Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Chap 7

When Harry Met Sally...

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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.

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3 Comments

Great post! I tend to agree with you and Brennan about the insecurity issues. I have seen it rob people of valuable friendships and ultimately a feeling of being “trapped” in a relationship.

After reading the book and the responses on this blog my feeling is that it is more about how you approach these relationships that determines whether or not they will be platonic or turn sexual.

I have no problem with my wife having friends of the opposite sex. (In fact one of her closest friends, Michael was instrumental in our dating relationship growing into marriage.) I know how she frames these relationships.

Flirty or sexual banter between males and females (married or not!) usually leads toward some sort of “more than just friends” relationship.

I need female friends in my life. These relationships help me be better a better friend to my wife!

Ashley, I totally see where you are coming from in your post, particularly on the short leash issue. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I really had a hard time imagining myself applying anything from this book into my own life. That’s not a judgment thing. If the principles from the book work in your marriage, you won’t see me raising my eyebrows over it.

First, though, I think there’s a distinction to be made between pre-marriage cross-gender (“CG”) friends, and post-marriage cross-gender friends. If you come into a relationship with pre-existing CG friends, it’s probably not fair of your new mate to ask you to end your friendships.

What I didn’t get (maybe never bought) was how Brennan kept wanting to push married folks to have CG friends separate from their mates. Sure, married folks can have lifelong CG friends separate from their mates without a hint of sexuality, and that’s great. But it seems Brennan is arguing that this is necessary, and that anyone who doesn’t is missing out on being part of the body of Christ and getting fulfillment from life as God intended. I like making new CG friends. Community groups at our church are a great place for that. But I like getting to know the wives as my wife gets to know their respective husbands (if that makes sense). It’s fun for the 4 of us (or 6 or 8) of us to get together, talk about life, and get to know each other better. To me, I still get all the benefit of having CG friends, but without the baggage or delicateness that can sometimes come with having a CG friend without your wife.

David,

I like the idea of couples hanging out with other couples – I think there is a really fun energy that comes along with that. I wish I had more of it in my life.

But at the same time, there are a couple problems with it. One is that it’s really rare for my husband and I to find a couple were all the relationships seem to click well enough for us to want to spend lots of time together. Maybe we’re just odd, but its not been easy for us to find people like that to really connect with.

The other problem is that while I love being in groups and the kind of fun energy that brings, I also love being in one-on-one conversation (and thus, one-on-one relationship.) It’s not that I have anything to hide from others, just that something in my own temperment feels more at home in paired conversation.

So, I think its a really good thing for a book like this to come along and help frame what those one-on-one relationships can look like. I never really got the sense that he was saying they had to look any certain way…I felt like it was more about the theory of cross-gender friendships, and the specifics (who, what, where, when, why, how) are up to the reader.

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