7 Secrets to Making Platonic Friendships Work

For those of us who want to have trusting romantic relationships with a partner and enjoy the company of platonic friends, Saltz and Brandt suggest the following tactics:

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1. Show your spouse it’s no big deal. If your office goes out for Friday night happy hour or has a monthly get-together, invite your significant other so s/he can observe how you act with your work friends.

2. Be mindful of what you say and do. “Ask yourself if you’d act this way if your partner were there,” Saltz suggests. Would you be touching your friend so much? Does your repartee go beyond friendly banter? Platonic friendships don’t give you permission to flirt when your mate isn’t present.

3. Never compare your friend to your spouse. We see our partners day-in and day-out so we know their flaws. But we tend to see only the best in our friends. “You shouldn’t expect your significant other to be in a good mood or be fun all the time. Direct comparisons may damage otherwise healthy relationships,” Saltz says.

4. Don’t complain about your partner. Platonic relationships can undermine a marriage if a person is constantly deriding a spouse. “Confiding a problem to a good friend is one thing; making that the basis of a relationship indicates something is not right with the marriage, the friendship or both,” says Brandt.

5. Maintain healthy boundaries. Even if you have a solid marriage, your partner isn’t going to share all your interests. That’s the beauty of a platonic friendship: You can talk about things that may bore your mate. Still, Brandt warns, “You must always be careful that you don’t confuse intellectual gratification with romantic feelings.”

6. Be honest with yourself. Is your platonic friendship in fact an “emotional affair” with a spoken or unspoken agreement that you won’t let it become physical? An emotional affair can threaten a marriage as much as a sexual one, says Brandt. If you find that you’d rather be with your friend than your spouse, your friendship may be more than strictly platonic.

7. Communicate with your spouse. Don’t assume your life partner knows that he or she is your numero uno priority. Be affectionate, do fun things together and regularly express your love, Saltz advises. And don’t shy away from discussing feelings of jealousy. “If you can’t talk to your partner about this, that may indicate bigger problems in the marriage,” says Saltz.

Trustworthy Actions Build Trust

Like most boomer couples in which both partners work, Howard and I spend a lot of time with members of the opposite sex who are, simply, friends. We have discovered one great antidote to jealousy is being truly emotionally present when we are together.

And that’s a good thing. Recently, through a quirk of social media, my old friend Ira found me and suggested we meet for coffee. Without thinking twice, I agreed and only later mentioned my plans to Howard.

Instead of being jealous, he was clearly relieved. “I don’t have to go, do I?” he asked.

The perfect response: 30 years in the making.