Call It What It Is - When Friends Know too Much - Part 2

In my last post I talked about close guy/girl friendships and how I’ve come to believe that close cross-gender friendships ultimately don’t work.  So what should healthy guy/girl friendships look like?

First – Call it what it is.  Be honest with yourself. If you’re in a close friendship with someone of the opposite gender, do you desire for it to be more? Does he or she?  Do you tell everyone you’re like brother and sister?

Brothers and sisters don’t necessarily text, chat, talk or see each other every day. They don’t flirt (By the way – if you’re just “teasing or flirting” as friends – you’re in a very dangerous spot). Brothers and sisters rarely do things alone together (or at least not as a habit). Brothers and sisters are also never exclusive (most of the time there is always one cross-gender friendship that is ‘exclusive’ or deeper than the others). Jealousy with the interactions the other person has is never present in healthy sibling relationships. 

If your relationship falls into one of these – call it what it is – you’re dating.  I encourage you to stop and think – even more so if you just tried to justify “oh that’s not me” to yourself after reading that last sentence.

Look at it from the future. Where can these friendships go? What happens when one party starts dating someone else? (Again – the deep close friendships) The friendship has to change. The closer one gets to marriage, in order to honor their spouse or future spouse, they can no longer have these deep relationships. 

Why do we have these friendships?
Do you ever think about the purpose of the friendships you are in? Unfortunately a lot of deep guy/girl friendships grow out of unmet emotional needs. Or maybe we just enjoy the attention. The tangled webs we weave! Danger comes when we look to the other person to meet needs and securities that the Lord should be filling.

Honor your future spouse now.
Do you want your future spouse to have a deep cross-gender friendship like you currently have? What if we looked at the opposite gender as some one else’s spouse on loan to us? How would we want someone else to treat our future spouses? How about with respect, encouragement and care, but also guarding and protecting them emotionally and physically?

Always the “best friend”?
Tired of never being the girlfriend or boyfriend, but always being the “best friend”? I have news! You are always the “best friend” because you act like the “best friend”! Stop kidding yourself! Build healthy friendships instead.

What do healthy guy/girl friendships look like?

¬    They are clear-cut. There’s no confusion or questions and always good boundaries.
¬    They challenge and encourage each other in the Lord. (Look for a post on this soon!)
¬    They are friends in groups. Avoid a lot of alone time – it builds confusion and opportunity to share things that should only be shared in committed relationships. (Again, I know there will be exceptions - such as long distance friendships. It’s the spirit, not the law, to keep in mind.)
¬    They treat each other with respect and put their own personal needs aside.
¬    They act like true “brother and sisters”.
¬    There is intentionality in the relationship and it’s not forced. “I called to ask about this event, person, request, etc…” Not “what can I think of as an excuse to call”?

Rule of Thumb: Your closest friends, emotional support, and accountability are always with people of the same gender until you are married. This frees you and keeps you in check to have healthy interactions with the opposite gender.

The Balance.
I understand that a lot of people use friendships as a way to “test the waters” or try things out in a “safe” way, to see if in the future, they would like to date that person. A lot of great marriages start out from great friendships. It’s the boundaries in the friendship that make it or break it. Good boundaries will also allow a smooth transition to something more than friendship. I also believe you can see what you need to see in another person without crossing into an unhealthy, deep, emotionally-tying friendship. If attraction forms, great! That is the way things are supposed to work. Do something about it then – define the relationship. It’s staying in the grey area that creates the problem. 

On the flip side, some people are so scared of where a friendship might lead; they won’t let anything start. This isn’t healthy either. I think in all cases it’s wise to remember:
 

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col 3:17
I’m also not saying you shouldn’t have guy or girl friendships. We need the opposite genders perspective and influence in our lives – we just shouldn’t be “best friends” with them.

Seek the Lord.
I challenge you to seek the Lord on this and see what He thinks and would have you to do. I wish someone had told me all of this sooner or I had listened more. I’ve learned it the hard way.  I have also been learning how to practically live out healthy guy/girl friendships, but I hesitate to post specifics because I don’t want you to do anything because “Katie suggested it”. Seek Him. If you want some tips get in touch with me and I won’t mind sharing then.

If you would like to hear this from a guy’s perspective, I encourage you to check out my friend Chris’s blog.  http://chriskaspar.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/best-friends/


Thanks again to Christine Britten for being the best editor ever!

