guides & articles

Related listings

Latest Postings

Subscribe to the hottest news, latest promotions & discounts from STClassifieds & our partners

I agree to abide by STClassifieds Terms and Conditions

Wedding Essentials

Dear, I'm meeting a guy friend

Only lunches, no cosy eateries and no sexy dressing are among rules couples impose when their spouse meet pals of the opposite sex
The Straits Times - May 13, 2012
| More
Dear, I'm meeting a guy friend Married for more than 20 years, Dr Christopher Chong and his wife, lawyer Yew Woon Chooi, are comfortable with each other meeting friends of the opposite sex -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR CHRISTOPHER CHONG

It is okay for a man to look at an attractive woman who is not his spouse, says Dr Christopher Chong, but not to 'look again and again'.

Things of beauty are to be admired, reasons the obstetrician and gynaecologist, so he and his lawyer wife of 21 years often point out 'cute guys and pretty ladies' to each other.

University teaching assistant Shane Pereira, 33, however, has 'jokingly' issued a warning to his fiancee of five years on roving gazes: 'I will gouge out your eyeballs.'

His wife-to-be, restaurant manager Kirstin Rodrigues, 24, retorts: 'And when Shane gets carried away checking someone out, I give him a pinch or a knock on the head that usually diverts his attention.'

She may be right to do that.

Family and marital therapist Benny Bong, 54, says: 'Researchers tell us that men's sexual fantasies are 400 times more active than that of women's. There's a danger that what they entertain in their fantasy world, which is often activated by their visual sense, they may attempt to live out in their real world.'

Lustful straying eyes aside, 'most couples want their spouses to be happy and to have friends of the opposite sex', says Sharon Rivkin, author of The First Argument: Cutting To The Root Of Intimate Conflict.

'In reality, this can only happen by following ground rules,' says Rivkin, a marriage and family therapist based in California, in an article published in online magazine Hitched.

Couples LifeStyle spoke to seem to have informal rules about whom and when their partners can meet, how often and where.

Says Ms Rodrigues: 'It would make me very uncomfortable if Shane were to go out with a female student, even if it was just for lunch. He has never done it before but it's better to put this issue on the table.'

Dinners are out for her husband and any female friend of his, says Madam Laurel Tan, 33, founder of Tinydipity, a home-grown online store that stocks organic garb for babies and children. She has been married to private banker L.K. Tan, 35, for about three years and they have a two-year-old boy.

'Catch-ups with friends of the opposite sex are usually done over casual lunches or teas. Dinners are more intimate and should be had only with the family,' she says.

However, for Madam Sharifah Norashikin Syed Sultanul Abidin, 29, dinners - even one-on-one - are fine. It is the venue that matters to the research associate with the Association of Muslim Professionals.

'No cosy little restaurants, 'atas' places such as Equinox Restaurant or, worse, places he doesn't take me to but takes her to,' says Madam Sharifah, a mother of two boys who has been married to real- estate agent Risdian Isbintara, 28, for four years.

Atas is Malay slang for high-class.

It is ideal when Mr Risdian invites his female pals home. He and Madam Sharifah play host to Ms Shirin Aziz, 30, a communications executive, and Ms Azmin Zainal, 31, a copywriter - his friends from his Singapore Polytechnic days - over monthly dinners at the couple's four-room flat in Kampong Ubi. 'We catch up on how everyone's doing - work drama and dates that went wrong for Shirin and Azmin,' he says.

The conditions listed above make it seem like a minefield for married folks to have platonic friendships. But keeping friends of the opposite sex is a good thing, say experts.

Platonic friendships 'enrich' a couple's ties, which otherwise may become overloaded and inward- looking, says Mr Bong.

In day-to-day terms, Dr Chong says: 'Spouses can easily get on each other's nerves, especially when they forget and take each other for granted. Each needs his or her own breathing space.'

His wife, Madam Yew Woon Chooi, adds: 'You have good friends when you are studying and you are not attracted to them in a romantic way. So when you are married, that should not stop you from having platonic friends.'

The couple are in their late 40s and they have three children aged 12 to 19.

Are they more relaxed about opposite-sex friendships because they have been married for longer?

The underlying issue is not the longevity of the marriage but the trust and friendship that spouses have for and with each other, says family life educator and marriage counsellor John Louis, in his 40s.

And regardless of the length of a marriage, there are topics a married person should not talk about with a friend of the opposite sex.

Mr Pereira says he has two close female friends from Catholic Junior College and they have 'endured the saga of several of one another's partners'. Even so, he does not 'b**** to them about things' that his fiancee has said or done, he adds.

Madam Sharifah agrees that a couple should not betray each other in words as well as in deed. 'I tell my husband to keep some things to himself. Telling his friends about a tiff we had or things about my family - those things are out,' she says.

Also, watch the 'intent' of the friendships, says Mr Jonathan Siew, 41, centre manager of Care Corner Counselling Centre. 'One area to look out for is how much they long to be with each other. If the urge is strong, it's a danger sign,' he says.

Couples say they are comfortable with their spouse's meetings with the opposite sex, as long as they are given the heads-up.

Mr Pereira and Ms Rodrigues text each other throughout the evening if they have 'date' nights with other people. He will 'show up at some point either to join Kirstin and the guy or to take her home' if he is uncomfortable with the company she is keeping.

Even how a spouse preps herself matters.

Dr Chong says: 'If she were to doll herself up to meet a particular person every time - and not when she meets others - and if she were to meet him unusually often, there will be grounds for suspicion.'

But this has not happened in their marriage, says DrChong of his wife, who was his first girlfriend and is now his 'best friend'. He adds: 'My philosophy for a lasting healthy relationship is to court my wife for the rest of her life. Not easy, but it can be done.'


March of the bridal gowns