Cross-Gender Friendships – Too Hot for Christians? friend Dan Brennan has written provocative and paradigm-shifting book on healthy, intimate female-male friendships in the Body of Christ. It’s kinda controversial; he actually thinks, contra to When Harry Met Sally, that men and women, single and married, can enjoy deep, abiding friendships that not only don’t hinder marriages (for any parties that happen to be married), but they actually help marriage. And further, that cross-gender-friendships are a core part of redemption and God’s New Covenant. And that Jesus wants us to have friends of the opposite sex. His wife agrees. (He’s blogged through a lot of the material here; I highly recommend going through his cross-gender friendship archives and giving ’em a read)

So Dan just got picked up by agent extraordinaire Chip MacGregor, and they’ll be shopping this manuscript around to the right publishers.

Today on his blog Dan asks the question, “Is this book too edgy for even emerging church crowds?”

Our fears of sexuality may not fall into neat categories of emerging or something else. Is it a story of risk?  You betcha.  Does it involve compelling mystery?  Yeah, no formulas or six easy steps.  Does it bring up strong emotional reactions?  Sure it does.  Is it a way of love and healing?  Well, yes it is.  Love and healing.  That’s pretty edgy anytime.

I concur. Read more here.

39 Responses to “Cross-Gender Friendships – Too Hot for Christians?”

  1. 1 ubuntucat November 14, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    It really depends on the attitudes of those involved.

    If you are a woman who has only female friends and you attempt to make a deep connection with only one male friend, it won’t be surprising at all if you develop romantic feelings toward him. Same goes for a man who has only male friends and attempts to make a deep connection with only one female friend. (This is what happened in When Harry Met Sally…, by the way. Neither Harry nor Sally had other close cross-gender friendships.)

    Throughout high school, college, and beyond, I’ve had mainly cross-gender friendships (and did, in fact, have groomswomen at my wedding), and “the sex part” or even “the romance part” never got in the way of any of them… except one, and I’m married to her now.

    So can men and women be friends, even horny save-it-for-marriage Christians? Sure. Is it possible that one of those many friendships could evolve into something romantic? Definitely.

  2. 2 the holly November 14, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    i’ve been following Dan’s work a bit in this area and am grateful that someone is stepping into this question. unfortunately, its been a minefield for christians. although i respect a number of decisions that followers of jesus, specifically male ones in leadership, have made al la billy graham of never being alone with a female, some of these rules of cross-gender friendships seem to be more in line with a pharisaical understanding of friendship and boundaries than real ones. healthy friendships, be they with single/married or male/female or young/old, can provide a place for redemption and hope to take root in our lives. as an old mentor – who happened to be a guy – said to me once: we are usually sinned on by other people and god usually uses other people in the healing/redemption process.

    all i can say is “thank god.”


  3. 3 Dan Brennan November 14, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Mike, thanks for blog lov.

    My book doesn’t make the simple claim that you can be “friends” with the member of the opposite sex you work with. It makes the bold claim that in the now-but-not-yet kingdom, men and women can actually enjoy, deep, embodied friendships–and if married–transmarital friendships. We need to press through naive optimism and sheer fear when we talk about forming deep cross-gender friendships. I think sexual shalom is intricately connected to the Sabbath and the New Creation–and we can work towards intimacy, vulnerability, tenderness, and even play with our opposite sex friends.

  4. 4 Sensuous Wife November 14, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Can men and women have healthy friendships with each other?
    Yes. Different gender friendships require a special kind of care and attention but so do babies. Every genre of relationship requires its own kind of customized care and attention. I cherish my brothers and my sisters. Each of them bring something unique and healing and good to my life. And they cherish me back. And I have the beautiful experience of bringing something unique and healing and good into their life by offering my unique feminine flavor of “prophesy: to upbuild, encourage and console”. I believe it takes both the masculine heart and the feminine heart to fully reflect the heart of God. My brothers minister to me in an individual way yet also from a uniquely masculine perspective. My sisters minister to me in an individual way yet also from a uniquely feminine perspective. Neither perspective is superior. Both perspectives are beneficial. And I get both! Goodies from the generous heart of God! Love, Shula

  5. 5 Dan Brennan November 14, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    We’ve run the danger of reducing sexuality to “parts and plumbing” where as adults either are afraid to get close too the opposite sex (unless of course, we have an open romantic path to pursue)or we end up in bed (either inappropriate sex or marriage). It’s refreshing to hear about depth in cross-gender friendships

    I love the imagery of a masculine heart and a feminine heart–until we try to unpack what that means! I think there is a certain “givenness” in masculine and/or feminine hearts but I would be hard-pressed to define them. With that givenness, I would add a lot of social construction for the “masculine” and “feminine” hearts.

