Men Friends

January 12, 2013

in the generous life

♥ ♥ ♥ 33 days to Valentine’s Day ♥ ♥ ♥

I had an interesting email from a generous wife (thanks, Tonya!) asking about a challenging subject. The gist of her post was:

If you’re married, can you have opposite gender friends and, if so, what do you do about boundaries?

I think there are enough scriptures in the New Testament that speak of opposite sex friendships that we can rule out the “don’t have any men friends” option.

I do, however, think that a few boundaries are in order.

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.  1 Timothy 5: 1-2  NIV

I like what Paul said to Timothy about treating people as family. I think this means to have right attitudes about others. If you are married, you are not looking for a date. Older men will be more like grandfathers/fathers/uncles, same age and younger men will be more like brothers or sons. That attitude will show in how you speak to them and how you treat them.

I also think a part of the equation is how you treat your husband. If men can see a difference then it’s clear they are friend material.

Though my husband is a friend, he is obviously much more than a friend. I have greater intimacy with him on all levels. No one else will come close to that, much less exceed that. I don’t keep secrets from him. He knows more about my life in every area that any of my friends. He is set apart and obviously very special to me. I doubt there is anyone who does not know that I am married and that I love my sweetie.

My husband and I also tend to socialize together. The men friends in my life are generally “our” friends not just “my” friends. It’s just another nice layer of relationship safety.

Online, it’s fairly similar. My husband and I tend to have “our friends” online.  We know each other’s passwords.

If I really needed to speak alone with a guy (I can’t think of any reason why right now, but theoretically it could happen), I would probably invite him to have coffee at the local coffee shop where many people I know gather.

Work situations are a bit tougher because you may have work related reasons for spending time with a guy. In that situation, I would be very professional and do my best to involve my husband in anything social (like invite my husband to lunch when office friends dine out and/or have him drop in now and then, so that he knows my male coworkers/friends).

And, if all else should fail, I have an accountability partner. Anything starts looking fishy in my relationships, and I guarantee that Auna will be in my face. She is perceptive and isn’t afraid to call me on stuff. She is a valuable help and wonderful friend.

Bottom line …

Be wise. Treat your men friends as friends. Don’t flirt and set boundaries that make it plain that your husband is the love of your life. Create whatever safeguards you need to keep your heart right and your marriage growing.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

C R January 12, 2013 at 5:08 am

I agree to a point. I think the safe guards you mentioned are great; my wife and I do the same thing. I would like to add a few other safe guards that were not mentioned. First and foremost make sure your spouse is satisfied in your marriage whether it be sexually, spiritually, conversationally…whatever; without being satisfied your spouse is open not only to temptation but may speak of their need. That need may open the door for conversation that leads down the wrong path. We must remember it is not just us or our spouse that are in these conversations, the other person especially if that person “friend” is of the opposite sex may not respect our boundaries or our beliefs and they may be looking for “more” out of the friendship. We must remember that these friendships usually represent two marriages so we are not only safe guarding our marriage but someone else’s marriage. I work with all women and find that as a Christian man I constantly have to reestablish the boundaries to maintain safety not only for my marriage but for their marriages also. Finally I think having “our” friends is probably the best because that usually means that you all share very similar values and boundaries; for instance my male friends know that I will not enter their home if they are not there and they will not enter mine if I am gone. That example may sound extreme but my wife and I have found after years of marriage mentoring that very rarely do you know what truly is going on in a marriage, so strict boundaries are best to protect everyone because if the appearance or implication of impropriety is destructive.

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Pearl January 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

The advice here would work for wives, as well as husbands. It is full of wisdom. I especially liked that your overall attitude should reflect 1 Tim. 5, family! Thanks, Lori!

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Katrina January 12, 2013 at 11:07 am

I agree with most everything, but I would say that there should never be a time that I need to speak to a man privately, so for me the coffee shop scenario is also dangerous because it still allows room for reproach. As a wife, and as a pastor’s wife, if someone I know sees me having coffee even in public, with a man who is not my husband, there is room to question. When I should need to email a man, such as the guy who publishes our bulletin, I always also CC my husband. Same on Facebook. If I send a message via Facebook to any man that is not one of my brothers, I always include my husband on the message. If emailing my brothers in law, I’ll either include my husband or my sister (their wife). The enemy will look for any allowance and while this list is a good start, I think even more caution must be exercised.

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Katrina January 12, 2013 at 11:32 am

I would also love to see Scripture that allows for those kinds of friendships if you could share those.

I don’t think there’s room for “if all else fails” when it comes to my marriage…

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The Generous Wife January 12, 2013 at 11:40 am

@Katrina If you look at the New Testament church you see that they gathered in homes where they shared meals, studied together, prayed for each other, etc. They were very family like.

I can also point to the times that Paul talked about women as his co-workers in Christ. He also lived and worked with Priscilla and Aquila. It’s obvious that they were important to him. In his last letter he calls her Prisca, a nickname.

Men and women related to each other, working side by side to share the Gospel. It was obviously astounding in that culture and their relationships were marked with a God kind of love.

I’m sorry that “if all else fails” was an offense to you. It was merely a figure of speech. I am pointing out that you can create a number of reasonable safeguards to help you have safe relationships with men. That, and my accountability partner is really fierce. ;)

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The Generous Wife January 12, 2013 at 11:47 am

@Katrina, I do understand your thoughts about the coffee shop. I struggle a bit with that too. My only problem with it is that Jesus didn’t have a problem talking with the woman at the well.

I can’t really think of any reason why I would need to talk with a guy alone either, but I won’t rule it out. If I needed to, I would pick a public place because then we would be seen and safe. That sure beats talking behind closed doors.

