Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Can men and women just be friends? Seems like the age old debate, but as I get older I’ve come around a little on this one. I used to think it was pretty much impossible but now (with obvious guidelines) I think it can happen. In fact I think it’s important when it comes to creating the Biblical community God has called us to.

I read an interesting article HERE the other day where Dan Brennan brought up some great points.

Friendship between men and women. Is it possible without the sex part getting in the way? For many, sex is the one reason why men and women should steer clear of intimacy in friendship, and for years that was what I was taught in the church. But what would our marriages, our churches, and our communities look like if men and women were not afraid of connecting with each other in deep ways? As I have studied both the Scriptures and the history of friendship between men and women in the church, I have become convinced that there are compelling arguments for reconsidering male-female friendship within Christian communities.

I know as well as any other the dangers that can occur when men and women engage in friendships. However, I love the way Dan addressed this saying…

While sin and brokenness have impacted our sexuality as much as any other part of us, we are not called to merely manage the old order, but to walk with bold humility into the Kingdom of God. Jesus did not come merely to end violence, sexism, oppression, and lust. He came to usher us into a new world, a new way of life and love, and a new embodied communion with each other in marriage, in friendship, and community.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Do you think men and women can just be friends?

Do you think this really matters when it comes to Biblical community?

Do the think it’s worth the risk?

105 Responses to “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

  1. rhonda says:

    I’m an engineer and have worked around primarily men most of my life. So, yes. I think men and women can be friends.

    That being said…I have always been very clear about about the fact that I am a christian, devoted to my husband, and unspokenly set “boundaries” if you will…My husband was always aware of who my work friends were, and I would never consider my male friendships in the same light (going to dinner in the evenings or to a movie, etc) like I do my female friends. But have I prayed for them, discussed family/kids/health/work issues like I do female friends? Sure. Aren’t we as brothers and sisters in christ supposed to do that? Different boundaries, but then I have different levels of divulging information with my female friends too…

    • Amy says:

      I could type out a response, but it’s easier just to ditto what Rhonda said. The boundaries definitely need to be set.

    • Glenda says:

      Ditto on what Rhonda said. Boundaries are extremely necessary. That being said, there have been times when God showed me something that my husband didn’t see, and it affected someone who was a friend to both of us. It’s imperative that God is at the center of every friendship-this helps all remain above-board with appearance, emotions, etc.

  2. Jessica says:

    Yes. I think we can just be friends.
    It would be great if we could learn to interact together in a manner of mutual love that didn’t raise eyebrows and suspicion. It would be great if we could learn to set good physical and emotional boundaries so there wasn’t a reason for eyebrows to be raised.

    I think the benefit for community could be immense in that our friendships would not be so sex segregated. We have a lot to learn from each other that is limited when we live consumed by fear.

    It’s worth the risk, but is anyone brave enough to try? All I have seen is too much flirtation and boundaries being crossed, and on the rare occasion genuine comraderie without a hint of weirdness.
    I think it can be done, but perhaps we live in too much fear to try.

  3. Lulu says:

    I think rhonda was right…its about setting the boundaries and not putting yourself in a situation where questions could be asked (going out for dinner etc) Its not just the men/women involved in the friendship either – its the witness of your life and choices to your other workmates and other people in your church.

  4. Mercedes says:

    Hi Pete,

    I wish I could say that men and women can have close friendships without the lust/sex/physical attraction element getting in the way, but I am afraid it is not as straightforward as that.

    This type of friendships are used by the enemy time and time again to destroy marriages, ministries and ultimately whole church communities. I have seen it in the flesh. I have been prey to it and still today continue to daily fight off feelings of attraction towards men in and outside ministry, if I am honest. I am happily married with two kids but I am also human and have senses I have to fight each day.

    The way these things tend to go is that what starts as a totally innocent bit of friendship develops into something much deeper and it is often way too late by the time one realises. And I am not talking about having sex with that person. You can simply fantasize about being with them “romantically” and you have already gone way too far. A man or a woman would have to be either blind or extremely arrogant to believe that just because they are a Christian leader or in ministry they are not vulnerable to these temptations. It happens all the time, and like I said this is an area where the devil hits hard because He knows much carnage and destruction will result from it.

    With regards to your second question, God’s ways are so much higher than ours, and He will provide community in ways we cannot even see coming. Biblical community can still take place without us taking the risk of putting ourselves in delicate situations. Like I said, it may all be perfectly harmless on the first few encounters, but our circumstances and our feelings change and we are imperfect, so we fall.

    Finally, what I just said answers question number 3 too, because avoiding those relationships in my opinion will not stop God from creating and growing community in other ways and avenues.

    This is a pillar subject in The Church and one that if handled correctly will make a massive difference to the kingdom.

    God bless you

  5. Jim F. says:

    I think that Men/Women can not have a deep friendship but a surface one is alright – but a deep friendship is dangerous especially with married men/women.

    I think when we talk about the community aspect I think the Bible tells us that the Older women should teach the young in Titus 2 for a reason. I have seen a two families ruined, a church and a number of other people hurt deeply because a man and a woman were “just friends”. They began by just connecting on a spiritual level and though nothing might not have ever happened physically then began relying on each others to meet the needs connection wise that their spouses which ended in a relationship that has split two families apart.

    I do not think it is worth the risk at all.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      What about Jesus relationship with Mary and Martha? Now I know he’s Jesus but I’m wondering how that might play into this discussion.

      • Jim F. says:

        As a pastor there are women that I minister to and that I connect with in a Christian community way – just as I see Jesus did with Mary and Martha. I would call myself their friend but I do not put myself in a place of deep community connection with these women and this is where I rely on my wife to do that.

