Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just Friends

It's finally time for me to weigh in on a topic that hasn't been beaten far enough into the ground (as evidenced by the fact that I have yet to post on it).  After today, you may officially kill it.  I'm actually pretty good at killing a conversation, so I'll even take the heat for it.

Can guys and girls be just friends?  Sharideth Smith explored this before, and the primary conclusion came up that there have to be boundaries.  I agree.  But there's more to it than that.  If it were just about boundaries, I would have had no problem making friends, as some of my other guy friends are prone to do.  One particular boundary that needs to be established is the wall of "we're not dating on purpose."  And if you have that, things will go better

One problem we tend to come across with "just friends" is the potential for attraction between the two in spite of the wall.  Someone once told me you won't be friends with a member of the opposite sex unless they're someone you'd like to date.  I can see that being true.  For one, some guys won't start up a friendship unless they want it to turn into something more.  I've been there.  But more importantly, it won't be a true friendship unless you have something in common.  The place where I think a lot of relationships (and worse, a lot of marriages) fail is that they may be lovers, but they're not friends.  Your spouse should be your best friend on earth, second only to Jesus.

I speak from experience here.  After my XF dumped me, she found it hard to understand why I didn't still want to be friends.  Aside from the obvious reason of "Hello, you dumped me!" there was the fact that...we weren't really that good of friends when we were together.  What held our relationship together?  I determined it was three things:
  1. There were things about her that attracted me, but they were very surface-level.
  2. I found her physically attractive and acted on that attraction a lot, but when that ended we didn't have much to talk about (i.e. she talked a lot, but not that much that I found interesting)
  3. I had committed myself to the idea of marrying her before i ever asked her out.  I'm not really so mad about this, because I didn't just start dating anyone I felt like, I was very intentional.  She was my first relationship in eight years, my first real adult relationship.  And I wanted the commitment to come first.
When it was over, I wanted nothing to do with her, and it wasn't completely based on the fact that she dumped me.  I had nothing to go back to.  I've got friends who've been able to maintain friendships with exes, but I couldn't do it.  Only this past week did I realize it was because we weren't friends before, except what served my interest in starting a relationship.

My argument had been that I don't have any other female friends, so why should i treat her any differently?  Now, it's like I'm incapable of having a normal conversation with a female or that I'm a member of the He-Man Woman Haters Club (my dues have lapsed), but I saw no interest in starting up a friendship if it wasn't leading to marriage.  Part of me was I didn't want to open myself up, especially not to let myself be vulnerable.  Part of that was someone did some shady deals behind my back in the immediate aftermath of the breakup, and as a result I was left not trusting a lot of women.

Looking at it objectively, i.e. disregarding the breakup, I've just never had a whole lot of female friends.  There were times when I've had more than others, but I'm guilty of being friends with a girl so I'll feel like I still have someone who likes me.  I get stuck in the friend zone.  I don't open up to a whole lot of chicks, but that's also because not a whole lot of them open up to me.  I build my friendships on trust, and if someone can't be open with me, I have a hard time trusting them, hence I can't be too open with them.  It's not like I'm living in a monastery, just not a place where a whole lot of women go.  That's been the case for a long time.  But i know how to find true friends:

"A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." -- Proverbs 17:17

and again elsewhere,

"Iron sharpetneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." -- Proverbs 27:17.

It may just be that I'm not interesting enough, and that's fine.  I also build my friendships on the ability to hold a conversation, which requires some level of interest in the other person and what they're saying.  If I can't talk with you (not me to you or you talking to me the vast majority of the time), I'm not going to open up to you.  I've learned who I can and cannot trust, and I'm sure I'll make some more mistakes throughout the rest of my life, but I've finally reached the point where if I find the right type of people, I can handle being just friends.


  1. You don't kill a conversation.

    I agree. Boundaries are key. This is proven by the fact that I've found it so much easier to have and maintain casual friendships with "wordly" guys, whether at school or work. We both know that because of opposing lifestyles we're never going to be compatible. That fact establishes boundaries that don't have to be spoken.

    Navigating opposite sex friendships in the "Christian world" is a bit more complicated.

  2. you just haven't been around when I've killed a conversation.

    And you've either got one too few or one too many L's up it "worldly" or "wordy"? ;)

  3. worldly. Wow. I just did it again. But I paid attention to my spell check this time.

    And I know. "It happens." ;)

  4. Yeah, tough topic. Guy-girl friendships open themselves up to a lot of misunderstandings. I think, like in everything, communication is key. But even then, things can still get messy despite the best of intentions. I think they can be worth it, but you have to know the level of risk you are willing to take.