Single People Are Not the Enemy

4 Jan

'dislike button' photo (c) 2011, Sean MacEntee - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

One of my friends lost someone he’d grown up with. They’d gone to the same church since childhood. They’d attended school together. They read the same kinds of books and watched the same kinds of movies, and even double-dated at times. Sure, he’d had a crush on her at one point, and at a totally different point she’d had a crush on him. But that was a decade in the past, and their friendship had never had a basis in romantic or sexual attraction.

It came to a tragic end when his lifelong friend said I do…to some other man. A man who felt threatened by my buddy’s presence in his wife’s life. Suddenly my friend found himself not only reduced to a brief smile in passing at church, but someone whose occasional phone calls or emails didn’t get answered. Shortly after the wedding, he learned she had de-friended him on Facebook.

This story is tragic.

Listen up, married people: Single people are not the enemy.

We’re not out to steal your spouse. We’re not trying to wreck your marriage. And if you’re too insecure to cope with the fact that your spouse wants to be friends with someone of the opposite sex, that isn’t my problem. It’s yours. And you need to deal with it, because I don’t deserve to have a friendship ripped away from me because you have a problem.

Your Insecurity =/= My Fault

Why did Mr. Insecure feel the need to end his wife’s friendship? I can think of a lot of reasons, none of which are my buddy’s fault:

– Mr. Insecure thinks his wife likes Friendly Guy better.

– Mr. Insecure is afraid his wife will leave him for Friendly Guy.

– Mr. Insecure resents the time his wife spends with Friendly Guy.

But is ending the friendship a good response? I say no, and the number one reason is this: ending the wife’s friendship with Friendly Guy is not going to address the obvious issues with her marriage to Mr. Insecure.

Instead of ending the friendship, why didn’t Mr. Insecure confront the reasons he felt threatened by the friendship? Why didn’t he spend more time strengthening his marriage instead of destroying the friendship? Why didn’t he attempt to cultivate a friendship with Friendly Guy, which would not only strengthen Mr. Insecure’s marriage, but also possibly bless him and Friendly Guy both?

Sure, it’s easy to blame the single friend. But it isn’t honest, and it isn’t effective.

Facebook and eHarmony Aren’t Killing Your Marriage

Sure, there are wives who reconnect with old flames on Facebook and divorce their husbands to pursue some fantasy. There are guys who set up secret eHarmony profiles to meet one-night-stands despite being married. Guess what? That sort of thing happened before the internet existed. It’s just the methods that have changed.

I read an interesting article today on the Atlantic website. Apparently some guy blames online dating sites for the way he can’t get a woman to settle down…ignoring the fact that he doesn’t put her happiness ahead of his own, doesn’t seem to care about his credit score or career, and wants to spend all his time watching sports and drinking beer.  Thankfully, someone who obviously has a much clearer idea of how adult relationships work wrote a response, pointing out the flaws in the argument. Maybe it’s not online dating that’s the problem, buddy. Maybe, just maybe, the problem is you.

Jesus put it another way: “Look to the plank in your own eye before removing the speck in your brother’s eye.”

Single People Aren’t Predators Looking for Marriages to Break Up.

No, I’m not actively looking for a spouse. But when I’m attracted to a guy who seems interesting, the first thing I do is check that left hand. If he’s wearing a ring, he’s automatically off-limits. That’s just how it works. Sure, there are people out there who don’t care. But I’m sick and tired of married people assuming the worst about me because of their own fears.

Think about this logically. If I’m looking for love, which is easier–to find someone who’s available and try to catch his interest, or to find someone who has already made an emotional and expensive commitment to someone else, which I must first sabotage and dissolve in order for me to experience my own version of marital bliss? Frankly, I’m just too damn lazy to try to break up someone’s marriage. Besides, who wants all that drama? Divorce is ugly. Especially if there are kids involved.

Your man may be great, but no one is worth me going to all that effort.

Not to mention…and I know this may be hard to believe, but…single people with ethics do actually exist.

The Real Question

So here’s my question: Why do people think married folks and single folks can’t be friends?

Jesus was a single guy, and he hung out with people like Peter, who had a mother-in-law, so obviously had a wife. Paul was a single guy, and he named Priscilla and Aquila as some of his closest friends. Yet people in the church seem to think a friendship between a single person and a married person is an infidelity just waiting to happen.

I think this is hypocritical, and I think it’s frankly dangerous. If you don’t address the real threats to marriage–things like married partners not putting each other first, married partners not talking honestly with each other, married partners not honoring Christ in their marriage–you’re not just hurting a single person who has lost a friend. You might just be giving up on that marriage before it really gets started.

*

As a postscript, I’m going to fast forward my buddy’s story ten years. After a decade of ups and downs, including a lengthy separation period and marital counseling and lots of heartache, Mr. Insecure and his wife divorced…even though Friendly Guy hadn’t been involved in the woman’s life since she said “I do.”

Pretty telling, isn’t it?