I do understand others being critical, but if my talking to that man makes the difference between his eternal life and death, I’ll take the reproach.

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Rosemary January 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I have always been careful with boundaries. For business reasons I sometimes have to talk to a guy alone, but I am always careful to do so in a context where my intentions will not be misunderstood. (Of course, there are sometimes jerks who will choose to misunderstand you no matter what you do. There are other ways of dealing with them.) The most important thing is that I know my own heart and mind, and that I am not hiding anything from my husband.
Rosemary recently posted…Can You Affair-Proof Your Marriage?My Profile

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Joe Robinson January 13, 2013 at 7:31 pm

All I can say is be very careful in your liberties. Just because something is lawful does not always mean it is the right thing to do. The Holy Spirit should be our guide to direct us through life. Let’s lean a lot more on Him.

Proverbs 3:5-7

Love and Respect to you all

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Stone January 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm

The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy! Even having “our” friends is not a sufficient safeguard. I discovered an emotional affair going on between my wife and one of our closest (married) friend!! No human can be trusted, Ever. Keep paying that God will cover your marriage even with all the safeguards that you might put in place.

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kevin January 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Bad analogy but here goes. If you have to put a leash on your dog, it’s not your dog.

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The Generous Wife January 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm

@Stone I’m so sorry that your wife and friend chose wrongly and hurt you and so many people.

I received a number of emails that basically said what you did (and, honestly, I hate to speak in the face of that much pain), but I’m concerned that fear of what can happen will stop the church’s ability to reach a world in desperate need of a Savior.

We are a broken people but we also have a Healer and we are called to a great work. If we fear what could happen then we will hide and many will be lost.

I don’t mean to diminish your experience and pain, I just don’t want to let the brokenness in our lives keep us from listening to Him and doing what He says.

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The Generous Wife January 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm

@Kevin Actually I kind of like your analogy. :) I realize that analogies only go so far, but I do understand that if you have to “leash” a relationship, the relationship is already in trouble. It’s time to get help.

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Amy January 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

I agree completely that we do not want to stand in the way of witnessing for Christ. I also have the experience of having a husband who entered into an emotional affair with a coworker … which began out of his assisting her with marital struggles in her life, suggesting books and videos we own in order to share the Truth. Satan, as he did with Eve, can tangle the Truth and use it to deceive. He is WILDLY successful at this, especially in our very distracted times.

The Bible warns strongly of avoiding even the temptation of the adulteress. We do NOT know the status of even our closest friends’ or relatives’ marriages, because we can’t know their hearts. Only God does. The kindest, most well-meaning, but UNFULFILLED person can either initiate or follow the path to an affair. The path is very narrow at first, easy to see the pitfalls. But then, the guise of helpfulness and outreach — which can be misconstrued either way by Christians and unbelievers alike — begins to spiral. But you’re still helping someone, and suddenly, she’s helping you, too. Win, win!

People who have affairs have no idea they’re even having them until it’s too late. Some go in fully aware, but in the case of family friends, working relationships and old chums on Facebook, the slippery slopes outnumber the even ground.

Witness and witness all you can, but avoid meeting the opposite sex anywhere for anything. Don’t allow a foothold for Satan.

Avoid the temptation. Don’t avoid the witness — which can be a quick seed-planting, not a deep discussion. Deep discussions divulge feeling. Feeling grows and twines into something it’s really not. One person or the other may feel a desire for greater connection.

As the wife in a recovered marriage, I have a husband who finally knows what it means to have female friends, and how many times he stepped in to help and came close to falling into the pit himself. When he finally did fall, he lost his ability to discern reality from secretiveness, and it took months to regain his reality.

The devil DOES devour. Don’t offer even a finger-wag of disdain to The Tempter, he will take whatever he can.

Blessings to you — this is a difficult subject, but of ultimate importance in our world where lives are hidden by passwords and preference lists!
Amy recently posted…Tales of a Business Traveler’s Wife: LonelinessMy Profile

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Alecia January 22, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I think in this case the analogy doesn’t work. I can see the premise behind it but based on your actual blog post the idea is that we should be keeping ourselves in check. If I “leash” myself or if my spouse and I have any number of boundaries in place that work for us then those boundaries don’t mean my relationship is unhealthy or in trouble. It means I was smart enough and “wise” enough to do what was best for the sake of what should be my most treasured relationship.

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The Generous Wife January 22, 2013 at 10:12 pm

@Alecia I guess I was thinking of my new puppy. He is still pretty tough to walk on a leash. He can literally pull you off your feet.

“Putting someone on a leash” meant “putting significant restrictions on your spouse” to me.

In marriage, I think it’s good to have safeguards that work for you, but when you have to highly restrict (leash) your spouse, you have to ask yourself why that is necessary. Lack of intimacy, lack of trust? Time to really work on your marriage and maybe even get third party help.

Reasonable safeguards – yes. A leash? – sounds like a problem.

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S May 6, 2014 at 11:47 am

I’m not married, but I think the bottom line is that if someone wants to cheat, they’re going to find a way to cheat. Trying to avoid all possible scenarios when you might interact with the opposite sex, or making your spouse do so, isn’t going to stop that. I have married male friends with whom I feel absolutely safe because I know they’re totally committed to their wives, and I’ve had other married male friends with whom I had to cut off the relationship because they indicated they wanted more. Having friends isn’t the problem, your heart is the problem; if you truly desire to obey God and live by the Spirit you’re going to keep from cheating without having to “fence” yourself with a bunch of rules (not saying there aren’t certain guidelines that are wise to follow).

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