Can single men and women be friends?

I have four very powerful daughters, they are women in their own right and I have watched as each one has developed her own style, persona, and identity while navigating adulthood.


As each daughter evolved, her friendships evolved as well, from the cradle to the covenant I have watched, warned and welcomed three of my daughters friends and as the girls grew from friends to partners in life with their husbands I have seen a change in the dynamic that started as buddies hanging out transform into something deep and connected (but the buddy part still remains and is beautiful now).


With each one of my girls I have had to sit down and do the “guys and girls can’t be friends” talk…each one of my girls protested and denied it only to come to the same conclusion eventually. The three who are married will reaffirm the basic mantra that friendship between the sexes is a limited endeavor because of the primary differences in our identities as male and female, but this is not a conclusion they came to without understanding it from a male perspective, I had to tell them repeatedly that the guys whom they assumed were just their friends were actually not wired to remain that way…and each time they protested, but eventually my perspective became the obvious truth of the situation regardless of how hard they tried to avoid it.


I cannot speak for the women, because I am not female, but I can testify of the male side of the equation, and I think this is the side where the primary problem lies.

In Genesis when God created man, he created them originally as “mankind”, (to help with semantics), the original vignette has them being created together and the dominion mandate to be fruitful and multiply was handed to “mankind”…


But then we have the story where God interrupts the creation and says “It is not good for the man to be alone”…and then there’s the whole naming of the animals event, and in that process it says ” a help meet suitable was not found for him…”


This is an interesting play of events because one of the issues at stake here that always comes up in the dialogue is loneliness…


When God said it was not good for the man to be alone, He did not say “Its not good for him to be lonely”, there’s a big difference  between the biblical alone, and loneliness…and this is at the core of the friendship problem.


My girls all assumed that if a guy was lonely he just needed a friend, and that’s why friendship could work out, because from a female perspective if you are lonely, hey just go get a friend, problem solved…

But the issue is not about companionship which would be easy to assume if he were “lonely”no instead the issue goes to the core of who a man is and his assignment, he is “alone” and its not good…if he were lonely a dog would do the trick, but if he had an assignment, say build a road from A to B and he is “alone” then the dynamic changes… 

There is a core difference in how the sexes approach relationships that never really gets noticed but when I say it you might agree (this is just my own personal observation)…

Women create relationships for environment, men create them for identity…thats why candles, lights and pillows are important to women they are always creating environment to help facilitate a sense of well being and steadfastness…you want to mess with a womans world mess up her stability, and if you really want to tick her off use the guest towels to clean up your greasy hands…you’ve destroyed environment for her its not about towels, they can be replaced, its about something deeper than decorations…(if you want to see a disaster let me be the one setting the environment, I know what I don’t like and that is the sum total of my skill set in that arena).


Men are connecting for a different reason, and that is to identify, its more about territory and boundaries, and environment really doesn’t matter so much that’s why men gravitate around teams and events, they don’t really need stability, they need to identify and become part of something, they can do this on a tailgate waiting for the game to start, they really don’t look for environment they look for sameness…(but not exact sameness, not uniformity, they are searching for something that is the same as a rib gone missing on the inside of them…its a bit hard to explain)…


These two approaches are actually perfect together…but are different in value to the other sex…


Friendship for a man is not as much about relationship as it is about identity…the old saying you can tell a man by the company he keeps is primarily about how men approach relationships and at the core it is about identity and not about emotional connection…


And most of the time my girls just wanted the social connection that could meet some of the emotional need that they had, so a no strings attached relationship was ideal and expected, why not, because women in general are wired for emotional connection and you can do a lot of that by just hanging out together…so for my girls, it was a major hurdle to understand that men are not simply “lonely”…they are created “alone” and in need of something more than a friend.


Frankly I never really expected my girls to understand this anymore than I could understand what the emotional feeling of going through a period was like, its not something that you can understand with simple information, unless you are male, you just won’t get it because language is inadequate to describe what the “alone” part is all about.

When you make a friendship only about the emotional connection for a man, you have stripped away some of his identity in the process…


So this is about the place I expect a religious response like “Well the bible says I am complete in Christ”, or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”…good verses…lets talk context…


If you are complete in Christ, then you don’t need Apostles, Prophets, teachers, etc…if this verse can be lifted out of context to mean whatever we want then it can be used to say I don’t need anyone since I am complete in Him, which means I don’t need the church or relationships, or…you get the drift. 