        As I see it there were/are many things Jesus could do/does that I cannot. I cannot turn water into wine or walk on water and maybe I cannot be connected to a woman without our gender being an issue but Jesus certainly could. I think that is why my wife is one of the greatest tools in ministry that God has blessed me with :) .

        Good follow-up question and these were my two cents on it.

      • Jason says:

        he was friends with Mary and Martha…and Lazarus. He was close to this family. However it wasn’t Mary and Martha with him in the Garden or on a boat or upper room or at the Transfiguration.

        It is ok to have female friends…but in my opinion…men need men speaking most in their lives and women need women. If you tear down too many walls between I think you leave yourself open to attack.

        • Jennifer says:

          Though Jesus was alone with Mary – in a garden, a biblical symbol with lots of depth of meaning. She was the first one he revealed himself to after the resurrection.

      • J W says:

        I know of a marriage that was almost destroyed by a “friend”. Before witnessing this, I would have seen less danger in these relationships. The one thing that happened in that situation, the woman became friends with the husband & not the wife. A definite “NO-NO”, in my opinion. When someone becomes friends with someone of opposite sex, and either are married, they inevitably will begin to find qualities in their friend that is lacking in their spouse. Satans foothold.

  6. Johnathon says:

    1. Yes, we CAN be friends…

    2. We have to be mindful of these risks in community.

    3…but no, I honestly don’t think it’s worth the risk.

    PS – Just wanted to say…I think it’s COOL you were in a Taylor Swift video :) I heard in your podcast how many crusaders were e-mailing you about it…and I know you weren’t looking for sympathy, but I just thought I’d give my thumbs up!

    • Shari says:

      Ditto everything Johnathon said… about
      Yes, it is possible, but definitely not worth the risk… and also about the video!

  7. Amy Nabors says:

    Yes. I think men and women can have friendships as long as like you said there are obvious guidelines. Over the past several months God has given my husband and I a friend who has become very much like a brother to me. We have amazing conversations about God and our spiritual walks. Of course there are boundaries. As I have prayed for this friend as he has struggled to find the direction God has been leading him, God has changed me and made me very aware of His presence. So yes, I believe friendships between men and women can exist without the whole sex element. Do you have to be vigilant? Of course. But you might be missing out on some of the greatest things God cant each you.

  8. katdish says:

    Yes, I do. Some of my best friends are men. There are just certain boundaries you don’t cross. As long as you’re mindful of that, you open your world to a whole new perspective and understanding.

  9. Thanks for addressing this small subject … I’m sure your post and the comments will help everyone easily resolve this matter in a day or two ;)

    That’s not going to happen, so double thanks for addressing this important, explosive issue.

    I think it’s possible. Yes, some boundaries have to be set,,, just like everything in life, because humans are great at taking things too far.
    I’ve appreciated the views of SynergyToday.org on this topic.

  10. dan says:

    Yes, I think it is very possible to for a man & a woman to have deep meaningful friendship, even if they’re married. But like with everything else we need to be mindful of a few things…
    -our intentions
    -our spouse’s feelings on the issue
    -the boundaries that have been set in place (i.e. meeting in public places, limited touching, etc.)

    In answering the 2 other questions, I do think it matters when it comes to Biblical community, because we’re called to love our brothers & sisters in Christ the way Christ first loved us (including respectfully).

    When it comes to the risk though I must say no, especially if either or both people are married. If you’re spouse isn’t ok with it don’t mess with it. It’s only going to create tension in your marriage.

    Accountability is the key.

  11. Most friendships are sparked by an attraction…either to the person, their interests, their personality, something in common. Even if not both, one or the other is bound to develop a deeper interest. Where marriages are involved, I can’t see the rationale that justifies the risk.

    • Steve D says:

      “Where marriages are involved, I can’t see the rationale that justifies the risk.”

      It was another woman (a friend) who helped me get through things when my wife had breast cancer.

  12. Patty says:

    Yes I do believe men and women can be friends. After my husband and brother-in-law died in a horrible, tragic accident 18+ years ago, it was was late husbands’ best friends that took care of me since I lived 3+ hours away from my nearest family member. Some were married, some were single, but not one of them EVER crossed the line with me. They literally helped me to heal, and were all joyfully present when I remarried almost 5 years later. I know I have a guardian angel in heaven watching over me, but it was Tom’s best friends here on earth that truly helped me to survive his loss AND learn to live again. Please don’t just assume we are all mindless, lustful animals that can’t control our desires. I truly love them like brothers, and they have all treated me with the utmost of respect and dignity. Worth the risk…absolutely! I would have crumbled and died left on my own.

  13. Ernie Moss says:

    Pete this is an extremely complex question asked which I assume is why you posed the same. At our Church we are in a series now called Guardrails and if I would expand on Part 3, I would say men and women can be friends but guardedly and not as devoted to one another as same sex because it is not worth the risk (here I am addresing one of the parties being married). Problems tend to arise when one begins to share their innermost feelings, council with another etc. Yes it can begin with a cup of coffee, which can lead to diner etc. That is not to say this is always the case but it can and frequently happens so the best advise is don’t take the chance don’t risk it. We are all human and Satin is always waiting to tempt to us and jump on our weaknesses.

  14. Andy says:

    Yes. There seems to be this tone that all men and women want to do is hook up. When you’re young and single, friends of the opposite sex is common and normal. And it’s very innocent. Does that change when you’re older and married? Does every person you meet of the opposite sex become a potential tempting, love interest? And I wonder how much it would change things if a married person wanted to be friends with someone who is super attractive. I think that would complicate things.

