My husband, Bill, has been friends with Sherry for over 30 years. When we began dating, Sherry and her husband and children lived in the same apartment complex as my husband. She would come to Bill's apartment many times during the course of our 1 1/2 year courtship. She was ALWAYS coming over and she and Bill would go off and talk. I discussed with Bill how much this bothered me and he would tell me that she was his sister in Christ and he would offer her Godly advice on her marriage and she would offer him Godly advice on our relationship. I told Bill that I thought this was information Sherry should discuss with family members or girlfriends, not with him. When we got married, things got a little better as we moved into my house and Bill was out of the apartment complex. He knew that I did not like Sherry and did not agree with their discussing relationship issues with each other. So, he limited how much he contacted her. In May, Bill lost his local truck driving position and went over the road. Since that time, Sherry's private contact with Bill has become much more frequent—several times per month for the past 3 months. I was very upset when I found out about this. I told Bill that under no uncertain circumstances did I want myself or our relationship discussed with Sherry. I know she tells Bill all about her marriage woes. He has told me that he does not discuss us, but I am not sure that I believe him. He has asked me to find forgiveness in my heart and become friends with Sherry as this is his friend of 30-plus years and his "sister in Christ." I feel as though he wants me to become friends with her so that they get "my blessing" to continue their private communications with each other. When I ask what they discuss, he does not want to tell me. I have discussed with Bill that if he does have the need to talk with Sherry to do it when he is on home time and I am there instead of in private when he is over the road. He says that I am overreacting and that he sees nothing wrong with him contacting Sherry or Sherry contacting him. We are at a standstill on this subject and I could use some advice as to what to do.
Thank you,Not Sure
Dear Not Sure,
Thank you for writing to me and trusting me with your situation. I pray that I can say some things that may shed some light on what may be happening and perhaps spur some change and growth in the way that you may be interpreting your husband’s behavior.
First of all, the Bible is very clear that we need to have friendships with other Christians. We are instructed to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16). We are to be a source of strength and encouragement to each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), and we are to instruct and correct one another (Proverbs 27:6, 17; James 5:19-20). However, nowhere in the Bible are we told that it is wrong for a man and woman to have a Christ-centered friendship with each other. The idea that women can only have female friends and men can only have male friends seems to be based on the culture and time in which we live. The Bible gives examples of what appear to be friendships between men and women. For example, we know that many women followed Jesus during his ministry and took care of meeting His needs (Luke 8:1-3), and some of these women were married. Jesus had an extensive, private conversation with a woman (John 4). The apostle John apparently had a close friendship with a woman, so much so that he wrote a letter to her, the book of 2 John, and told her that it would be a joy for them to talk face-to-face (2 John 12). We even have an example of the prophet Elijah living with a widow and her son for a while (1 Kings 17), and undoubtedly the two of them developed a friendship while he was living in her home.
That being said, the cultural taboo against mixed gender friendships is likely based on the human fleshly desires that can easily enter into such a friendship. Factors that make us more vulnerable to this temptation are (1) spiritual immaturity and (2) an unhappy marriage. That is why Paul gave guidelines for how to manage Christian relationships when he told Timothy to treat “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:20). We are to think of each other as family members, WITH ALL PURITY, for we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Regarding your specific situation, it would appear that your husband is aware of the need to maintain purity in this friendship, because he keeps emphasizing that Sherry is his “sister in Christ” and he is honoring the purpose of Christian friendships by offering her Godly advice. Hopefully, your husband is encouraging Sherry to address her marital problems directly with her husband so they can resolve them. Your husband appears to be respecting your wishes by not discussing you or your marriage with Sherry, so what reason do you have to doubt his honesty other than your own suspicions? Your husband persists in maintaining contact with Sherry, believing there is nothing wrong with that. He is right. He wants you to become friends with his friend, and you think it is because he wants your blessing to continue his private conversations with Sherry. Perhaps he wants you to get to know her so you will feel less threatened by his friend of 30 + years and less jealous and suspicious of his friendship with her.
Before you married your husband, you knew that Sherry had been his friend for over 30 years and that they had regular, private communications with each other. To require or expect him to break off this friendship or to try to set rules to control it (needing to know what they talk about, forbidding private communication, and wanting to be around when they talk) is being unfair to your husband. This could drive a wedge between you and your husband and could result in his increased attempts to keep his conversations with Sherry secret. Perhaps if you got to know Sherry, you might realize that her more than 30 years of friendship with your husband might have had a positive influence on his spirituality and helped to shape him into the man that you fell in love with.
God bless,Aunt Dara