Towards the end of 2018, I wrote a post about friendships in the context of relationships.
One of our regular readers – Miss Kizza – asked this question in the comment section:
What is to be given in a friendship and in romance in the dating phase? How do men and women be friends without crossing over to the romance phase or friends with benefits?
This is my response. 🙂 (For better context of this post, I encourage you to read that and my other post on friendships in general first.)
I want to start off by saying
that this is not a how-to template. Anyone who’s been around here for a decent
amount of time knows I don’t advocate for templates. I do, however, believe in
principles and that’s what I’ll be sharing.
While principles may remain
constant, how they’re expressed differs depending on a person and the season they’re
in. So how you apply these principles in your life could look completely
different from the next person and you’re both within the will of God for you.
Lastly, two cannot walk together
unless they agree. These principles only work if both parties are truly intent
in honouring them (and not just saying they are to get what they want). Please
don’t waste time trying to implement them if one or both of you is half-hearted
about it. It’s all or nothing.
Principle #1 & #2: Truth & Love
What is the truth of your
relationship with person X of the opposite sex? (The presumption of this post
is that we’re talking about people who you’re not related to)
By truth, I’m talking about
Why are they in your life and you
What would God have you give them
in a particular season and them you? This includes mentally, emotionally,
physically, financially, etc. depending on the nature of the relationship
(whether it’s a friendship or budding romance). I can’t answer these questions
for you; that’s between you, them and God.
Getting answers from God matters
because it’s starting point of defining whether a relationship will remain
purely a friendship or if it will eventually evolve into a romance at some
point. It also answers the question of when – when is the season that our
friendship should grow into a romance (if at all)?
Purpose is expressed in time and
season. This means that how purpose is expressed in this season will be
different from the next season. So remaining in touch with the Holy Spirit and
allowing Him to guide you will help you stay on course with the season you’re
There are plenty of people who go
through these motions with varying degrees of success without even realizing
it. But I’m an advocate for using any knowledge and revelation we’re privileged
to have to be intentional in how do life.
If you read up on The Four Loves
i.e. storge (family), philia (friend), eros (sexual) and agape (God’s
unconditional love) (as written about by C.S. Lewis), you’ll realize that the
difference between them isn’t the presence of intimacy of one and absence in
the other. It’s the presence of different kinds of intimacy in all four.
It’s unfortunate that the way the
romance/relationship discussion has been handled in Christian circles over the
years makes intimacy out to be the bad guy we all need to stay away from. It’s
Intimacy doesn’t equate to sex.
Sex is only one form of physical intimacy. You can have mental/intellectual
intimacy, emotional intimacy and even other types of physical intimacy that are
more “innocent” like hugs.
So when we talk about what we’re
giving and receiving from someone, we’re looking at what kind of intimacy we’re
allowing to grow between us and the impact of the same on one or both of us.
How do you judge whether you’re
in the intimacy safe zone?
Holy Spirit – He will warn you even before you slip so don’t ignore His
counsel. If something starts to feel off, don’t brush it off, whether or not
you can explain it.
fruit of your relationship – whether romantic
or friendship, if it leads you astray from God in any way, that’s a big, giant,
Principle #3: Boundaries
Pop culture largely makes
reference to friends with benefits as regards to sexual intimacy. But it’s
possible have a friendship with mental or emotional benefits that is completely
unhealthy. If anything, this is how many of the friends with benefits
As we grow in maturity as
believers, one of the dangers we face is getting a bit too confident in
ourselves. We get cocky and become less careful in how we handle ourselves and
other people. This leads us into very unnecessary situations that can end up
Cultivating a relationship of
dependency on the Holy Spirit is crucial in ensuring you maintain the necessary
boundaries for your life and relationships.
Your mind is the gateway to your
spirit and soul (mind, body and will).
The first breach of one’s
boundaries is always in the mind because it’s your first line of defence. To
illustrate this, no one just hops into a bed (or vertical/horizontal space
really *shrugs*) and has sex with someone. Sex will start as a thought, maybe
even a fleeting one. As the thought is meditated on, it will grow into a
desire. The more one dwells on the thought and the growing desire, the more one
starts leaning towards acting on it. If they keep going down that same path,
they eventually do (which could take hours, days, weeks, months or even years).
The weaker your mental boundaries (if at
all they exist), the less time it takes to get from thought to action.
Having an improper thought is not
the end of the world. You won’t be the first one to have one and you’re hardly
the last one either.
What matters is what you do with
that thought. Do you continue to entertain it and allow it to grow into
something more? Or do you turn the page to a new thought – one that is in
accordance to God’s truth concerning that matter?