    I think there is a deep mystery of communion possible between men and women who may or may not be married to each.

  6. 6 Jennifer November 14, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Right at this hour my 40-something husband is out for lunch with a beautiful woman from our church who is nearly half his age.

    And I’m totally okay with that.

    There is nothing secret about their friendship. They didnt sneak off to lunch with the intention of never letting me know about it. They have a good friendship, and he is a better person because of the time he spends with her.

    I know there are plenty of Christians who would think I should be very concerned right now. But I’m not. I trust my husband and think any risk we are taking on is worth it. And he extends the same trust to me.

  7. 7 Dan Brennan November 14, 2008 at 9:08 pm


    It has been a minefield for Christians. I love your observation about the difference between pharisaical boundaries and real boundaries. Some of the questions we should be asking: Can cross-gender friends pray together (alone–intimacy)? Can cross-gender friends play together alone? Can cgfs be physically affectionate towards each other? Christians are much more open for a positive response to those when both parties are single. But when one or both are married–those kind of foundational questions open up our fears of sexuality and gender–and the minefields. These really open up questions about our understanding of eccelsiology, gender, mutuality, and sexuality.

    Sensuous wife–I loved your response.

  8. 8 coldfire November 14, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    I know that these conversations are important, but let me ask the question that no one has asked yet:

    For church leaders and public servants (such as those like me who are going into the field of public education) are seriously constrained by politics and rules that inhibit these types of relationships. Pastors are told to “protect themselves” and to “look out for themselves first” or else end up in jail for some misunderstanding between a member of the opposite sex. What about this?

  9. 9 Sarah-Ji November 15, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Quite frankly, I’ve never even thought about this since I left the evangelical subculture. I do remember now, though, that at the church I attended for many years, people in leadership were held to strict guidelines regarding relating to the opposite sex. Something about not even having the appearance of impropriety as Paul or some other gospel writer had instructed church leaders. This was a denomination where people layed hands on each other for “ministry time,” and such one-on-one encounters w/ someone of the opposite sex were discouraged as a matter of caution due to the emotional intensity of these prayer sessions and the vulnerability of those being prayed for.

    I think in churches where there’s a lot of sexual tension because everyone’s supposed to be waiting to get married to have sex, people are often looking for someone to marry (partially so they can have sex), so it may be hard in that kind of an environment to figure out if someone just wants to be friends or wants something more.

    Cross-gender friendships have been such a blessing for me that I can’t imagine doing without them. I’m glad my husband understands.

    • 10 brenda227 June 21, 2010 at 5:37 am

      I concur with what you said about Christians constantly seeming to be on the look out for a spouse because we are in a “no sex” diet, but that is where our faith comes in and where we need to call on the Holy Spirit. God wouldn’t ask this of us if it were impossible. I do believe though, that sometimes we don’t want to go that far in our thinking because then we will realize that we can’t do whatever we want.

  10. 11 Dan Brennan November 15, 2008 at 12:54 am


    It’s an interesting thing that Jesus initiated friendships with women in a community and culture where none existed before. Without at all sounding simplistic, I think we need a fresh reading of how Jesus himself integrated sexuality and spirituality (I have at least three chapters devoted to Jesus, women, sexuality, spirituality, and physicality).

    There are no easy answers to your question–but I believe it begins not with rules or fear, but with nuturing and forming friendships including deeper trust. My intimate friendships took a while to form and develop. They didn’t happen overnight. Just from my own research, there is no universal consensus in churches on addressing this issue between men, women, sexuality, and spirituality. For example, some leaders don’t have a problem having lunch with a member of the opposite sex alone. Other communities practice the 1950’s Billy Graham rule as wsidom for all.

