Life can be perplexing at any age. I am a twenty-something writing a book about the complexity of my generation’s relationships, so I’m always on the lookout for creative illustrations of confusion.

My spirited ninety-year-old great-aunt, Tia Carmela, speaks only Spanish. Although she did attend English classes for many years, for some reason, she never got past “How are you?” This language barrier often leads to confusion when we take her places where people only speak English — like my church.

One Christmas Eve, we invited Tia Carmela, who’s never been a regular church attendee, to a beautiful, serene candlelight service. I passed the communion plate down the row towards my great-aunt, and I proceeded to reflect on the seriousness of the moment. When the communion plate reached her, Tia Carmela, seeing the ample supply of crackers, grabbed a handful. Cupping them in one hand, she used the time generally spent in silence to chow down on them. I guess she was in need of a snack. And I was in desperate need of a pillow to suppress my laughter as her crunching echoed through the church.

To Tia Carmela communion was confusing, and she managed it the best she could. Modern relationships sometimes present us with a similar dilemma.  The communion plate of opposite gender friendship is passed to us, and we don’t know how to handle it.

A Perplexed Generation

At one time, an exclusive friendship with a member of the opposite sex was significant; it indicated a relationship most likely heading towards marriage. But today, we’re confused. We make a jumble of it and often, in retrospect, look rather foolish. Let’s look at an example.

In addition to seeing Peter each Tuesday at the 20’s Bible study, Leila played tennis with Peter on Wednesdays and grabbed dinner with him after a jog around the lake on Fridays. She assumed, with all the time they spent together and the seemingly mutual attraction, that they were moving towards a serious relationship.

Peter, on the other hand, viewed Leila simply as a friend and he had no intentions of pursuing a romantic relationship. They both said they were “just friends,” but they each had a different definition of what that term meant.

Not In My Dictionary!

“Just Friends?” As you saw with Peter and Leila, two individuals of the opposite sex can have completely different perspectives on their camaraderie. That’s why it’s so important to have defined relationships, so you both know where you’re at. If you’re “just friends,” there’s often confusion, you’re never sure who’s going to do what when — if ever.

Are co-ed friendships even a good idea? Well, casual acquaintances are generally fine, but deep friendships with the opposite sex are not necessarily the smartest idea. By deep friendships, I mean those where you pass the casual friends line and delve deeper into a close bond, sharing many personal life details with each other.

What’s the problem with this? Spending regular one-on-one time with a member of the opposite sex promotes an intimacy that should be reserved for marriage. Remember, God designed us to have a deep friendship with only one person of the opposite sex: our spouse. God did not create a bunch of Eves for Adam to have intimate friendships with; he created Eve. Period. One woman for one man.

The Bigger Picture

Another thing to consider is that being too buddy-buddy with a person of the opposite gender can actually lower your chances of a romantic relationship with them or with another person. For example, why would a girl agree to enter a relationship with a guy who spends most of his evenings with his best friend, Melissa? Or consider Sally and her pal, Steve. If Sally is meeting Steve’s emotional needs, why would he bother to ask her out?