How to Remain "Just Friends" - A guide to brave guys and girls...
So the age old debate rages on - Can guys and girls really be just friends?
Of course nobody is really asking whether men and women can be friends generally, they are actually asking whether men and women can manage a CLOSE friendship and have it ultimately remain JUST THAT. Well, I happen to be with the people who say "YES, men and women can be JUST friends", but I am experienced enough to know that this can only be managed by those who acknowledge the complexities involved in making this feat possible.
As a prelude to my suggestions, I must say the following. I believe that men and women use a series of filters to categorise the people of the opposite sex that appear in their various social circles.
If you have a friend of the opposite sex that you have relegated to the friend-zone, I believe that this has occurred because some level of filtration has eliminated that person from the realm of romantic possibility.
I can delve further into this hypothesis, but that is another blog post for another day. Below,however, are my humble ponder points on how to remain "just friends". Apply them at your own risk.
1) RECOGNISE YOUR ATTRACTION
Yes, you are attracted to your friend of the opposite sex. Please do not put words in my mouth, I did not say SEXUALLY attracted. You are, nonetheless, attracted. Whenever we are drawn to any friend, there is some aspect of them that first drew us in; maybe humour, good-looks, common interests, "vibes" and other ethereal traits. Be sober enough to admit this to yourself up front. This realisation should sober you enough to keep you from making a cardinal mistake that I will discuss in my next point.
2) TRUST YOURSELF...BUT NOT TOO MUCH
Yes, you should trust yourself with your wonderful guy or girl friend, but please do not trust yourself TOO MUCH. In fact, the only person really worthy of unadulterated trust is God Himself. Nature is stronger than you are, and where males and females get together with good vibes and too much trust, great power is present. With great power comes great responsibility. Peter Parker's uncle Ben told us this. Recognise that a healthy sense of restraint is needed, and always watch your inner emotional self with a side eye (see point number 4).
3) BE OPEN BUT SET BOUNDARIES
There can be no true friendship without openness, but recognize that openness is the front-runner of intimacy, and that intimacy needs to be managed if you hope to remain "just friends". I consider that boundaries need to set in three main areas:
Luke 6:45 says,
"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
Some people think the primary way to true intimacy is through sexual experimentation, but Biblically, the way to intimacy may actually be great conversation. That's why communication is such a vital key in successful relationships.The things we say can actually spell the clear picture of who we are, and when some of us find a kindred spirit, we start practising for the spelling Bee. The great thing about male female friendships is that they offer unique perspectives for each participant. This is especially enriching in conversation. When you get a real groove going with your friend of the opposite sex you may be tempted to self disclose. This is fine up to a point. After the acceptable threshold has been crossed, however, you have officially entered the danger zone. Avoid disclosing things about yourself that would bond you to the other person in a way that becomes excessively exclusive. Remember, if you become TOO exclusive, your "Just friends"status should rightfully be challenged.
CONTACT HOURS (ESPECIALLY ALONE):
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but usually that's after you're already spent enough time for the heart to grow fond. Spending time with your friend of the opposite sex will nurture that close bond you share, but again, if most of that is time spent alone, you're probably trying to be a hero. Set boundaries with respect to this by injecting several group "hangouts" in there to keep things platonic. There's a fine line between hanging out alone and dating. I don't want to get into describing that line, but I know it exists. Expect that excessive time together will lead to attachment, and attachment in guy - girl friendships is a tricky thing to keep in check.
If most of the time you spend with your so-called friend looks like the picture attached to this blog post, then that friend should rightly be called your "so-called" friend. All that touchy feeliness is not Kosher in my humble opinion, because (again) physical touch is an intimacy builder. There is also neutral touch and non-neutral touch, but that differs from individual to individual, and what might be nothing for you may be something for your so-called friend.
With all boundaries, allowing the Holy Spirit to check you is indispensable. And yes, I said the HOLY SPIRIT, not YOUR OWN JUDGMENT. The Holy Spirit is usually that voice that you brushed away before justifying crossing that boundary. His voice is usually a lot louder after you read your Bible...just saying...