    One of my hopes in getting my manuscript published is to advance the conversation on sexual shalom in friendships and communities like no other contemporary Protestant book has–which is why I am calling it, *Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions.*

    Sarah-J yes–your previous experience is similar to mine. Although with the full blessing of my wife, I prayed alone with my women friends. It took us a while to get to that place for trust to develop but my wife saw that we could be vulnerable and tender in prayer and still have good sexual boundaries. Some very “physical” churches with “hands-on” approaches are the most fearful of embodied physicality between men and women–setting up the “parts and plumbing” view of sexuality and spirituality.

  11. 12 Robin Mohr November 15, 2008 at 3:57 am

    I have several cross gender friendships, in my local community, my wider faith community, and online. It would seem odd to me to only communicate with the other women. That would also limit my ability to be part of the important conversations going on, in my denomination and the wider emerging conversation.

    One of the most valuable parts of my local spiritual community has been the friendships I have developed with gay men. These have helped me to learn how to be friends with men, without sexual tension being such a big part of it.

  12. 13 Sensuous Wife November 15, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Oooh, good point, Robin! One of my dearest friends is a man who has identified himself as gay. Our friendship is a rich rich rich treasure and I love him with all my heart. Delighted Husband is well aware of our friendship and he knows what a gift and blessing it is. Of course, there is much more to my friend than his being gay. I don’t think of him as “my gay friend (name)” I think of him as (name). Our friendship sprang up from us both being novelists, so we talk about our art and anything and everything in life including sexuality. Our friendship is perhaps most clearly defined by how we love each other and bring out, call out the best in each other.

    Oh and thank you, Dan. I enjoyed responding.

  13. 14 Dan Brennan November 15, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Robin and Sensuous Wife,

    This is clearly an emerging trend in cross-gender friendships in our culture. I think its interesting Sensuous Wife that you don’t think of your friend as “my gay friend.” There is a paradox in cross-gender friendship. Our sharedness in the image of God in some sense should lead us to view our friends of the opposite sex with no adjective (like “cross-gender” or “cross-sex’). Like my wife says, opposite sex friendship shouldn’t come with a surgeon general warning. On the other hand, there are indeed “sexual” differences in paired friendships that we should delight in, celebrate, and honor.

  14. 15 sensuouswife November 15, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    (Hey, now I’m logged in. I wonder if my avatar will be different?)

    The topic of opposite sex friendship is such a big topic. I want to say just one more thing for now although it’s a safe bet that I might have many more “one more things” to say.

    The first and most obvious result of my experiencing healing from sexual brokenness was in my relationship with myself, my relationship with God and most clearly my relationship with my husband. Hello, that’s what my whole blog is about.

    But there’s this other lovely result of my healing from sexual brokenness and that is this amazing renewed ability to enjoy and celebrate and treasure opposite sex friendships. Now that I know not all men are predators, it’s amazing how much easier it is to love them! (laugh) (grin) and seriously, there are some issues of respect and boundaries and sexual integrity that must be honored in cross gender friendships. Books have been written about the boundaries needed and possible minefields and while I respect those topics as valid, for some reason this is where the conversation on cross gender friendship usually lands. It usually lands on the list of perils.

    Here’s my take.

    Get healed. Embrace a soul deep spring-cleaning of your sexual self. Invest in what God wants to do in your life. I don’t have to know you to know that God wants to heal and restore you because I know God and that’s what he’s always up to, loving us, healing us, setting us free.

    As you begin to live from a place of redemption, not perfection, then watch and see what kind of healing redemptive thing God might plant in your garden. You may find yourself able to cherish the maleness and femaleness of your friends without some ugly wound getting triggered.

    By the grace of God, I have had the proundly beautiful experience of noticing a man that does not belong to me as being handsome and being a sexual being without feeling either threatened by that or objectifying him. These little golden moments let me know that the high cost of growing is all worthwhile.

    God looked upon all that he had made, and behold it was very good.

  15. 16 zoecarnate November 15, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Wow – these comments have been a treasure trove of insights. Please keep the wisdom flowing; I’m learning a ton from all of you – especially the ladies!

  16. 17 sensuouswife November 15, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    I am having the best time talking about this. Thanks for being such a great host, Mike. This topic is so special and meaningful for me.

