Of boys and boundaries
Joanne Chim // October 23, 2019, 6:27 pm
Ever been in a situation where you had to get over someone you never actually dated?
It’s tough being in that position because there was never an official change in relationship status and no explicit starting point. It’s all sort of a slippery slope down an emotional hill.
That’s what happened to me recently. In my case, I was attracted to a fellow believer, which gave me the impression that we were equally yoked. But I came to learn that calling oneself a “Christian” is like clickbait in our society these days – as long as someone is also “Christian”, makes him/her a potential romantic partner.
So, in my case, I began to feel an unhealthy emotional attachment to a guy who didn’t seem to value Christ as much as I would want my future spouse to. Even though I knew I should pull away, I struggled with that because of the emotional affection exchanged during our time together.
At that point, it dawned on me that this sticky situation could have been avoided altogether if I had guarded my heart more wisely. Instead of sharing so much about myself so quickly, I could have practised patience and self-restraint in sharing information that made both of us emotionally vulnerable to one another.
Through this episode, I learnt the importance of having boundaries in friendships with the opposite sex and, even more importantly, to stand firmly by these boundaries especially if there’s a physical attraction between you and that person.
When we consistently “close one eye” to boundaries and cross them repeatedly, we very slowly and subtly fall into unhealthy levels of friendship. Whether you’re attracted to the person or not, I have found the following boundaries helpful, and I hope it helps you too.
3 WAYS TO BUILD BOUNDARIES
1. Make it about God
Having chemistry in friendship is important, but it’s important to be aware of what chemistry can lead to if not properly restrained – emotional vulnerability.
I’ve found that talking in-depth about sensitive topics like your past traumas and family issues cultivates a sense of emotional dependency, which can accelerate attraction towards the other party.
But in platonic friendships, it’s unwise to hasten vulnerability in hopes that the other party would be able to reciprocate the same openness. Having this expectation is a threat to healthy friendships as friendships take time to grow, and discovering each other’s quirks should be done over a period of time through trials and good times.
One way to keep conversations healthy is to talk about God-centred issues that challenge both of you to contemplate God’s character and heart.
Missions, God’s will for your life, your current season with Him, breakthroughs that He has brought you through, for instance, are some topics that we can consider exploring when getting to know someone.
2. Involve them in your church circle
If you’re an introvert like me, you’d understand the ease of interacting with individuals one-on-one versus a large group. But comfortable as it may be, the best way to grow a strong friendship would be doing so in community, even more so if you’re attracted to each other.
And there’s no better way to grow a strong, Christ-centred relationship than to bring it to the body of Christ itself – the Church. Having a circle of Christian friends walk with you and your friend also encourages accountability.
Sharing our struggles more openly and transparently within the safety of brothers and sisters in Christ helps us gain wise insight on how to best navigate budding friendships.
3. Avoid physical contact that will lead to temptation
I used to think that I was strong enough to resist lustful temptations through physical touch, but I learnt that there’s a wiser way to live. Here’s how: Flee!
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Run from any form of physical temptation that will lead to sexual sin. It’s not worth it to flirt and remain in a position of struggle – temptation is something we should be running far away from in the first place.
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
Abstinence not only protects your purity, but also the person you’re friends with. The last thing we want to do is awaken love before its time and therefore stumble another brother or sister’s walk in Christ.
We’re told to build each other up in Christ, and that includes being responsible for each other to ensure that we’re not misleading the opposite party and distracting them from God’s goodness.
LETTING BOUNDARIES BE BOUNDARIES
Being single isn’t easy, especially when there are so many temptations ready to entrap you into sexual sin. But if we’re blood-bought and if Jesus died – we are and He did – so that He would be able to have all of us, we can overcome our old patterns of gratifying lustful desires by His grace and strength. We don’t have to scavenge for low-level affection outside of marriage.
The reason why famous singles in the Bible, the Apostle Paul and Jesus, to name a few, still led fruitful lives is that they remained faithful in running the race God had called them to.
I’m not being anti-marriage; I believe that marriage is a gift from God, and a beautiful one at that. But from the time we’re single to the time God presents us to our partner in marriage, it’s important for us to build healthy friendships with other disciples of Christ.
This is so that we may spur each other on in moments of feeling insecure, lonely and vulnerable, which are bound to come especially during our season of singleness. It’s my hope that as we forge godly friendships with other brothers and sisters, we’ll come to increasingly see, feel and taste the beauty and warmth of friendship that God Himself extends to us through His Church.
THINK + TALK
- When does a platonic relationship with the opposite sex cross boundaries?
- What are practical steps to avoid such situations?
- What are healthy (and unhealthy) ways to get to know someone you are attracted to?
- How can we guard our hearts as we discover if someone is a potential life partner?