    • Carrie says:

      When you’re young and single, friends of the opposite sex is common and normal. And it’s very innocent.

      Is it? Innocent meaning what? Meaning friends of the opposite sex who are young and single have zero hope or intent of having those relationships end up romantically? I doubt that.

  15. vanilla says:

    If you are married, your spouse should be your best friend. Period.

    Acquaintances? Certainly, the more the merrier. Tete a tetes? In the company of your spouse.

  16. I think if we’re against this happening it only reinforces the faulty idea that men and women are only designed to interact with each other sexually, and no other way. (the more sexual our culture becomes the more this seems to be true).

    however for many people those types of relationships aren’t possible for them personally because they can’t handle them/have poor boundaries or their spouse would be deeply hurt by it.

  17. Laura Anne says:

    Yes.

    I don’t get the big deal. Since I was a baby I’ve had friends that were boys. Several of my closest friends are male, and sex has never ever been an issue. We know our boundaries.

    The only people that have the issue? Christians.

    Christians who think that if a guy and girl say hello to each other, that means they fancy the pants off each other.

    FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! I didn’t even have that kind of issue in HIGH SCHOOL. And yet, amongst of bunch of apparently mature grown-ups in a church building, I converse with a guy to say hello just as I would with anyone male or female, that means ‘ooooh, do you like him?’

    The fact is I’m a vocalist, and most of the time the other folks in the band are all male (some are married) – so if we can’t get on without that being an issue we’re going to have problems serving God together.

    • Mercedes says:

      I completely disagree!

      I think one only has to look at the statistics of infidelity and broken marriages as a result both in the secular and non-secular world to know this subject is indeed a huge deal. You are right in that Christians make a big deal out of it, but that is because we have spiritual eyes to see the danger before it hits us and we are also fully aware of what is at stake from a spiritual point of view. For some that is enough deterrent, but unfortunately sometimes that is not enough.

      Take if from me. When you get close to the fire, you surely burn. Can anyone deny that infidelity is rampant and the divorce rate on the increase?

      To me saying that we all know our boundaries is a cheap answer. Tell that to the hundreds of pastors or people in ministry, or even those in the secular world whose lives have been ruined by thinking nothing of their friendships with the opposite sex which one day stepped over the mark. Do you think they did not know the boundaries when they went too far?

      I think we do need to make a big deal out of this issue. The moment we think we have this particular area under control and we can fight temptation on our own, will be the moment we lose that battle. Why not make a big deal now instead of later when it is too late?

  18. Lisa says:

    I think this is a slippy slope…. doable… but just need to make sure you have the proper equiptment and tools.

    I believe we DO need to build and maintain friendships with the opposite sex in order for community to be built and maintained.

    I believe that the number one thing God calls us to watch out for is fear. We can’t live a life of fear. If we say we can’t have friendships with the opposite sex – it is becuase we fear the fall. But where is the personal respoinsibility? Where are the boundaries we are called to set according to what the Heavenly Father teaches us?

    Be friends. Set boundaries. Learn from those who have strengths and weaknesses different from our own purely based on how God created our different sexes. BUT, set boundaries. Be smart. And never let those friendships cross a line OR compromise the love and respect you should have for your spouce. These friendships are important but your marriage is even more important. If it is a problem in your marriage… forgo the friendships OR makes sure the husband/wife is acutely involved.

    I think it’s easier to play it safe and have a hard rule. NO FRIENDSHIPS with the opposite sex… but what about the Christian life is safe? Live boldly in Christ… keep HIM the central focus of EVERY relationship and he will guide you through it… AND keep your guard up against the deceitful one who would love to use any relationship – appropiate or not to destroy a home, a church, a family, etc!

  19. Jenni Catron says:

    I love that you opened this “can”.

    Yes, I do think men and women can be friends. There are, of course, a lot of examples that have made the church wary of encouraging man/female friendships, but I think we have run from the issue and segregated ourselves rather than doing the tough heart/emotional work that’s necessary to understand our weaknesses and temptations.

    I believe God has called us to live in community as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our culture is terribly “over-sexed”. We view every interaction with the opposite sex as a potential temptation and I don’t think that God designed it this way. When you learn to see the opposite sex as a brother or sister, you pretty quickly lose the sexual temptation that we are so terrified of.

    Do my friendships with men look different than my friendships with women? Yes, of course. I am more careful about how and when we spend time together. I have measures built in for accountability, etc.

    I guess your definition of “friendship” could impact your view on this, but I do believe that men and women can have healthy, God-honoring relations.

    • Shari says:

      Jenni – you hit the nail on the head with “definition of friendship”. There are coworker friendships and other male/female relationships that are more ‘acquaintance’ than what I would call friend. But this is a definite slippery slope because emotional affairs that don’t include sex can be as devastating or moreso to a marital relationship as a sexual affair.

  20. Mandy says:

    This topic has been on my mind a ton the last few months. I’m single and I found a married couple in our church that I get a long with great. I have an equally close relationship with the wife and the husband, but I have struggled whether or not the friendship with the husband was approriate. He’s like a big brother to me, but like Jenni mentioned our culture is “over-sexed” and I have had several people tell me it’s not okay to have that kind of friendship with him. I’m still praying and struggling through this friendship and finding out what is okay and what’s not okay. It can get complicated :)

  21. Sharkbait says:

    Tough one.

    Yes, I think it is possible. I also think it has the potential to me a problem. I am single, and to be honest most of my best friends are women. I just connect better with girls than with guys.