    Hey! Just thought of one more thing. I toldya it would happen. I am very much about “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” on most any topic. But I want to be clear on something. Women can be predators too. A woman acting out of sexual brokenness can deliberately set out to put a man that does not belong to her in a compromising position and then exploit that to threaten him or cause him harm. I don’t want to sound like I’m calling boundaries that to might sound quite intense as “just a bunch of old fogeys that don’t know what they’re talking about”. Listen to the Spirit. Embrace wisdom and your Holy Spirit radar to protect yourself from predators. But don’t stop there. Don’t let protection from harm be where you get off the train. Ride that redemption train all the way to joy and healthy intimate friendships at all points of the spectrum.

  17. 18 Dan Brennan November 15, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Sensuous Wife,

    Soooooo cool to hear about your healing and your “noticing” another man who didn’t belong to you! That is sweeet. Boundaries are important–but we really do need to process those boundaries in authentic relationship and discernment. Sweet delight in the other’s full embodied presence, even physical affection–these may not be the signs of promiscuous behavior or predator-oriented, but signs of healthy sexual bonding in friendship. Not all sexual energy/delight is lust or wired for intercourse (this is not a small detail in sexual shalom but rarely is it acknowledged among conservative Christians)–my book discusses this.

    I also am glad to hear someone acknowledge women can be predatory. This is part of the dance of learning discernment as we walk towards sexual shalom.

    You are right, sexuality and friendship is a huge subject. Although it’s hardly addressed in evangelical circles currently. I hope to write more than one book on the theme sexuality and friendship.

  18. 19 Who Am I? November 15, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I was separated from my wife for over a year before reconciling. Within that time, some of the best friends I had on a very deep level were women. They helped me understand more how my wife was probably thinking and feeling, since our communication had so badly broken down. I learned alot. Some of those women also shared of their own struggles in marriage and or divorce. That honesty helped kill any fantasy in my mind about how wonderful life would be if I was with them, and helped me stay focused on winning my wife back.

    My wife bemoans the fact that in the Christian culture especially it is hard to have cross gender friends without being looked down upon.

    I actually fall more in love with her when she comes home and tells me about a significant conversation she had with another men. Men highly respect her, which makes me so proud of her.

    Glad to see this issue being addressed.

  19. 20 1ozmom November 15, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Wow. Just-wow.

    First off, I was so lving Sensous Wife’s replies here that I e-mailed her and we’re jumping up and down in ether happiness. So thank you for bringing this up.

    I’ve been married to my Dude for 14 years and waayyy before I married him I belonged to a group that journied together. I was the last to get married, but those other guys (and their wives) were my BROTHERS. I adored them. When we were single we thought of dating, but now that we’re married crossing the lines doesn’t even cross our minds. When I need a guy other than my DH to talk me off the wall I go to them and Dude doesn’t get angry, and the same goes for him. (although he was brought into the group so he’s been slower to open up-but it’s an organic thing.) I think the only time my hackles get raised is when I peg another woman as a predator – or when Dude knows another guy’s intentions are not pure. And then I appreciate his insight.

    I think a lot of the sexual brokenness that Sensous Wife is talking about comes from the hand of those who teach that men and women cannot be friends, that they can’t be left alone in a room together, that their intentions couldn’t possibly be purely motivated. Because from there we grow to mistrust the opposite sex, and it will leak into our marriages and friendships. There is no relationship where there is no trust.

    Having true friends who are men also shows me that other side of God that I am ignorant of and that is priceless-*esp when those men are not patricarchal.* (Lately Ive been discovering the feminine in God, but that’s another topic all together)

    Just reading all of these posts are like water. You think you’re the only one discovering these things and then the dam breaks. It’s a beautiful thing.

  20. 21 Jeremy November 16, 2008 at 12:20 am

    I was so disappointed by your post title. I thought this was going to be about christian relationships with gender bending individuals, transvestites, and transsexuals.
    Was just curious what Jasmin’s thought on the book was also.

  21. 22 zoecarnate November 16, 2008 at 12:23 am

    LOL, Jeremy! There’s enough controversy on my blog already! But maybe we’ll get to the trangendered community in a future post. 🙂

    Jasmin hasn’t read the manuscript yet – I share your interest in her eventual response!