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10 Responses to “Single People Are Not the Enemy”

  1. Debbie January 5, 2013 at 2:16 am #

    I’ve had a number of married men “proposition me” – which was appalling to me, not complimentary. It happened just as often when I was married as it has since. You’re right. The source of the problem is the breakdown of the marriage relationship. When that’s solid, friendships aren’t threatening. And when it’s not, a friend can be an imaginary partner.

    • SWC January 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      Yes, there’s no doubt there are times that opposite-sex friends can become objects of fantasy…but as the symptom, rather than the actual illness.

      I know that marriage is not easy, and that making a commitment to one person for life is not easy. That’s why I’ve never done it! But it blows my mind that some people take it so lightly.

  2. edarnut January 5, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    I’ll give you a “Yeah, But” on this one…

    YEAH: Single friends are not the enemy – my sinful heart is. BUT: In order to pursue holiness in my marriage, I have to be very deliberate about many things, including my friendships. That means having clear boundaries and absolute no-nos with the opposite sex, and topics of conversation (regarding my marriage) that are completely off-limits with friends of the same gender. All marriages – even strong, Christ-seeking ones – hit rough patches. Little seeds of doubt will pop up, but they don’t need an environment where they can grow.

    Sure, Mr. and Mrs. Insecure are out there, but so are Mr. and Mrs. Accountable. It’s not always about jealousy and distrust; it’s also about holiness and commitment. Some sins are a temptation for me, and some sins aren’t… but there’s a third group of sins that I don’t want to find out which category they belong in.

    For some couples “forsaking all others” means having a joint email or facebook account, while for some it means your spouse knowing your login information. For some it means never being alone with a member of the opposite gender, and for some it means limiting or ending certain friendships. Of course, if the boundaries are decided by just one spouse then there are serious issues involved and it’s not going to end well. But when it is a decision made by both husband and wife, for reasons those on the outside are not and should not be privy to, then I think it’s the friend’s duty to respect that.

    I’m reminded of Jon Acuff’s post on this issue: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2009/10/630-awkward-opposite-sex-friendships-2/

    • SWC January 5, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

      Hi Edarnut! You definitely bring up so great points. Friendship between a single guy and a married woman, or vice versa, is always going to have boundaries that other friendships may not have. I think any single person with common sense should realize that, and I think that when a single person’s friend gets married, the single person should be aware that things are going to change.

      I think what really upsets me the most about this situation is that at no point was my buddy Friendly Guy consulted about this. He could have very clearly stated that he believed in the commitment of marriage and would not, under any circumstances, want to undermine that marriage. He and Mr. Insecure could have gone out to lunch to discuss the new husband’s insecurities. In other words, whether or not the wife was involved in the decision, the single guy was left out of it entirely.

      Yes, some decisions have to be made by married couples. But when that decision involves someone else, at the very least, that single person deserves the courtesy of being told, “My wife and I have decided that her friendship with you is unhealthy, and for the sake of our marriage, it must end.” He was never given that courtesy. His friend just vanished.

      I do agree with you that there should be boundaries. I was once friends with a married couple. I would say my friendship was equal with the husband and wife for a long time, but as time went by, the husband began confiding things to me that I felt were inappropriate for me to hear. They made me uncomfortable and they were, frankly, things that he should be saying to his wife. (In fact, they were things he should have told her BEFORE they got married, but that’s another story.) I told him, kindly but firmly, that I could not be party to that conversation. I said he needed to talk to his wife about that, not to some other woman not his wife. He got upset and said he thought I was his friend. My reply was, “I am, and as your friend, I am telling you, this is something that should be between you and your wife, and maybe your pastor.” In that particular case, the friendship I had with him did cool down, and after he finally took my advice, I explained to his wife why I had put the brakes on there, because I thought she deserved that courtesy.

      It’s a complicated issue, for sure, and I definitely welcome more discussion on this!

  3. meerkats009 January 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    Hot topic! Deep feelings here.

    I can honor my married [and let’s just going ahead and add: Christian] friends when they want to cut me out of their lives due to their marital status. I’m mature enough to see it from their point-of-view.

    The real kicker is when they don’t seem to realize exactly what they’re asking of me.

    Singles don’t get to be friends with Christians of the opposite gender.

    Oddly enough, my male friends who are non-Christians are more available for thought provoking and non-threatening conversations with me as a single woman. These are conversations where I’d love to hear the insights of Christian men too.

    I am more and more grateful for those Christian guys who have befriended me and their wives who get it too.

    I really think that Christians need to reclaim friendship love. Love does not always equal romance/sex. Friendship love exists.

    • SWC January 13, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      Hi Meerkat! Definitely deep feelings here on both sides of the issue, and everyone has valid reasons for feeling the way they do. I suspect one reason the feelings here are so strong is that so many of us have been burned in the past by situations like this.

      I think you’re right–a lot of Christian married folks DON’T realize that singles don’t get to be friends with Christians of the opposite sex. That’s a topic I think deserves a blog post (or series) of its own, because I think it’s unfortunate. I agree with you 100% that Christians need to reclaim friendship love.

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