When friendship hurts

At the end of my last post I mentioned that fear of losing friendship was a major reason why guys don’t ask girls out. In fact I should be more specific, it is often why I haven’t asked girls out. And that makes this a difficult piece to write, because when I talk generally I am really doing little more than publicise my introspection.

But I don’t think I’m alone, so hopefully this will be helpful. I’m also going to include some different points of view which effectively turn the issue on its head.

For me friendships with girls have got in the way in two different ways. Firstly, there have been girls who I am friends with who I fancy (a dreadful term but it does the job).

The fear here is that I might endanger our friendship either by broaching the subject and finding it not reciprocated, or by any ensuing relationship going sour.

At most points in my life I have had better relationships with girls than guys. At times I have found myself interested in a girl that strolls into my life unattached, but invariably exits stage right on the arm of another.

My attractions have always remained muted, leaving me to wonder whether I missed an opportunity to grasp everlasting happiness. I rationalise these doubts away, thinking that as in hindsight nothing came of these proto-relationships I was better off not pursuing them, and saving myself the inevitable awkwardness that would have ensured had I broached the subject and they declined as they were destined to do in my curiously pessimistic mental role play. Really, I’m just a wimp.

The second scenario is where I am not interested in more than friendship, and perhaps as a result easily slip into an emotional dependency. A friend put it something like this: guys are such good friends with girls that they don’t feel the need for a girlfriend. I’m not sure I would ever put it quite as starkly as that, but I suspect at least subconsciously that I receive a dose of affirmation and attention from girls that cause me to question my need for anything more. Dependency can be toxic, and while a lot of this happens subconsciously I think it is fair to acknowledge female friend dependency.

There’s a particular issue here for Christians who are assiduously encouraged to preserve sex for marriage. This means that they, we, I, have dismissed physical attraction and temptation as off limits. The mindset is often that ‘I shouldn’t be having these feelings’. It becomes hard in this scenario to differentiate between a close female friend, and a girl you like because the physical attraction is thought of as less than pure and therefore removed from the equation.

Rarely, if ever, have I had a sole female friend who becomes in effect a pseudo girlfriend, because I have many female friends, which has a good and a bad side. Good: I don’t want to be inappropriately close to just one girl. Bad: I like to preserve my friendships with multiple girls.

This is slightly absurd, while I am single I excuse emotional closeness with different girls but when you are in a relationship with one this is not sustainable. I know deep down that this is an inevitable, essential and worthy sacrifice, but I still resist.

I’ve talked to a few girls about this to see if it is the same the other way round. And I don’t think it is quite the same, girls are emotionally open with each other in a way that guys aren’t. I also think that guys are more likely to be ignorant of any faux relationship that develops in a friendship.

One girl I spoke to made a lot of just how manipulative girls can be, ‘they take craziness to a whole different level’. She only claimed to be speaking for herself but the point was that girls will go to extraordinary lengths if they are interested in a guy.

Guys can also be premeditated in trying to show their attraction in pretty minute ways, I know that I have been. But at the risk of confirming the stereotype of guys, the lengths that girls go to may not necessarily be picked up with the same forensic scrutiny with which they were planned.

I made a big deal in an earlier post that guys are not all the same and neither are girls. So all I’ve said should come with a health warning – it might be entirely irrelevant to you.

I was chatting with a guy yesterday about female friends and his experience struck a very different chord to mine. His concern was that even within a church overflowing with single ladies he found it hard to develop friendships with them, and as a result struggled to know whether there might be any relationship in the offing.

I’ll wrap this up by circling in on something I said before, the disassociation of physical affection from relationships outside marriage. By presenting marriage as something other, and that as the sole place for physical intimacy, the line between close male and female friends and a ‘relationship’ is too easily blurred.

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4 thoughts on “When friendship hurts

  1. I totally agree with the above – especially the final paragraph. It think it is sometimes difficult to understand the differences between the relationship that exists between a single Christian girl and a single Christian guy in a close platonic friendship and that which exists between an unmarried Christian couple. Both “sets” share their time, resources, struggles and experiences on a much deeper level than typically occurs between non-Christian friends/unmarried couples and there isn’t (theoretically) a physical aspect to either relationship.
    Why then is “coupledom” more beneficial than close platonic friendship especially if the relevant individuals are a very long way away from considering marriage to eachother (assuming they want to get married at all)? I think it may be worth exploring the benefits of being part of an unmarried couple in a Christian context (other than the fact that it enables to “try before you buy”) .

  2. Very wise Danny my dear. And I think the middle bit is particularly important – if you have lots of close friends of the opposite sex when you’re single and then you get married it leaves you in an interesting position. I know many girls (including yours truly) who have been hurt by guys cutting them off or stepping away after they enter a more serious relationship with someone else. This might suggest that their original relationship was inappropriate. Or that the boy’s feelings at least were. Similarly, I have also found it harder to become friends with guys whom I didn’t know before marriage since being married and that raises a lot of questions also. But then you know me, if someone told me I had to have only female friends I’d probably die of boredom ;o( xxx

  3. Fascinating stuff. Before I began my current relationship, I seemed to attract guys who were amazingly keen on deep and meaningful platonic friendships with me but not actually a relationship. Often I would be interested in them and so allow the friendship to develop in this way. I eventually realised that the guys were “having their cake and eating it” – ie. having the benefit of having all the emotional resources of a girlfriend without actually committing to me as my boyfriend. I think that this is wrong behaviour – and should be preached as such from the pulpit.

    I think the oversupply of single girls to single guys within the church allows the guys to develop unrealistic expectations. So they meet a girl who is their *equal* (not that there is a hierarchy in the Kingdom of God but I hope readers understand what I mean) whi is on their level intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. They get on as friends and companions but the guy thinks “hey this is good but, y’know maybe I can pitch higher to the amazingly godly, drop dead gorgeous girl with a Cambridge double First. In the meantime this female friend can keep me company till Mrs Perfect comes along. One reason amongst many why the Church urgenlty needs to reach single men with the gospel. The imbalance is causing havoc to male/female relationships in the church.

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