    But when dealing with a woman who is married, I am doubly careful. If I need to share or talk, I either do it with the guy around, or not at all. It’s just a decision I made a long time ago as a general rule, so I don’t have to decide what is too far.

  22. Melinda says:

    It appears that most of this conversation is around ‘if married’. Taking that into consideration, I feel that the most imperatively important & decisive factor is the health of the marriage. Every marriage could use launching help and maintenance help from skilled & mature Christian counselors. Making sure that the marriage is in prime condition and addressing issues before they become gateways for adultry is what makes the difference. This is not fool-proof but it is a solid way to help a marriage relationships stay close, joyful and meaningful.

    My husband & I are almost-empty-nesters. Having launched most of my brood, we have watched the marriages around us crumble as they reach similar points. Spouses have stayed with unloved/disrespected spouses ‘for the good of their children’. The children launch and the marriage is discarded like clothes that don’t fit any more.

    Here is the clincher: The relationships that are revealed to the discarded spouse are not just within opposite sex friendships. Sure, some men leave for another woman. Women leave for other men. However, sometimes, men discover they prefer a male lover and women prefer women lovers, too. The reasons are complex, but suffice to say they feel closer and more supported by their same-gender lovers than they did to their spouses. If we look at that, do we then, also, guard against same gender friendships? I think not.

    The problem isn’t in who we are friends with. The problem lies in how heartily we invest our attention on maintaining and nurturing our close relationship in our marriages.

  23. Lindsey Nobles says:

    Sure hope so… Male friends offer a unique perspective tat I appreciate.

  24. Bill Renfrew says:

    I’m friends with all the women in my small group. Good friends. Would I meet them individually for lunch to talk about small group? No. It’s not about me not trusting myself or not trusting the women in my small group. It’s Satan that I don’t trust– He’s really good at making something out of what I think could never possibly be anything.

    I heard that Billy Graham wouldn’t meet with a woman in his office, married or otherwise, (other than his wife of course) without another male colleague being present in the room with them. I’ve always interpreted that as him minimizing a known risk.

    • Jennifer says:

      Bill,

      And on the other hand, some people are able to enjoy the freedom to do lunch alone with a opposite sex friend. I think your boundaries are good for you (and for Billy Graham, apparently :-) ) But they are not the only Christ-honoring boundaries.

    • Shari says:

      Well said, Bill! I agree totally!

  25. Mike in Milwaukee says:

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this but another aspect to this “these relationships are great but…” discussion is that a person’s spouse may or may not comfortable with his or her mate in these situations. In all things we are to love – and I think we need to first love those with whom we share a life-long commitment. I’m just sayin’. :-)

  26. Riete says:

    As a single woman I tend to be very careful when it comes to friendships with men. I do think that it is possible, but both parties need to be very much on guard.
    From personal experience I know that – be it a pastor (as in my case) or a collegue or you name who – sex can start to play a part before you know it. And it ruins more than you want to.
    So I have many very wonderful male acquaintances, but they are not intimate friends …

    As for Jesus having a deep friendship with women, well, there are more things Jesus was able to do but we are not. He was without sin and that’s another thing we have not quite mastered. So, in my opinion, He could but we can’t (yet).

  27. Sherie says:

    Yes, I think we can be friends, and we need each other. I agree with Jenni, “we have run from the issue and segregated ourselves rather than doing the tough heart/emotional work that’s necessary”. I think if we say we can’t be friends, we are making God small. I believe God makes true diverse spiritual community available to us, but we have to be open to the heart work to make it happen.

    I would also say we need boundaries, guidelines, accountability, and understanding. As has been said here, there are some people who do not feel relationships like this are possible, so to pursue it with them or their spouse would not be beneficial. We need to respect that, and as Paul says, our freedom and liberty should not hurt others. Just because lust, temptations, and insecurities are not something I deal with in this area does not release me from the responsibility of walking in respectful relationship with someone who does struggle in these areas.

    As an adult single I have experienced more issues around gender the older I get because others are not open to it. When in my teens and 20s sharing with the opposite gender was accepted by most, now many are less comfortable with it. I have had women fear I was out for their husband if I even spoke to him. My father is deceased, I have only one male relative (who is not a believer), I do not live near family, and I moved to a new town 2 years ago. I deeply need men, families, elders, and people of all walks in life to share with me and speak into my life. I am not even that supportive of gender/age/status specific groups because I feel they divide and separate instead of bringing us together in unity. If I am isolated to only sharing with women, or worse yet single women of my age, then I am really missing out on the incredible diversity of God’s family and I the various gifts he has equipped us with.

    I am just trying to faithfully trust God and embrace those relationship opportunities that open for me. If the other person and I both feel comfortable and it is glorifying to God, then we move forward. If temptation or sin start to appear then we need to stop immediately and seek help from others in community.

  28. Becky says:

    I’ve found a pretty simple answer to this question.

    When considering whether my friendship with a man is appropriate, I ask myself: would I be comfortable with my husband having the same friendship with another woman?

    If the answer is yes, then in general* I don’t see a problem with it.

    *I realize there are always exceptions to this type of rule based on people’s pasts and individual relationship baggage. However, so far it seems to be a good rule in our marriage.

  29. gitz says:

    Absolutely.

    I have really good girl friends, and I have really good guy friends. Some of my best girlfriends will tell their husbands to call me when they are having an issue to get my opinion on it. I love them. I have zero desire for anything but friendship with them. They don’t want anything more from me than the same friendship I have with their wives.

