Marriage and Friendship

This for all of you out there who are reading this in a feed reader.  What was published yesterday was a small portion of what it was intended to be, the rest was accidentally deleted.  Unfortunately, the part that got published was the part where I ranted a little bit and not my reasoning behind it, so I probably came off pretty ridiculous.  Especially when I didn’t even finish all my sentences!  So I sat down and just spent a LOT of time rewriting this… I realize it’s long, but if you read what came out yesterday, please read this to understand the rest of the story.  I’d love to keep the comment conversation going, but perhaps we should move it to this post.


Clay and I had an interesting conversation last night.  It was one we’ve had before, but the topic came up again because it’s such a part of our every day experience.  We talked about the ways in which men and women interact in friendships, specifically how we’ve experienced our own interactions with the opposite sex since being married.  I would say that my general experience (and Clay agrees that this has been his as well) has been that most men that we are friends with, especially those that are the husbands of my friends, don’t really see me.  They’re nice and friendly, and perhaps we’ll share a laugh or two, but there’s no real person-to-person connection.  It’s as though I’m just their wife’s friend, just somebody else’s wife, just somebody’s mom… I don’t feel taken seriously like a whole person.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re perfect nice and congenial, there’s no rudeness or disrespect.  It’s just that it is rare that I experience a conversation or a friendship with a male that seems to understand that I’m my own person with my own qualities, experiences, thoughts, and contributions apart from the fact that I am a wife and mom.  And Clay pretty much feels the same way, probably more so.

I don’t really think this is the fault of the people we’re relating to, I think it’s due to what we’ve grown-up hearing about how to love your spouse and protect your marriage.  Christians are all about protecting the marriage, and for good reason, it’s a very important subject to pay attention to and discuss with your spouse.  And trust me, I take very seriously the sanctity of our marriage and we both are highly aware of not putting ourselves in compromising situations or relationships.   But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the kinds of friendships that often involve the presence of our respective spouses, not even anything super close or serious, simply just the kind of relationship where the person is appreciated for who they are as an individual.  I’m not talking about the boundary lines of whether you should go eat lunch together, talk on the phone together, ride in a car together, etc…  That’s a whole other conversation, one that I’m not willing to address!  And I’m not even really interested in that, honestly.  I’d simply just like a little human-t0-human conversation where there’s a freedom to be curious about the other person, his background, his thoughts, his heart, and his dreams.  Where he’s not afraid to hold eye contact with me, whether it’s for fear of no common ground to talk about or of an affair suddenly popping up, I’m not sure.

I think in our zeal to affair-proof marriages, Christians (perhaps non-Christians, too, but I’ve experienced this mostly with Christians) end up ignoring half of the population.  I feel like we’ve been so indoctrinated about the dangers of having a close relationship with someone of the opposite gender while you’re married (the negativity of that concept is debatable) that we only see each other as potential affairs waiting to happen should we engage in a real friendship.  We don’t actually see each other. We’re so scared that passions will be aroused that I think we actually over-sexualize each other.

Because, the reality is, I don’t want to have an affair with your husband.  In fact, I’m probably not attracted to him.  I might even find him annoying.  But I could be friends with him, and it could be a real friendship alongside you and my husband.  In fact, you could be friends with Clay!  Really, I don’t mind!  In fact, what IF we could actually all four be friends together, as in group togetherness, not just girls in one corner and guys in the other.  As in, it’s ok if another woman has a two-person conversation with Clay about more than just our kids while I have a conversation on the other side of the room with her husband.  I think this type of relating should be normal.  In fact, it used to be before we were married, most of us had friends of the opposite sex, and I would guess most of those friendships were appropriate and healthy.  We’ll have to redefine what it looks like to be friends with someone of the opposite sex other than our spouse, but rather than this being seen as walking the line of adultery, I think it’s called normal, healthy human relating.   I believe that the intent of all of our indoctrination on how to affair-proof your marriage is wonderful; marriage is sacred and worth taking intentional steps to protect.  But the extent to which this is sometimes taken is, I believe, not how God intends for the Body of Christ to function.

