“Guess who contacted me…again?” My friend showed me her phone screen.
I peered at the message. “Oh no. Not again. Really?”
For over a year, a young man my friend knew had been randomly Facebook messaging her. At first she thought he might be interested in her, but after sporadic, odd messages with no seeming purpose to them, she was beginning to think he was just weird. Or really, really lonely.
Either way, she didn’t know how (or if) to respond. She didn’t have the time or inclination to keep messaging him, plus she didn’t feel comfortable privately messaging a single young man who clearly had no serious interest in her. Should she reply? Ignore it? Tell him to stop? Ask him why he kept contacting her? The questions went around and around.
My friend’s predicament isn’t uncommon. Everywhere girls are wondering how to act around the young men in their lives. And many poor guys are completely befuddled when it comes to the girls they know.
He keeps staring at me…why?
She’s always flirting…I think. Is she flirting? Maybe not. I just don’t know.
Should I tell him I’m interested in him? Yes? No? Maybe?
I’m praying and struggling…should I pursue her? Is it the right time?
Only one thing is clear in the whole mess—the fact that nothing is clear. Confusion, questions, and all-out panic are all familiar when it comes to navigating the troublesome waters of dating/courting/dourting/just friends, and everything in between.
Why is there so much confusion, when we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ? Why do we misinterpret so much, and attempt to read into each other’s actions? Why can’t we take them at face value and not try to discern hidden motives within?
And why, oh why, do we sometimes act so weird?
While I’m not a relationship expert, I’m going to attempt to clear the fog, and give clarity on this fuzzy topic. Here you go: my top six do’s and don’ts when it comes to guy/girl relationships.
1. DON’T stalk
Okay, I’m a little guilty of having done this before. But I’ve learned that you don’t discover anything worth knowing by stalking. It’s a waste of time, plus it encourages infatuation. And by stalking, you automatically up the awkward factor when you meet face to face.
Stalking could mean literally trailing the person around town, but in our social media age it usually looks more like reading their Facebook posts from five years ago and every one in between.
2. DON’T be “just (best) friends”
Ever heard someone say, “Oh, we’re just friends” and think, “Yeah, right”?
It’s incredibly difficult to be “just friends.” Especially for teenagers. Teenage-hood is a season where we’re beginning to be attracted to the opposite sex, and when our God-given desire to love and be loved is awakening. One person in the friendship might be cool with being “just friends”—or maybe even both—but as a friendship deepens and grows, it’ll become increasingly challenging for both parties to remain in a neutral mindset of “just friends.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t hang out in mixed groups of guys and girls, or work together. The danger of the “just friends” mindset arises when you turn from casual friends to “best friends,” and find a deeper level of intimacy arising. Save heart-to-heart talks, uninterrupted time together, and heavy online interaction with friends of the same gender or someone you’re committed to a serious relationship with. When a relationship turns from a “hanging out in a group” status, to a “one-on-one” level, you’re venturing into dangerous ground with landmines of heartache and confusion.
3. DON’T be afraid to interact
Some Christians hold the opinion that single guys and girls shouldn’t talk or interact with each other at all. I disagree, for the main reason that it’s simply impractical, but I believe we can learn a lot about God, life, purity, and how to respect each other by interacting in casual, safe, and pure settings.
In your interactions with people of the opposite gender, strive for purity of heart and mind. Ask yourself, “How would I act right now if my future spouse were watching?” and act accordingly. And remember, the interaction isn’t one-dimensional. Strive to guard the purity of the person you’re interacting with by watching the words you say (are they borderline flirtatious? Do they point us both to Christ? Could they be misinterpreted?), the way you act (am I trying to catch their attention? Am I compromising my integrity?), the things you wear (women and men—is this modest? Am I showing too much skin? Is it too tight?).
Do interact, but interact with maturity and integrity.
4. DO set up boundaries
Since it’s impossible (and unwise) to attempt to eliminate interaction with the opposite gender, we need to be wise in the interactions we do have. And wisdom means boundaries. Ground rules and lines we don’t allow ourselves to cross. These boundaries are personal convictions that you try to carry out. Most people won’t understand them, or act by them, so you have to be firm in your conviction and why you abide by them.
Some examples of healthy boundaries would be choosing to not be completely alone with a guy or girl in a house, car, elevator, etc. Another would be to determine how much physical contact you’re comfortable with. Hugs, side hugs, arm-around-your-shoulder-during-pictures? Online communication also requires boundaries and respect.
These are things that you, through prayer, thought, and your parents advice, set up to protect your heart. They’re not things you rattle off every time you meet someone, ending with, “Hey, you got all that?” (That would be just strange.) But if someone is pushing your boundaries, it’s perfectly acceptable to respectfully inform them.
When considering boundaries, think along the lines of what will promote purity and help you honor and respect the guys or girls around you. Don’t be pulled into a trap of legalism, because boundaries should be a reflection of the purity of your heart, not a legalistic approach based off fear.
5. DO pray for them
We’re called to pray for one another and build each other up as part of the body of Christ. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ—and not just that they’d notice you, ask you out…whatever. Sincerely pray for their endeavors and their relationship with Jesus. Prayer is purity’s most powerful safeguard.
6. DO love them
Yes, you read that right.
The reason we have so many issues in romantic (and even casual) relationships isn’t because there’s too much “love,” but not enough true love. Infatuation heavily permeates our society and that isn’t love.
The kind of love our society needs is the kind that respects and guards purity, and is intentional to avoid situations where temptation might grow. True love chooses to dress modestly, and not play with another’s emotions just to feel good about themselves.
Guys, please love the girls around you enough to give of yourselves to protect and guard their hearts.
Girls, let’s love the young men we know as brothers in Christ first and foremost.
And in all our relationships and interactions, let’s seek God first, choose his best, and obey the guidelines in His Word. After all, He designed relationships, and He knows how they’re supposed to work. And above all, let’s pursue true purity of heart brought on through a passionate relationship with Christ. Seeking God is a more powerful safeguard to purity than dozens of do’s and don’ts. Our culture is struggling because we’ve departed from his truth. Let’s go back to his truth, and embrace his ways on how to navigate difficult and confusing relationships.
P.S. Read “Six (More) Do’s and Don’ts For Guy/Girl Relationships” here)