    To me, my friends are immediately my family. I would step in front of a bus for any of them. And I’d walk in front of a bus myself before I would do something to hurt them. In all of my frirendships, both male and female, the goal is to leave their day better than I found it. That means doing whatever it takes to bring them closer to their spouse, their family and God.

    If that is the focus, there shouldn’t be a problem. And if that isn’t the focus, it’s an issue as a person that should be dealt with. If I am talking trash to my friend about her husband and not helping her relationship with him, I think that is just as bad. To me, it’s not about male and female… it’s about attitude and intent.

  30. Carrie says:

    Time was, this question would have raised my blood pressure. Of course!!!! men and women can be friends.

    Now that I know myself a little better, I’d say it depends on how you define friendship. I’ve had friendships with men that were just.too.close, looking back on them. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, but I’ve learned that my heart is not appropriate to share with male friends. My struggles are not appropriate to share. My hopes and dreams? Not normally, either.

    Of course, these are not normally conversations that men have with one another, so it would seem perfectly normal to a man to have a friend who was mum on all the above. It’s just weird to me :)

    • anotherjoy says:

      I think I understand where you’re coming from completely. :-)

      The thing I’ve been trying to keep in mind is that (in general) the emotional connection that women most often seek is not the same thing that men typically seek — and as a result women can be much more deeply connected to a relationship than the man in the same relationship is (or vice versa for that matter). It can be completely innocent sexually, and still too dangerous for the emotional and spiritual health of the people involved. And while sometimes people are even hyper-aware of the dangers related to sexuality, they may be completely blind to the dangers that are otherwise related to their heart/spirit.

      • Jennifer says:

        I’m curious why you think emotional connection is bad if everything is innocent sexually?

        • anotherjoy says:

          I don’t think it’s bad in itself (just like sex) — what’s bad is when one party has developed a connection that the other party hasn’t. It may be expressed in ways that one or the other isn’t expecting or looking for, and the people who aren’t as connected or connected in the same way may end up hurting those who are “in too deep”.

          I guess I’m talking about having balance — and basically how sometimes the focus is so much on whether people are crossing lines and potentially hurting each other sexually, that people (in general) don’t take the time to make sure they’re not crossing lines and potentially hurting each other emotionally.

      • Steve D says:

        I wonder how much difference there really is between emotional needs of men and women in friendship. I suspect that in many cases it is not as drastic as many people think. I believe that both men and women have a need to know and be known. I know that there are books like “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. But I don’t think that it fits as many people as the author would have you believe.

        • anotherjoy says:

          From my admittedly young experience, I don’t think there’s difference in the needs so much as the expression. And that sometimes is where wires get crossed and things are misinterpreted. I’ve listened before and again to two people are in basic agreement on their feelings about a particular situation, but because they express themselves in different ways, they don’t recognize the other person’s words as anything like their own.

  31. paula says:

    With maturity, yes.

    A very close friend of my husband considers me to be one of his best friends as well. He and I do spend quite a bit of time together – both while my husband travels and with all of us together.

    We were able to do this over time – and early on, it was always the “circle of friends” that gathered together. But as we became more like “family” – which for us, took several years, the deeper friendship developed.

    We are able to enjoy the friendship circle either all together, or one on one.

  32. Danny Bixby says:

    I’d say yes, to all points.

    Of course, it’s much more complicated than that when you get down to the specifics…because we’re dealing with people. And we’re all gratuitously complicated and fallible.

    One of the things that comes up in the back of my mind when this question is asked is, “What about gay people?”

    We ask the simple question of can men & women be JUST friends…when really we’re talking about straight men and straight women.

    If we say “no” to the question, do we also say that gay men shouldn’t be JUST friends with other men? Or that lesbians shouldn’t be JUST friends with women?

    Makes the question a bit more complicated, because, well the question is more complicated ;)

  33. Jennifer says:

    Did you know that author of this article also has a book on the same subject? “Sacred Unions Sacred Passions” You can get it on Amazon. The article is really good, but his book goes way more in depth.

    I think that men and women can have close/intimate friendship, even when both of them are married. My husband and I both have close friends of the opposite sex and are grateful for the thigns the friends bring into each other’s lives. I can go and do things with a guy friend and know that my husband trusts me 100%.

  34. Larry Hehn says:

    I think there will always be a “Yes, but…” factor to questions like this, for good reason. The answer is definitely not “No”, but it certainly is not an all-out “Yes” either.

    We can come up with other similar points of controversy: should Christians drink alcohol, dance, play cards? For some it’s no big deal, for others it’s a potential pitfall.

    It really comes down to knowing our weak spots and keeping ourselves accountable.

  35. Mysoul says:

    Yes, Men and women can just be friends. I agree with the above who talked about boundaries. Any relationship must have boundaries that define it and both parties must mindfully respect those boundaries.

  36. Kendall says:

    I can’t say for other people, but for I know it’s not possible for me to be friends with men. I mean, I don’t act cold toward my friends’ husbands when we are all hanging out together, nor do I avoid men in church or other public places, but I would never spend time with them alone or have deep conversations alone.

    I would be jealous and suspicious if my husband was close friends with another woman. Maybe that’s wrong of me, I don’t know, but it’s the truth.

    For my husband and I, it just doesn’t work. Again, I don’t know if that’s wrong or bad, but that’s where we’re at.

  37. Dan Brennan says:

    Thank you, Pete for your kind words about my article. I have thoroughly enjoyed the comments, concerns, questions, and stories. I have had a close friendship with a single woman for 8 years now as well as a married woman for just under that time. And they are pretty close friendships as my book indicates. As Jennifer pointed out, my book dives into the complex subject. Too often, we operate out of fear and rules rather than discerning trust and transparency when it comes to this subject.