Image of God

Men and women are created in the image of God, and we each reflect his attributes in a distinctively male and female way.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:27)

Each gender is a different type of Man, and Man was created in God’s image.  Male and female represent this image in distinct ways, and it is our togetherness that reflects the complete picture.  We were not designed to function apart from the opposite sex but to live in holy community together.  Marriage is a specific picture of oneness that unites male and female, yet our spouse is the not only relationship to reflect the image of God.  Man and woman were created to complement one another in all of our relationships, not just our marriage.  In all areas of life men and women bring something different to the table, and God created us to work together in our strengths and weaknesses to more fully reflect His glory.  We were created to need each other, and I believe that God designed men and women to complement one another in all of His purposes for mankind.  To reduce this needing of one another to reflect the image of God to marriage is to miss out on the strengths we can offer each other and the blessings that come when we work together as originally intended.

Ruth Barton says, Our attitudes and relationships will be transformed as we consciously remind ourselves, “This man (or woman) reflects the image of God to me.  She (or he) is a royal priest just as I am, and I need her (or him) to work alongside me to carry out my priestly responsibilities.”

Body of Christ

Gender conflict has always occurred, but the God-given design and potential of men and women working harmoniously together in community is part of what makes the Body of Christ so unique.   God has given each of us spiritual gifts and strengths, and He wants us to use them to build-up the Church and to advance His mission in the world.   Paul described the Body working together in all its individual parts, and though different, they only truly function well when they work together.  To avoid any type of relationship other than a surface-level congeniality with the other gender is to not work together with half of the Body.  It messes-up its function.  We were created for healthy relationships that exhibit true teamwork. Paul argues, “To each one is given the gift of the Spirit for the common good… The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’ “ (1 Cor. 12:7, 21)

In Christ, we relate to one another as family, brother and sister, and it is the presence of Jesus in us that transforms our relationships to the kind that reflect unity in Him.  In the Church, every man is my brother and I am his sister.  I think many affairs happen because we don’t take this seriously enough.  We don’t intentionally interact with an awareness of the presence of God in each other and the familial relationship that we share.  When a man relates to me simply on the basis of who I am as someone’s wife and someone’s mother, I being reduced to my roles and not acknowledged as a sister.  A sister is someone that you share your life with.  You don’t get romantic, you probably don’t touch a whole lot (unless you’re a super touchy-feely family, I guess!), and you don’t spend a lot of time gazing in each other’s eyes.  But you do speak honestly about your heart and your life.  You do spend time together amongst other family members, and you do acknowledge that this sister is different from your other sisters and brothers, she’s an individual, married or not, and worth getting to know based on her individual traits.  I think some of us have been indoctrinated to be so afraid of the opposite sex in case we accidentally have an affair that we’ve completely lost a real understanding of familial relationships in Christ.  And for this, we lose, we miss out.  We miss-out on knowing our brothers and sisters and everything they have to give.  We miss learning from them, laughing with them, and sharing with them.  We miss all of the blessings that God gives people who love each other with His love.

Unity

One of the hallmarks of the Church should be unity.  In John 17 Jesus prayed that we would become one heart and mind, and that we would be unified and together as he and the Father are.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean that this only applies as women relate with women and men relate with men.   The Church is made of relationships, and how people actually get to the point where they are “of one heart and mind” is by being in relationship, not sitting next to each other on Sunday morning.  Paul exhorts the people of the church to build-up one another, show each other love, and the nuts and bolts of how this actually happens is through relationship.

I think that the process of seeking a unity of the heart that goes across gender lines is scary because it we’re told that in order to avoid an affair, we have to hold our cards close and avoid any intimate sharing that could allow for emotional attachment.  While I believe it is extremely important to be vigilant in examining our hearts in our relationships with the opposite gender, Christian love necessitates that there be a certain level of honesty and depth in healthy relationships.  When we resort to keeping one another at arm’s length in order that we don’t fall into temptation, we’re acting from what is natural in us, not what is supernatural.  We’re focusing on our old nature and forgetting that we have a new one.  Although our intentions are pure, we’re rejecting what is good, what’s a gift from God.  We’re missing an opportunity to bring this relationship to God and let Him transform it.  We’re missing an opportunity to let God teach us how to have self-control and a heart that is open to His voice in our relationships.  We’re missing the chance to let God develop integrity in us as we relate to those of the opposite gender, turning what may initially be weird emotions into a holy respect.   Unity is not achieved when we all agree and think the same and are the same gender, it’s when we allow God to redeem our differences.  Holy unity among men and women doesn’t mean that there have never been any messy emotions or situations, it means that He has redeemed and transformed them into something beautiful.

