Back in newsletter #25 I talked about platonic friendships between men and women and why I personally have a policy to never have 1:1 personal friendships with women. A lot of Christians advocate these friendships, but I’ve rarely seen them lead to anything but disaster.
My initial feeling would be that apart from the dangers in a "gotcha" culture, one would think that there is something wrong in a world where men and women can't just be friends.
My perspective is to be sure colored by the fact I am a single man, not young, and now don't expect to be married and not seeking a mate (or, obviously, a hookup or casual sex partner). But I like feminine company and conversation, maybe more than male company. Again, no doubt true because I am unmarried.
Were I married, I'd have some pretty serious question if my wife were good friends with another man. I would have to know him and have the feel of the situation. I am in the opposite position as I work in a husband/wife-owned business as their only employee and am friends with both owners, but the woman is in her mid-seventies and thus past the age where romantic interest might be a factor.
But yeah, it can be problematic. I have one female friend in whom I had some romantic interest, which wasn't going to work out anyway and she is in a pretty committed (as far as I can tell) relationship with a guy which involves her flying from Seattle to NY where he is for 10 days every month. And I am totally fine that we are not romantically involved, wouldn't work anyway, 17 year age difference (I'm older) and I am not especially what she wants, but we do music together and there is a connection there. I
As a woman in a very male-heavy field (and with a husband-colleague too), I have come to similar realizations about the general perception of male-female relationships - after 12 years of schooling in this field, where my male peers were also my friends, I'm now in a very different phase in work where that is not the case in the same way - not only because of various age differences, but being married to one of their colleagues, and the obvious physical differences with periodic pregnancy. Of course if my male colleagues want to hang out, and can only invite one of us because of watching our kids, they are going to ask my husband - it would be weird not to.
That being said, I would say I'm somewhere between a good colleague and friend to all of my male colleagues (and they are almost all male, and we are a tight-knit group). I think this has some benefits regarding the predominantly-female trait of vulnerability. From my outsider perspective, it seems to me that society encourages a very stoic view of masculinity, where feelings and struggles aren't shared outside of married relationships (and even then, it is difficult!). But, I find that a few colleagues will periodically open up to me in a more personal way - about the intersection of work and life/health challenges, or - for my one unmarried colleague - his struggles with loneliness and failed relationships (which he has said is cathartic). Maybe these aren't really friendships - maybe it's more like a service. It's not something I seek out or encourage, and it is definitely a bit of a cross given that I know I won't ever be a "hey, let's go out for dinner", 1:1 friend, not to mention I'm pretty stoic myself. But I've seen it as a lonely privilege to provide my service in our group in this way by virtue of my femininity.
Jen Wilkin's article is just dumb, full of false dichotomies and incredibly vague. It's not clear what she means by "friend" in any context. She writes:
"Discussions that desperately need the perspectives of both men and women cease to occur [if men and women aren't friends]. (Hint: most discussions desperately need the perspectives of both men and women, particularly in the church.)"
I don't know why this requires "friendships." Non-friends can have "discussions," whether that's about church business or whatever.
"We’ve grown positively phobic about friendship between men and women, and this is bad for the church. It implies we can only see each other as potential sex partners rather than as people."
What a low view of marriage! I guess males and females are either "just friends" or "just sex partners"?
She never answers the questions of what being friends means. My concept of friendship involves doing things together. "Hey, wife, I am going fishing alone with Jen for several hours on Saturday morning. I'll see you in the afternoon." I'm sure that would go over just fine.
I agree with everything in this article, except I would have set the statements about how we don't know the whole story, and more details might come out, in bold red 50-point font.
The general truths are the key. The Matt Chandler story might turn out to be a poor example. Chandler himself is clothed in red flags.
Are you speaking strictly of platonic friendships where at least one of the suspects, I mean protagonists, are married?
Sadly, I'm not. With that on the table, I've had more than a few "mere" friendships with women. I'm in my 60s so I have a track record. It can be tricky and the risks are real, but for me the idea of not having 1:1 personal friendships with women is about as odd (no offense intended) as watching old movies and noticing all the office workers are men. My perspective may be skewed by my singlehood.
I won't go into all the variations but navigating a friendship with a married woman can *definitely* be tricky--though I've pulled it off. I have several good friends like this, including some college pals. These are enormously supportive, rooted and also respectful friendships. I always tell myself that job number one is to be on good terms with the husband. I'd add a fourth woman to that shortlist but she passed away some years ago.
As for my unattached female friends, I won't say that any ended in disaster, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that a couple of them resulted in some heartbreak on my end when I tried to change friendships into dating situations. Of course--that's not a crazy path to marriage.
Anyway I won't write a novel here, but for whatever reason for much of my life I found it easier to form friendships with women than with men, and even though I'm better at the latter now, I'd be desolate without some female companionship. Of course most of what I'm referring to is outside the workplace, and #MeToo and the woke hysteria is a whole 'nother ballgame there. And though I'm still working, I haven't been in a major leadership position for years, another risk factor.