. And it’s true. If you’ve got that guilty feeling festering deep in your gut, boundaries have likely been crossed, and you need to pump the breaks with your new pal, have a serious conversation about the direction of your relationship with your lover, or both.