The Friends We Keep: He Says
It’s not you, it’s me. Sure, I’m fine hanging out in a group setting, but I frankly just need a bit more space in our relationship, a bit more distance, maybe no one-on-one time. OK, the truth is, I’m just not that into you.
Back when I was single, those may have been fighting words. Now? Now that I’m married? When I say those words to other women, they’re words of endearment. Oh, not for you, dear female reader. For my wife.
Nope, I don’t say those things to my wife Ashleigh (whose similarly-titled, more-graciously-and-differently-written article appeared in these virtual pages just yesterday). And, um, the truth is that I don’t actually say them to other women. But I do think them.
See, I am just not that into other women. I’m into my wife. And one way that I protect my relationship with my woman is to be careful not to become too close to other women.
Ultimately, I figure if I never get onto the intimacy onramp with another woman, I’ll never find myself in a sexually compromising situation. But that’s not really my biggest concern. My more immediate concern is that I save my “emotional connections” for my wife. If I’m going to let my guard down and share vulnerabilities, it’s going to be with my wife Ashleigh. Those deep things of the heart are too precious to share with women from work, from church, or from the grocery store.
And if for some reason I’m unable to share them with Ashleigh, then I may share them with one of my guy friends. Yeah, I’m not an egalitarian. I have this notion that men and women are inherently different, and that my connections with guys are different from my connections with women. There are things I can divulge to my guy friends that I just won’t share with my female friends.
This is nothing new. Maybe you’ve heard of Billy Graham. Maybe you’re impressed that through decades of in-the-spotlight Christian ministry, his reputation has remained pure. Why? In part because he has guarded his relationships with those of the opposite sex. He has been OK keeping a bit more distance between himself and non-spousal women.
For Billy, this has meant being counter-culturally extreme, to the point of being potentially offensive: never being alone with a woman he’s not married to. He has been careful not to share a private meal with a woman, not to counsel a woman alone, not even to be on an elevator just him and one woman.
I imagine some women have taken offense at his “off-putting-ness.” Some may have found his wariness to be sexist. Maybe Billy missed out on some great conversations – even some great opportunities to be a minister of blessing – by limiting the depth and intimacy of his contact with those of the opposite sex.
But check out his track record. Maybe his hyper-guardedness in regard to women has helped him stay true to his wife, true to his ministry, true to his Lord. Maybe the “Billy Graham Rule,” as it has come to be called, is a fine guide, even now when such rules come across as naive and dated and quaint and ignorant.
Yes, Jesus spent time alone with women. The woman at the well. Mary Magdalene, in the garden post-resurrection. The woman caught in adultery after all the stone-throwing men left. But here’s a shocking confession: I’m not divine. I ain’t Jesus.
I talked about “emotional connections” earlier. I want to explore that a bit more, this time with a story. Let me introduce you to The Little Prince, chapter 21, in which the lonely fox tells the prince that he wants to become friends, he wants to become “tamed.” The way to develop this heart-felt kind of friendship, the fox explains, is to spend meaningful time together, to “establish ties.” And, so, over the course of time, the fox and the prince did establish ties, they built hearty connections, they did become intimate friends.
OK, I’m fine establishing ties with you if you’re a fox. And if you’re my wife (a foxy wife, she is). And men in my “inner circle,” as I indicated earlier. But I just can’t risk establishing too many ties, which may develop into too many entangling ties, with women outside my family.
So women in my life: If I sometimes come across as aloof, as a bit disengaged, as a bit less interested than you’d like, this is on purpose. Oh, I’m fine being a friend, and I truly treasure our friendship, but I just won’t be your confidant.
This is no character flaw (though I do have many). I’m not doing it to be mean or callous. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that, for me, it’s a virtue. For the sake of my wife, my ministry, my Lord, I think it’s best that we keep a bit of distance.
After all, the truth is that while I do like you, and I say this without meaning any offense: I’m just not that into you.
This post is part our He Said/She Said series, where we’ll get to peek at one topic from two points of view: both the husband’s perspective and the wife’s. We’ll be running it for the next five weeks, on Wednesdays (where you’ll read about what “she said” on a topic) and Thursdays (where you’ll read about what “he said” on a topic).
During the day Ted Slater makes websites. During the evening he sleeps next to his wife, Ashleigh Slater. Together they have five children, one of whom has preceded them to heaven.
You are right on target. Any woman (myself included) would love to know that her husband is committed to living by the Billy Graham Rule.
I think you hit the nail on the head about the emotional aspect of opposite-sex friendships. We need to be very careful to keep those connections linked only to our spouses!
If you have a female friend with whom you do not share personal issues, yet she periodically texts you (random “good morning”s, etc) and calls, texts, or emails you (rather than your wife) to make arrangements for the four of you to socialize, how do you feel about it?
If your wife tells you that she feels that the contact this female friend is making with you is not only inappropriate but also disrespectful, how do you respond? What would you say to your female friend to convey to her that she must stop texting, calling and emailing you without hurting her feelings or making her feel uncomfortable the next time the four of you are together?
Try ignoring her texts and emails and instead have your wife answer them. You’re not being mean by not answering because your wife is and at the same time she should get the hint. Try also asking an innocent question like, why don’t you ask my wife? She’ll be able to help you more than I can. If she doesn’t get it ask your wife to tell her that she doesn’t appreciate her texting you. Your marriage and your wife’s feelings are more important than a lost friend or her opinion. Speaking from experience here.
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