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We’ve all heard the question “can guys and girls be friends?”
(If you missed the introduction to this series, start HERE.)
Not defining what type of friendship we are talking about is what has made the “can guys and girls be friends?” question so widely debated. All the possible scenarios can make you want to gouge out your eyeballs with a fork. You will have to figure out what type of friendship your situation entails and assess accordingly.
I hope as you track with me through this series, you will see where I landed and refrain from picking up the fork.
I’m not going to be addressing the “hook up” issue in this series other than the following few thoughts. (Second Warning: If you are unclear about the term “hook up,” you may be too old to be reading this.)
Today, some people want an intimate friendship while the other person sees it as casual or close. It’s the whole “friends with benefits” scenario, which can be anything from making out to casual sex. The added confusion on any level is one person may feel the “friendship” is intimate while the other does not. Scientifically we know that this scenario is not healthy for either one of the friends’ bodies or brains. Here’s a quick read for more information: Hooked. I highly recommend the book.
A friend who had read Hooked called me to say, “If they would have explained THIS in Sunday school it probably would have made me grasp why God wanted me to value sex for the commitment of marriage!”
When we as Christ followers distrust God’s words and distort his plan for our sexuality, we not only hurt the heart of the Lord by not following His wisdom, but we are left in a state of distorted sexuality and pain. (Unless we are in denial.)
I’m not saying any of this to promote shame (that never helps anyone) rather a desire for all of us to stop and ask ourselves if we believe in the wisdom of God.
Wait, didn’t I say I just had a few thoughts on hooking up? I can get slightly distracted when…
Oh look, a bird!
Anyway, I want you to know, I’ve been there.
I’ve held onto a friendship too long, hoping it would be something more. I’ve ignored the “he likes you as more than a friend” to fulfill a need I had for male attention. I’ve been unnecessarily jealous. I’ve been necessarily jealous. And I’ve “snacked”* way too often, and on and on…
But I also feel like I’ve been blessed to call a number of quality men my friends. Close friends. Many who have greatly impacted my life. Some are married; some are single. Some are dating, and some are widowed. Each relationship has its own unique story that may or may not fit you and your friendship, but this series should help you as you try to figure it out.
I love something my father prayed recently during a staff meeting, and it is my prayer for you, too. (No, I did NOT stop mid-prayer to write it down.)
“I pray they will be people who seek wisdom instead of having us tell them what to do.”
On that note, let’s begin…
Let me begin by first defining what I mean by “friendship” in this section.
Friendship = hanging out, talking on the phone, ongoing communication and interaction.
If this is the type of “friendship” in which you are picking up his dry cleaning or French braiding her hair, then this is not a friendship.
Unsure if this is you?
Ask your friends, “Do you think it’s weird that I fold Judy’s laundry and hang out with her mom when she goes out on dates?” or, “Is there something wrong with the fact that I pay his parking tickets and tally his stats on FIFA?”
See what they say.
Aside from those extreme situations, we often are in friendships where things are just a little ambiguous. Deep down we know the other person probably doesn’t like us back, but we hold onto that little glimmer of “but that one time she said…” or “I don’t think he does that for all his “girl” friends…
I would recommend that you ask yourself the following questions. Then go to your “Naomi”. Discussing these questions with someone who can hold you accountable will be far more valuable than my telling you what I think you should do. Trust that the Lord will also give you insight.
a) Are you sure your friend’s feelings are not reciprocated?
b) Are you willing to admit how you feel to your friend if you haven’t? Are you prepared to hear his or her answer?
c) What do you think is the wisest thing to do if he or she does not feel the same way?
d) What are the costs/benefits of remaining friends? Are you being honest with yourself?
e) How will you trust God in the midst of disappointment?
f) If you step back from the friendship, how will you set healthy boundaries?
g) What will mourning the loss of a friendship look like?
h) What will moving on look like?
That’s a good start for now…
From my heart,
p.s. If you’d like a little light reading to accompany this series, click HERE for a recommendation.
*Patience! You will find out what “snacking” means soon enough.
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Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.
“don’t take my words out of context, and don’t be stupid.”
I think this needs to be a warning label that we walk around with taped to our foreheads at all times.
Great post. Lots of good stuff in there. Now I’m going to go start analyzing all my opposite-sex friendships for the next few hours. Hope my boss doesn’t want me to be productive 🙂
Joy, thanks for choosing to write on this topic 🙂
I am stumped on this question, being a girl: Are you willing to admit how you feel to your friend if you haven’t? Are you prepared to hear his or her answer?
