It’s been said that females and males can’t be friends because of the big S word involved…..that friendship without sex equals questionable intentions (blame When Harry met Sally!). I’ve always found that to be a very simplistic and stereotypical view of men and women relationships. I personally, have been able to have two very close platonic male friends (they were “bridesmen” in my wedding). As a woman in the book quotes, we have never nor will we ever engage in any sexual intimacy. Instead, we laugh, we talk, and we share stories. I often find myself getting offended that people, especially church people (not all but some!) have relayed to me that having male friends somehow conflicts with God’s view of marriage and intimacy. Luckily, in this book, it seems Mr. Dan Brennan is on my side!
This author presents a different perspective from existing church culture. “Christ came not to just reduce the old disorder of lust, violence, and possession between men and women ,but to usher us into a new world of embodied communication with each other.” He submits that it is possible to live together in Christ without lust or sexual innuendos interfering with the friendship. In focusing on the fact that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, our focus shifts onto our common bond of Christianity rather than our own temptations and desires.
Dan Brennan also makes the point that hospitality is important in a friendship. His definition of hospitality includes cultural niceness, courtesy, and friendliness. He also stresses the importance of confession in both friendships and marriages. He described confessions as “risky” because they foster intimacy between the sexes but also noted that confession is a means to expressing vulnerability and openness with other Christians. I’ve found that to be imperative in my close male relationships- in talking with them, I can get advice and support that perhaps I couldn’t get from a female perspective. And before you say that I can get a male perspective from my husband, I do! But who says you have to only use ONE perspective? Of course my husband’s opinions and confessions are the most important to me, but I learn from others vulnerabilities and life experiences as well.
On a somewhat controversial note, Mr. Brennan makes the statement that some spouses, who are wrestling with insecurity, will want to keep their mates on a “short leash” when it comes to cross- sex friendships beyond the marriage. I can see how many people would disagree with that statement because basically he is linking the short leash analogy with control. However, as a psychologist, I can see his point. As soon as one spouse or the other attempts to achieve control and absolute certainty in a marriage (he makes the point in the chapter that one can never fully guarantee marital safety and fidelity) it usually leads to less openness and more paranoia. It reminds me of the analogy of holding someone with a closed fist versus an open one- with an open fist people get to exert free will, similar to how God allows us to choose our paths. Personally, my husband never made me choose between him and my male friends. If he had, I would have chosen him, but a part of me would always resent having to make that choice and marrying someone that would force me to make that choice.
Overall, the message I got from this chapter, and the whole book, was that flexibility regarding male- female relationships, open communication, a nonjudgmental attitude, and non possessiveness will only improve your marriage and your spiritual life.