friends, brothers, or potential threats? how to deal with the opposite gender

I am blessed to say that I have great friends that just happen to be guys. But for some reason, that seems to be an enigma in our Christian culture. How can you be friends with someone of the opposite gender? If you’re married, can you even have friends besides your spouse?

After doing research (I’ll post the links below), I’ve discovered there is so much controversy about whether we can truly be friends with members of the opposite gender. If you want to know more about what I think about the issue, here is one article I found that completely sums up my thoughts (I even bought the book that goes along with the article!).

The definition of the word “friend” has been diluted because of social media. I have a ton of male “friends” on my Facebook, but that doesn’t mean I would hang out with them. It just means, quite simply, that I’ve had some interaction with them in the past. According to the dictionary, a friend is someone to whom you have some sort of personal connection, someone who can support you, someone with whom you are on good terms, and someone of the same social group as you. I may have six-hundred-plus “friends” on Facebook, but, in light of those definitions, I’m only actually “friends” with about thirty of those people.

To have friendships with members of the opposite gender, we need to have clear boundaries, practice open communication, and be part of intentional community.

Have Boundaries

The key to any friendship is boundaries. Some Christians do not advocate being friends with members of the opposite gender is because of sexual temptation. You don’t want to fall into sin. You don’t want to be too attached. OK, great. Then, establish in your mind (and, if needed, out loud), that you won’t pursue a sexual relationship with anyone that is not your spouse.

If sexual temptation is a struggle for you, then you have to set strict boundaries with yourself. Be smart. Don’t sit alone with a guy in the car at two in the morning and talk about your past relationships. That has “trouble” written all over it. Before entering a friendship (and you have a choice to enter a friendship), decide how far you’re willing to go with someone who is not your spouse, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.

Have Open Communication

When my husband first asked me on a date, I was scared out of my mind. Typically, before him, boys would ask me to “hang out”, but they wouldn’t be clear of what that looked like. I would be wondering the whole time if they wanted a relationship with me or if they just wanted to be friends. I really liked Lenny, and I was kind of burnt out from all the “dating” (or not) I’d done, so I was very hesitant when he asked me to go to the movies alone with him. But he made his intentions clear: “I think you’re a really nice person, and I want to get to know you better.” And then we started our pre-relationship dating, going on a couple of dates alone.

Then, when I felt like we were going to pursue a relationship, I sat him down at the diner and explained my expectations for a relationship. Then we started our relationship. After three months of dating, Lenny told me he planned on asking me to marry him in a couple of months. Of course, we sat down over dinner at Houlihan’s and talked about what that would look like. Finally, when we got engaged, we prayed about when we would get married, and we talked about what we were willing to sacrifice in order to get married sooner. As I look back, the entire time, we were in constant communication. There was no assumption.

If you have a friend that seems to be pushing your boundaries, be clear. I know it’s hard and scary, but it is so much better than “ghosting” him. I know we’re all afraid of rejection, but honestly, it is worse to lose a really good friend than to have a really good friend simply say he doesn’t want a relationship with you.

Intentional Community

Community can help you stay accountable with these questionable friendships, but community can also help you find true friendship. We as humans have needs that others can fill. We don’t just have sexual needs (which, obviously, only one person can fill), but we also have emotional and mental needs. We need encouragement. We need a listening ear. We need accountability. We need wisdom. I am so thankful for the men who have poured into my life, who have encouraged me, who have taken the journey inside my head with me and have helped me process my thoughts, who have listened to me and have given me guidance about my next step.

If you are a Christian, you belong to the family of Christ. Your “guy friends” are actually your brothers. How would you treat your brother? Keep this in mind as you interact with all of your friends. If you are married and you have “couple friends”, think about your interaction with your brothers in Christ in light of your sisters in Christ. Would you want to let emotional attachment ruin your sister’s happiness?

So, yes, it is possible to have friends of the opposite gender. You simply need to establish clear boundaries, practice open communication, and be a part of intentional community.

