Male-Female Relationships

The issue is can men and women be friends, that is Are cross-gender friendships do-able? I came across this post at Live Better America blog and thought I’d clip a bit for here:

What are your guidelines or rules? What policies are in place in churches?

Men are men. Women are women. We’re genetically wired to, if not check each other out, at least notice when there’s attraction. Behavioral scientists say it’s primal: We can’t help it; the survival of the species depends on that which begins with a glance. So, too, are men programmed to be predisposed toward sex and women to see relationships as central, which isn’t to say that men can’t commit and women aren’t sexual beings. It’s just biology keeping things in balance….

So, can men and women be friends? It largely depends on the scenario in which their connection is playing out. Here are the top three friendliest:

With an activity or work partner with whom you share a common interest or focus

They’re more than an acquaintance, but less than a social friend. You mutually benefit from the interaction, but don’t spend time together outside of that context. Such friendships can sometimes turn into more.

Between exes who forge a congenial relationship for the good of everyone, often their children

Former loves have, in all or part, “spent” their attraction, so friendship is a possibility. However, it can be easy, especially in the early stages of separation, to cave in to old impulses, so it’s important to clearly articulate and adhere to boundaries.

When neither party is physically attracted to the other but they share a unique connection

The parties aren’t activity partners as in Scenario No. 1, yet they share constructive energy. If one party develops an interest beyond friendship, though, the relationship stands to change or disintegrate.

Understanding the clear differences between how the sexes approach relationships can make life — and friendship — easier.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://bookwi.se/ Adam Shields

    The one common male-female platonic relationship that is missed is brother sister. Especially as Chriatians I think it is important to pull out this image that is used scripturally

  • Joe Watkins

    One of the most powerful witnesses the church could have in the coming generation is to challenge the When Harry Met Sally mentality that men and women can’t be friends and begin to model healthy, non-sexual relationships to the world. Jesus had these relationships, and it would seem that Paul did too (given all the women he names in his letters). And if we build our worldview eschatologically (which I do) then we have to ask ourselves, if in new creation there won’t be marriage then how will women and men relate, and why shouldn’t that inform the way we relate now?

    Not only that, but if self-control is a fruit of the Spirit then shouldn’t maturing Christians be able to relate to someone without bowing to every impulse and attraction as though we’re bound to them? That would be my first guideline, I don’t HAVE to act on any impulse or attraction. I also try to see men and women as actual people, I work on cultivating a strong, honest relationship with my wife, and I don’t have relationships with people that she doesn’t know about.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

    What I see in Scripture is that we’re called to oneness (John 17:20-23). Not simply friendship, but deep intimacy. I think in Christianity, we have so missed just how DEEP we can go in our relationships. We talk about intimacy, but we don’t practice it. Instead, we talk about friendship in completely worldly terms and miss out on something so much more beautiful and intimate.

    I’ve written a bit about friendship & attraction on my blog. You can find my posts on this topic here. http://pinterest.com/alisewrite/friendship-and-attraction/

  • James Christopher Owen

    This stopped me in my tracks and immediately urged on me a different point of view. Example:

    “If one party develops an interest beyond friendship[...]”

    IS romantic relationship really BEYOND friendship? Surely there’s an additional element, but does that make the relationship a superior one? I begin to get the feeling that maybe some (myself included) have accepted implicitly that it’s so.

  • attytjj466

    I have followed a very simple rule with woman other than my wife since i married. No matter what the context of the relationship, the more attraction i sense/feel/think the more boundries and barriers and and people i put between me and that person. Work with them yes, but not alone, no without my wife knowing everything, not without honesty that there is attraction there and it cannot ever go in that direction.

  • MatthewS

    Were some comments removed from this thread? I thought I saw some comments the other day that are not here now…

  • Juan Carlos Torres

    The issue is NOT can men and women be friends.
    The issue is can I be friends with members of the opposite sex without
    being unfaithful to prior commitments (marriage for example).

    The answer is no for a lot of people (i include myself) and
    no doubt yes for many others.

    Know yourself.

  • Dave Z

    There was a similar thread some time back. I posted this youtube clip, but I think it got moderated. :) Anyway, this informal and not-really-scientific survey does address the issue.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_lh5fR4DMA

  • MatthewS

    Thanks for that – it was interesting!

    I don’t necessarily think it’s the final answer on the subject. I think one could argue that there might be a false dichotomy in the thinking of this film: either you have no possibility of feelings whatsoever or else you cannot have a friendship that stays at the level of friendship. I wonder about reigning both of those things in toward the middle, such that you are honest with yourself about feelings you may have, and you do have a friendship that exists as any feelings might ebb and flow, but you do not put yourself in tempting or suggestive situations where a fall would be convenient and hidden.

    This is something that made nervous about Dan Brennan’s philosophy from when I first read his writing regarding cross-sex relationships. I have the feeling he pushes it too far, perhaps partly as an attempt to make a point. I don’t mean to be rude to him or the ladies who are friends with him.

    One of the things I think about in regard to this is the relationships that counselors must manage with counselees. Attractions are not considered weird or problematic, they are expected and a fact of life. At the same time, it is iron-clad that it is off-limits and there are rules to the relationship. Part of keeping it safe and professional and helpful is that there will be no personal relationship. Any time a counselor has a sexual relationship with a counselee it is unethical, no exceptions. The option is simply 100% off the table. I wonder if there could be some concepts extrapolated from there to non-professional relationships, or maybe that one is stretching too far.


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