  22. 23 Jasmin November 16, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Nope, Jeremy, haven’t read the book…although you can probably already guess the kinds of feelings I might have about it.

  23. 24 Jennifer November 16, 2008 at 3:16 am

    Jasmin – I actually cant guess 🙂 I’d love to hear what you think.

  24. 25 Robin Mohr November 16, 2008 at 5:26 am

    Here’s my one more thing. In my experience, people who are happy in their own lives and skins are not a danger in friendship. The one male friendship I’ve had in the last fifteen years of marriage that was awkward in this way was when he broke up with a girlfriend and was very unhappy. Fortunately, I am happily married, and pretty clear about my boundaries. I also encouraged him to be friends with my husband and children, not just me, which allowed me to be a better friend, to be able to listen and spend time with him when he needed friends, rather than just pushing him away. But it took some conscious awareness and management to keep it that way.

  25. 26 Heather November 16, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I’m sooo glad to see this topic being discussed! Myriad thought threads go through my mind as I read this discussion, so my comments in no particular order –

    First up, in my area gals tend to be locked in to pretty traditional female roles – not so much by requirement, but more by some sort of environmentally-based personality development. As an analytical thinker and dreamer, many of the women in the places I have fellowshipped have considered me “weird” and have made all sorts of offhanded negative comments about me – some even blatantly telling me that they don’t know how to relate to me because I don’t seem to be really concerned about shopping, style, or get the picture. I have even been told that topics I want to discuss are “male topics” (such as church organization) and that I should stick to “female topics” (such as testimonies about answers to my prayers in daily life.) My reaction has been unfortunately to often disregard many of the women around me as being unnapproachable, shallow, and irrelevant. It is much easier, despite the men’s initial bias against females doing so, to engage in conversation with the men around me in topics that I find interesting and meaningful.

    That said, I have felt challenged by the Lord that He does not want me to take the easy road on this. I am challenged to make the additional effort to create and maintain same-sex friendships, and engage women both in topics that are meaningful to them and in topics that might otherwise be outside their sphere so that I don’t unwittingly perpetuate by my own actions the very forces that are working against me in this culture. When I am tempted to call or email one of my male friends about some topic I am twirling about in my mind, and which I know my male friends will easily enjoy, I have made a conscious effort to first call or write a female and make the effort to engage the topic with them. And while I can’t say the results of this effort have been stellar, I have seen it slowly improve and broaden my social circle to include women that I genuinely enjoy dialoguing with, who have been tremendous blessings in my life, as well as make subtle changes in how women function in some of my circles. So I mention all this only to say, that before I focus on the propriety or dynamics regarding my opposite-sex friendships, that I have needed to face my own conditioned biases regarding how I am relating to members of the same sex.

    (continued to next posting)

  26. 27 Heather November 16, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Another thing I want to share is that one thing that makes opposite-sex friendship so dicey (at least between singles) is the fear that one party might become attracted to the other (who is not attracted to the first.) For some reason, especially in christian circles, the knee-jerk reaction is to think that if someone has feelings towards us, that somehow the friendship has gone sour and needs to be kept at arms’ length or even ended.

    While I don’t have frequent “crushes” on my friends, there was one single guy not too long ago that I did start to fall for. After a lot of prayer I ended up sharing this with him (which, by the way, was something I had been taught was a big no-no for a lady to do) and while he was pretty clear that he wasn’t interested in me in the same way, to my surprise he uncharacteristically did not feel any need to manage my feelings for me. Instead, he assured me that his friendship with me was not going to change from his end – that our relationship would continue being strong, he wasn’t going to make it his problem that I had feelings for him. And so he continued being an awesome friend, I pulled back only to the degree that I needed to – and while I unwillingly continued “crushing” on him for just a little while, the Lord and I got it straightened out fairly quickly in my head and heart and all was well.

    I was *so blessed* that my friend took that approach! I got to be honest with my “friend”, he got to be honest with me, we kept the bond of unity in the Spirit, and it was a shame-free and almost rejection-free process for both of us to transition into a less emotionally-charged friendship.