11 comments:

Dan Brennan February 2, 2011 at 7:24 PM  

Katie,

I appreciate your perspective but I wonder about it. I find most Protestants (I'm an evangelical) are unaware of the numerous deep male-female friendships in history--which did not lead to sex. Catholic spirituality has a deep history of close cross-gender friendships.

I also think that it is possible to see Jesus himself modeling for men and women a more deeper approach to cross-gender friendships. I mean, he met with Mary Magdalene, *alone* (not in any group setting) at one of the most pivotal moments in Christian history (i.e. after he rose from the dead according to John). I don't see Jesus teaching us to fear the other gender in friendship.

Katie February 2, 2011 at 9:25 PM  

Dan,
Thank you for your perspective! I appreciate that. It's true - we do forget in present day about the history in the catholic church with the nuns and priests and how they served together. I would love to have interviewed them :)

Jesus did see Mary M alone as well as the women at the well and others I'm sure - but I guess I was seeing that "deeper friendship" as ministry - and if we could bring it present day, as encouraging each other in the Lord. I didn't really pull that out in this blog but am working one about that right now.

I didn't see it till you commented on it, but this blog could come across as fearing interaction with the opposite gender. That's my bad for not working to balance it more.

I don't believe we should fear friendships with them, I just believe we need to think about how we do them. Each friendship, and how each person will do them, will be different in every season of life :)
Thanks for your feedback. It's appreciated.

Amy February 2, 2011 at 10:48 PM  

katie - it's amazing how we're completely on the same page without knowing that each other has had this conviction. i want to add how much i appreciate the section on honoring your future husband/wife now. it's so important to develop healthy relationship behaviors b/c you never know when God will bless you with someone to spend your life with. and just as much as i wouldn't want him to have lingering friendships that he invests much of himself in emotionally, i would assume he'd expect the same from me. i also want to add how i think it's more of a test to learn unconditional love through same-sex friendships as opposed to opposite-sex friendships. it's very easy for me to go out of my way for a guy...partly b/c i imagine potentional in the back of my mind. when loving one of my female friends, i'm learning to do so with no strings attached...besides, these are the friendships (like you said) that i can maintain once i'm married...Lord willing.

- amy g

Kateri February 3, 2011 at 7:28 AM  

I don't know. I am one of those people who married my best friend--I doubt that I would have dated or married him if we had kept a distance (he is quite a bit older than me and I had several family members tell me I shouldn't marry him.) We knew each other 10 years before we married and where very good friends for a lot of that. If I hadn't allowed a close friendship to develop, I would have never gotten to know who he really is. I am very thankful that we did end up falling in love and getting married.

Like you say, fearing to have friendships with the opposite sex isn't healthy either. That was the way I was raised. I known people who appear to be able to maintain close platonic friendships even after marriage, but this seems to be the exception to the rule.

Jeremy February 3, 2011 at 9:21 AM  

The spirit of what you're saying is right on. The only problem, and what others may take exception to, is when people take the principles you gave and make laws from them.

I think the best "Rule of Thumb" is your statement to look at it from the future. I think it can help to phrase the thought a little differently - "If I was married or if my friend was married, would this be appropriate."

To me it just seems easier to imagine each person being married than it is to think about how I or my future spouse would look back on this.

I hope that's clear enough and doesn't just add more mud to the waters.

Traci February 3, 2011 at 9:44 AM  

I didn't have that vantage point of a relationship with the Lord while single, so every conviction I had in this area is based mostly on hindsight.

All friendships change after marriage, or at least they should if one's top priority is one's marriage. Even same gender friends spend a lot less time together and share less in confidence. It's respectful to the spouse, and honestly often comes naturally. Less is done as one-on-one interaction and more is done as a couple. There's still separate time with friends but it doesn't come nearly as often... which is fine in same gender relationships. A wife who doesn't see her girl friends often can pick back up after time apart and still encourage one another, email, facebook, call etc. The seasons change but the friendships can evolve with them.

She can't often do the same with a best guy friend. Often without that face time, that level of attention or even just the possibility of more than friendship the relationship will falter on it's own anyway... so why waste time building a relationship that's not going to last? Keeping things at a manageable level of distance both physically and emotionally can at least foster a friendship that can be shared on future double dates with your spouses.

Adding to that a young woman who is made to be a helpmeet should spend as much time as she can preparing herself to be one. Who can mentor us on how to be wives? Certainly not a young man who is neither a wife nor our future husband. He himself should be seeking out mentors of his own. Then we can encourage one another through regular old friendships and circles of friends.

