I was leading a breakout session on singleness when a young woman asked if it was possible for men and women to be friends. My answer was yes . . . . . maybe.
I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years. When I was in high school I was the recipient of the, “I see you as a friend” line an awful lot. So when I went to college I was determined to not be friends with girls at all. This was a serious decision on my part. Now I did have a lot of dating success in college. But here’s the funny part. The first girl I went out on a date with in college became one of the best female friends I’ve ever had. Now we only went on a couple of dates and there is a lot more to that story but it’s still really ironic.
Since college, I have served in different ministry capacities I’ve worked with lots of women. I would consider many of them great friends. I would also say that I’ve had a positive impact on many women through my ministry, some of whom I would also consider friends.
So my answer to the question, can men and women be friends? Yes . . . . maybe. Let me explain.
First of all, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, you shouldn’t be friends with the hope that it will turn into more. In other words becoming friends as a way to avoid actually asking the girl out or because you know she isn’t attracted to you but you hope she will be later is a terrible idea. It’s sort of shady actually because you are not really being her friend.
Secondly, I think you can be friends but you can’t be “just friends”. Here’s what I mean by that. “Just Friends” is a way of avoiding something. A lot of times it’s a way for the person who isn’t attracted to someone who is attracted to them to be nice and try to avoid rejecting the person. In other words if I ask a girl out and she says, let’s just be friends, that is her way of saying no but you’re not a bad guy or anything. It’s not an invitation to a lifelong friendship. Seriously, I promise it’s not. If you ask someone out and they tell you that, you need to walk away. Right then. That doesn’t mean don’t be friendly towards them. It just means don’t be intentional friends.
Now if you were friends and then you became attracted and she says that, then fine, you might be able to stay friends at some level. But you need to be careful here. You need to be sure that you have emotionally walked away and aren’t sliding into being her friend so she will like you.
On the other hand if you don’t really know this girl and you met somehow and went out a couple of times and she drops that line on you, do not, I repeat, do not strike up a big friendship with this person. Again that doesn’t mean if you see her out or something that you are mean to her but don’t “pursue” her by being a friend. If you are really into her the best thing you can do is say, “I don’t really need more intentional female friends. I was hoping for more. If something changes let me know.” I promise you that this is the way to go. It’s the only way you will keep her respect.
Finally, you should not be “best friends” with a girl. You should have men in your life that fill that role. If most of your close friends are the opposite sex you are in trouble. You need to begin to deal with that. There’s not space here to delve into that but you need to.
One way to know if you are really friends is to ask yourself a couple of key questions. If this person started dating someone would you be excited for them? Would you want to hang out with them and become friends with their partner. I’ve had that happen a lot. In fact a couple of my best guy friends are married to women that I knew before I knew them. If your answer is no, you need to back way, way off the friendship.
Does this person like me as more than a friend even though I don’t see them this way? I’ve been on both ends of this. My thought would be that if that is true then you need to back way off. It’s not loving them to inadvertently stoke that fire. And that’s exactly what you are doing if you hang out with them all the time. You are just adding to their hurt and you are keeping them from pursuing other people. Please don’t pretend you don’t know they like you – you know.
So what are you thoughts? What has been your honest experience here?
I LOVE the response you give if a girl says she wants to be just friends. Girls use that line to try to avoid hurting a guy’s feelings. But I think it is important for them to see they have to choose to be all in or all out. I think that response shows strength and godly leadership. It impresses me.
Once a person is married, the “can we be friends” question becomes MUCH more difficult, in my opinion. Being friends with a married member of the opposite sex when you are single, or being friends with someone of the opposite sex when you are married is often a recipe for adultery. The problem is that it can happen REALLY SLOWLY – like over many years.
So if a single wants to be friends with someone who is married and of the opposite sex, I think great caution is needed. I think the spouse needs to be ok with the friendship, but I also think there need to be a lot of protective measures in place to prevent temptation. And these would also apply to married people being around people of the opposite sex.