    Of course, if he or I had been married, the whole thing would have had to play out much differently – or would it have? Wow, now that is a topic to discuss! I am going to have to buy the book first before diving into THOSE waters…

  27. 28 Dan Brennan November 16, 2008 at 2:12 pm


    Great comments. Prior to Freud, attraction was not necessarily considered a threat to one’s marriage or considered an irresistible, compulsive, path to going down a romantic/sexual path. I love the path your friend took with you. What a great friend!!!

    Many Christians (single or married) consider sexual feelings or energy a threat to the relationship. Considering so much can be said about this subject, I consider my book “introducing” the subject but a whole book (or even more) could be written on sexual formation and attraction (between singles, or any combination of spouse and cross-gender friend be they single or married).

    One of the goals for advancing the conversation is that we need a spirituality of beauty between genders that is not narrowly reduced to romantic myth, romantic path, etc. I believe one of the first things we have to do is deconstruct the romantic myth many Christians embrace under the idealized language of “one flesh.” There is a beauty in romance. But we have sooooooo reduced beauty between men and women to just that–Christians have allowed the pop culture to intepret the whole story of beauty between men and women to just romance. I think your relationship with your friend was a great story of beauty in cross-gender friendship.

  28. 29 elissa November 16, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Ah, I’ve just read all these wonderful thoughts. Hmmm. I can’t wait until the book comes out. I’ve thought about this some–not as much as others have (by the posts). Don’t you think it depends on the people involved? And I have to add: it’s something that would have to be condoned and accepted by your partner, so you’re not creating jealousy or discomfort. I do a lot more e-mailing to men than I do face-to-face, and it’s surprising how fast you get to be friends by e-mail. For some reason, there’s an immediate closeness that’s not the same in person. I feel comfortable with this, and I let me husband know. He also knows I’m not looking, so I’m sure that’s why he’s comfortable, you know?
    I agree, though. I grew up thinking that a married man and another woman couldn’t “do” lunch. It was a preventative measure; not a rule. Wow. I really like that we can dialogue about this, though, because now I’m thinking of all the friendships I have with men (in the writing and teaching field) whom my husband doesn’t really know, BUT that said, I don’t know the women he works with (like he does).
    Like I said, I can’t wait for the book!

  29. 30 Dan Brennan November 16, 2008 at 7:32 pm


    Great thoughts and questions. Yes, it does depend on the people involved. No question that the level and depth of friendship itimacy grows out of a mutual trust, noncoerced, nonmnaipulative dialogue between partners. There are many, many different levels of comfort, trust, possible in transmarital cgfs. And its possible that trust/comfort level stay at a minimum level forever or for a long time. However, the beauty of agape, the goodness of eros, may open up levels of trust neither spouse thought possible.

    My deepest, intimate cgfs began online. This book would have never came about had it not been for the formation of online cgfs. Then one of my friends moved into the area–literally–she lived with us for seven weeks while she waited for her apartment. That was four years ago.

    I look forward to hear what you have to say after you read the book.

  30. 31 Makeesha November 19, 2008 at 2:38 am

    I haven’t read all the responses so I apologize in advance for repeating anything.

    First off – YAY DAN! I’ve been reading Dan’s stuff off and on for a few years now I think and much of his views came at a very key time for me as I was leaving behind some of what I grew up with in conservative evangelicalism.

    Second – YAY MIKE for fostering such lovely conversation.

    My husband and I have talked about this at length and for us, it seems to be rather simple but we can appreciate how complicated it is for many.

    Basically, I think our interactions between the sexes are controlled by fear – not just in the Christian community either. Fear of all the “what if’s” and fear of our own sexuality. Human sexuality can often be very raw and overwhelming and affected by so many other factors. But David and I have worked to embrace and work WITH our sexuality instead of against it.

    Put simply – if David has a close friendship with another woman, the fears can be put to bed (pardon the pun) with appropriate physical and emotional boundaries and openness between the 2 of us. There also needs to be healthy holistic understanding of our sexuality. Instead of fighting against it, you learn to work with your sexuality in a healthy and mature way.

    I personally find it a bit odd that we’re so afraid of getting aroused when in the presence of someone else that the answer is to avoid that person, avoid thinking of that person, etc. This suppression of sexuality is inevitably going to spill over into the relationship that you DO want to be involved in (namely, with your spouse). Instead, see the arousal for what it is and stay within the established boundaries..bring it to light and move on.