The Holy Spirit is usually that voice that you brushed away before justifying crossing that boundary. His voice is usually a lot louder after you read your Bible...just saying...
4) BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS
Feelings are unstable by nature. They ebb and flow, and sometimes make no sense. As a woman, I can tell you that I feel a million different ways before the end of any given month, especially when you throw Mother Nature's red-packaged gift in there. There are some times of the month that I just have to avoid some of my awesome guy friends, but I can only do this if I am honest about my feelings.
By telling you to "be honest" I don't necessarily mean to tell anyone, especially not your friend of the opposite sex. Your confessions can come back to haunt you, and the last thing you need is to be reminded of that way you felt that one day when you weren't in your right emotional mind. What I mean, rather, is to first be honest with yourself if you do find yourself "catching feelings" at any point on the road; and then adjust your actions to suit. This may mean that you avoid meeting up until you are out of the emotional danger zone. You could just let it all hang out and tell your friend that you are "feeling some type-a way" that day, but I find that this is more of a complication than a help.
5) CRITICALLY CONSIDER PUBLIC OPINION
What I have found is that people are unaccustomed to the whole guy- girl close friend thing working out (especially if the two parties are single). I guess numerous well-documented failures cannot be ignored. If, therefore, you are the enthusiastic half of a two-for-one super-platonic special, expect some resistance from the public. When it comes to the questions from all and sundry about the status of your obvious friendship, I suggest a two pronged approach.
- CONSIDER - When considering the opinions of others, things to pay attention to include overwhelming accusations from society at large that you are indeed in a romantic relationship with your so-called friend. This may be a good indicator that your actions are not currently worthy of being considered platonic. Adjustment to your current relationship management strategy may be necessary.
- ACT - The decision is now yours concerning how you will adjust your behavior with your so-called friend, if at all. The reality is that some people just cannot fathom that men and women can remain "just friends". Such people will always be a thorn in your side. If you are currently conducting yourself in a way that is honouring to God, then carry on.
6) AVOID "SURROGACY SYNDROME"
The wonderful and simultaneously dangerous aspect of having a wonderfully close friend of the opposite sex is that fact that they can ( and frequently do) become the perfect stand-in for a variety of social situations.
"HEY! You wanna come with me to......... (insert mutually enjoyable event here)?" is not uncommon in such cases.
While this is not inherently bad, it could develop into full blown Surrogacy - a situation in which your so-called friend fulfills a variety of roles not limited to platonic friendship,for no other reason than the fact that they are such a close friend. If your friend of the opposite sex is your boyfriend/girlfriend stand-in, your baby-daddy, or baby-mommy stand-in, your arm-candy, friends with benefits( GOD FORBID) or any other stand-in that should be beyond his or her job description, YOU HAVE CROSSED THE LINE.
Let things be clear between you two. By "things" I'm referring mainly to the status of your relationship. With close male female friendships, health checks are necessary ever so often. You may have been "just friends" two years ago, but all those contact hours may have changed your bestie's mind about things. Have THAT talk, even if it is uncomfortable. If it is THAT uncomfortable, maybe you guys are not as close as you assume. If you want to live this close to the edge, you need to handle the requisite responsibilities.
8) DWELL IN PURITY
"To the pure all things are pure" - Titus 1:15.
This verse excerpt had nothing to do with male female relationships in its context, but its so fitting nonetheless.
1 Timothy 5: 2 instructs men to treat the young women as sisters "with absolute purity". I must admit that I have problems at times treating all of my guy friends as brothers (because some of them are just kinda fine, ya know!) but notwithstanding, that is the scriptural mandate. Purity is a state of the heart and will filter into all our decision making and subsequent conduct. The heart, after all, is where God does His divine work in us. As Christians, all off our behaviour is examined by God on a heart level, so a pure heart is where it should all begin and end.