Photo by Kevin Gent on Unsplash

The Billy Graham Rule: Should You Be Friends With Someone of the Opposite Sex? (musings from reading this, not actual information from it)

Relationships: Opposite Gender Friendship


This will RUIN your wedding…if you let it

So much planning, so many details, all go into that one special day. The first day of the rest of your life. Oh, so much can go wrong. But will you let it?

The truth is, anything can ruin your wedding. We live in a fallen world, and we interact with imperfect people. Think about all the people in your family (and in your future spouse’s family). Do you really think that, just for one day, they could be perfect? From experience, let me tell you: the answer is no. They are all still the same people, just wearing fancy clothes and welled up with emotion. So, there’s even more margin for error than usual, because everyone’s emotions are up in the air.

The key is not to let anything ruin your special day.

So, the photographer shows up late, the decorative flowers show up as the bride is walking in, Uncle So-and-So had too much to drink and is now making a fool of himself, and somebody will say something that will make you wonder why you married into this family. Or why you were born into it. Or why you hang out with the people you do.

My husband and I…well, we got married relatively quickly, so we didn’t really have expectations. Until other people did and we realized our expectations were not their expectations. Then chaos ensued. But instead of focusing on what went wrong, we focused on the beautiful day that God gave us.

First and foremost, Lenny and I were dedicating our marriage to God. The church ceremony was beautiful, and (from what I could see) there wasn’t a dry eye in the room as emotion welled up throughout the sanctuary. I was marrying the man of my dreams. My husband was marrying the woman better than his dreams (his words, not mine!). It was an abnormally warm day, at sixty-five degrees in the beginning of November. Our venue was right on the water, so the pictures were beautiful and our guests enjoyed walking around outside. The food was delicious (whatever I was able to eat in my dress!), and I was able to see friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years. And, of course, I felt incredibly beautiful in my dress, and everyone who met me on the receiving line was quick to remind me of how beautiful I looked.

When I focused on what went right instead of what went wrong, whatever petty drama happened in the background stayed there. In the background.

I don’t tell you this to rain on your parade. I tell you this to prepare yourself for what is to come. If you’re imagining a day where nothing goes wrong, you’re imagining a day that doesn’t exist on this side of Heaven. There is a perfect wedding coming, but it won’t be in this lifetime, and it will be between the perfect Bridegroom (Jesus Christ), and His sanctified Bride (the Church). Until then, embrace the day that God has given you and enjoy it. All of your planning was not in vain. Now that it’s all done, take this one day to rest, breathe, and celebrate your union with the man (or woman) of your dreams!

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash


Divorce (in Friendships) is Not an Option

My husband and I have a rule: divorce is not an option. We don’t joke about it, we don’t have it in our back pocket as a last resort, we don’t use the word at all. This makes it, admittedly, challenging to live together, because I can’t walk away from him. I can’t move in with my parents when we have a fight. I can’t even sleep on the couch! Since we’ve decided there’s no way out of our marriage, we’ve had to turn in and deal with our problems instead of running from them.

I wonder what it would be like if we treated our friendships like that, too.

As I confessed last week, it is tempting for me to cut people off. I have agoraphobia, which is the fear of being stuck. Even if I know I’ll never leave, or that the situation won’t be harmful for me, I like to know that I have an option to leave if need be. To be honest, marriage was very scary for me in the beginning because I couldn’t try to escape. However, with friends, it’s easy to leave if I don’t want to deal with conflict. I simply don’t return their texts and stop making eye contact with them in social settings.

That is not the way that God intended us to have friendships.

In Romans 12:18, Paul writes: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The writer of Hebrews also echoes this thought: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (12:14). What if we took this admonishment from the Bible to the extreme? What if we acted like we were stuck in a room with our friends and we had to resolve our conflicts instead of run away from them? How honest would we be with each other? What would we say? What secret sins that we’re hiding would be exposed? You see, there is healing in confession, and there is healing in conflict resolution.