In a post about lust in women, Jonalyn Fincher writes of her experience of transforming covetousness toward a man other than her husband into an opportunity to invite Jesus into her experience and allow Him to transform her heart.

I was lusting after that guy. I wanted him to notice me, and I wanted to let our eyes rest into each other and I wanted to distract him and I wanted to check him out a lot more. Why? well it wasn’t to tell him about Jesus.

Typically in situations like these, my first response is some serious reining in and self-talk. Something like, “Jonalyn, that’s wrong. God doesn’t want you to think of him like that, stop it right now.” You know the ol’ accountability line.

But, since I’ve been reading Letters by a Modern Mystic which has been teaching me to invite Jesus into everything, I steered around my blamey self talk and prayed instead, “Jesus, I invite you into my lust.”

And I went back to my conversation with my friend.

Then, in a flash, something changed, not about the man (he was still tempting to look at), but about my eyes. I felt like light had cracked open in the restaurant and I was seeing things clearly.

A lull in our conversation gave me a chance to lift my head and really look at that man across the restaurant. He was sitting with a man, perhaps his father, and a woman, presumably his wife. I felt his presence as a son, a brother, a father, a husband. The last one completely changed me.

I do not struggle with lusting after my family members, nor those who I clearly see in familial roles to me. I see them as friends, members of my family and therefore easily respect them. In that moment, after uttering a prayer, Jesus came into my lust and reformed my eyes to see the man as a human, made in God’s image.

My desire for him as an object to possess melted and I saw him as someone worthy of my respect. I know I could have bumped into him later and not been afraid to look at him.

So, all that said… I really don’t want to be best friends with your husband, or any other man.  I have no ambitions toward that.  I’m not even arguing that we should have close friends of opposite gender other than our spouse.  That is a valuable discussion, but I’m so not even going there.  What I’m after?  I’m after men and women relating like normal, adult human beings.  Acknowledging that God works in all situations, and we are not endangering our marriage when we have a conversation that’s more than a passing “hello” with a person of the opposite gender.

I actually wrote this because I’ve had a few good interactions with men lately, not because I’ve had bad ones.  I’ve had several conversations that somehow felt different from what I’m used to.  Not because of the content of them, but rather because I felt like I was honored as a human, someone who bears of the image of God and has something worthwhile to say.  They men weren’t paying any special attention to me, it wasn’t an intense conversation, we weren’t gazing into each other’s eyes, they weren’t trying to uncover the depths of my soul, I don’t even really know them super well.  Maybe it was just the fact that I was included in the conversation as an equal, I wasn’t patronized with awkwardness, I was treated as though I was just a normal person.  And there was something that was very life-giving about that.  It wasn’t about me needing something from them, rather I think it’s about the fact that that kind of normal, honest relating with all sorts of different types of people is what our souls were designed for.  We were meant to be in relationship with people of both genders, and when we’re not, something is missing.  I think I simply noticed that something that had been missing lately, and when it was given to me, it felt holy and good.

Several previous friendships with men come to my mind as being blessings from God.  Some were before I was married, some were after.  Sometimes the men were married, sometimes they weren’t.  These relationships occurred in the context of community, had distinct boundaries, and I believe were honoring to God.  Somehow they helped to round-out the overwhelmingly female influence in my life, and there have been times when a distinctively male input made a difference.  There have been times when God has used men to discern His voice for me, to show me His heart, and I don’t know if I would have received it in the same way had they been female due to His unique imprint of His image on a man’s soul.

