As a single lady, there is one thing I have always come back to which works for me like a charm. This is the idea of approaching male/female relationships from a “friends only” perspective. In the article which follows, I will explain why I believe other Christian singles should choose the “friends only” approach, as a safe and heartbreak free alternative to single Christian dating.
Single Christian Dating :Why Friends?
I have found among friends of mine that date, a lot of heartache, frequent confusion, and many incidents of sin. These things may show up in an actual back-slide or simply a tendency for both in the relationship to move further away from God. If it is a Christian friend dating a non Christian, there is almost certain to be ungodly fruit as a result. When I have tried to “play by everyone else’s rules” myself, I was eventually very sorry for this decision. However, the Christian dating rule of only being friends with guys, has allowed me to stay in control of the situation and of myself, and never left me with a broken-heart. In addition, I have had the respect of my guy friends, as they have mine. And we have had the opportunity to truly get to know each other, without the clouded judgment emotional involvement can bring.
What’s more, such relationships are lasting friendships, rather than the kind that end abruptly, leaving one or both parties devastated. Even with the guys I have not spoken to in years, each of us knows we can always reconnect, and rekindle the friendship. Some of these men have gotten married. Some have gone on to other things, and some I just wonder about, and pray for from time to time.
Although the above single men may not be in my life now, they have helped build me into the person I am today by their powerful influence and brotherly caring. Together we have taught one another and grown in the Lord. In the guys’ case, they learned about women before getting married and this may have helped them to be better husbands. In my case, I’ve learned about men, and had male companionship to keep me from feeling alone while waiting for the man I will one day marry to come into my life.
Single Christian Dating Advice: Escaping What the World Teaches
We all know the shows; “Sex in the City,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends;” all tv sitcoms which celebrate the single life-style, while seeming to offer support to those of us who find ourselves in the same unfortunate situation. We look forward to being married one day, but just have not found the right person of the opposite sex to share our lives with.
As a single lady and also a believer in Christ searching for a godly perspective on sex and relationships, I used to watch “Sex in the City” frequently. Although I felt convicted, there was just something about the struggles of “Carrie Bradshaw,” a “thirty-something” lady living in New York City, which I could identify with. The support which the writers of “Sex in the City” gave to me, was something I found lacking in the several churches I had attended, which seemed to be teaching the same message, that persons in their late 30’s should definitely be married by now. If not (the sitcom writers concluded), then it stands to reason such unfortunate singles are involved in sexual or adulterous relationships. As a Christian I of course had to reject this message.
However, the message that one who is single at this age (late 30’s to 40’s) is to be pitied, is a message I am learning to reject as well. After all, if God is allowing this type of situation in so many of our lives, can we really go on acting as if some divine cosmic mistake has occurred? Should we keep acting as if it is a situation we should be working day and night to “fix” for ourselves? For those in the world, like “Carrie Bradshaw” we can certainly empathize, but as believers we must not forget that we have a greater hope in Christ Jesus, and He is our one true love and always will be.
Marriage, which is frequently alluded to in movies as the one true happy ending, is in actuality a very difficult process. Many unsuspecting partners find their one time illusion ending sadly in divorce. Even for believers, marriage should not be thought of as that great paradise we all aim for. Where it is meant to be a wonderful union of two people, and certainly a blessing, any married person you speak to, if he or she is honest, will tell you Christian marriage is a lot of work. I have had more than one married friend describe marriage as “over-rated,” once they had taken the big step themselves, only to find it was no where near what they had once imagined it would be.
As singles, we must consistently resist the message taught to us by the media and amongst our dating single friends which seems to imply, “You must be married to be happy.” Love can come from many different places. Although the love existent in marriage is a unique and special love, there are many ways in the world to experience God’s love, and to give it out to others as well. Friendship is one example of this.
A Cure for Your Needs
Other than physical intimacy, most of the needs we seek to have met as older singles desiring marriage can be met in other ways. This is another reason it is so important to have friends of both sexes to talk to and spend time with. We all have a need for companionship, for someone who understands us, or simply someone to listen, and care. All of these things and more can be met in friendship. What’s more, you may find your struggle with sexual needs to not be as strong, when other intimacy needs are met. In fact certain sexual struggles can be termed “False Intimacy.” (There is a book by this name which I highly recommend).
Considering that friendship is the foundation of a successful marriage anyway, godly friendships with members of the opposite sex can do much to prepare you for a successful marriage. No doubt the qualities you look for in your friends will be the same ones you find in your future mate one day. Now is the time to enjoy the fact that as a lady (or gentleman), you are allowed to talk to and befriend many guys (or women). You will also find that while in control of your emotions, backing off momentarily from friends you feel yourself becoming too emotionally intimate with, you will feel warm emotions for some of your friends while contemplating and praying about whether or not they may be the right one for you.
If you have already found evidence to suggest that a friendship will not ever lead to marriage, it will only be fair in this situation to allow your guy friend time and space to get to know other women. However, I have found it very fulfilling to later call a guy friend who is dating a girl he likes, and offer him support. When and if they break up later, I am still there as a friend for him. Since we never dated and broke up, there is no reason why he can’t call me if he just wants a sister in the Lord to talk to.
