Someone asked me a very good question after watching my story yesterday:
what happens when you do find a friend of the opposite sex attractive/they find you attractive, but you’re married – do you think friendship is still possible in such a case? Has it been so in your experience? Or do you think it’s best to distance yourself?
Now this is a key question, and one which lies close to the heart of Friend Zone. Is it possible to tame the beast of sexual attraction? Is it possible to have a ‘platonic’ friendship?
Attraction is not one-dimensional
Have you ever had the experience where you first met someone and didn’t really think that much of them – but once you started to get to know them, they became more attractive to you? Attraction is a funny thing, and it’s complicated. And I’ve come to believe that often there’s more going on than meets the eye – and it’s easy to get things confused.
Let me try and explain. I think there are, broadly, two things going on with attraction: love and lust. Love says, “I like you, I want to spend time with you and be your friend, I desire what is good for you.” Lust, on the other hand, says “I want you only for your body and what you can do for me.”
The problem is, they usually come together and it’s easy to confuse one for the other. In my Practical Steps piece, I talk about sin being a distortion – and I think this is what’s going on here. Lust is distorted love. It recognises goodness and beauty – but it wants that beauty for itself.
So what do we do?
Anyone who’s been in a relationship for more than about five minutes will know that you can’t spend your life ignoring people you’re attracted to (or, indeed, who find you attractive). The way I think most people deal with it is by keeping them at arms length – unless they cave in to it! And I think most people would say there are only two real options: either stay away from someone / don’t get too close, or give in to it. What the Bible says, however, is that there is a third way.
With relationships, I see three options:
- Moving away from the person in fear – i.e. shutting them out / keeping them at arm’s length / making sure the friendship is superficial. This is because you are worried about what might happen.
- Moving toward the person in lust – i.e. giving in to temptation and potentially ruining everything.
- Moving toward the person in love – developing a relationship of love, not lust. This is what I believe God wants us to do – but, something we can only do in his strength!
God is the only one who can really change our hearts. God can take away lust and put love in its place. God can enable us to conquer feelings of sexual attraction and form genuine friendships.
In fact, on a personal note, I think it’s often those who I struggle most with who God most wants me to befriend. God does this so that it is clear friendship only happens because of his grace, not because of my own strength. God doesn’t want us to be independent, self-sufficient people, living without him – he wants us to live our lives in relationship with him. Sometimes he calls us to do things which we would never otherwise be able to do so that we will be forced to rely on him and deepen that most important relationship.
A note (or two) of caution
To finish with, just in case I sound overly positive, I think it’s important to sound a note of caution. We live in a world where sin exists – people do have affairs, relationships do break up, etc. That’s why I created this website!
So – firstly, it’s important to remember what Jeremiah said about our hearts:
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
Our hearts are deceitful and ‘beyond cure’ – from a human perspective. God gives us new hearts – this is absolutely and gloriously true – but we need to be sure that we are dealing with sin on God’s terms and in God’s ways, not ours. God’s ways are repentance (turning away from sin and to Christ), and then turning to him in faith. We must constantly be coming to God in prayer and asking him for the power to live in his ways. If we start to think we have the strength to do it without God, we will almost certainly fall. “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
Secondly, it’s important to remember that relationships always take two: just because you have a particular idea about what’s going on, it doesn’t mean the other person does. The other person might have a very different idea. I think it’s important to be open, and important to be up front – if it is unclear – that friendship is all you want. Misunderstanding is easy – we need wisdom to ensure that we don’t mislead anyone. This is something I’m still working on – maybe another blog post to come?…
Yes – I do believe that attraction can conquered, lust can be dealt with, and friendship can happen despite these difficulties.
I do apologise if all of this has felt a little bit cold and theoretical: this is why the stories section of the website exists, to try and flesh out this kind of thing with some real human experience. Do let us know in the comments if this kind of thing works out in your life.