In my opinion, avoiding temptation will mean:
– no private text messages, emails, phone conversations whenever possible
– total transparency between spouses
– not being alone with the other person, only meeting in public places
– not confiding about marital problems
– backing WAY, WAY off the moment that there is any detectable chemistry or attraction
– honoring the spouse WAY above the friend
– don’t complain about the spouse or marriage to the friend
– if the spouse begins to feel jealous AT ALL, break off the friendship (God’s command is to leave all others and cleave to one another in marriage)
It is SO EASY for emotional and sexual affairs to happen – and they almost always start “innocently.” The Bible says to flee from sexual immorality. Proverbs 3-7 describes how a man can avoid adultery and it is to not even go down the street where the adulteress lives. Staying as far away from sexual temptation as possible is wise.
In my view, women need best friends who are godly women, and men need best friends who are godly men.
Is it possible to be “just friends?” Maybe?????? Is it possible that a relationship like that could be filled with temptation if one of the friends is married? YES! In my view, extreme caution is needed for married people in having friends of the opposite sex.
And I agree that if one person has romantic feelings, then being “friends” will encourage those feelings and probably cause frustration and end up resulting in heart break.
You raise some interesting points. I agree with most of what you say in this post, but the one thing I don’t agree with 100% is this: “On the other hand if you don’t really know this girl and you met somehow and went out a couple of times and she drops that line on you, do not, I repeat, do not strike up a big friendship with this person.” Yes, most of the time, she is saying that to be nice. But there have been times in my own life when I discovered that a romantic relationship wouldn’t work with someone, but he and I were still able to be friends, and good ones. Of course, I don’t know if I can think of any case where we didn’t at least know each other casually before we started dating, and maybe that’s the situation you’re referring to. I wouldn’t say I totally disagree with you, but I would have to say it depends.
I also disagree with your other commenter regarding the idea of single people being friends with married people. I don’t think that single people are any more likely to entice someone to adultery than another married person, and I feel vaguely resentful at the way this stigma has become attached to the idea of single-married friendship. I’m not saying the other commenter was trying to attach that stigma–but it’s one I’ve heard so often from so many sources that it’s a sensitive subject for me, especially because I very much enjoy the company of men. I have hobbies like playing video games that aren’t seen as “feminine” hobbies, so in my life, I’ve been friends with a lot of married guys. Yes, I’m friends with their wives, to a degree, but the fact is, it’s the men with whom I’ve felt the actual connection of friendship. And I’ve never felt tempted to commit adultery, and as far as I know, no one has ever wanted to commit adultery with me.
I think it comes down to mindfulness and intentional friendship. Sure, we have to be careful, but I’ve personally seen two marriages dissolve because one partner in each marriage cheats with each other, just as often as I’ve seen single people “break up” someone’s marriage.
We just have to remember to ask if our relationships–all of our relationships–are honoring God. No relationship that truly honors God can lead to adultery.
I was recently caught forcing a friend to listen to all of the titles of your blogs. Great Stuff. I can’t believe how much there is to write on, but every title brings a few memories to mind. A few things I did ok, and a number of things I botched. Keep it up!
When everyone knows you in your community of faith, the canned line of ““I don’t really need more intentional female friends. I was hoping for more. If something changes let me know.”
Is near to impossible to use when you’re out feeding the homeless, street evangelizing, comforting words to the forgotten, youth ministry, band or whatever because your church is indeed small, and you are going to see the woman or women in question sometimes several days nights a week. In most churches many people are working in several different areas. You must communicate. You must be friendly. You must be able to work together. Meeting up, doing whatever the ministry in question at that moment requires of you. I don’t equate how be “just friends” makes a man lose respect in woman in questions’ eyes, that is more than likely her problem, and not really a Godly walk.
That is the line that is also used in the secular world frequently. It assumes that you have a large, social network of female friends already, and that is just not true for many Christian single men, and in a smaller church….not always, but usually, people know your life. My life is my church family.