Who Needs Friends?
Co-written by Justin Mulwee and Dan Rubio
This is part of a series starting here. It’s hard to peg a thesis for any part of the Guy’s Guide, but our summary of the “Don’t Stay Stuck in a Friendship” section is something like this: relationships with the opposite sex must lead directly to marriage, or else they must be deliberately superficial. Either you go all in and marry someone or else maintain only a marginal friendship, talk to them about weather and politics and whatnot, preferably in group settings only (for extra emotional safety), and deliberately keep the person at arm’s length because close friendships are dangerous and maybe even morally wrong.
To the Guide’s credit, some of its reasoning is undeniably true:
“Intimate friendships between men and women almost always produce confusion and frustration for at least one of the parties involved.”
The trouble here is the implication that things which are likely to involve confusion and frustration at some point are bad and should not be attempted. To see how absurd this is, let’s just replace “Intimate friendships between men and women” with less controversial undertakings.
“Calculus almost always produces confusion and frustration for at least one of the parties involved.”"
“Love almost always produces confusion and frustration for at least one of the parties involved.”
He goes on,
No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what’s happening as “just friends,” your actions are constantly saying “I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction).”
Again, a kernel of truth, but it’s laced with some really ambiguous assertions. What does “in a way that suggests marriage” mean? If it means that it resembles marriage in some way, that does not contribute much to his argument. The co-writers of this article live together, cook together, and talk every day. Yet no one would seriously say that it “suggests” marriage. If he means it makes one person think the other intends marriage, it seems that the problem is not closeness, but lack of clarity. Yet he keeps gunning for friendship itself.
Confusion and frustration are at least an occasional part of most worthwhile things. The Guide’s one-sided emphasis on avoiding trouble seems to assume that non-marriage-eligible deep relationships between the sexes hold no intrinsic value that could possibly be worth any “confusion and frustration.” However, this is far from a sound assumption. Do women really offer nothing (other than potential wifehood) in a close relationship? The relationship between brother and sister would seem a fine counterexample to any principle of relationships that assigns intersex friendships a low value. Likewise that between cousins. So it seems that there are at least some deep relationships with women that are not marriage that are beneficial to a man. If this is the case, then it seems that the Guy’s Guide is in error when it claims that the only deep relationship one should have with a woman is marriage.
Of course, someone will say “family doesn’t count, obviously.” However, St. Paul encourages Timothy to use familial language in his thinking about women he’s not married to. The Guide actually points this out:
“I Timothy 5 describes a relationship among Christian men and women not married to one another as that of brothers and sisters.”
But then the Guide immediately says that you should only spend time with opposite-sex friends in groups. Whenever someone trots out advice for opposite sex friends, they always rely on the groups-only maxim: sure, you can spend time together, but only in groups–a sure way to remain deliberately distant. But the word “sister” implies closeness; for some of us, our sisters are our best friends. The author finally quotes the bible, but only to shoot himself in the foot.
Yet the Guide maintains that close friendships between the sexes are “arguably questionable anyway.” If it’s arguable, he hasn’t given much of an argument (I dare someone to find more than paper-thin biblical support for this). Like many Christian relationship “experts,” many of whom seem to work for Focus on the Family, he cannot resist the temptation to hammer out arbitrary rules along with some vague implication that they are moral laws from God.
As for these writers, we’ll maintain our cherished friendships with that other half of the human race.