And to say “I can do all things through Christ”, well can I as a man carry a baby for nine months and give birth? IF I can do all things then yes, but the context is what makes the verse powerful, God is not granting a free pass from reality with this verse and we shouldn’t either.


The reason I address this is because many times the standard answer to the “alone” issue is “You are complete in Christ” implying that I am whole and don’t need anything…which is simply not true…if God makes a man to be alone until he finds his Eve, then until he finds her he is incomplete…period.

So the standard next response is ‘Well God will fill your need until its time”…again…NOT TRUE…if God makes a vacancy inside you that was meant to be connected to another person, and then fills it up with Himself, He has violated what He was doing in the first place…God will not fill a spot designed for another person just so the man can feel better…sorry it won’t happen and anyone who says it does is lying.


So what does all of this “alone-ness” have to do with friendship between the sexes?


I have firm conviction that every relationship needs a vision, a purpose and ultimate goal, and men in general are driven to conquer, to accomplish they are task driven by nature, but they also need stability, consistency, a sense of comfort and the familiar.


This might seem at odds with the very nature of relationships, but it is actually a very essential element in any healthy friendship, a good relationship needs to grow and evolve and develop new depth and deeper connections, because anything alive must grow, the minute you stop growth atrophy and worse sets in.


This is where the male element is so powerful, a healthy man will want to take a relationship deeper, stronger and he will be willing to conquer anything to get it there, he is motivated in his core to accomplish something even in his relationships.

(And more times than not an unfortunate side effect of marriage is that the male stops pursuing depth, value and improvement, he actually “shuts down” who he is because in his mind he won the girl, task accomplished… but the goal was never supposed to be win the girl, the goal is to win the girl then connect, win the girl connect, win the girl connect…etc…only same girl every time…how many marriages do we see where environment and identity have slipped into some comatose state because our culture has framed the conversation rather than our Heavenly Father?)


Women on the other hand are wired for consistency, stability, dependability, steadfastness, these are the descriptors that help us see the differences in the sexes, even our muscles reflect this basic design, mens muscles are designed for powerful force events, while womens are designed for longevity, endurance, stability…and we need both.


Just as it would be unfair and unreasonable to expect a woman to be in a relationship that was volatile, unstable, inconsistent and unpredictable, it is unfair to expect a man to be in a relationship that has no potential for growth, no hope for change, nothing to accomplish but just hanging out…


Its wrong to expect a woman to be in a relationship without the female side, and it is equally wrong to expect a man to be in a relationship without the male side.


And this is where the rubber meets the road in the friendship debate, if a guy is truly wired as a male then he is “alone” and will be continuously searching for that part that can connect to his vacancy, even if he does not do it consciously, he will be doing it subconsciously, and many times my girls would say “Oh he says we’re just friends”, but if he’s wired the way God made him then ultimately he will seek to take the relationship into new territory, he will seek to conquer, and fill a vacant spot created by God…and this is what he is designed to do, there is nothing wrong, perverted or shallow about it.

Our current culture tells us a different story though, we assume that women and men need the same things in a friendship, and hanging out will solve the issue, lets just get along and be friends and you won’t be lonely, but lonely is not the problem if it were the animals would have been enough, its a vacancy created by God meant to be filled by something very much like God, (but not quite God)…see the word “help + meet” actually means “deliverer/savior/helper/+ in my face” … (this is closer to the actual definition of help-meet than the way we use the word)

This is a lot more than a friend and any man in touch with who he is knows this, because this speaks to the identity issue in him, this helps him connect to his assignment in ways that being best buddies can never do, its about finding that connection to help him build that road from A to B…there is a sameness in another he is looking for that he might have to draw out but he’s aware of it because it resonates with something in him that no one else can see…


Well what about Jesus, he had friends that were women…really? I see him empowering women, I see him honoring women like no one had ever done, it would be the equivalent of going into Afghanistan and changing the entire culture to make women powerful, but I do not find one verse where it says he was friends with women…there were women who ministered to him, I believe he lifted women up to the stature that was in original design, but frankly even the culture of his day prevented the kind of freedom for women that the Kingdom is bringing…


So what am I saying, am I suggesting that single men and women cannot be friends…?