So, what about Clay?  Shouldn’t he be my everything, the only man I’ll ever need?  Why would I need male input on my life aside from him?  Well, I’ll just say that I don’t believe Clay is a god-like representative of all of the male population.  I don’t believe that marriage is intended to be the only friendship with a man I’ll ever have in my life.  I’m not out scoping for a new guy best friend, far from it, but I think Clay would be cool if somewhere along the way I connected with a guy and every once in awhile we’d stop in the hallway at church to have a conversation.  In fact, Clay has always been the type of guy who relates well with girls, long before I met him.  And reality is, I’m not The Perfect Girl.  I’m perfect to be his wife and his companion in life, but I don’t fill his needs for friendship in all areas of his life, and I’m ok with that, I don’t think I was ever meant to.

And now…. I’m done.  Wow, I wrote way too much on this and now it’s late and I’m tired.  So, no clever conclusion paragraph.  Just….

The End.

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23 responses to “Marriage and Friendship

  1. Emily, I absolutely agree with you! As an unmarried friend I find it very difficult to have a real friendship with both the husband and wife without some invisible line being crossed without my knowledge or intention! I’m with you, I don’t want to have an affair with your husband or even be best friends with him! But I also don’t want scathing glances when I’m talking to him and he laughs at something I say! I’m not trying to lure him in, seriously! Great insight, Emily

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  2. Oh I think we need to be very careful around potentially slippery slopes. I don’t think most people plan to have an affair but it does end up happening way too often in every circle. Jesus said to not lust after another man’s wife or you commit adultery in your heart. Well for women adultery is not often in our eyes or in the physical but the emotional. When we find an unfulfilled emotional connection with another man who is not with our husband it opens up a foothold.

    Also, even if it is not a temptation for one person you never know the weaknesses or struggles others might have that you are causing. Similarly if a woman’s love language is time spent with and her husband is spending time/energy with another women even for the seemingly right reasons, jealousy can creep in and affect many areas in a marriage.

    I think it is important to know our friends spouses and be involved in each others lives but I don’t think close connections or meeting a friendship need that the wife can not is appropriate.

    I’m thankful for the accountability that both Wayne and I have built into our lives, men an women who care about us, our marriage and making sure we are always thinking correctly about our actions and relationships.

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  3. I commented on your initial post – but thought I’d respond again since you added so many thoughts here.
    I agree with a lot of what you had to say in this post about being made uniquely in the image of God, about unity in the body of Christ, etc. I still take issue with a few things though because I believe so strongly that our marriages are not just “worth” protecting (they so are) but in NEED of protecting. In fact, I could care less if I “over-protect” my marriage – I don’t think you can go to far here. EVEN IF I agreed that I would truly benefit from a deeper relationship with some of my friends husbands, or unmarried male cohorts – whatever I would gain from that is not worth ANY detriment to my marriage (or theirs).
    Men and women are wired differently – it’s part of our uniqueness! In looking at data on why women cheat, you quickly see that it’s all about the emotional connection! Here is a quick excerpt on “Why Women Cheat” from InfidelityFacts.com’
    “Statistically, women don’t cheat for the sake of sex. It’s of secondary concern for them. The #1 reason why they cheat is for an emotional connection. And this is particularly true of women over the age of 30.
    In more than a few instances, women won’t even cheat physically. They will carry on emotional affairs…where they’ll fall in love and experience emotional intimacy with a men, while never taking it to the physical level. It’s these type of affairs that can continue on for years, without ever being detected, and often leaving a wake of destruction in their path.
    Studies have found that in long-term relationships, women, whether they work outside of the house or not, often find themselves “shut out” emotionally. Over 70% of women are still the primary caregivers for their children while also being the cook and the maid…whether or not they have a full or part-time job. This leaves them precious little time for themselves to foster a woman’s natural urge to grow emotionally. An urge typical ignored by men whose primary interest is physical contact.
    Thus the longing for a man who can “see who they really are” begins. And in the weeks, months or even years that follow, they will usually find such a man – or think they’ve found one. An interesting point to takeaway of this female need for an “emotional bond” : affairs initiated by women generally last 3 times long than those initiated by men.”
    My husband and I talked about this last night and he made another interesting point. Men are visual (we know this). As women, we are to be modest in our presentation so as not to lead our brothers into temptation. We know this too. But Ryan made the point that men need to take measures in protecting their sister’s in Christ as well. Christian men need to realize and understand that women are attracted by an emotional connection and keep this front of mind in their interactions with women. I thought that was a really good point.
    BUT if a man is protecting his sister in this way it surely puts a damper on how “deep” men and women can really go in relationships outside of marriage. AND IT SHOULD.
    Ryan and I have some very close friendships with other couples. I thoroughly enjoy sitting around a table, with my husband, and connecting with another couple through great conversation! What a bonus if it’s a night out without the kiddos and we can actually finish our sentences! We all have something to contribute to these conversations and we all are valued. But that doesn’t mean that I want my husband going out for coffee with the other wife the next day to further explore whatever great topic we had discussed…. I want that level of intimacy (and it is intimacy) reserved for me! My husband wants to be above reproach and not look like he is engaging in a relation ship he isn’t (to whomever might see), and not lead the lady down a path of temptation.
    When we start to think we are above falling into temptation – that’s probably when we are the most vulnerable in fact! We are sinners… we live in a fallen world… we all are susceptible to sin…
    And truly, what is our motivation? Why do we pursue these relationships? Is it for validation of our person, our soul, our capabilities, etc? Then we need to seek Christ first for this… then our spouse, and not go looking for it in a potentially dangerous place. Is it for community? Then we need to seek this out, together with our spouses, in healthy and holy ways. Is it because our spouse isn’t meeting a need in our life? Then we need to take that up with God and spouse. Is it because we feel “shut-out” emotionally as the above article references – we are the caregiver, cook and maid and aren’t being fulfilled? Then we are to go to God for help and then to our spouse and respectfully and lovingly bring these needs and desires before him…
    I know I’ve written a lot…. Clearly I am passionate about this!