As I said before much of this was what I learned from my own mistakes, but it's common sense. God brings us a husband. He doesn't need our help in collecting a candidate pool and he certainly doesn't expect us to practice with monogamous guy friendships. It would be like KNOWING that a certain store is ordering a bridal gown that's perfect for you but not waiting for it and instead buying a dozen other bridal gowns in the meantime whose only longterm purpose is to hang around and collect dust in your closet... because when that perfectly fit dress arrives you won't ever wear the others.

One Day at a Time February 3, 2011 at 10:13 AM  

I think the article was well written and had a lot of very good points but in some areas I totally disagree. You see many years ago I had a guy friend. His name was Kim.....he went to school in our city and went to our church. Kim was a good listener and he even had a girlfriend back in Ohio (whom he married and now they are missionaries)and Annie knew about me.Kim and I were never "attracted" to one another in a physical way....But we were very good friends. He would come to my parents house and have meals with us and we would go to church basketball games....he was and is a wonderful guy. I have seen other boy/girl friendships that have worked out as just friends (my daughter Emily and C.J were just friends for years until the light went on for them) (and I am not stupid...my girls are not perfect and I have seen them be flirty but I have seen most of other families daughters do it too...tho not the right thing for a young woman to do it DOES happen). I do however think it has a lot to do with the boy and the girl. There are a lot of girls esp. who would not be able to handle a guy for a friend because their minds are so set on having to have a boyfriend. And as far as flirting goes....just about every girl I have known thru our daughters has flirted with the guys around them. I have watched from a far and seen a lot more then all these girls think I have seen. And it also seems in the homeschool group marriage is a total priority and I have seen girls chase guys in hopes of landing him....and it is disgusting. SO....my point it this...boy/girl friendships can work IF the boy/girl have the right frame of mind and heart. Just my opinion.

Katie February 4, 2011 at 1:27 PM  

Thanks everyone for your perspective and stories. There will always be exceptions (I was thinking in this blog more about the principles and spirit than the letter of the Law) And in the deep friendships that are the exception and do last, or turn into marriage, It's sounds like they were healthy friendships with boundaries that allowed them to succeed.

I went extreme here on purpose, because I wanted to get people to think. I am immersed in a youth culture were "friends with benefits" and "sexing" is the norm. It's quickly invading the christian teen and young adults circles as well. Every day I deal with the consequences from these "friendships" and work with teens and young adults crippled from the pain, brokenness and low self esteem.

10 years ago when I was growing up the way people did guy/girl friendships is completely different from the way it is now.

I have a lot of guy friends and I'm all for healthy friendships. Personally, someday I hope the guy I marry will be my best friend. But I don't want him to be my best and closest friend until we're in a committed relationship heading towards marriage.

Elizabeth Conner February 4, 2011 at 1:42 PM  

Katie,

You make some wonderful points!! I want to more or less address the issue of guy/girl friendships and those who are thinking you are too "fearing". I grew up in a split Christian home (one parent christian the other not) so I had seen both worlds. I was more apart of the world than the church when it came to guys. I had several guy friends, at that point in my life girls were just way too snotty!! One friend in particular we will call Steve. Steve and I went to school and church together were best friends, he had a girlfriend so there was no issue. When high school started and after several years of being best friends we started dating. After a year we broke up. This story was repeated several times in my life. The reason, I grew emotionally attached to the guys I was friends with, we became Best Friends, and then I thought I loved them in a more than friendship kind of way. Guys and Girls can be friends, close friends even, but not best friends.

As for the comment about Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene after he rose, my question was were did he meet her. The impression given in the bible is at the grave sight...a public place. The woman at the well...a public place. I think that is the key difference in guy/girl friendships. Where are you hanging out, is it a lot of private alone time at night? Or in group settings or a public setting like a park or mall? We need to be careful to not take offense at a touch topic like this. What Katie's shares is truth, yes we all have different convictions and God has a special unique plan for us all but the basis is are you protecting your heart and the heart of those around. Or is it just easier and more convenient for you too ignore that you may be not doing your best to protect your friends?

Julieth Sierra February 28, 2013 at 3:11 PM  

Hey, how can I contact you for questions on a specific situation?

Not Unredeemed March 1, 2013 at 1:26 PM  

Julieth,
I'd love to hear from you! My email is notunredeemed@gmail.com

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I'm a fun loving, people person, with a passion for ministry and the Lord. My greatest desire is to see people come to realize who they are in Christ and how that effects every area of their relationships and lives.I want to know Him more.