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Can men and women be friends!? Part 1

This is one of the most volatile issues I see married couples dealing with week after week in my ministry. It usually hits the radar because someone feels like the “friendship” has crossed the line of “just friends” and begun to threaten the health and security of the marriage. When the offended spouse raises the question of propriety, they are met with defensiveness and protection of the “friendship,” usually creating more distance and pain with their spouse. I address this through the lens of marriage, because the issue is ultimately a marriage issue. However, my comments apply to those who are single, dating or engaged.
 
Here are the 3 reasons why men and women CAN’T be friends.
 
1. Men and women were made to be attracted to each other.
I believe God has hardwired romance into the hearts of men and women. With the exceptions of abuse or neglect or tragedy, this hardwiring remains in tact and functional all the days of our lives. This means, given the right set of circumstances, a man and a woman can establish a connection, often described as “chemistry” or “attraction” with very little effort. This connection can be compounded by fatigue, loneliness, boredom or a desire for attention or adventure. Unfortunately, many married people are worn out, lonely, bored, attention and adventure starved. So, the presence of an opposite sex friendship can create a scenario that makes it easy to cross the line of appropriate interaction. The attraction to an opposite sex friendship may occur completely by accident. You may even swear up and down that you have no romantic feelings for them, but you cannot control how they may feel. Any time I come across a case where a married person is defending the opposite sex friendship, I assume that the friendship has already crossed a line. 
 
2. Opposite sex friendships create insecurity in your marriage.
Even if your spouse has not vocalized it, more than likely, your opposite sex friendship is creating insecurity in your marriage. It is only natural to wonder why your husband or wife laughs more with the “friend” than with you. It’s only natural to wonder what the text messages are all about, after all you and your spouse don’t text that often. These are simple examples of actions that represent a source of insecurity in the marriage. If your spouse has raised the issue and you’ve defended the opposite sex friendship at any level, then you have only magnified the insecurity. I’ve heard the objection a hundred times, “I’m not doing anything wrong, the insecurity is my spouse’s problem.” My response, “Your spouse’s insecurity IS your problem because you are married.” Part of marriage is caring for and protecting your spouse, which includes emotional care and protection. I advise any couple dealing with an insecurity around the issue of opposite sex friendships to call an immediate “Time Out” and with your spouse’s help, clearly re-define the opposite sex friendship and establish any boundaries or rules. Allow the new, agreed upon definition, boundaries and rules to govern the friendship. In most cases, the new definition, boundaries and rules will mean downgrading it to casual acquaintance or totally cut off. Remember, any undefined relationship is UNHEALTHY. 
 
3. There is NO future here.
I know it sounds extreme to suggest downgrading or totally cutting off an opposite sex friendship; however, you have to ask the question, “What about this friendship is so valuable that you would be willing to allow your spouse to feel uncomfortable or insecure about it?” Didn’t you vow to “forsake all others” when you got married? Is there a such thing as “too extreme” when it comes to guarding the well-being of your marriage? The reality is, there is NO real future with an opposite sex friendship. There won’t be a day that your spouse suddenly becomes comfortable with him or her. No real future is possible as long as you are married…unless you plan to leave your current marriage for the “friendship”  - which means its not really a “friendship," right? It is certainly possible, and perhaps necessary to end the friendship with gratitude for what it was while accepting the fact that you made an exclusive choice to commit your life to your spouse. I can assure you, whatever value you think comes from the opposite sex friendship, there is a more appropriate person to bring that value into your life. If you aren’t sure who that might be, start with your spouse.
 
These are the main reasons I give couples when I am explaining why men and women can’t be friends. There are countless other reasons that may come into play in your relationship. Bottom line, you should always value your relationship with your spouse over any other person in your life, especially a person of the opposite sex that could compromise security and intimacy in your marriage. 
 
If this all makes sense but you’re wondering how to successfully redefine any opposite sex friendships you may currently have, stay tuned...part 2 of this blog will be posted soon!
 
This is a topic that people tend to have strong opinions about. I’d love to hear your comments! 
 
Posted by Andy Savage at 1:33 PM
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