That depends on the definition…

What is it that men expect?

What is it that women expect?


One of these things is not like the other…


So who is responsible to adapt?


Is it fair to only expect one side to change expectation?


Good questions…you decide…

I think they can be acquaintances, I think they can hang out and do things together, perhaps work on a projects, but at some point any real man is going to need two things, he is going to want to take the relationship into new territory and he is going to need to fill the vacancy that God created inside him, and when he reaches an impasse in those arenas he will lose interest and motivation for the relationship, he cannot help it, it is the way he is designed…at best he will accommodate a social construct so as not to appear shallow, but he will be discouraged and ultimately it will damage his capacity to trust and hope for something more…


The difficult part is that most women don’t really see this, our culture does not allow for men to have needs, but if you go back to the garden, it was the man who had the first need of all creation…it was the very first “not good” God ever said…but we aren’t allowed to talk about it…


If you want proof just look at a married man…how many single women are his close friends? How driven is he to connect and engage with single women, how many times do you see a married man hanging out being buddies with single women?


Never.


If you do there’s trouble brewing, and you know it.


So if a married man cannot do this, because its not natural, then why do we assume a single man can?


Think about it, you’ll get it…and if you know of single men who seem to be able to do it, there is either a huge amount of discipline combined with internal conflict, or there is something unnatural happening…because they were not designed to ignore the “alone” and not good part…

Gods the one who said its not good for man to be alone (not lonely), why do we think we can change it by substituting a no strings attached relationship?


So is it impossible for there to be single male/female relationships?


No I don’t believe that, but it is very important that we learn to honor our distinctive differences, most men and women  actually are in search of something deeper, its important to recognize that this is a very fragile dynamic, and while it is possible, it also has potential for lots of misunderstanding and we need extra grace to navigate here.


The last thing you should do is devalue women, and the next to the last thing you should do is destroy a mans hope…


She was meant to be adored, and he was meant to conquer something…mess with that and you’ve damaged Gods kids…

*Addendum POST SCRIPT Etc…et al…(or what I’m NOT saying)

After re-reading this today (I actually wrote this quite late) I realize that I might be communicating that men and women cannot have connection and friendship except on a deep level with a heightened sense of purpose, and that all relationships either crash and fade or end up in some kind of covenant defined no-mans land…this is obviously, frankly and irrevocably not true.


I have several women (who are married to my best friends) who are my best friends, the outlier obviously being the boundaries of covenant creates a sphere of safety that allow me the freedom to grow and experience depth in an emotional and healthy connection.


There are a few women that I have friendships with where there is a fairly defined safety zone based on age difference or perhaps “missing mutual chemistry” where we feel safe enough to connect intellectually and occasionally emotionally…


And then there are a few relationships where the respect of our faith and the honor due a fellow traveler allow a restrained connection based on ministry/assignment/or covenant family.


Within all of these relationships I am seeking to edify, build, empower and connect as fully human and and fully male as decorum, dignity, and design allow…so I am not saying that emotional connection is impossible, because it happens frequently and I am always the richer person for making that connection as valid and mutually beneficial as is possible…

…but in my core…

…I am always looking for an echo….


…like a dolphin sending out sonar…


…there is an unscripted and unspoken message waiting for a response…


Something has gone missing inside me and whether I choose it or not part of me is looking for a sameness and the only place to search is in the arena of friends I have (or don’t have yet)…and when I don’t hear the echo a part of me is driven to move on into deeper waters,  to conquer the unknown and the unfamiliar…I have an assignment and I need someone in my face that reminds me of God…my identity needs the reminder…more than anyone knows…


 So I love the fact that women and men are different, are motivated differently, move at different emotional paces, think from different approaches and have diverse ways of expressing many of the same experiences…and I would not know this if connection were not possible outside of some marriage box…


I am assuming that when I talk about friendship it is understood that every relationship must start first as friends and ultimately stay there albeit much richer, there is nothing wrong with being friends, it is the canvas upon which we paint our deeper connections…


And when I truly think about it…the person you pursue for the deeper connections in life should ultimately be your very best friend or it would be weird….


Hope that “splains” it more better…







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