How should I respond when my bride-to-be insists that I break off all ties with a lifelong female friend? This friend and I have been close since childhood. We grew up next door to each other. Our relationship, which has always been purely platonic, remains strong in spite of the fact that she's been married for the past five years (she and her husband actually introduced me to my betrothed). Now, with the wedding just a month away, my bride-to-be tells me that this friendship has to end. I realize that my relationship with my female friend must change in some important ways (it already has), but given our history, I can't help feeling that this is an unreasonable request. What do you think?
That's not easy to say. There are some serious issues you and your fiancée need to face before you can find the answers you're seeking. This is primarily a problem of bonding and boundaries in marriage. To resolve it effectively, you need to figure out what's happening both "in front of the curtain" and "behind the curtain." Bear with us while we attempt to explain.
On the face of things, your fiancée has what would appear to be a watertight case. Why do we say this? Because, as we see it, the first year of marriage is a time when a young couple has to focus intently and intentionally upon the task of bonding with one another. To strengthen the bond between them is the goal of everything they do. It's also the standard against which they must evaluate every other activity or commitment in which they happen to be engaged. The decisive question is always, "Will this particular relationship or project or involvement enhance and facilitate the bonding process?" If the answer is no, then that thing, whatever it is, has to be eliminated. What's more, effective boundaries need to be erected to keep it from impinging upon the marriage until the situation changes.
That's what's happening "in front of the curtain;" and as far as this side of the issue is concerned, there may be every reason to suppose that your fiancée's request is entirely reasonable and fair. But this isn't necessarily the end of the story. It's also possible that something else is going on "behind the curtain" – something that has the potential, on its own terms, to have a profound impact on your marriage. From what you've told us, it seems obvious that your fiancée is having a strong emotional reaction to your friendship with the other woman. The big question is "Why?"
Can she see things in that relationship that you can't? Are there any red flags to which you've been intentionally or unconsciously blind? Or could her feelings be explained in some other way – could it be that she's just insecure or overly jealous or too controlling? Could her strong feelings have been triggered by some experience in her family background? In either case, it's of paramount importance that the two of you bring these issues into the light and face them squarely before you tie the knot. If they're allowed to simmer below the surface until after the wedding, they will almost certainly raise their heads sometime later on. At that point it might not be quite so easy to deal with them.
Looking towards potential solutions, we'd like to suggest that you may be able to defuse this situation by finding ways to develop a friendship between the two couples – you, your fiancée, your friend, and her husband – as a healthy alternative to an isolated relationship. We would also strongly recommend that you explore these questions with the help of a trained therapist within the context of a series of premarital counseling sessions. Call us. Focus on the Family's Counseling department would be happy to discuss the options with you and provide a list of qualified counselors in your area.
The counseling process should include a personality test such as the PREPARE/ENRICH Premarital Inventory. (You can find a sample test online at prepare-enrich.com.) Clearly, you'll need to invest a certain amount of time and money in the process, but if you think about it you'll have to agree that it's worth spending some time in counseling to make sure that your relationship is really marriage material. It's much easier and a lot less expensive than going through a divorce at some point later in life.
Boundaries in Marriage
Red Flags in a Relationship