Healthy Opposite-Sex Friendships in Marriage
One of the most important conversations you can have with your spouse starts with the question, “What is the healthiest way that you and I can relate to our opposite-sex friends?”
We live in a time when we all have friends whose marriages have been damaged, or even undone, by unhealthy opposite-sex relationships (OSRs). At the same time, there are many marriages that have been supported and strengthened through healthy OSRs. At the end of the day, the Bible provides answers to this issue.
Here are a few key principles to help you make the healthiest choices for your own marriage and friendships:
Understand the reality of potential problems. It is important to understand that certain OSR situations exist that can be a detriment to marriage. Emotional affairs, physical infidelity and even simple flirtatiousness are a few examples. In addition, some spouses have a history of wounds from past experiences with OSRs, and old feelings of fear, insecurity or jealousy can emerge, damaging the safety and intimacy of the marriage. So marriages must be protected, as the Bible teaches in Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.”
Understand God’s purposes for the body of Christ. The Bible also teaches another reality. According to Ephesians 4:16, the body is to help itself grow and fulfill God’s mission: “From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” The “whole body” and “each part” phrases help us see that all of us, men and women included, are to develop godly character and a godly mission in our relationships with one another. We find in Philippians 4:2-3 that Paul ministered with women, Euodia and Synteche, and appreciated their contributions.
This reality makes sense in practical terms because men and women offer a growth perspective to each other that is unique. They look at life differently, and that can be extremely helpful as they support one another’s growth spiritually, relationally, personally and professionally. If we cut off access to half of the human race, we can be in danger of limiting the good growth nutrients — such as support, insight, feedback and wisdom — that healthy OSRs can provide for us.
So the task for married couples is to both protect the marriage from the wrong OSRs, while providing the marriage with good nutrients to sustain the relationship.
Make sure any OSRs are with righteous people. Any marriage needs the healthiest influences possible. If you have OSRs, they can’t be perfect but they should be righteous, that is, following God’s paths. That means the person needs to have solid spiritual values and live a lifestyle of being loving and truthful. An OSR should only be with someone who wants your marriage to be better, not worse.
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SOURCE: Focus on the Family, John Townsend