Apparently it’s an eternal problem. It certainly got the sparks flying. How on earth do we handle the intermingling between guys and girls without it always leading to the ‘is (s)he, isn’t (s)he’ sort of questions that get in the way?
It’s your basic struggle between license and legalism, or maybe just the tension between grace and discipline. We’re told to avoid both legalism and license yet embrace grace and discipline. Finding that line in any area of life is a tough one and when emotions and a healthy dose of sexual tension are involved, it all gets that little bit harder.
Two principles to frame our discussion and a few thoughts to help us on our way…
Principle one: freedom is good. We are given freedom so that we may be free. We live and act from a place that allows us to do what we choose. We are all different and live in different circumstances affected by our own histories and those of whom we interact with. Our relationships with others are ours, as too is our relationship with God.
Principle two: boundaries are not the enemy. There are a whole bunch of clichés I could throw in here, but let’s keep it simple: we screw things up. A lot. Doing whatever we choose does not always work out so well, so sometimes it helps to see the path ahead might not always be gilded with rose petals and sweat smelling aromas. Sometimes we need to scout out the pitfalls that lie ahead and shut off some roads that lead towards the precipice. I think rules are healthy and I’ve said so before.
Our relationship with God may be personal but our lives are not just our own. We learn to constrain our freedom in order that our relationships with God and other people prosper and grow.
So a few observations that might help move this along. Firstly, not all guy/girl relationships are a one-way ticket to the honeymoon suite. We can have healthy, life-giving friendships with people of the opposite sex, and it shouldn’t be assumed that the stronger these relationships get the more likely they are to end up in bed.
Secondly, those pesky ‘is (s)he, isn’t (s)he’ questions don’t go away. A tip for the guys, if you think you’ve got a great platonic friendship going on with a girl and you plan on buying her dinner, be certain she feels the same way because that’s a red flag of romantic pursuit even a fool such as I can spot a mile off. Clarity is absolutely vital, it doesn’t mean drawing up a contract to abstain from romance, but it does mean knowing that while you may not have said any words that indicate your interest your actions may be yelling it at full blast.
Let’s also be realistic, when my friendship with a girl gets a bit deeper and we start to enjoy each other’s company, I ask myself the pesky little question. Sometimes I dismiss the notion without further thought and sometimes I subject my emotions to interrogations the KGB would wince at. I turn actions and motivations over in my head to assess whether I might be looking for something more than friendship. It’s not just about sex, sometimes physical attraction is the primal force but emotional attachment matters as well.
I find myself appreciating the time and attention I receive and in an environment that leans toward puritanical dating norms I can get a lot of what I might get in a relationship without having to ever define it as such or embrace the commitment that would entail. It’s what a friend dubbed ‘female friend dependency’ – you get so much out of your friendships with girls that you don’t look for anything more.
Krisi Johnson wrote recently in a post that was brilliant for its writing as well as its insight of the delights of sampling. You know, when you go to the supermarket and they have the little nibbles on cocktail sticks, and you find an excuse to traipse down the aisle again to get another morsel? Sometimes it’s a bit like that with our guy/girl friendships. Why trade a pick ‘n’ mix assortment of different girls who fulfil different parts of what you might want for one person who will never be all that you might want her to be?
I read the article, and the comments below it, and something hit home. Part of why I enjoy friendships with girls, often at the expense of pursuing anything more, is that it lets me carry on sampling without having to feel guilty for my gluttony for variety.