    Obviously, this topic is vast and I could go on about my personal feelings in this area but I’ve already written too much for a blog comment hehe.

  31. 32 Anonymous November 29, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Ok wow. Wow. I have to get in on this conversation, but I have to be anonymous. I would love to hear from Mr. Brennan about my situation. You see, I would somewhat disagree with your opinion here because of my own personal situations that have risen from being good friends with a man (I am a woman).

    I was best friends with a guy for a long time before we had to have the “DTR” talk. We hung out all the time, we got along great. But I totally fell for him, and he didn’t fall for me. Everyone advised us to separate as friends because no good would come from our relationship..only hurt. We didn’t end up “separating”, but have only stayed great friends for years (almost 4 years now). Now, I still love him more than a friend, and he still doesn’t. He is moving away soon, and so I will not be able to see him and talk to him every day of the week.

    Now, I don’t think we really have done anything different than the way I would act with a female “BFF”, and so I have done some serious evaluating of why I am SO completely devastated about losing him.

    Obviously, first off, I like him as more than a friend. But this naturally comes when you are really, really, good friends with someone of the opposite sex (for girls especially).

    Second, men have different attributes about them that women need and want. They want to be rescued, taken care of, protected. And men – they want to be cared for, fed, relied upon, and listened too. As single people, it is easy to let male-female friendships become too much of a friendship. And as married people, I would think that having a good friend of the opposite sex would take away from the relationship between a husband and wife.

    I feel like this is why I am so devastated about him leaving, because he has become more than a “girlfriend” to me…he has become like a “partner” to me in the sense that he fulfills areas that I can’t fulfill…and can’t really be fulfilled by a woman. My female best friend doesn’t know how to fix my computer or car, carry heavy things for me when I move, protect like a man does, doesn’t give into my gossiping mouth, and just has a completely different persona that I want around me…that I want to marry.

    Is I was to marry this man, my best friend, I wouldn’t need any other man in my life…only him. We would be one, and he would be the one to continue to help me in my pursuit of holiness and godliness. As far as female friendships – biblically, it would be nice to have older women pour into my life, and for me to pour into younger women.

    I don’t know. I just think that by having a really good friend of the opposite sex would take away from a marriage. And as a single person, I already feel like I have messed up my future relationship with my husband just from being best friends with a guy for so long. I will always be sizing them up next to one another, and remembering how great “bff” made me feel in the past, and now my “husband” doesn’t. It’s borderline adultery. I just don’t know…in my humble opinion, I just have to disagree. But I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

  32. 33 Dan Brennan November 30, 2008 at 8:49 pm


    Thank you for sharing with us the deep bond you have had with your male friend. First, let me say, not everyone is going to agree with me, and indeed, you may be one of those. The Lord bless you, if you remain such.

    I don’t believe the loss you feel about your friend leaving is necessarily, an oppostie sex dynamic. For example, David was devastated by the death of Jonathan. I suggest what it does reveal is how deep this friend is your world–and that kind of depth can happen in same-sex or cross-sex friendship. I think there is plenty of relational agape and philia to love our friends in ways that our love is than just the love of “friends.” However, you do seem to indicate that you would be open to marriage, if he was. What you will miss is the companionship of friendship–and perhaps the death of a dream for it to develop into something else. Either one or both of those are what you seem to be wrestling with in the loss.

    I find it fascinating to read that you didn’t break it off after the “DTR” and the subsequent counsel from friends to break it off.
    Cheers and applause that you went on to be great friends for four more years.

    I would suggest that your perception of how men and women relate (with women wanting to be rescued, etc.) has some merit but is more grounded in socialization of the sexes than in any “hard-wiring.”
    Women, too, love (mothers especially) love to rescue and protect their children at various stages of their children’s lives. Women do love to protect and rescue their female friends too (or else you wouldn’t have all these codependent, self-books on the market). Your gender perceptions may indeed have fit your experience (especially between you and your friend) but I have met women and men who don’t fit those gendered patterns. It could be that your current friendship fits quite for you with that symmetry. I think we can have a deep companionship with the other sex–very deep and it not be romantic–paired friendships are very unique because they consist of two, different and unique individual stories.