As a result of last week’s post, I had a few people ask me, “How do I know if I should cut someone off?” My answer to that is, do everything in your power to keep the peace between you and that person. If you want to cut someone off, at least talk to him/her first. Make it clear why you are unhappy with the friendship, and see if there is any way you could work it out together. We make fun of people who break up with their significant others over text or “ghost” their significant others, but we think it’s totally normal to do that to our friends. I would only cut off the friendship if A) the friend has made it very clear he/she wants to end the friendship (by saying “I want to end the friendship”), despite your efforts, or B) the friend has abusive behavior that makes you uncomfortable, such as inappropriate touching, pressure to abuse substances, codependency, etc.

If you feel like you’re being abused and you’re not sure whether to confront the person or run away, seek out wise counsel. Abuse is a tricky subject, because you can think someone looking at you funny is abuse, but you can also think someone beating you to a pulp is not abuse. That’s why I recommend seeking wise counsel as soon as possible.

If you bring another person into the situation, be careful to express your feelings and not gossip. It’s tempting to use that opportunity to talk badly about someone that has hurt you. If you are a friend that wants to help, listen empathetically and remain as neutral as possible.

Since I can’t run from my husband, I’ve grown in ways I would have never done so on my own. I’m learning how to lay down my pride, admit my mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and extend forgiveness. Whether you are married or single, you can apply this same principle to your friendships. Lean into the relationship instead of running away. Practice the tips we discussed last week about how to deal with conflict. Learn from the experience, and trust God to reveal to you where you need to grow. And of course, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with one another.

Photo by Melisa Popanicic on Unsplash


Did You Marry Your Best Friend?

I had the idea to write this blog, but I had no idea that this topic was so controversial!  I wanted to talk about how much I enjoyed spending time with my husband, and how I consider him my best friend.  But after doing some research, I see that society is torn about whether or not your husband is your best friend.

I’m starting to realize now a year into my marriage that I don’t know everything there is to know about marriage.  I feel like the teenager that knew everything but then realized that life is not what she thought!  So, although what I have been sharing with you all is valid, there is still much I need to learn, and much that I need to learn more before I can say I’ve mastered that topic.

One of those things, apparently, is marrying your best friend.

Now, the question is not should you marry your best friend.  The question is not should your husband be your only friend (I’ve already addressed that question in this post).  The question I am posing here is: Do you enjoy hanging out with your spouse?

I’ve learned that a spouse fulfills many roles. A spouse is a business partner as you manage your finances together and give each other work advice.  A spouse is a house manager as you work together to clean, repair, and organize your living space.  A spouse is an accountability partner as you vent and he/she gives you feedback about your experiences.  A spouse is a parent as you work together to figure out how to raise your kids.

As we grow into adults and have to take on more responsibilities, we see that God intended for our spouses to truly help us live our lives.  Studies show that middle aged people experience a “dip in happiness” due to the stresses of life, but spouses can help cushion that dip with love and support.  However, my warning is to not let your spouse just be your “responsibility sharer.”  What fun would you have if you only talked about paying the bills, Johnny’s trip to the principal’s office, and what to do about the crack in the ceiling?

Before I met my husband, I knew subconsciously that I wanted a man who would be all of these things for me.  Even in my teenage years, I was praying for God to bring me a man like this.  But when I actually met my husband, these things were not on my mind.  These were the actual questions running through my head: Can I talk to him without thinking too hard about what to say?  Does he make me laugh?  Do we enjoy doing similar things?  And, of course, we had great conversations, we laughed together, and we found things to do together that we both enjoyed.

Over time, after getting to know him better, I learned that he would be a great financial adviser; he is good with money and he works hard at whatever he does.  I learned that he would be a great house manager; he looks at our living situation in a way that I don’t and he helps strategize how to best take care of it.  I learned that he would be a great accountability partner; we both follow the word of God, and he is able to tell me the truth in love.  I learned that one day, he would make a great dad; I see how he interacts with children and I know that he will be a great role model for our boys and a gentle protector of our girls.

Don’t forget to enjoy your spouse in the midst of the day-to-day responsibilities.  Go on a journey with your spouse.  Schedule time for just the two of you to have fun and relax.  And remember why you fell in love in the first place.  Marital love is not a business transaction; it is a plant that needs to be cultivated and nurtured in order for it to grow strong and produce fruit in your life.

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash