I saw this question asked in a Youtube video I was watching. The question was asked by a married woman, wondering if it is ok for her to have male friendships outside her marriage. At first, this may seem an easily answered question. But there is a lot more to be considered than meets the eye.
While there is nothing specific in scripture forbidding us to have friendships with the opposite sex, I believe there is biblical wisdom we should adhere to, as well as practical wisdom. As married people, particularly Christian married people, this kind of situation is best approached with extreme caution. Most of us don’t live in an insulated bubble, like some off-the-grid family out in the wilderness. Most of us work, attend church, and socialize with a number of people on a regular basis. There are going to be relationships naturally formed with those of the opposite sex. HOWEVER, we should have very specific boundaries for ourselves and no one should ever be allowed to breach those parameters so that no opportunity arises for temptation.
Most people are familiar with the rules that former Vice President Mike Pence has set for himself regarding ever being alone with a woman who is not his wife. He was mocked and ridiculed for being so old-fashioned and behind the times. But Mike Pence is WISE in having this rule. He is showing his respect for his marriage to his wife Karen, as well as leaving no room for anyone to even assume he is up to something he shouldn’t be up to. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says,
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Many translations say, “Abstain from every form of evil.”. The *Literal Word Bible shows the Greek word for “form” is “eidos“, meaning “that which is seen, or appearance“.
My husband Jeff also follows this rule. He never allows himself to be alone with any female in his office, or even with a teenager of any sex. This is to avoid the appearance of any impropriety if he is seen be any passerby who might happen to notice that he is alone with someone. It is also to protect him from any false accusation of wrong-doing by the person he is meeting with. This is practical wisdom.
But what about friendships with the opposite sex?
Of course we can have friendships with anyone. We will have friendships in our work places and in our churches with people who are not the same gender as we are. This is natural, as we are created for relationships. It would actually be unnatural for us to hide from everyone of the opposite sex that we might possibly be friendly with. But, as mentioned above, these relationships must have boundaries. Allowing any relationship to develop into something that could possibly cause us to cross the line is strictly off limits. We must be guarded at all times, for when our guard is down, the enemy will sneak in and attack. Plus, our own sinful nature is bad enough on its own without Satan prowling around, seeking who he can devour.
You may want to ask yourself these questions about your opposite sex friendships:
“Am I tempted to keep this friendship a secret from my spouse?“
“Am I talking to this friend about things that should be off limits?“
“Am I thinking about this friend more than I should be?”
“Does this friendship dishonor my spouse?”
“Is this friendship something I would not be open with before God?”
“Would I be upset if my spouse had this kind of relationship with someone besides me?
If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it is time to nip this friendship in the bud because it is headed in a dangerous direction. *I might add, this includes any sort of feelings that may occur between you and the husband with a couple you and your spouse are friends with. Make sure your radar is always alert for any signs of something inappropriate. Don’t allow flirtatious joking of any kind, even with Christian couples you hang out with. This is just a bad idea. Any opposite-sex friendship where the lines are blurry isn’t a friendship we should be having. Chances are, if you are having any sort of thoughts of “This doesn’t seem like something we should be talking about.”, or “Maybe this isn’t a good idea.”, it is the Holy Spirit giving you discernment that you need to avoid this kind of entanglement. It can only go south if you allow it to continue.
We CANNOT allow ourselves to be lured into any kind of feelings toward a friend that would lead us into a relationship that God wouldn’t approve of. We must use wisdom and discernment in these matters. Some wise rules for ourselves should include:
*Don’t allow yourself to be in a situation where you are alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex. Many will say this rule is ridiculous. But if you are in a job where you are expected to meet alone or work alone with a man who isn’t your husband, then you need to reconsider that job and likely find another one. Protecting your marriage is more important than a career. Remember, if the shoe was on the other foot, would you be good with your husband meeting alone with another woman?
*Keep certain topics of conversation off limits. Don’t engage in any conversation that is sexual in nature, even if joking. This can send all kinds of mixed signals and lead to letting your guard down.
*Keep your husband in the loop about all your opposite sex friendships, even those on your social media. My husband isn’t as engaged on social media as I am. We are both on Facebook, but he isn’t on Twitter. I have a wide range of Christian friends on Twitter, both male and female. But I am an open book about my social media. There is nothing that I keep from him, and I share conversations with all my social media friends with him regularly. He knows who my social media friends are and I know his. If social media is a problem for you, I suggest sharing a social media page with your husband so that nothing can be done in secret.
Improper thoughts toward someone other than our own husband can more easily take root if our marriage relationship has lost its luster. Maybe our spouse isn’t as attentive as he once was, and maybe the guy at work is making you feel attractive or is actually interested in your conversation. When this happens we are more apt to let our guard down because we are longing for something we consider better than what we currently have. But make no mistake, a bad marriage is no excuse for a friendship to cross the line into an ungodly relationship. We are to be faithful to our own husbands, period. All marriages have ups and downs, even the best ones. Our responsibility is to our wedding vows and to honor God in our marriage. This means making sure anyone outside your marriage relationship knows that you are off limits to anything that goes beyond acceptable and biblical Christian friendship. The key to keeping our boundaries clearly marked is to devote all of our energy into our relationship with our own spouse. Make sure the world knows that you are a “one-man woman”. Dote on your husband publicly. Make sure it is clear where you stand in your marriage. Everyone you know should be able to clearly see that you are unavailable! Our full devotion is to be for our spouse and our spouse alone. If we are focused on our own marriages, then friendships can remain as they should be: FRIENDSHIPS.
Biblical friendships are good and needed things. God WANTS us to be in fellowship with other believers. He honors godly friendships. We need friends of both genders in our lives. We may need to call on them for help or for prayer. Scripture is full of wisdom about friendships. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” There are times we need our friends around us. I LOVE the men and women in my church as my brothers and sisters. They are dear friends in Christ. We laugh and fellowship together. We mourn together. We worship together. These are the kinds of friendships we need in our lives. We just must make sure our friendships stay pure, God-honoring, and spouse-honoring. All friendships that fall outside God’s precepts are off limits.
*The Literal Word Bible is a bible app where you can click on any word and see the word in its original language and meaning. I use it frequently. For more information click here. Available in the App Store and Google Play.