  38. Andrea-Elena says:

    I thought this was going to be more about two unmarried, straight people… but see, that’s my bias! *smacks forehead*

    For me, “friendship” with any married male is a no-brainer — it’s a pretty surface thing, unless we’re connected another way (like we’re family or we’re coworkers). Those friendships are not fraught with landmines, for me.

    However, it’s the “friendlationships” we singles sometimes get into — one friend wants to take the relationship into dating; the other doesn’t. Or someone is using the emotional intimacy as a substitute for an emotional intimacy of a similar depth that could be had in (and probably should be reserved for) marriage. I think these “friendlationships” contribute to the phenomenon of delayed marriage among GenXers and the older Millennials. I mean, when a 30-something man is getting all his emotional needs taken care of with a cadre of single-gal pals, what impetus is there to get him to go seek a wife? I see it as another area of adultescence creeping up. And I don’t like it.

    But casual friends, in most cases, is a level that’s just fine.

    I think it’s a rare occurrence that a man and a woman can be best friends and there be no romantic interest that develops over the years.

    For straight people, I think that one’s confidants should be of the same sex. Save that opposite-sex confidant-ness for your spouse. (And if you have a spouse, then cultivate that side of your marriage!!)

    • Jennifer says:

      I think one of the cool things about the article referenced in this blog post is that the author is saying: It’s possible to be more than casual friends without ruining it with sex – even if the people are married, but not to each other.

      • Andrea-Elena says:

        Jennifer,

        Were you replying to me or to the thread in general? I’m not making the connection between your reply here… and mine.

        Thanks in advance! :)

        • Jennifer says:

          Andrea,

          Sorry. I was probably posting on the run :-)

          I think what I was trying to say is that it is actually possible for people who are married, but not to each other, to be friends on a deeper level. Friendship with a married man doesnt have to just be “surface level”

        • Andrea-Elena says:

          Jennifer,

          But I’m not married and never have been. But I want to be! =)

          And by “surface level,” I didn’t mean “unimportant.” But they’re mostly co-workers and fellow church members and family members. Friendship with married men isn’t going to go beyond what is appropriate for how I know them. For me, “deep” — like I have with my mom, best friend, and sister — with a man, is reserved for the man I date and then marry.

          I don’t have a very close relationship with any man, really. All my closest relationships are with women.

  39. I am a guy girl. I have friends that I have been friends with for over 25 years that are guys. My husband loves my guy friends, they came with me into the marriage. One friend, who lives locally, is now good friends with my husband and I with his wife. It’s like a no brainer for us all but I know it’s not something everyone feels comfortable with. I consider my campus pastor a dear friend, Him and his wife. We say he’s my brother from another mother because we “discuss” like we were brother and sister. I do, however, follow guidelines with all men; no alone behind closed doors, no riding alone with them in a car, no alone lunch meetings, stuff like that. I do believe strongly that men and women can and are friends, I also believe wisdom in every situation is wise :-)

    • Dan Brennan says:

      Thanks Carol, I do believe that chastity (wisdom and discernment towards the power of sexuality in love) is takes into account personal comfort, boundaries, trust, and awareness of one’s own weaknesses, etc. So I see chastity at different levels with different people in different communities. Some can’t ride in a car alone with the opposite sex and I respect that. Others though, may see goodness and wisdom as their relationship unfolds. For 18 months, I commuted to work with my single cgf–alone.

  40. Tom G says:

    I have read Dan’s book that is quoted at the beginning, an excellent work to consider such a “hot potato” in the Christian community. I hear most comments to be saying “Yes, but” and the but being boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. In principle I would agree boundaries apply in most relationships but do we sincerely ask God for what the boundaries should be or do we let others around us determine them? I have had several great, close, intimate/non-sexual/non-romantic friendships with women while being married. My wife was ok with each of them, we had boundaries in place that she and I were fine with but it was the Christians on the outside looking in, including church leaders who had a problem with these relationships. Their boundaries were more narrow and they made sure to tell me how I was “in sin”, or how I needed to “abstain from all appearances of evil”. Those on the outside wrecked every one of these friendships. They put such pressure on us, even threatening “church discipline” if we didn’t break it off, that each of these beautiful, Christ honoring friendships were history, usually within 2-3 years of their existence. Fear totally dominates probably the vast majority of “boundaries” people assemble. Of course there are the horror stories, there are when any two people try to do anything. Maybe people shouldn’t even get married since your chances are less then 50% that they will survive a lifetime. Yes you may read into my post a lot of frustration over others who think they have to control us in this arena. I have not and will not give up on having cross gender friendships with my sisters in Christ! Why not, we are going to spend eternity with them more so then our spouses since marriage won’t be an item there. Hmmmm….

    • Jennifer says:

      Tom – love it :-)

    • Dan Brennan says:

      Tom, Wow. Thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry you’ve had such a difficult with the surrounding community although I know the pressure to conform from the outside. Thank you for commenting. Like many other fears in the past the church has moved past (like interracial dating/marriage, cross-race friends, etc.) I am optimistic more and more evangelicals are opening up to reassessing their fears.

  41. Sara says:

    I agree with what you, and Dan, both stated very eloquently above. However, I find that as a single Christian, and one whose purpose in being a part of Bible-believing, disciple-making church is not grounded in finding “Mr. Right” it’s difficult for to be “just friends” in that context.

    While I agree that we need to, in order to build up a community among one another, to sharpen one another and support each other, there are those (both male and female) who have treated the friendship relationships with such disregard that it has broken that even within the church community.I’ve seen it first hand in our own Singles ministry, those that come strictly to befriend and marry some unsuspecting person. It damages that community and makes more of us singles very wary of befriending the opposite sex (and all too often, even our own sex).

