Single ladies, there is nothing wrong with friendship with a married man or woman. Dr Shirley P Glass (1 March 1936 to 8 October 2003), an expert psychologist who studied infidelity for more than 20 years, found that there is nothing wrong with friendship outside matrimony as long as the walls and windows of the marriage remains where they belong (Gilbert, 2010: 109). Glass theorised that every healthy marriage comprise walls and windows:
- Windows are openings to the world, necessary to interact with family, friends and colleagues.
- Walls are barriers, structures of trust to protect the intimate secrets of the marriage.
Affairs start long before the first stolen kiss. What often happens within the harmless friendship is that people begin sharing intimacies, perhaps frustrations about a partner, and begin revealing little secrets, like yearnings. It feels good to be exposed, listened to and to be comforted—a window is thrown open where there ought to be a weight-bearing wall. The details of these exchanges are kept secret from the partner/s, because it might spark jealousy or conflict—a window get boarded or worse a wall constructed where there ought to be free circulation of marital air and light. This, according to Gilbert, is what Glass called the blueprint for infidelity.
When the new close friend one particular day is down trodden, sad or heartbroken, you embrace each other only to comfort, but it goes further—lips possibly brush and/or a dizziness rush—and you realise you love each other … but you never saw it coming.
Johanna Lass-Hennemann, from the University of Trier in Germany, speculates that stress might prompt men to "outbreed" or reproduce with a wider variety of genetically dissimilar women.
What is the message for single women?
Protect yourself. Married men seldom give up their wife, children and homely comforts—the price is too high to pay. You may enjoy the relationship for a while, but in the end you are the victim.
Gilbert, E. 2010. Committed. London: Bloomsbery.
Sample, I. 2010. Pretty stressed out: men under duress find a wider range of women appealing, a study finds (p. 24). Mail & Guardian, 19 to 25 March 2010.