09 November 2008

When Does a Friendship Become a Relationship?

By Deb Allen

Many couples experience trouble related to outside friendships. This could be a friendship with a co-worker or other acquaintance. Sometimes the friendship is referred to as an affair and other times there are simply hurt feelings related to the bond between the partner and the friend. The all important question revolves around whether this is simply a friendship or if there is a real relationship.

What constitutes a relationship for one person may not be the same for another. Of course this all goes back to really knowing your partner, their wants, desires and expectations, and respecting them for that. In an ideal world the two of you will be in agreement about what is acceptable and what is not. But that may not be the case in the real world.

A perfect example is the issue of friends on the job. Questions continuously come up about what is and what is not okay. Some work environments seem to thrive on gossip and if two people are seen together even casually the rumors are likely to flow. Other work environments may even encourage employees having lunch together and participating in work related events, with or without their partner.

There is no wonder that there are doubts about what is and what is not acceptable. In reality all that matters is what you and your partner agree is acceptable. But the problems arise when the two of you do not agree. Perhaps you find it permissible to have lunch with your co-workers regardless of their sex. And you might even believe that it is okay to spend time outside of work hours with your co-workers.

After all, we actually spend more of our waking hours with co-workers than with family members, at least in most cases. It is not a surprise then that we develop feelings for those people we work with.

Unfortunately there is not a solid line to cross in this matter in general society. The reason is that we are all individuals with our own opinions about what is okay. But between you and your partner there should be a definite point that you both are aware of, on one side of the line things are acceptable, but the other side should be considered off limits, for both of you.

If this matter has never been a part of your discussions then it is probably a good idea to talk about it before a situation ever arises. That will put both of your feelings in the open and you can freely state how you feel without being on the defensive.

By arming yourself with that knowledge there will be less chance for a problem in the future. Each of you will know ahead of time what would be considered stepping over the line. This is a great way to be proactive in building a stronger relationship. It actually empowers both of you, even if you only reach agreements through compromise.When Does a Friendship Become a Relationship?