    Friendships are forms of spiritual formation. There is a spirituality of friendship. And, in any deep friendship there are seasons where we have to release and let go–and suffer loss in some form or other. It has to happen because of the mysterious other–our friend is not the same as us. This is true in marriage and in deep friendship.

    As a single person, I know right now you feel tempted to believe you have messed up your future (that may be why your friends counseled you to break off the relationship back when). I know it may be difficult for you to grasp, but all the rich, full, beautiful, agape, philia and even erotic love in the world for you is not stored up for you in your one male friend. God, who created sex, is still calling you. There is a mystery of sexuality and sexuality still calling out to you as a single woman. You embody qualities of goodness, beauty, and truth as a single woman that no one else does. Your experience of the mystery of sexuality and spirituality is not going to stop because your friend is leaving you and the area.

    And the fact is, as sexuality is becoming more of an open topic for evangelicals (it has a long way to go, believe me) we are finding more good, Christian men and women admitting that they have been attracted to someone else other than their spouse–and have been surprised by that.

    It could be, that once you marry, the pull of friendship with another male would not be a path for you. But may scenarios could change that–a new job where you work closely next to another man, or you meet man online in a good forum like this–and eith suddenly or gradually a friendship begins to form.

    I think we need to keep romance in marriage–but I don’t think *all* agape and/or philia is ground in romantic love. Quite the oppposite. If that is true, it follows then, that a maritial spirituality open to loving others (agape/philia) may discover love in the wild space of friendship with the other sex–even deep love.

  33. 34 John December 3, 2008 at 7:19 am

    I don’t disagree with this idea in theory, but the fact is that so many people are addicted, hurt, confused, troubled, wounded, etc. Therefore, these situations are volatile and unpredictable. If we were only talking about holy situations like intentional fellowship, church, or the like then that is one thing. But we are not. We speak of all situations here. And though these type relationships may occur naturally and for good reasons, I wouldn’t seek them. That to me is like a recovering alcoholic carrying around a six pack or a ex-smoker with a pack of cigarettes. And if you think that is a grim view of people, then you don’t know people like I do – and I say that without any judgment, even speaking for myself. We’re all doing our best here.

    In all honesty, I think men or women who feel this way are really just uncomfortable being intimate with people of the same sex. This again goes back to some sort of problem; some severed/broken relationship(s). More healing could be done there than seeking comfort and security in cross gender relationships.

  34. 35 Dan Brennan December 3, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Hi John,

    I appreciate and respect your opinion. I see that we do not disagree in theory! Your last observation is something someone faces–especially if they are forming a cgf in a Christian community where there are certain psychodynamic assumptions–with gendered socialization thrown in. It baffles me though why we have to be stuck masculine/feminine ruts.

  35. 36 femaleanon January 31, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I have just come across this stuff on cross gender friendship and am finding it really interesting. I have a very close male friend who I pray with (alone), in fact the God stuff is the major part of our friendship. We both seem to approach God and prayer the same way. Consequently it can get very deep and very personal.
    I have close female friends I talk to, but even though I would say I am open with them, we don’t have the same deep bond. And although I talk to my husband and pray with him, we approach God very differently.

    Is there a difference between my friendship with my cgf and my female friends? Yes – I never think to compare my husbands reaction to things with that of my female friends. The simple fact my cgf is male means there is the possibility for comparison (even though I try not to). And I think with ANY friendship if it becomes very intimate, that intimacy can spill over into sexual feelings.

  36. 37 dudeship August 27, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    We wrote a book too… except its free, and you can read it right now. We’re not really interested in the money-making part, or the fame part… we’re just interesting in the finally answering this question part. That is what we are ALL about. Answering this question.

    Find the free book via our blog at

    Dudeship- Any relationship between a man and a woman that isn’t someone you’ve just met, work with, or see because of other external factors such as work, school, book club, etc.

  1. 1 ‘cross-gender’-vriendschappen « ‘blog van Brambonius’ Trackback on March 26, 2009 at 10:35 pm
  2. 2 how to have a boy Trackback on October 24, 2014 at 6:50 am

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