Friday, November 4, 2011

friends with benefits.

this week i friendship-broke up with my two very good guys friends.

they are not handling it well.

i'm very aware they may read this but i'm hoping it will give them insight into my decision.

last year i was interning at a church and the pastor there questioned me numerous times about if i thought people can be "just friends" with the opposite sex. he demonstrated "no" and explained how it was a bad idea, or at least one that often yields confusion and misunderstanding. around the same time, my very good girlfriends shared their similar perspective of this. i had never thought about it but was sold on their reasoning and agreed: guys and girls cannot be "just friends".

cut to this summer when all the nonsense took place and it felt like all my girlfriends checked out, and into the picture came these two guys who wanted to spend time with me and were willing to take me out and take my mind off everything. i had never really been one to have guy friends, so this was like new territory for me. i need to first of all say, i appreciate them so much for that. and would not have gotten through things the same without them. but at the same time, i'm at a place now where i see how these relationships are not totally wise, nor are they always healthy.

why?

well, let me start with an illustration. imagine a guy walked in, saw me and thought "that's the girl i'm going to marry" - maybe a little farfetched but it happens! - and then he sees me standing, laughing, joking, hanging out with two guys, he's going to think i'm a flirt. he's going to think i'm unavailable. he's going to think i'm a player.

you can't disagree with that; that does not look good.

and same for them, if a girl walked in and saw them with me, what would she think?

by this title i am not implying the societal understanding of "friends with benefits" as in to mean "sex buddies" or "hook up pals". i am asking, looking at, reviewing in this post, what the benefit is of having friends of the opposite sex - the pros of these relationships (the companionship, the various perspectives, different interests, etc) but also looking at how these friendships can seem to be beneficial or healthy, but can be very complicated, confusing, and misleading. ultimately i'm wondering, are these friendships wise?

my stance is no, these friendships are not wise. so feeling convicted, i ended them.

i said "i'm distancing myself from you guys, we do not need to hang out alone, we do not need to spend so much time together". and now the boys are furious at me. and this is more verbal drama than took place in my real breakup!

they are taking so personally something that is not personal at all. they have done nothing to me to deserve this separation. they have not hurt me, they have not offended me, nothing. but i have felt convicted for weeks to make this change - and i even warned them about it! - now i'm serious. i hope that through my example they will see that my intentions are only beneficial for all of us. i hope this will encourage them to evaluate their other opposite sex friendships as well, and i hope they will see the worth in eliminating or limiting these relationships in their pursuit of holiness, love, life, leadership, and maturity.

my decision to no longer be friends with guys is because i want to be intentional in my relationships. what is the point of being good friends with guys if i don't want to marry them? i'll elaborate more as this post goes on, but there is no point really - and every point i could make will be countered later. we are created to have relationships and companionship. we are meant to crave and need that. but God didn't create eve so her and adam could hang out at starbucks and think everything they were doing and talking about was innocent, while secretly pondering to themselves whether they should be considering more with that individual. He created them to do life together, to embody His image, to demonstrate His love, and to "be fruitful and multiply". while i love, adore, am thankful for, and always pray for these guys, i do not think these friendships are always glorifying. what i naturally crave from a male-relationship is so much more than i want from guy friends and it's not fair to expect that from them when they are not in that role (of boyfriend, of potential husband), nor is it fair to me because it's dissatisfying and doesn't fill that natural desire, nor is it fair to my future husband as i build dependent relationships with other men. i also need to spend my time in relationships that will inevitably be short-lived because...

these friendships will cease when i do start dating someone. i will not disrespect the person i am dating by going and hanging out with another guy. and i would not be ok with it if he went and hung out with another girl. if i choose to be with a guy (and he chooses me) then i don't need other guys in my life as well. what then am i trying to prove? what void am i trying to fill? if one guy doesn't do it, then maybe it's that relationship i need to reevaluate. or my own maturity level. maybe i am not prepared to be in a relationship if i am still seeking relationship outside of it. i think it's insanely disrespectful for single guys to think it's ok to go hang out with their taken female friends (and vice versa). there is an ego thing going on there. you do not respect the man she is with if you think it's ok for you to spend time alone with her without him. and i'm not suggesting that it will lead to cheating, i'm not dabbling in that topic; it's a respect thing. you do not need to hang with taken people of the opposite sex alone single people, and taken people do not need to be hanging with opposite sex singles. it is just bad news bears.

