I know there is no straight up answer to this question because everyone has different boundaries and it’s a matter of permissible vs. beneficial. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past which have resulted in a lot of hurt and drama. What are some healthy guidelines for emotional boundaries in opposite gender friendships? How can I pursue a healthy, deep and ‘intimate’ friendship while guarding my heart (and the other person’s) without being legalistic? Or can guys and girls not be close friends?
Here’s the short, simple answer on this one:
While everyone thinks they can beat the odds and be the exception, almost no one can escape romantic feelings if they have a super-intimate relationship with the opposite gender.
The important thing here is what you choose to do with those feelings.
Now please hear me: You have a right to feel what you feel, but you’re not obligated to pursue it.
Just because you feel romantic emotions, it does NOT inevitably lead to a date and a wedding.
I know this probably isn’t your motive, but it’s so ingrained in us today that boys and girls can only flirt to communicate and there’s all this “unrequited longing” that we emulate from sitcoms.
I’m reminded of a very poignant Simpsons episode where Homer has feelings for another woman, so he thinks he has to have sex with her. He actually starts sobbing in his hands and says, “We’re gonna have sex.” I died.
Because of our overly sexualized culture, we assume that being around the opposite gender immediately means “romantic possibilities,” but it does NOT. You and I learned that crap from bad rom coms, Hollywood saturation, and your horny group of friends. We’ve all bought into this “friendzone” garbage, but no one is entitled to a date just because they’re “nice.”
We live in such an impulsive impatient generation, so we assume our first instinct must be the right one — as if we need to chase the rabbit every time. I mean really, when’s the last time we actually said NO to ourselves? Hardly ever. If I want Taco Bell at 2am, then by golly I will have my chalupa with extra beef grease and a side of twelve burritos.
My friend: you know your boundaries already. Do you know how you know? Because you’ve been hanging out with friends since you could walk. You learned how to navigate your own personality, the art of communication, your preferred space, whether you were an extrovert or introvert, and what kind of things you like to do. You don’t need to suddenly change all the rules for the opposite gender. Why would you?
I’m sure you see this playing out the wrong way all the time. We all know the guy who suddenly changes his voice and puffs out his chest when a girl walks in. We all know the girl who gets shrill and obnoxious when a dude walks in. No one actually thinks it’s cute.
I’m not talking about the natural nervousness of being around someone we’re attracted to: I mean that many of us are subconsciously trapped by trying to impress the opposite gender, as if maybe something will happen out of thin air. No one really thinks to the bottom of that belief. Very few people actually question how we got to this mutant form of romance.
We all need to relax on this and realize we are much more than our sexuality. We are human beings who share the common need for companionship and authenticity and intimacy, with both genders, and we can leave it at that without making it some drama. Let’s be grown-ups about this.
Please don’t believe the lie of immature romance. Yes, a guy and a girl can be friends, if you can just quit believing that feelings HAVE to go somewhere. They don’t.
On that note, if you meet an awesome person chasing after Christ and you hit it off and there are fireworks, then hey: go for it. Dating is not some evil monster that will ruin your future marriage. Too much of the Christian subculture on dating is outright harmful.
Also, when you get married, you will pretty much phase out any opposite-gender friends anyway. Spouses who don’t do this out of pride end up getting into disastrous trouble. I know that sounds unfair and someone always thinks they can beat this, but you can’t tell your wife, “Okay honey, I’m hanging out with Amy today, k thx bye!” Not unless you like sleeping by the front door. And trust me: when you’re mature enough to consider marriage, then leaving behind those friends will actually feel like a good thing.
So please set your boundaries by the ones you already have for friendship, investigate your own heart on what’s comfortable for you, and just relax around the boys and girls. If you feel your heart racing, just thank God you’re alive and you have the privilege of those emotions. It doesn’t mean you have to act on it: you make that choice.