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  4. Fascinating post! I completely agree with you in that when Kyoung becomes friends with some of my guy friends, it really enriches all of our relationships, and makes hanging out with those friends a lot more fun than with other guy friends that don’t “see” her as anything more than my wife. I don’t necessarily think that the protection of sanctity of marriage is reserved for Christians, most of Kyoung’s close friends are Korean, and it isn’t culturally appropriate for me to grow close with her girl friends.

    I’d say there are exceptions though. From the man’s standpoint, there are men out there with a history of cheating on their spouse/girlfriends and a history of breaking up relationships that I wouldn’t want my wife interacting with. Secondly, there are men who want to be friends with another married woman, but don’t want to have anything to do with the husband, another huge red flag.

    But it more sounds like your saying that people intentionally treat a person of the opposite sex as an extension of another person to keep the sanctity of their marriage, which is not exactly right. If we don’t have enough communication and trust in our intimate relationships to live like civil human beings to other people, maybe we have some distorted views of marriage we need to work out with our partner.

    I also think that it is our spouse that needs to encourage our wife or husband to open up to someone of the opposite gender. That, then defines/opens the boundaries of our relationships with others.

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  5. Wow. It’s so intense how passionately we all feel about this. Sounds like a really important topic for us to continue in dialogue about.

    Again, I’m SO happy you’re posting these thoughts. The “sin & gender” entry that I posted on my blog this week is just 1 of many examples of how our fear of opposite-sex relationships hurts us and prevents us from really being the body of Christ.

    “We’re so scared that passions will be aroused that I think we actually over-sexualize each other.” Yes, indeed!

    Also, in terms of attraction and arousal (which is inevitable regardless of what kinds of boundaries we draw), I think that can be a GIFT. In our best moments, my husband and I have been able to listen (within ourselves and to each other) to the ways in which we’re attracted to others and realize that those things often represent something good and beautiful that’s missing in our relationship. Our attraction to others is a gift to be able to see what more of God’s kingdom that we desire in our hearts and OUR relationship! It’s not exactly easy to have those kinds of conversations, but what a freeing experience that opens to the door to immense growth and intimacy between us!

    The problem isn’t arousal or attraction. God gave us those desires! The problem is secrets.

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  6. jennifer nance

    A quick thought on Laurie’s post…I think we need to work harder to love exactly who God created our spouse to be, not necessarily let them know what we find attractive in someone else and hope that they can become more like that person. I think affirming what our spouse gives daily is important! If there is something we feel that we need that we aren’t getting, that can be an area of working together to come up with a solution, but I don’t think comparing to someone else is ever loving….I think it follows a little bit from another comment that sometime pursuing relationships with other men results in pointing out our own spouses weaknesses that weren’t a problem before. Almost continuing the process of measuring them up against others that we probably all did in the dating process before feeling confident that he is the exact spouse that God provided for our specific needs!
    Not sure if that is what you were talking about, but just how I read it!

