The “Other” Woman: Are Opposite-Sex Friendships Really Bad For Marriage?

January 17, 2019  |  

Couples who play together stay together

Source: Rowan Jordan / Getty

We’ve watched as Dr. Simone Whitmore and her husband, Cecil Whitmore, have fought to keep their relationship together on Married To Medicine this season. We first knew there was trouble in paradise when Simone moved into a different house. Thankfully, divorce is now off the table and the couple is living under one roof, but what really hurt their marriage in the first place?

Unlike some of the other wives who have also hit rough patches in their marriages, Simone’s husband didn’t cheat on her (at least not romantically). To the casual observer, though, it looks like Cecil’s friendship with a woman named Tammy is what put their marriage in danger because it felt a lot like Tammy was the other woman. Some might see this as a cautionary tale that having opposite-sex friends in a marriage is the kiss of death, but here’s why they’d be wrong.

It’s easy to blame the other woman (platonic or not) when looking at the situation. Tammy’s presence was certainly part of it, but the bigger issue was Cecil’s failure to set clear boundaries with his female friend. Bigger than that was Cecil prioritizing himself and his friend over his wife, Simone.

Looking back at it, though, we’ve seen that Cecil has had some boundary issues for a minute. Remember how he just used thousands of dollars for his Kidz Force app startup without consulting Simone about it? For him, it was payback because Simone bought herself a car. He did that knowing how upset it would make her, and he didn’t care. He prioritized his wants over his consideration for her as her husband.

Carrying that behavior over to his relationship with Tammy, Cecil showed very little regard for how having her around made Simone feel. Cecil would prioritize his time with Tammy over Simone; in a marriage, your spouse should always be the priority, but that’s not how Cecil was thinking.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when Simone revealed that Cecil had Tammy staying at their home for eight days over the holidays one year. Had she been visiting from out of town that wouldn’t be odd, but Tammy lives in Atlanta. There’s no way that Tammy should have spent that much time in someone else’s home if she lived in the same area. It could be argued that Simone allowed it to happen, but Cecil should never have put her in that position to begin with.

One of the biggest problems for Simone happened on Cecil’s birthday when he decided that it was more important to see Tammy than to make sure that his wife was emotionally okay on a very distressing day for her. Cecil had the opportunity to demonstrate his love for her by comforting her, and instead, he went to dinner alone with his female friend. Even after Simone let him know that she would leave him if he walked out the door that night, he still went to celebrate his birthday with another woman. More insulting than that is the fact that Cecil continued to defend Tammy to Simone.

Looking at these incidents, it could seem like Tammy is at fault for interfering in someone’s marriage. If Tammy wasn’t always trying to be up under Cecil, would his marriage still have been in trouble? Absolutely. Cecil is the common denominator here and his decision-making is the problem. While Tammy’s behavior was certainly disrespectful to his marriage, she would never have had the opportunity to cross those lines had Cecil established clear boundaries. Moreover, Tammy would never have felt she had the license to overstep those bounds if Cecil had been clear with her that his wife comes first.

This takes us to the next issue: Cecil’s priorities were all out of whack. I have never seen a marriage succeed when one or both spouses is putting themselves first. To be married means that you are committing to being selfless. You are committing to putting your spouse’s needs and wants before your own–and they should be doing the same for you. What we saw with Cecil is that he was prioritizing his wants ahead of Simone’s needs. Part of that thinking led him to prioritize time with Tammy over time with Simone. As the wife, Simone rightfully felt that her expectations were betrayed and that Cecil did not value her.

In reality, Tammy could have been any of his female friends (and she’s probably not his only one). As long as Cecil was holding her in higher regard than Simone, his marriage was going to suffer. The friendship itself was a symptom of bigger problems, but it was not the cause of the marital strife. The same is true of any marriage. You may have friends that you love like family, but they cannot replace your husband or wife. Furthermore, there is not a friendship you can build that should have more value to you than your marriage, if you want it to be a lasting and loving one. The second you allow anyone to take that place of honor in your heart, your marriage is in serious trouble. Having an opposite-sex friend can be a really touchy subject in some marriages, but it doesn’t have to be when you keep your boundaries firm and priorities straight.

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