One of the ways the media
industry has greatly shaped society’s views when it comes to love, romance and
sex is by throwing into question who decides what’s right and wrong and
blurring the definition of right and wrong. If you’re not sure about where your
line is drawn or if it should even exist, then your conviction to stay on one
What are you feeding your mind
when it comes to relating with the opposite sex and romance/sex? That is what
will either clearly define and strengthen your boundary lines or erase them
We usually think of thoughts and
emotions as being on very different spectrums but they’re intertwined much more
than we realize. Logic is also not the sole preserve of men, and emotions,
women. God gave men and women both; we just use them differently.
If you interrogate what you chalk
up to your emotions, you’ll find that it’s rooted in a thought(s) – whether
positive, negative or both.
With your mind as your first line
of defence, your heart is your second line. Something that has gotten past your
mind can still be handled at emotional level before it causes harm to you or
One of the fallacies of the age
we live in is that we are slaves to our emotions and have no control over how
we feel and what we do with our feelings.
This isn’t to say that we ignore
how we feel. No. Feelings are critical indicators of what’s going on in us. How
you feel about someone or something can tell you a lot about what you think of
If you notice that your emotions
are gravitating towards liking someone romantically when you’ve just been
friends, that needs to be addressed. How this is done depends on the purpose,
nature and season of your relationship.
God wasn’t crazy when He designed
sex for marriage. Marriage is the boundary within which sex should happen.
Now what often follows is the
question – how far is too far? Here’s my problem with this question – by the
time you ask it, you’re declaring that you intend to push your boundaries as
far as you can to the point of almost no return.
If you’re pushing your
boundaries, it means you don’t understand and/or value their existence in the
first place. No one crashes into a security fence repeatedly with varying
degrees of force just because they can. We understand the fence is there for a
reason so we value its presence and do our best to ensure it is kept in the
best condition possible for it to be effective.
Real talk: most of us ask this
question because we don’t want to wait (for marriage) or we’re tired of
waiting. We want our desires fulfilled now not later. So we’re looking for a
way out and permission to compromise in any way we can.
So my response to that question
is this: what’s your understanding of why God wants you (as an individual) to
wait till marriage before you engage in sexual activity? If you’re waiting for
marriage because someone told you you’re supposed to but have no personal
revelation of it, you’ll be hard pressed to follow through with that wait.
Especially if that someone is nowhere near you and you’re in a room alone with
the person you desire.
The nitty gritty details of how
Christian values are expressed also differs in various parts of the world
because of cultural preferences and differences. There are places where
something like kissing is generally accepted as okay for unmarried Christian
couples and others where it’s greatly frowned upon. I will not bury my head in
the sand and pretend this isn’t the case. But I also won’t get into a debate
about who’s right and who’s wrong. I think the better, more productive question
is – what has the Holy Spirit set as the right standard for you as an
Physical boundaries are simple by
nature and perhaps that’s why they’re so easily disregarded. They could look
like – not being alone in a room/car together (because you know one or both of
you will be tempted to cross a line); hanging out in the company of others; not
staying out too late together; etc. Like I said, this isn’t a template. Your
physical boundaries need to work for your specific needs.
While I’ve discussed it under
physical intimacy and boundaries, sex is not just a physical act. It’s a
mental, emotional and spiritual one too. That’s not the trendy way to think but
it doesn’t make it less true.
By the time you have sex with
someone, you’ve engaged every single part of your being. Saying that you can
pick and choose what part of yourself to give away is like saying you’ll drive
a car and remove whichever tyre(s) you don’t want to use as you continue to
move forward with the remaining one(s).
You may not think you’re affected
by your choices but all the consequences will catch up with you sooner or
later. I don’t say that as a threat but as a warning and a plea. If you can
trust God with your salvation, how is it you can’t trust Him with your sex
Principle #4: Self-Control
Self-control is the difference
between sticking to a boundary and crossing it. The way to develop is to
exercise it. It’s not inbuilt for anyone; we all have to work at it.
In different areas and seasons of
life, your self-control will either be tested by God or tempted by the devil.
God tests you to reveal areas of weakness that you need to address for your
wellbeing and so that you can grow in love and relationship with Him. The devil
tempts you to capitalize your weaknesses and use them against you to separate
you from God.
Compromised self-control is an
indicator that one or a number of your boundaries have been weakened or
breached in some way. It could also signal lack of boundaries where there
should be some or the wrong ones (e.g. trying to enforce a mental boundary
where a physical boundary is required).
As you deal with a test or
temptation (or both), it’s important to know if, how and when your self-control
may be compromised.
Consuming things like alcohol and
drugs alters our frame of mind and affects our decision making. Internal
factors such as mental and emotional turmoil and even physical exhaustion can
also be pitfalls.