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    • Thank you for your thoughts on that and the obvious kindness in your response! I totally see how my words can be heard that way, and I think that is a way that we can unfortunately use those feelings.

      What I’m trying to say is that none of our marriages are perfect and that sometimes we’re drawn to others because some of the very valid needs that we’d like our spouses to meet are being met by others. It’s not that we should then demand that our spouses change or resent them for not being like so-and-so. It’s just an opportunity to realize and hopefully begin to understand more deeply what’s going on within ourselves and our marriages. Not sure if that clears it up at all. It kinda makes my head spin trying to find the words to express what I’m meaning.

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  7. I think that some are misinterpreting what Emily is saying. The I don’t think that she is going as far as saying that Clay and I should go out for coffee or even take our kids on a solo play date. The way I interpret it is that it would be great at social gatherings instead of women being in the kitchen and men all gathered around the TV that maybe we could occasionally have a conversation about something other than our kids or that after church I could actually talk to him about the sermon or in a small group setting maybe we could all get comfortable enough (men and women) to be real with each other and actually pray for one another and their struggles.

    Obviously there is a line and everyone has to draw it somewhere I for one am not going to start wearing a berka and stop talking to men completely and I don’t think that our couple gatherings have to be so segregated either, but I’m not going to start inviting men to go on coffee dates either.

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    • Emily, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. Somehow it took me 3000 words to say it and I don’t think I communicated it as effectively as you just did. Maybe I should hire you as my ghost writer. =) Girls, seriously, that’s all I’m trying to say. I’m not suggesting we all start going on coffee dates with each other’s husbands, I’m not saying that we should be trying to establish close one-on-one relationships with other guys, I’m not saying that at all. Kate, you had a situation in your comment where you mentioned having a good conversation with another couple but then not continuing that conversation with just you and the husband at a coffee shop later. I completely agree! All I’m saying is that I think when it is that foursome conversation, “deep” doesn’t necessarily mean emotional. And it doesn’t even have to be deep, I just want it to be real. I think there’s a way of sharing your lives with others, both genders, that is wholly respectful of each others’ marriage and doesn’t lead to a blurring of boundaries. Well, I know because I feel like I’ve definitely lived that with friends.
      I guess to clarify, here’s my main points:
      1. I wish that we could be intentional about interacting with the other gender in a way that acknowledges that we are individuals… that although I’ve become a wife and mom in the past few years, I’m still the “me” I was before I met Clay. It’s that “me” that I don’t feel like gets a lot of interaction with members of the opposite sex.
      2. I wish that we could be more intentional about couples interacting together in one big jumbled-up group instead, like Emily said, girls in the kitchen and guys watching football. There are so many ways that we are conditioned to this kind of social interaction, and it’s comfortable. But I think because of what I wrote about being the Church, we should take intentional steps to simply interact like friends. Nothing special. Just kinda the way you’d have a casual but fun conversation with a co-worker of the opposite gender. No big deal.
      3. I highly value mixed-gender groups within the church, whether that be serving alongside one another in a ministry role, a Bible study, or a social group. I think it’s worthwhile to pray, share our lives, learn, and grow together because God designed us to do these things with men and women together. Of course there is still something special about girls being with girls and guys being with guys, and the conversation often goes to places it couldn’t otherwise, and I think that’s great. I just don’t think that’s all we were meant to experience.
      That’s pretty much it. I think fear is different from caution when it comes to protecting our marriage. I’m very cautious about the protective boundaries of my marriage, but I’m not creating those boundaries from fear, if that makes sense.