I am stumped because I never told a guy that I liked him. Now being a 20 something I battle with- finding clarity/truth while trying not to step in and take this kind of initiative. I guess part of it is my fear of losing a good friendship, but I am challenged with the idea that continuing a friendship with unrequited love might feed unnecessary thoughts if I cannot control them. *runs and goes to find a Naomi*
@Elle, Great question! I was hoping someone would ask!! And the best part…is you answered it with your Naomi reference. It’s totally a case by case scenario and that is why I believe that God wants to use these types of circumstances to refine us. Are we patient? Do we trust His timing? Do we seek counsel? Do we read scripture? There may be a time and place for a woman to bring clarity and ask “where is this going” to protect her own heart, just as there may be a time for a man to do this. But my bigger concern is the steps and the attitude of faith and belief that precede this so that the process becomes more about your transformation than the result of this relationship or tough conversation.
Does that make sense?
@JOY, I’m in the same boat as Elle. I have been blessed with a amazing close friendship with a Christian guy. I’ve always been afraid of telling guys how I feel. I think it’s my traditionality (I just made a new word : ) ) and desire for the man to tell me first how he feels and for him to pursue me. I already can hear my Naomi telling me I’m not looking for a relationship as my focus is school and am waiting to hear from the Lord and His will for my career. So I shall wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14) 😀 Thanks for answering Elle’s question though! I have been blessed with your teaching of God cares more about our growth and transformation rather than our perfection 😀 Thanks for your time!
@Elle, This is exactly the situation I am in.
I called my ‘friend’ out, basically asking him when/if he was going to ask me out after many months of flirtatious communication. Really, it was me confessing I had something for him. He acted completely blind sided. He said he hopes it won’t be weird now because he really enjoys being my friend. I clearly do too, and I’m not convinced he doesn’t have feelings for me. We’ve continued being friends, and it hasn’t been weird, but it’s not easy for me. The thought of me stepping back and setting boundaries for MY heart is hard, because I do not want to lose this relationship.
A mess? Yep. A big, fat, ugly, confusing mess. How’s my heart? Clearly not in a great place. I’m glad Joy is talking about this, because I don’t feel so alone with this issue. 🙂
@Lauren, so sorry you are in this uncomfortable and often painful situation. I would encourage you to think through if you are trying to have an emotionally close relationship with a guy who is not ready to be that with you. As painful as it may be, you may want to back off if he is not in the same place as you even if you think he might be. I do hope you have a strong network of older, wiser people around you to get counsel from. Trust God and your ability to do the wise thing over the easy thing. It doesn’t mean you play games or ignore, but don’t give him more of your heart that should be reserved for someone who is ready to commit to you. Knowing very little about the situation, outside of the fact that you HAVE told him your heart, those would be my gut reactions.
This is not easy and I truly am sorry!
@Lauren, [warning, heart and mind pouring!!] oh… I feel your pain and confusion, I really do ><. From my experience, I found that continuing interacting with this guy allowed me to continue wander and not come to a decision that I would not allow myself to be emotionally attached to this … unreality- this lie I created for myself that "maybe" there could be something. I never confronted him on the issue- I just simply backed off because I knew that I could not bare with the uncertainty because my heart was clearly desiring something more than I really had.
One of my fears is that this liking I have for the person can mess my future relationships, as I imagine not being able to give my husband my whole heart because I had set my affections on someone else who does not truly love me or desire to commit to me. It leads me to the question- why do I even put myself in this situation? Perhaps I am impatient and desire the gratification of being loved now. Plus it feels comfortable and secure to not change the things the way they are.
I am tempted at times to not befriend or demonize men in my life in fear of these scenarios happening. How ought I interact with my brothers in a way that sets me up for a marriage that honors Christ as my treasure- first and foremost?
However we have free will and responsibility for our own actions. Even though it feels so wrong to let go of a relationship- should we settle for something that could "maybe something"? Is it worth it?
Surely God can heal us and provide us new desires for better things. I really hope that we can rely on God's guidance and find healing and assurance in his love for us- I also desire God to lead me in how I can interact with guys with an intention to love my brother, while not emotionally investing in him when that should only be given to my future husband.
Such a great article, wish I knew these questions last year when I had a friendship that crossed boundaries last year with a guy. Now I’m in a committed relationship and I realize the respect my boyfriend has for me is a lot more than the respect I had for my friend or he had for me at the time. (Isn’t it great how God teaches us through our blunders and blesses us still with His love?) Thanks Joy! 🙂
I know I can relate. I’ve been in this situation several times. But this last time, I had a Naomi to go to. And I talked about this a lot with her. The advice she gave me during this time steered my emotions towards God and not into the “what if?” with this guy. As hard as it was for me to keep them with God, they stayed there. What was really hard was I was almost instantly attracted to this one guy the moment I first saw him. I very much wanted to start a friendship with this person but sadly nothing ever happened. I prayed for a friendship while keeping my heart in God’s hands at the same time. As time went by, he started dating somebody out of the blue who I didn’t know. So that was my answer there that God was saying this wasn’t His will for my life. And to be completely honest, I was fine with it. I believe the reason I got over it so quickly was because I didn’t let my emotions get the best of me when I was around him. In fact, I felt it best that I stop hanging around him because 1: the friendship of “just being friends” was encouraged on my part but not on his. We never got beyond the acquaintance part. 2: I didn’t think it would be healthy for me to be around him while his girlfriend was on his arm. I feared this would trigger my emotions and I’d go home and boohoo all day. I think a big part of it is overall, guard your heart even among friendships with the opposite sex. Even if you are a lil attracted to somebody who does not feel that same lil attraction towards you, guard your emotions from the “what if” thoughts and seek God’s insight.
