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    Q: #23. Is it wrong for married people to have opposite sex friendships?

By: Steve Shirley

    A: There are two kinds of friendships that a married person can have with the opposite sex: a healthy one and an unhealthy one.

     The KEY to a healthy friendship should revolve TOTALLY around your spouse.

Your spouse should be good friends with your friend.

There should NEVER be any meetings or get togethers with your friend unless either your spouse or others are present.

There should be nothing discussed with your friend that you don't share with your spouse as well.

Your spouse should totally approve of your friendship, and if he/she does not, it should be ended immediately!

     Some signs that your "friendship" is headed for trouble include:

You meet alone with your friend.

You meet with your friend without telling your spouse.

You discuss intimate details of your life with your friend.

You speak negatively about your spouse to your friend.

Your friend meets needs that your spouse does not.

You miss your friend when you don't see them, and can't wait to see them again.

You are physically and/or emotionally attracted to your friend.

    "I can handle it, it isn't a problem." This is how addiction starts. People who begin drinking don't expect to become alcoholics. People who try drugs don't expect it might lead to drug addiction. Married people don't start personal friendships with the opposite sex thinking that it will lead to lust and an affair.

    The dangers of lust are spoken of a great deal in the Bible: (James 1:14-15)(James 4:3)(Mt 5:28)(1 Jn 2:16-17)(1 Pet 2:11)(Gal 5:22-24)(2 Tim 2:22). A definition I use for lust is: a strong desire or preoccupation for someone or some thing that you want so badly that you cannot be happy unless you get it. (I speak in more detail about the differences between love vs lust in the section "What The Bible Says.")

     Opposite sex friendships that turn from healthy to unhealthy relationships are centered on lust. If you are someone who is reading this, who is involved in a friendship that has broken the boundaries, I am quite sure you disagree. You are saying, "I know what love is, and this IS LOVE," or, I have NEVER felt this way about ANYONE before, it truly is LOVE." You are convinced what you have is love. It is not...

     Love is not a "feeling" or "emotion," love is a commitment. Lust is about having our wants, needs, and desires fulfilled, but love is all about dying to our wants, needs, and desires. The Bible tells us we are to do this (Gal 5:24)(Col 3:5)(Eph 4:22). Love does not want to get, it wants to give. For the Christian, love should always be God centered, and seeking God for total fulfillment. Lust is the total opposite for the Christian. God is NOT at the center of it, and it looks to a person or thing, instead of God to be fulfilled.

     Being "in love" is an emotion. In fact, being "in love" doesn't even necessarily have to include a person. We "love" chocolate or ice cream. We "love" t.v. shows or movies. We "love" money, music, sports, cars, etc... Why do we say we "love" these things? Because, they fill an emotional desire or need in our life.

     The same thing applies to a person we are "in love" with. They fill an emotional need in our life. However, if we look to anyone or anything in this world to meet our needs, we become an enemy of God (James 4:4)(Rom 8:7). We are to look to God, and if we don't, we are in sin. Whatever pleasure we find in our sin will not last (Heb 11:25). We can only find lasting joy and peace in God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

     The reason we have so many divorces today is because people marry based on the "in love" experience. However, that feeling does not last. When it fades, they determine that since they no longer "feel" love, they might as well divorce. This is why our love must be based on a commitment, and not a "feeling." We are COMMANDED by God to love our wife (Eph 5:25,28) or husband (Titus 2:4). If you are a Christian, you likely made a vow to God when you married that you would love your spouse forever. God's love for us is not conditional, nor should our love be so.

     Let's look at an example of how opposite sex friendships can break the boundaries, and often end in an affair. It starts our casually enough, you discuss friends, kids, jobs, school, church, etc... You may even talk about God and the Bible. It seems harmless enough. However, things slowly become more intimate. You start to share personal details of your life. You talk about your marriage problems. You talk things that you don't feel like you can share with your spouse. You start to find that you are connecting with this person in a way that you never could with your spouse. This "friend" encourages you, comforts you, compliments you, builds you up. They do and say things you wish your spouse would do. When you aren't with them, you are sad. You can't wait to see them again. Suddenly... you realize that you are no longer just "friends," you are "in love."

     I ask you to examine each sentence from this last paragraph. Do you see a pattern? Each of these sentences has one thing at the center: "your emotions." This is exactly what lust is. It is centered on your emotions. It is desiring something that we must have in order to be happy. God is not at the center of it, nor does He have any part in it. Lust has the same power as any addiction. It is life consuming. It is overpowering and takes control of your life. And... it destroys marriages.

     Friend, if you have an opposite sex friendship that has crossed the boundaries, or is heading down the wrong path, it needs to stop NOW! The longer you remain in it, the harder it will be to break free. As I have said, this is an addiction. Expect withdrawal symptoms. Among the symptoms you can expect to go through are: grief, pain, resentment, depression, anger, and swings in emotion. Do NOT try and face them alone. You will need help from someone trained to deal with this kind of problem.

     You will also need to share EVERYTHING with your spouse. Expect the same emotions in them that you are going though. They will feel betrayed and confused and will likely have many questions. Be willing and open to answer them truthfully and honestly. You may well need marriage counseling. You will have a rocky road ahead. However, through counseling, prayer, forgiveness, rebuilding of trust, and time, your marriage can be restored.

     For those of you who have not faced this problem, here are some preventative measures you should keep in mind.

Do not share intimate, personal details of your life or marriage with the opposite sex.

Make no provision for the flesh (Rom 13:14). Do not even open the door to any relationship that could cause a problem.

If your marriage is on shaky ground, stay away from opposite sex friends.

Surround yourself with same sex friends that will encourage and build you up.

Make sure you have accountability. Have 1 to 3 same sex people in your life who you are accountable to for your thoughts, temptations, and struggles. Be totally honest with them.

Be honest and open with your spouse. Keep clear lines of communication open. If you feel something is missing in your marriage, discuss it, without being condemning.

Seek counseling as a couple if you have differences you can't resolve. If your spouse won't go, go yourself.

Pray continually and with persistence (1 Th 5:17)(Lk 18:1-8)(Lk 11:5-13). Pray in agreement with others (Mt 18:19). Pray that neither you, nor your spouse will be lead into temptation (Mt 6:13)(Lk 11:4). Pray that Christ will always be at the center of your marriage and all that you do. Pray that next to God, your spouse will always be the most important person in your life.

     May God bless each of your marriages, and may they flourish and grow "until death do you part."

(1 Cor 13:4-7)(NASB) Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, (5) does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, (6) does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; (7) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

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