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  8. jennifer nance

    I hope that this blog post was meant to be commented on, discussed, and thought about….I certainly have had it on my mind the past couple of days and am enjoying examining my own thoughts and beliefs and why I think the way that I do on this topic! I have had a few random thoughts on it today that I thought I would put out there 🙂
    I’m not sure that I have ever had the experience of feeling like a man hasn’t seen me as a whole person, so I guess my responses are based on interactions with men, whether they are a friend’s spouse or a co-worker, that have been so-called “normal”.
    My thought today was that God made men to work and be productive through work. I think one of the first questions that men ask when they meet another man is “What do you do?” It is a huge part of their identity. That might be why, initially, a man will see a “mom” as a “mom” and relate to her initially on that topic/subject. I think with further conversation other things can be discovered about that individual that might not come up initially. If stay-at-home-mom is our current role and “job” than it makes sense that someone would ask us questions about that job! One of my close friends is a lawyer, and I’ve heard Joe ask her questions regarding law several times and they have had great conversations in that area.
    My other random thought is that we probably are discussing slightly different interpretations of what Emily originally blogged because we each approach what was written with different experiences and ideas (and also without direct dialog it is almost impossible to clear up misinterpretations!!)

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  9. perhaps you should give this post your “HOT TOPIC” label warning!! I understand what you are saying, and feel like maybe I have avoided this by #1, the type of Church we are a part of–where ALL have to interact regardless of age/gender/etc and where the unique and highly significant roles of women in the Church past and present are honored and venerated; #2 b/c my husband works with all women all the time and realizes different levels of friendship and never crosses boundaries; and #3 b/c of the amount of male family members I have in very close proximity!! I get pretty sick of being around guys, actually!
    So, i think you did get a bit wordy and confuse some of your readers, obviously. How you have room for all those words in your brain will always be a mystery to me. No wonder you have been up “clickety-clackin” late into the night for SO MANY YEARS now!! haha.

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  10. Emily…. defintely a “Hot Topic” label post! It’s interesting to read everyone’s comments… I guess this is a subject we all have strong feelings around – which is great!

    Reading your most recent comments I see that we really are more in line with our thinking that we (or I) originally thought! I think you assumed we all started at the same foundational place (with boundaries to protect our marriages) and were continuing a conversation from there about what opposite sex relationships look like (or should look like) in the Christian community. I thought the boundary thing was the biggest issue – and now I see we are closer in our viewpoints on this subject than I originally assumed. 🙂 Thanks for clarifying –

    I have to say though… this was fun for me! I like reading something I don’t necessarily agree with and figuring out why I don’t, what biblical reasoning there is on either side of the issues – and then trying to articulate it all in a way others can understand and respond to!

    What will your next “hot topic” be I wonder??

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  11. I agree, Emily. I think we should grow relationally in the context of group coed situations. I agree with the comment that the problem is with secrets.

    The fact is that you cannot have the exact same kinds of relationships married that you had when you were single. You can and should have relationships with others, both genders, but they must be different and with proper boundaries. I think that the worst offenders are unmarried women who think that they can continue relationships with their guy friends who get married in the same manner as before.

    In heaven, in a perfect world without sin, we don’t have to worry about affairs and divorce. It’s sad that broken marriages abound in society today. But they do, and we must put on the armor of God and ask His protection on our marriages against attacks from Satan.

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  12. just wanted to say, that i used to agree with everything you said…until my husband had an affair with a co-worker….
    so for me and my new husband (his first wife had an affair as well), friendships of the opposite sex are out of the question – not worth the risk. doesn’t mean we are friendly and cordial, but it ends there.
    just my opinion though.
    i thought people like me were crazy and paranoid until i experienced the devastation of infedelity. you never know when someone (even yourself) may be vulnerable and when someone may cross a line.
    but to each his own.

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  13. I’m so with you! I also really believe that this set-up enhances the capability for affairs. Why? The man or woman is aware that their spouse does not embody ALL things that interest them about other persons and ALL things that intrigue them about the opposite gender. But instead of being able to pursue a reasonable interaction w/ others who will introduce a fuller, wider fellowship, that other becomes like the apple in the garden–dangerous and illicit. And so a very valid need for fellowship that we were made for has become “the temptation” instead of something we might be able to healthily engage in a way that doesn’t titillate us with the aura of illicit desires. Thanks.