  42. Molly says:

    I would echo the other “yes, but…” answers posted. I am living proof that men and women can be friends but I have also worked very hard to make sure that I have clearly established boundaries and safeguards in place to ensure that no lines are crossed. I think when male and female friendships cross lines, there is usually something much deeper than the friendship that caused the problem. I was engaged to a man who cheated on me with one of his female friends in the church. In our case, the problem wasn’t their friendship – the problem was with our relationship and the much deeper issues we had that caused my fiance to cheat. The fact of the matter is that my fiance was going to cheat regardless – that friendship just happened to be convenient. I’m certainly not saying that this is the case for every one tempted by a friend but I think we should keep in mind that deeper issues are often at the root of our problems.

    More than anything, I think males and females need to be honest with themselves and their significant others (if they have one) about friendships with the opposite sex. If there is someone in your life with whom you can’t establish and maintain strong boundaries, flee. But I think Jenni hit the nail on the head when she said we live in an over sexed culture that has instilled a paranoia within us. It’s sort of a self fulfilling prophecy – we look so hard for temptation that we end up finding it because we created it!

  43. Chuck Salser says:

    Do you think men and women can just be friends?
    I do, especially in a biblical context. If our minds are truly focused on Christ, then theoretically there is no issue. However, there is a bit of reality here, i think the appropriate precautions are always smart. I read about this years ago in a book called “Pointman” by Steve Ferrar.

    Do you think this really matters when it comes to Biblical community?
    No Where in scripture do I find biblical community being men or women only. In Acts 2 there is this great model of the church doing life together, it’s whats been revived over the past 20 years or so, intitally seemingly by guys like Bill Hybels. True biblical community exists in everyone, it’s time for us as men to start using the right mind, the mind of Christ, This means men being men, not boys.

    Do you think it’s worth the risk?
    Absolutely, the church was the greatest risk Jesus died for. If God sacrificed his son for the purpose of the church, then sent out disciples to write about, says to me, the risk is now mine and it should be met with great anticipation and expectation.

    On a seperate note, bought your book yesterday on the kindle store. Looking forward to hearing more of what you have to say. I worked briefly with Blake at LC.TV, working on a christian counseling book right now myself. Love the stuff you are doing, hope to get a chance to connect with you sometime I;m in Nashville! Thanks Pete!

  44. I’m never considered a prudish person until it comes to the issue of protecting my wife, two boys and ministry God has entrusted me with. Then people may throw me in that category…so be it.

    Perception in people’s minds has been enough to destroy a ministry and even relationships. I’m not willing to take that risk. This post about 7 ways I protect my heart from an affair continues to draw critics ( http://www.ronedmondson.com/2009/12/7-ways-i-protect-my-heart-and-ministry-from-an-affair.html ) but I’ll stay on the safe side of this one.

    Can we be friends? Absolutely! I agree with Jenni here, it will look different from my friendships with males. It has to.

    Thanks for stirring discussion Pete.

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Ron – I remember that conversation on your blog!

      I wouldnt call you prudish. Not at all. You have boundaries that work for you. And at the same time, they are only 1 possible version of Christ-honoring boundaries. They work for you and it sounds like they are needed in the context where you find yourself. But in other situations, boundaries can look much different – though Christ and family are still honored just as much.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      Great stuff Ron. I encourage everyone to click on his link!

  45. Kristi says:

    My husband of 10 years left me and our 4 small children (youngest just turned 1) for another married woman who had just been a friend. I was always upset with this relationship as their conversations were private and I couldn’t read emails or txt msgs. Now my husband has fallen in love with her and has said it was my fault because I made a big deal about them being friends. He is a professing Xian but is acting like a fool. He has nothing to do with our children and says he never was happy, but now he is very happy. I know not everyone will fall like this but NO ONE saw this coming from my very loving and very family oriented husband. Now it’s tattoos of her and trips we could never afford. I work 10-10 every day with all of my children….but through this I have received Grace that is amazing and I have never been closer to my loving Christ. I pray for restoration and healing …it just seems very far off. Satan is a liar and if you think you can handle his lies and manipulations be warned he is crafty and we are all self centered at our core….die to it everyday and do not be deceived.

  46. Pete Wilson says:

    So very sorry to hear that Kristi. You’re in my prayers today.

  47. Ben says:

    I’ve spoken in a couple venues for young adults 18-25 years of age. I’ve asked how many of them have had best friends of the opposite sex. Most if not all raised their hand. Then I asked if in the course of that friendship, they, or their friends became attracted to each other. Every hand went back up.

    Friends? Sure. Best friends? Almost guaranteed to complicate things…particularly when one or both get married.

    • Jennifer says:

      I dont necessarily disagree with you – I just think there is another path to walk where attraction doesn’t get the final word.

  48. Ashley says:

    WOW, I never really knew there was such uncertainty about men and women being friends! When growing up the majority of my friends were guy friends…some of my very best friends are guys and I NEVER had issues with a sexual lust for them. Now that I am older that is still the case. I work in an office alone with a man whom I consider a great friend and there has never been an uncomfortable situation. I can also say that my husband has several women friends one whom I might ad led him into his gospel singing career. I have NEVER not one time ever been jealous of their friendship and there are several times they worked together on music without me being there… I however think that it is weird we that we assume we cant be friends with the opposite sex. I would be heart broken at the fact that I could not tell my best guy friend I love him without it being taking out of context. It happens though, everyday lives are being torn apart becuase of this very thing. But is it because we shouldn’t be friends? Or because we are not living right spiritually?

