Do I believe heterosexually married people can have opposite gendered friends?
Yes and No.
Plenty of faithful spouses who come here know the pitfalls of such “friendships.”
We know how these relationships are sold as innocent by cheaters–and they may have been at one time–yet they are far from innocent in reality.
I do believe such friendships with the opposite gender are possible for married people.
HOWEVER–and it is a BIG “however”–such relationships ought not to be the primary relationship.
Your best friend of the opposite gender ought to be your spouse and NOT SOMEONE ELSE!
Other red flags to consider:
1) Is this person a potential romantic rival to your spouse?
If so, I would seriously consider keeping one’s emotional distance. Marriage in the day-to-day practice can be stressful, and it is unwise to have someone like this close as a “back up” plan when those tough moments hit as they inevitably will.
2) Related to the first point, is this person someone you have dated or had a romantic relationship with in the past?
If so–in most cases–they probably ought to be crossed off your opposite gender friendship list. This is doubly so if your spouse has a problem with this person staying in your life. It is disrespectful of your spouse to keep old romantic flames as friends without your spouse’s explicit permission.
3) Do you have a pattern–even after marriage–of seeking out and developing opposite gender friendships to the almost exclusion of developing same gender friendships?
I would suggest looking into why this pattern exists. Just the sheer number–translated as opportunity–of close friendships with the opposite sex would suggest this is a recipe for future infidelity disaster. These relationships may start as innocent but morph into something more sinister when life happens and pressures are applied to marriage.
I will finish with one final thought:
We are not our own when we marry as Christians (see I Corinthians 7:4).
As such, I would point out that investing our time and attention with someone who is not our spouse ought to come with our spouse’s blessing.
That is time and attention you are not giving to your spouse who is entitled to it, after all.
Emotional affairs happen when a spouse is sharing secrets with a third party as opposed to going to their spouse as is proper and godly. It is a theft of time and intimacy from the faithful spouse.
Having cultivated a ready ear from the opposite gender makes such a theft all that much more easier.
Yes, married Christians can have friendships with opposite gender individuals. But they need to be wise and aware of the very real pitfalls such relationships pose.