I thought about doing a post on this topic a few nights ago after I got off the phone with a friend who cautioned me on the dangers of having a platonic friendship with a man I dated in the past. He advised me that although I may no longer have feelings, the guy might hope there is a door, window or crawl space that he can come through. The day after our conversation, when I was out at lunch, I heard Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.” And, for those who know me, you know I took that as confirmation that I should write something about the “just friends” phenomenon of our generation. This phenomenon is marked by close opposite sex friendships between single men and women.
Continuing a friendship with an ex – boyfriend is dangerous. I can admit that. However, I believe it is easier to have a “just friends” relationship with an ex – boyfriend with whom you never had intercourse than an ex with whom you did have a physical relationship. But, of course, there are exceptions to every rule. More than just continuing friendships with boyfriends after the relationship has ended, there is an ever – increasing popularity of platonic friendships between single men and women.
Due to the relaxed, often blurred lines of friendships, many of us have close friends of the opposite sex. Sometimes, we treat our male friends like our girls, just with more testosterone. You hang out, you spend time together, and you share things. As a result, a certain level of intimacy develops…and then feelings begin to change. Our friends may ask us about “so and so” because we talk about him or hang out with him a lot. As a result, we’ll say, “Oh, him; we’re just friends.” You keep telling yourself that you all are just friends. But, your actions and reactions say otherwise. We’ve all used the phrase “just friends” in reference to a friendship before. Sometimes a woman will say “we’re just friends” in all sincerity; other times, there is a desire for a romantic relationship.
In today’s society, where creating relationships is somewhat easy; fostering and developing healthy, appropriate, God – honoring friendships can be somewhat of a challenge, especially when we sometimes have selfish motives behind the friendships. God wants us to have happy, healthy friendships that are edifying for us and glorifying to Him. We must pray that God gives us direction about our friendships. Pray that He gives you the desire and ability to cultivate friendships that honor him. Remember to pray with confidence. If we ask anything according to His will, he hears us and will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14–15). Friendships that honor God are certainly according to his will for our lives. In cultivating our friendships, particularly opposite sex friendships, we should focus on serving and encouraging others. These are both things of which God approves. This will ensure that God is honored and is the center of the relationship. When God is not the center of these relationships, Satan enters, and emotional and physical boundaries are pushed or crossed. We (all Christians) are instructed not to awaken love until it is time (Song of Solomon 8:4). Men are instructed to treat younger women as sisters, with absolute purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
A few months ago I had a conversation with this same friend about a young lady who wanted more than a platonic relationship with him. From that, we discussed how women are emotional. Yes. We. Are. 🙂 We also discussed how women can over-think things. Yes. We. Can. A lot of women over-think everything – from what a certain look meant to men and everything in between. I’m definitely guilty of over–thinking a lot of things. But, this is where my need to SURRENDER comes in.
When we (women) have platonic relationships with men, we are normally the ones who want more than a “just friends” relationship. But, there are times when the man wants more than the woman is willing to give. Sometimes a person can do something out of Christian kindness, but that same action can be misunderstood as something all together different. What one person sees as a kind gesture, innocent text or comment can be misconstrued as romantic interest. You may say that it isn’t your fault that another person misunderstood. But, often times, we can sense when someone likes us as more than “just a friend.”
As Christians, it behooves (I adore this word; one of the TAs in law school used to say it a lot) us to be straightforward about our lack of interest in a person, especially when it is clear that he has more than friendship on his mind. If you are the one being kind and whose actions are being misunderstood, make it plain. Let him know that you appreciate his friendship, but that you aren’t interested. Of course, you should say it a little nicer than that. Ultimately, I don’t think any man will be upset with you for being honest. It is better than allowing this “friend’s” feelings to fester and grow for weeks or months, when you know you don’t feel the same way. Isn’t that what you’d want? This same concept applies to dating relationships. I believe in dating intentionally and with a purpose. With that being said, once you learn that the person you’re dating or getting to know has characteristics, traits or beliefs that are contrary to yours and that you CANNOT deal with, stop dating them. I know the lure of having companionship is strong, but we have to pray to overcome that lure. There is no need for placeholders in our lives. Wednesday, I had this conversation three different times with three friends about their situations – very ironic.
Your friendships should bring you joy, not anxiety as a result of unrequited love or unwanted attention. God is not a God of confusion. He is a God of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). I have learned that while opposite sex platonic friendships between single men and women can be difficult at times, they can also be rewarding, as long as God is the center, boundaries are set and both parties are emotionally stable enough to handle the relationship.
There are three takeaways here: (1) pray for direction as to whether you can emotionally handle platonic relationships with people of the opposite sex; (2) if you know a friend desires a romantic relationship, but you’re not interested, let him know; (3) if you are the one who is longing for more, take a step back, pray and guard your heart. If it is meant to be, it will be. Note to self… 🙂
Peace and blessings!
P.S. Be sure to check out this week’s recipes – almond flour, zucchini bread, tomato basil bread, lentil stew and black bean burgers.
P.P.S. I have finally posted my reading list. Check it out here.