In my opinion, this puts me in a higher place in his life, even than the girl he just broke up with, or the next one he is about to date, because I may have a more permanent, even eternal place in his life. Also, as far as getting needs for companionship met, men seem to offer a strength of perspective that women don’t have. They also are usually very willing to help if we ladies have something that needs to be fixed, or if we need help moving. I have found this also to be the case with married men in the church.
As I have learned over the years, it is a godly principal often found in the Scriptures that believers need one another. What’s more, right now while we are single, it is a good time to begin depending on others, so that we do not put all our needs upon our future husband or wife one day. And just as a man may say that it is very useful to get a women’s perspective once in awhile (a female friend can help prepare a man for that lady who will one day fall in love with him by teaching him how to respect the opposite sex, how to dress to impress a lady, or just how it is a woman thinks about different matters), no doubt a guy can offer a special male perspective to us ladies as well, while offering that special support and masculine wisdom that only a guy can give.
Growing Closer to Your Future Mate
During your single years, which may have spanned an amount of time so much longer than you had expected (especially for those of us in our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, who are divorced, never married, or widowed), it may not seem that you are drawing closer to your future mate. Of course this may require more faith than you feel you are able to express at times. This is perfectly normal. After all, you are holding your faith up against a worldly mindset that says you should be married before a certain time. In light of this mentality, our faith as Christians at times may seem ridiculous. However, while getting to know friends of the opposite sex, consider that you are drawing closer to marriage by learning to handle conflicts you may have with your future mate, learning what is appealing to the opposite sex, learning to compromise, and just learning to be comfortable with the opposite gender.
In our preparation time we learn to cook, become better Christians, build our minds with study, etc. While these characteristics prepare you to be a better person, having friends of both genders teaches you how to get along with another person, and also to know in advance what you will and will not tolerate in a relationship. No doubt the things you love about your opposite gender friends, are the same characteristics you will seek in a mate. What’s more, following a friendship approach to relationships, your future mate will come from your pool of friends. And when you discover that it is time to turn a good friendship into a marriage, the engagement can be very short, since the friendship is already well established.
Honoring the Lord through Friendships
With a friendship approach to singleness, it is easy to see how we can be honoring to God in all our relationships. By not getting our emotions involved before we completely know the person or persons we are attracted to, we are making the temptation to fall into sin much less likely. This approach is also a good way to show you care for the other person, by helping them keep a safe distance and not become too emotionally involved. They know what to expect from you, and can even relax when the two of you hang out together, knowing that only a friendship is expected. If one or both of you develop feelings, you have the privacy of not letting the other know yet. Keep in mind that you can have feelings for someone who is not right for you, so it may be prudent to not ever let your friend know how you feel, or did feel about them.
What’s more it is normal and natural to have warm feelings for those you love, in a God honoring way. This does not necessarily mean the relationship is headed for marriage. Imagine how nice it could be to have a pool of single men (or women) all of whom you have warm caring feelings for during this time while you are single. Once again, what we see on tv and in the movies is the world’s version of love, but as believers we have a higher calling.
There is nothing wrong with having brotherly or sisterly love for those you chose to be friends with. After all, isn’t this actually what God expects of us as believers? As you work on praying for, and expressing God’s love for your friends, you will be doing God’s work, while waiting for God to bring you and your future mate together. And if marriage is not your ultimate destination, you are still involved in God’s work, while He is revealing yourself, and your destiny to you.
The Missionary Dating Debate
By now you should recognize that spending time with someone of the opposite sex who is not a believer can be honoring to God, if you are in control of yourself, know where you stand and who you are, and are in prayer over the situation. Ideally you will be aware that your unbelieving friend has different motives, as he is seeking a worldly form of love from you, while you are hoping to show him or her something much better in the love of God. While you are praying for his or her conversion, from a “friend” standpoint rather than a “dating” one, you will be attempting to win him over for God’s purposes and not your own. Usually in these situations the nonbeliever will opt to leave your life, if conversion does not occur. You can feel satisfied in such case, knowing you did all you could toward God’s purposes.
In some instances however, this sort of interaction could become unhealthy. If you become weak to temptation, it is very important for you to leave the situation completely, or just spend some time apart. Please be aware if someone else’s influence is weakening your relationship with God, and back out. If it is too late, seek help. Such relationships are like addictions. Just like one who is addicted to a substance, you may need extra guidance and prayer to break away. Having male and female friends once again, can help you with such difficult situations as well.
I can not overstate how important it is to always have friends around who understand you and pray for you. Spending time with a non believer is not a sin, but becoming romantic with one certainly could be, and probably is. Keep in mind the scripture that says, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II cor. 6:14). If you get to the point you are on equal ground with your non believing friend, you could be in danger. If you are sincerely doing God’s work by being a witness to him or her, and inviting him to church, be careful to keep the situation in prayer, and have friends praying for you and your friend. Above all, be honest with yourself. In this way you will be able to make the best decision for your unique situation.
A Final Note
With a loving approach which seeks the good of all involved, striving to build up and not tear down, looking to see how each friendship can be honoring to God, and letting God define each new relationship we find ourselves in, we will no doubt find our single lives to be much more fulfilling. In the life of the single Christian adult there are often lonely times, and unanswered questions. In the comfort of many friends we will have good company, finding we have much to receive from others, and much to give as well.
MK Bashlor, is the author of this article and will be available to answer all your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org