Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Companionship without committment
Since writing that article, I have become even more firmly persuaded of the great danger of maintaining a close friendship with a woman whom I'm unwilling or unable to marry. The situation is hardly better if I think the woman may turn out to be a suitable life-partner but she's made it plain that she's not interested in me in that way. In such a case, we may mutually decide to enjoy the benefits of a companionship without entailing the obligations of a permanent committment.
In the context of today's culture, this may seem to be a perfectly reasonable arrangement. For one thing, the advantages of companionship seem obvious. Personally, I much enjoy the time I can spend in conversation or various activities with another person. Although I can enjoy many pursuits on my own, having another person with me to share my enjoyment is nearly guaranteed to multiply my pleasure. It can be plenty nice to talk about this or that with another guy, but let's face it: it can be even nicer to spend time with a pleasant, attractive woman. So long as we stick to activities that are respectable and stay out of trouble, there's nothing wrong with that, right?
Although that sounds like a reasonable line of thinking, I think it's significant that it's so often older singles who get involved in such platonic arrangements. Perhaps they think, "I haven't yet found the man/woman of my dreams, so I may as well hang out with my friends until I do." There's nothing wrong with friendships per se, even friendships with the opposite sex, but yet in my life I've seen how I so long used platonic friendships as a means to enjoy the companionship that's best found in marriage without having to take on the duties and responsibilities attendant with the committment of that covenant bond. This seemed good and right to me for many years. With my platonic friends, I could enjoy the pleasant parts of an intimate relationship while avoiding the difficult stuff. In place of "for better or worse, for richer or poorer", I could pig out on cake and ice cream without having to eat my veggies.
How nice all this seemed for so long, but with maturity and a better understanding of God's Word, I see the irresponsibility that was lurking underneath my season of pleasure. Not only was I shirking any responsibility for my friends--enjoying the pleasure of their companionship without taking any true care for them--I was also enabling them to shirk their responsibility to seek a suitable husband. Thus, I was irresponsible both to myself and to my female friends.
Today, my understanding of what is proper in a male/female friendship is vastly different than it was in those days. If a woman is willing to consider me as a possible husband, should we prove to be suitable for each other, I will by all means want to spend as much time with her as possible so we can work together to find out whether or not we are indeed suitable. On the other hand, if I am convinced that she would not be a suitable wife for whatever reason, I am obliged to leave her free to focus her attention on men who may be more suitable for her. Although I would obviously want to remain on cordial terms with her, perhaps chatting with her in group contexts, I'm no longer going to take up substantial portions of her limited time and energy on being close friends with her. If my sister doesn't believe that I would be a suitable husband for her, I owe it to her to leave her free to search for a man who is. Until I find a woman who is suitable for me, I'm going to stick to casual acquaintances with my sisters in Christ, and my close friendships will be exclusively with my brothers in Christ. I am no longer willing to settle for the illusory pleasures of companionship without committment.