Rethinking Male-Female Friendships
Its been a little while since I have written. As many of you know, I am in the midst of a transition and now life has settled down enough for me to regularly share some thoughts and to gather your insights.
I have been thinking a lot about male and female friendships. How do healthy non-romantic relationships between adult men and women develop and remain vibrant without either unhealthy boundaries, or aloofness. I know that many of those who read my blog are committed and mature people who have walked along the Christian journey for some time now, but I still think we struggle with defining and understanding healthy parameters for male and female relationships that are not romantic.
There is a tendency to polarize. We either say that all relationships that are not romantic with the opposite sex must be avoided, or that you can have any relationship with anyone, along as you are not sexually intimate. I personally find that natural friendships arise with people whom have similar experiences, outlooks, and interests. I believe the point of confusion occurs at what has commonly been called "emotional intimacy". This is the point in which you are sharing personal experiences, feelings, and hopes. These things are not just words, but have deeply seeded emotions tied with them. When you share these things, you give a part of you away. That "giving away" process is perceived as an opportunity to exchange deeply held passions that leads to even deeper intimacy.
I truly believe that men and women can have authentically healthy, non-romantic friendships. However, I believe that it takes intentionality and focus. Some people are better at this than others. What many women have to understand is that their friendliness is often perceived by men as flirtiness. What many men have to understand is that their concern is often perceived by women as being singled out. Our perceptions can lead to misunderstandings in the intentions of the others. Those of us who are married, have a particular calling to guard our hearts, minds, affections, and spirits to give to our spouses. We do not realize that everytime we are emotionally intimate with someone other than our spouses, we give a little of ourselves to them and away from our own spouses. This temptation does not require us to seek out others to share our emotions, but often seeks us out, as a co-worker, old friend, or neighbor "needs" to share what they are experiencing. As we receive, we are sharing in their emotional intimacy.
I think that we have to be very clear in our friendships. When we begin to share things with someone of the opposite sex that is intimate in nature, we must check our motives. If you are married, you need to ask:
Would I say this if my spouse was sitting right here
Would my spouse be uncomfortable with the content of what is being discussed.
Is the nature of our discussion causing emotional or physical arousal.
There is so much more to say, but I want to hear your experiences with friends of the opposite sex. Has it been a struggle? Have you ever had a friendship where your intentions were misunderstood? Let me know what you think?
Pastor Michael Traylor