@Erin, I really enjoyed hearing your faith throughout this experience. I think you are seeing that the desires of your heart can create the space for you to see it as a place of learning and a time to be patient. There are ideas in this series I will expand on more that I think will encourage you. Thank you for sharing this!
It seems to me that when it comes to practical issues, I forget to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and then the situation gets bigger than it ought to because I lean on my own understanding.
Process… transformation… faith… belief… trusting and waiting on God first and foremost. Yes, it makes more sense when I put my focus on Christ and seeking his will- in all circumstances, then the relationship/tough conversation becomes of not the ultimate concern.
I appreciate that your responses are not “final answers” or quick fixes and push me to seek God’s will vs. what this or that person says. Because reading differing opinions does make me want to put a fork in my eye at times.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
(Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)
I met this guy in college, very Godly man, handsome, & with many shared interests as me. I was instantly interested from knowing all of this. During the summer, we started talking and he asked me out. On that first outing we talked about nearly everything(mainly initiated by him) even intimate things. I thought it went pretty well. After that, we kept going out, talking on the phone, texting. We really got close, we told each other intimate things (nothing sexual) but there was this closeness that we didn’t have with anyone else, of the opposite sex at least. We kept doing this for the whole summer. It would seem as if it would be the perfect beginning of a romantic relationship. However, that didn’t happen. Instead as college began once again we started(or he started) getting “busy” and now we still talk occasionally because we bump into each other or he texts me but it is faaar from the closeness that we had before and all this without a single explanation. Did he ever like me? I honestly thought so. Did he lose interest? Was he never looking for a relationship in the first place? Is he just really shy? Then again, he never told me clearly and directly his exact intentions with me, yet we were dating. I hate when this happens, when you’re left hanging & don’t even know what happened. And I’m too afraid to ask because I’m a traditional girl in the sense that I want the guy to pursue me, make the first move, etc. Now, since I see no clear effort from his part I’ve taken a step back & just try to distance myself a little from him, not be mean or ignore him but just not seek him anymore & just let things happen. The sad thing is that he’s a truly Godly man & we got along so well, I think that’s what makes it harder. So in a way, I lost a potential romantic relationship & part of a really great friendship. I’m mainly at peace now but I still think of it once in a while. I’m looking at it positively & trying to trust God because I know that in all things he works for the good of those who love him.
What do you think? Am I seeing things the right way? Any advice?
I love the point you raise about holding onto male friendships when we know there is more on their end, just to fulfill our need or desire for male attention. I think a lot of times this takes honesty with ourselves. Are we sure they have feelings yet justify it with “well they haven’t said anything so I will continue to text him about my random thoughts and pull him into my life until he fesses up.” I believe this justification is where our respect and care for our friends breaksdown. If we don’t have romantic feelings, we still HAVE TO honor the person as a friend.
We have to hear the spirit in us in regards to this because it is easier to be selfish or justify things. This doesn’t mean ending a friednship the second you sense they might like you (unless you want to look vain and nuts-o), but it does mean, we have to ask ourselves tough questions about motives and securities.
Yes. Exactly what you said. Word. Totally.
It’s so much harder to see ourselves and motivations honestly. Sometimes mine are pretty ugly. But that is EXACTLY where Jesus comes in. He makes us new. He has made me whole. The Holy Spirit is in me and will prompt me to love others in a respectful manner.
I’m so grateful that facing my fears and justifications and selfishness in friendships doesn’t have to be the last word in them.
I am interested in a guy (widower) who just happens to be by his own admission in love with a still married but separated lady in his church. She does not reciprocate his feelings, again by his own admission. He says she is a man-hater and has no intention of remarrying or even following through on her divorce any time soon. How can I help him see and understand not only how this looks to other people, or how dangerously close he is to sin, without appearing desperate from my stand-point. Until he gets this worked out I cannot see myself even contemplating anything other than friendship with him….not that he wants anything more. It seems the story of my life….I feel like a jerk magnet. LOL