Keeping friends while dating
Either way, that person is now hanging on to the "friendship" in the hope of getting something more despite the "clear words" from the other person that he or she wants nothing beyond friendship.To the extent that one person's romantic feelings have been clearly articulated to the other (and were met with an unfavorable response) to continue in some no-man's land of "good friends," is arguably to take selfish advantage of the vulnerable party. What if one person develops romantic feelings in a friendship in which no "clear words" have been spoken, such that the desires of the other person are a mystery?
Certainly, a man can find himself in a similar position with a woman he's attracted to, but given his obligation to be clear and intentional with the woman and to initiate the type of relationship he truly desires, he arguably has placed — or at least kept — view your "friendship"?Yet even with all this deep communication going on, at least one aspect of these friendships inherently involves a mixed message.No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what's happening as "just friends," your are constantly saying, "I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction)." The simple reality (of which most people are aware, whether they admit it or not) is that in the vast majority of these types of relationships, one of the parties involved either began the "friendship" with romantic feelings for the other person or develops them along the way.This is especially so in a culture — and a church — that struggles with the widespread sociological trend in its young adults known as "perpetual adolescence." Albert Mohler, Alex and Brett Harris, Candice Watters and other Boundless authors have written about this trend at length.In fact, the failure of many Christian men to pursue marriage well into their 20s and 30s may be one of the most disturbing results of this trend, but that's another topic for another day.Basically, the question seems to be how exactly single Christians should relate to members of the opposite sex in that large and awkward zone between "we've never met" and a deliberate dating or courting relationship. I won't repeat the full history lesson here, as several Boundless authors have already discussed it (Joshua Rogers most recently, in his excellent piece "Your Friendgirl Deserves Better").
Essentially, the historical reality is that until 30 or 40 years ago, long, intimate friendships between men and women in which each served as the other's emotional confidante, relationship adviser and "best buddy" were far less common than they are today.
First Thessalonians 4:1-8 admonishes us not to wrong or "defraud" our brother or sister by implying a marital level of commitment (through sexual involvement) when it does not exist.
As I've discussed before, a broad (but sound) implication of this passage is that "defrauding" could include inappropriate emotional — as well as physical — intimacy.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that your intimate friendship is one of those rare jewels that is devoid of the potential for hurt or confusion. In the past, when both sexual immorality and intimate male-female friendships were much less accepted and less common in society, men and women moved more deliberately toward marriage earlier in life.
By offering a taste of the companionship and interactions that make marriage so satisfying, with none of the accompanying commitments or responsibilities entailed in marriage, intimate friendships discourage the pursuit of the grown-up, God-intended outlet for marital desires — marriage.
As you probably know, I believe Scripture to teach that engaging in the types of emotional intimacy and companionship involved in close male-female friendships — outside of marriage and for their own sake — is wrong (see else I've ever written for Boundless).