  49. britt says:

    Being a female musician in a male dominated business, I’ve mostly had male friends. I love guys and have often thought I had a lot more in common with them.
    Obviously, there are clear lines that can be drawn in a physical sense but I think the danger lies in the emotional sharing. That’s a hard one to navigate.

    There’s nothing as alluring as someone thinking you’re just so witty, smart and wonderful… oh so understanding. (let alone the physical chemistry part) No matter how strong your marital bond is.. that kind of stuff is like ego feeding quicksand.

    To answer your question, I think it’s possible.. I hope it’s possible. I try to use the, “would my husband be hurt by my conversation or actions right now?” test.

  50. Jenny says:

    I am so ridiculously conservative on this. I say “no way Jose!” If you are married – stick with the girl folk (if you are a woman… the man folk if you are a man). My hubby thinks differently.

    Do you think God ever guides a couple differently on this item? meaning – God may say to one partner “no way should you have opposite sex friends, you’ll get yoruself in trouble” but to the other partner, “its ok for you… you won’t stumble?” like… does this ever happen do you think?

  51. Jennifer says:

    Jenny,

    I think its possible. But it would take a lot of talking :-)

    I know I’ve mentioned his book on this thread already, but the same author who wrote the article has a book on male-female friendship that I think would be really interesting for you and your husband to read and discuss.
    http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Unions-Passions-Engaging-Friendship/dp/0982580703/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278525751&sr=8-1

  52. Greg says:

    I think it is all about each person and what they are able to handle.

    It is important, but if a man, or woman, struggles with lust/infidelity/inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, then it would be foolish, but there are some who can handle it and I say more power to you.

    I think most people discussing the “slippery slope”, are either insecure or have had bad experiences. That is not meant as a shot, it means, we each have different issues and insecurities that we must address. Let’s face it, some of us can handle it, and some of us cannot.

    I have been on the slippery slope before and personally I would not be comfortable in a close relationship with another woman unless it was in a ‘connected to my wife’ context. I would not spend alone time with another woman etc. etc.

    To each their own in this matter, and that also goes for each person’s guidelines, some are more strict than others, but if there is an issue or the level of intimacy is leaning towards more than friends, if you are married, you are in trouble, if neither of you are…maybe you will be in the near future…

    to each other…=-)

    The possibilities are endless, but we each have to guard our hearts and build the kingdom, we shouldn’t be divisive, but we should do what is wise for each of our own situations/tendencies.

    He is enough,
    Greg

    • Carrie says:

      It is important, but if a man, or woman, struggles with lust/infidelity/inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, then it would be foolish, but there are some who can handle it and I say more power to you.

      Yes, but…how do you know if your prospective opposite-sex friend struggles with this or not?

      • Jennifer says:

        Well, I guess you could talk about it.

      • Steve D says:

        I agree with Jennifer, communication is important. I don’t believe that deep friendships occur without some good communication happening.

      • Greg says:

        Good point, me and my wife were discussing it last night and neither of us believe that we could or would want to handle it. A big part of this is that I can honestly say I have never had a close relationship with a woman that didn’t end up in a “more than friends” relationship situation. For her, there was always a move made that destroyed the relationship and so she doesn’t believe it is possible.

        Knowing the other persons possible issues is a very interesting point, but who would admit that to someone in the beginning of a relationship? LOL that would be interesting, no disrespect, I just had a funny moment play out in my head. =-)

        My wife made a good point, but again I think it is all about how people are wired, she said people getting close, especially those of the opposite sex naturally begin to become attracted to people they can be this good of friends with, it is like we “were made for each other” I do believe some people are capable of this.

        My question would also include what context of a relationship are we talking about? Me being close enough to another woman to spend time with her like I would a close male friend? How in the world could I give any of my free time to someone else beside my wife, especially a female and expect her to not be jealous? There is so much to debate here, but I believe it all falls back on each person being different, but we are all attracted to people we can be ourselves with and the eventual desire is almost, ALMOST, inevitable.

        I have enjoyed this though, nice to think about things you wouldn’t normally…

  53. CFloyd says:

    It really matters if it hurts, offends, or bothers your spouse in any way shape or form. AND no one should be closer to you THAN your spouse.

    • Jennifer says:

      I am with you on that – the spouse(s) have to support it. However, I also think that many people have no template for how to be supportive when their spouse has an opposite sex friend. I love that the forward to Dan’s book is written by his wife who is a wonderful example of how to be supportive of friends.

  54. […] wheelchair and laugh at his impending death. Great.” – Stephen Hawking, God and TwitterCan Men and Women Just Be Friends?Last Sunday a police standoff occurred in the apartment complex next to Mars Hill’s Bellevue […]

  55. Cindy says:

    Yes, I do think that there are huge dividends for investing in a opposite sex friendship outside of your marriage. I have had one such relationship with someone who was also a pastor (aka: my big bro”. I think regardless of who you are as an individual. There has to be boundaries and guidelines established to protect the relationship and the overall character of that relationship. Primarily because no matter how intentional you may be in that friendship to be platonic. Society will try to tear at it and twist it either damage it or recreate it into something it never was. Also, in relationships like that, we have to be very careful because despite the best of intentions. People are people and we often don’t see something coming until it is too late. People develop needs with the change of seasons and this can lead to temptations that were never invited. So boundaries and extended relationships with spouses are even more important for accountability reasons.

    So, these have to be handled very openly and in a way that is respectful of our spouses. This is for their protection and for ours as well.

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