you need to grow up. if you're a 20-25 year old, i would be kind of worried if marriage wasn't on your mind. i know there's an "epidemic" going on right now of boys being boys until their 35 but i, for one, will not tolerate that, or accept that of my friends (and fortunately i do not think they would necessarily fall into that category either). as a 20-25 year old, you do not need a 20 year old of the opposite sex planning your events for the evening and weekend, you do not need them to entertain you at church and fast-food restaurants. you need mentorship from someone older who will guide you biblically, provide a good example of pursuing holiness and having a godly marriage and family, and who will pray for you and keep you accountable in areas you need to be held accountable. you need to be saving your money. you need to be moving out of your parents basement. you need to be working on things you enjoy to make yourself well-rounded and interesting. you need to be serving because it demonstrates your leadership capabilities and it stretches and matures you. you need to be discipling, pouring into the lives of others. you need to be living a life in obedience of God so that His glory can be made manifest in your life. if you're a 25 year old guy, you don't need to spend time with female friends at starbucks, you should be pursuing a woman for marriage. sounds old-fashioned, but it worked back in the day. get back to basics. but, sidenote, no schemes men, no elaborate plans, no wooing tools. just be direct. you're 25. grow a pair, be a man, tell a woman how you feel about her, tell her your intentions. that's a million times more romantic than creepy flowers or manipulative conversations that highlight how you listened to her one time. (those, and a few more tips on not wooing women, can be found here.)

it's just not who i am. i'm not a flirt. i've always tried to be very intentional about how i flirt. i try to only flirt when i am genuinely interested. and i do not believe that i was a flirt with them, but i'm sure there were times when my actions could have been read that way because of my comfortability with them. and unfortunately it may have appeared that way to others. i hated how people asked all the time if we were dating... if i was dating both of them. no, gross. but they had every reason to ask. we were always together in one way or another. and while i hated it deep inside, there was a small part of me that took pride in the fact that it looked like i was dating both of them, like i was some "hot shot". gross allie. i am so not that girl. and i definitely do not want to continue acting like her, so i'm checking out. which leads me to...

you're using each other, whether you mean to or not. for comfort, for security, for an ego-boost, for protection, for reassurance, for... so many things. i never set out like, "oh i'm going to hang out with guys so i feel safe and cared for" but it was nice. and it was nice in my heartache to have guys who did treat me well. it reassured me that not all guys are jerks (which i do not, will not believe, but it's nice to be reassured). and, i don't know how, but i don't doubt that they too were using me. i'm not upset about that, but let's be honest, we're guilty of this. it feels good hanging out with nice, good-looking, funny, interesting people of the opposite sex, with good jobs and cars and who put themselves together well. when you dig, you see that there are ulterior motives there subconsciously and it's an ego-booster.

if you're hanging out with someone of the opposite sex it's because you're interested. something about them interests you. it might not be a realistic notion, it might not totally be a crush, but something about that person attracts you to them, whether it be their physical body, their intelligence, their status, their connections, their abilities, whatever. that's why we form friendships - because something attracts us to the other person. the problem, though, in opposite sex friendships is that usually because of this attraction, we ponder or even entertain the idea of something more. there is some sort of potential there and then there is a choice of whether to pursue it or not. for the sake of this topic, you decide not to pursue it. but then you are left looking for hints if something has changed between you two, or if the other is letting on to wanting more, or if there is dishonesty, or if there is more attractive (or less attractive) change that could then grow into something more. you question, could we be more than friends? and even if that answer continues to be "no", it can be very confusing. and when something does change, even if only on one side, it can all seem very misleading. then people get hurt. and for reasons that were completely avoidable.

i don't want to develop intimate relationships with men if i'm not going to commit my life to them. in her article "the truth about opposite sex friendships for singles", blogger ally spotts says that we form intimate relationships through three things: (1) shared experiences, (2) investment of time and energy, and (3) sharing stories and secrets. well, guilty, guilty, guilty as charged. doing things, going places, having fun, telling stories, sharing dreams, planning life, joking around, thinking of each other, all these things and more, together. bonding. building a dependency on or comfort level with someone of the opposite sex. dangerous territory. there is only one earthly man i want to "bond" with, and i don't know who he is yet. but he's worth forfeiting other friendships for. he's worth not spending my time making memories with other men. he's worth me taking the effort now to guard my heart from confusion, deceit, betrayal, and unnecessary breakage that can very well come from these seemingly-innocent but pretty confusingly-intimate relationships with other guys.

i love, care for, appreciate, and value these guys as examples and as companions in my life, and i am excited to watch them grow into the men i believe God wants them to be. i am excited to see His plans play out long-term. i am very excited to meet the women who will trump all the other female relationships in their lives. i am excited to see how they will treat her, and how that relationship will develop and blossom, and where it will lead.

my hopes for this change is not to will or hurt these guys into a change of heart and change of understanding given my intentions stated here, but i hope it will encourage all people to look at your friendships and weigh the value of what exists now for what is to come. to examine what you may have now but how that friendship may jeopardize (or benefit) your future relationships.

maybe it's time you too cut the ties. stop holding onto the comfort and security of an opposite sex friendship and seek instead the comfort and security you're placing in them in your Heavenly Father (first and foremost) and, further, have that backed up by same sex friends who are pursuing similar goals in holiness, love, life, leadership, and maturity.


references:
ally spott's "the truth about opposite sex friendships for singles"
ally spott's "what does a 'healthy' opposite sex friendship even look like?"
joy eggerich's "can guys and girls be friends? part 1" about when you have feelings for a friend and it's not reciprocated
-- "part 2" about when a friend likes you and you don't like them back
-- "part 3" about the anolgy of "snacking"

or for something different:
enuma okoro, on her.meneutics, "we're just friends. no really"

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