    Someone recently pointed me to the following which is on topic and looks interesting:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0982580703/ref=ord_cart_shr?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

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  14. p.s.–We need to be careful about our emotional and intellectual ties, however. We can’t be attaching to others for a sort of fulfilment to cover a dissatisfaction. That is all the more time to focus in on the marriage relationship! Yet the spouse is not supposed to be our end all and be all. Nor are we meant to ferret away with them and to stop being a life giving community to other communities (families, singles, etc.) Moreover, we can learn to love and appreciate them even more as we connect with their circles as real people and connect with others of the opposite gender and see the various things that make ones click. We can even help them to love their friends better. And I believe we can have purpose-filled friendships w/ the opposite sex in their own right (all w/ boundaries and care and reassessment and sensitivity to any discomfort that the spouse might have).

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    • I really like the way you said this… you put well something I was thinking, that I think the danger of affairs has the potential to increase when “a very valid need for fellowship that we were made for has become “the temptation” instead of something we might be able to healthily engage in a way that doesn’t titillate us with the aura of illicit desires.” I think it’s almost like if we don’t put ourselves in situations to learn how to deal with the opposite gender in a healthy way, we won’t learn how to relate to them in any other way than seeing them through a “temptation lens.” We never get the opportunity to learn who they are as a brother. Anytime we have relationships with other people there are going to be messy feelings involved, whether it be attraction or anger or jealousy, etc… In the same way that we should take these other feelings to the Lord, I think we should do that with any messy feelings that might come-up in opposite-sex friendships and invite Him into our experience and open our hearts for transformation. Of course the ramifications of such feelings have the potential to be much more devastating than an argument with a girlfriend, but I’m just as confident that God can use a temporary attraction to a male friend as a step of growth in my marriage and maybe even in that friendship in the same way. I do think that maintaining transparency with your spouse and an open heart to God within these relationships is the key.
      Thanks for your comments, I hope to hear more from you in the future! =)

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  15. Thanks, Emily. I just breezed in here quickly last night, but it was a great stumble-upon. 🙂 I’ll try to return.

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  16. So for starters, thanks for posting on this! It’s been a bit more than a week since i first read it, and I’ve been trying to decide if I’d comment…or just enjoy from a distance and let Katie know how cool I think you are! I agree with so much of what you posted, and especially agree with Laurie’s comment “The problem isn’t arousal or attraction. It’s secrets.” If the Enemy can keep us silent and ashamed then he’s won most of the battle. When we bring things to the Light, the darkness flees.
    As Matthew and I have talked about this issue, we agree that the Christian community often portrays a pretty broken picture to the world of how God designed men and women to relate. When we build walls (rather than live with healthy boundaries) we communicate that the opposite sex is dangerous… not to be trusted. Is that what God intended when He created us? Is that how brothers and sisters relate to each other? Is that what we want the world to know about our God, His reign and His family? I know we live in the reality of the Fall – in the now but not yet of eternity. But I want my life to reflect the reality of a risen Savior who is capable of helping me when temptations arise, who brings Light to Darkness, and who knew what He was doing when He made men and women with all our differences. I want to live in such a way that my brothers and sisters, as well as a watching world, will be attracted to Jesus for what they see in the Body….men and women healthily relating to one another…..not just bed hopping or building walls out of fear.
    I have a million more thoughts on the matter, and I have two kids who wake up earlier than I like to most days. So I’ll end here. Thanks again for this post!

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  17. So I just now stumbled across this: http://theooze.tv/thinkfwd/dan-brennan-friendships-between-men-and-women
    Apparently this guy just wrote a whole book on this topic, and I wish I would have read it before I wrote this whole thing! =) There’s a video interview with him on this page, and it gives a little insight to his perspective on cross-gender friendships.

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    • I just got that book from my library and am reading it. It is excellent so far (though I’m only into the first few pages)! I’d definitely suggest checking it out for yourself because the author, Dan Brennan, seems to have thoroughly studied this subject in light of scripture.
      🙂

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  18. Emily, that was the book I linked to above. I’ve not read it or seen the interview myself (am trying to get my computer to let me view it). Thanks!

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  19. Emily….I just came upon this after reading the post you linked on FB.

    I’m glad you found that book on male-female friendship – I was going to recommend it if you hadnt. It’s written by a very close friend of mine and parts of our story are in the book. I dont have identical opionions to what he writes about in the book, but I have read it and think it’s really worth considering.

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