We’re mentally made vulnerable
when we’re exposed to a lie – and more so, when we don’t recognize it as a lie.
The way to handle this is to replace the lie with the truth. Ignoring it isn’t
enough because it leaves a vacuum for it to circle back around and find you even
more vulnerable. When you embrace truth, you allow God to renew your mind and
We’re emotionally made vulnerable
when we’re hurt – regardless of the circumstances that have led to our pain,
heartache has a way of hampering our ability to evaluate things objectively. The
root cause of the hurt needs to be addressed with finality not just the hurt
We’re also emotionally vulnerable
to our needs. Having healthy needs is not wrong, but how and when you choose to
meet them is where the boundaries and self-control come into play. Needs are a
key danger zone because we often mess up when we’re trying to have our needs
meet either by the wrong person or at the wrong time. You need to know who God
has positioned in your life to meet specific needs.
For instance, office wives and
husbands, however, innocent the terms may be at the onset, are a recipe for
disaster. They create a gap in your mental and emotional boundaries to give to
and receive from someone who isn’t your spouse (current or future) as though
they were your spouse. What will happen in the long run is divided affection
and attention where different people are getting bits and pieces of you.
Another example is when you have
a fight with your romantic partner (or friend with intent to start dating) but
run to a friend of the opposite sex to console you. You have a need to be heard
and understood. That’s fine. But the person who needs to hear and understand
you is your partner not your friend. If you keep running to the wrong person,
you will never build the foundation you need with the right one. The reason it
seems easier to go to your friend is because you’re watering that friendship
more than the relationship.
We’re physically made vulnerable
by our mental and emotional vulnerabilities. You will physically seek out that
which you are longing for mentally and emotionally. That’s why we’re warned in
Scripture to be careful of what we entertain in our minds and hearts. All
issues of life – including relationships with the opposite sex – are a product
If you notice that your
self-control is lacking either mentally, emotionally or physically, you need to
identify what has caused there to be a compromise. Is it the media you’re
indulging in or company you’re keeping? Is it a slackened relationship with
God? Are there ongoing issues you’re dealing with that are taking a toll on you
mentally and emotionally?
Next, you need to take action to
address the compromise. So many believers know the truth in and out, but they
still end up in unfortunate situations because they don’t act on it. It’s not
enough to know what’s right and wrong. You need to back up your knowledge with
Action may mean changing what
you’re reading/watching; changing who you’re hanging out with (you know what
they say about bad company); being more diligent in your relationship with God;
changing the way you interact with a person until you’re in a better mental and
emotional space; etc.
Principle #5: Communication
My husband likes to say that
communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, romantic or otherwise. How
well you communicate with one another or not will make or break your
Let’s be real here. Many people
end up in situationships (thinking they’re in a serious relationship with
someone or headed towards one, while the other person is only in it for
friendship/sex/etc) because of poor communication or lack of communication.
Words and actions are
misinterpreted. Assumptions are made. Feelings are invested. And you have a
ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
No one automatically knows what another
person is thinking or feeling. Even if you know a person really well and can
make an educated guess or divinely revealed response sometimes, it doesn’t work
be assumed to be clear. They need to be clearly communicated.
Expectations cannot be assumed to
be clear. They need to be clearly communicated.
Intentions cannot be assumed to
be clear. They need to be clearly communicated.
Boundaries cannot be assumed to
be clear. They need to be clearly communicated.
Internal/external changes cannot
be assumed to be clear. They need to be clearly communicated.
Just because you’re both
believers and can both hear God, doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit will run back and
forth between the two of you playing messenger. He won’t. Communication is your
responsibility. He’s only there to help you get it done effectively.
It’s also fundamental to always
remember that how you think/feel or not doesn’t automatically apply to the
other person. We tend to easily project what’s going on with us to the people
close to us especially when it comes something we feel strongly about.
My rule of thumb for
communication: Ask. Never assume.
As I close off this post, I need
to say this loud and clear. I don’t believe for a second that men are somehow
incapable of self-control when it comes to sex while women are automatic
paragons of physical virtue. How we respond to love and sex as men and women
may differ because of how God wired us but it does not render us (both men and
women) incapable of self-control and proper stewardship of each other’s
thoughts, emotions, bodies and lives.
We need to stop settling for the
measly standards the world has set for us for manhood and womanhood and start
pursuing God’s original design for us. This world is in dire need His light
shining through our lives and relationships.
And ladies, setting boundaries
and expecting clarity in a relationship is not being too difficult. There are
men out here who will honour and cherish you for keeping to the standards God
has set for you. I’m blessed to be married to one and to know a good number
Here’s to more positive examples and
testimonies of divine masculinity, divine femininity, divine friendships and
P,S. Thanks for your question, Miss Kizza! Hope this helps.