Single (Divorced) Woman Asks About Her Friendship with a Married Man from Church

Single Christians, Divorced Christians, Cross-Gender Relationships, Church Response

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A woman found SSB and sent me an e-mail about her situation. The e-mail is from a single/divorced woman and the friendship she has with the praise and worship leader at her church. She, too, is on the praise and worship team. This kind of situation seems to get people nervous. Evidently, single women should not have a friendship with a married man.

Here is her e-mail (which she gave me permission to post):

 

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Dear Julie Anne,

I found your older blog article as I was doing a search for info on cross-gender friendships in church. Unfortunately I may be leaving my church home soon and I wanted to see if anyone else has been in my shoes. I’m a musician on my church praise team and our male leader’s wife wants to have a chat with me. Her husband has been a good friend and sounding board, but I realize now that is a big no-no. I am almost 12 years older than him and have no interest in him other than an encouraging friend, but I sense some boundary has been crossed that I wasn’t aware of in this situation.

I am single due to divorcing an abusive, unfaithful Christian husband. As soon as I became single, I noticed a subtle change in how I was treated by other women in the church. My pastor’s wife has been one of the few that treats me like a friend and not a threat. She made an effort to get to know me. Our worship leader’s wife has been hot and cold with me which leaves me unsure. I’m not sure I want to open myself up to this chat she’s requested, she said she’s been praying for me but the tension was pretty evident.

I have no one to talk to about this situation so I hope you don’t mind that I’ve written you. I found your new site and am amazed at how much you’ve written rings true. Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s helped me a lot.

Blessings,

“Karen”

 

I don’t see this restriction in Scripture, but it sure seems to be a prevalent idea. In full disclosure, I have been on praise and worship teams during much of my adult life. I currently am on a praise and worship team and do maintain friendships with both married and divorced men. (The only single guys on the team are young enough to be my kids, and we haven’t spoken at any level of depth.)

Usually any discussions we have take place at church or places where we are involved in ministry work. I’m sure I have used some of these men as sounding boards (I love that phrase!) from time to time in the past, and even currently. I don’t have a problem with it, and no man has told me that he has had a problem with it (and no wife has, either).

It bothers me that this kind of stigma exists with single or divorced women. I’m not sure if there is the same stigma with single or divorced men, but in light of Scripture in which Paul said it is better to remain single than married, I find this common response troubling. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

  • The most important question: how would you respond to “Karen?”
  • If you are married, do you have relationships with single people of the opposite sex at church?
  • If you are married, do you have relationships with divorced people of the opposite sex at church?
  • Do you have any ideas of how the church can improve on this kind of situation, and create a safe place for those who are single and divorced?

 

photo credit: Infomastern Sunset silhouette via photopin (license)

31 comments on “Single (Divorced) Woman Asks About Her Friendship with a Married Man from Church

  1. I am a single, never-married, woman. I do have friendships with men in my church, some married, but I restrict those roles to church and church functions. I’m careful about what I share, and I also get to know the wives of those who are married. In one case, I am responsible to one who is my supervisor for my Christian ed duties, butI am friendly with the entire family. I see a big difference between a casual friendship and sharing my deepest secrets with someone. I don’t share my deep emotional needs with married men. I think any married woman could find that threatening.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Evidently, single women should not have a friendship with a married man.

    Sometimes, people get upset at friendships between a married woman and married man too. Logical in that there is really no reason an affair can not be carried out between married people, but also frustrating in that it just goes back to women and men can’t be platonic friends. It is a lack of trust, whether on the part of the church or the man’s wife. (It may even be justified on her part based on past behavior the OP is unaware of.)

    I’m not married, so I can’t answer your married people questions. I will say that if I were Karen, I would probably try to have an honest conversation with the wife and see what her deal is.

    As for safe places, single women are not man eaters and are not any more ‘dangerous’ than anybody else. So that idea should be dropped. People know where the lines are that shouldn’t be crossed. Adults make decision on whether or not to cross them, and no amount of weird church policing of interactions is going to change that. So treat everyone as family and be cool. That’s my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Linn, I think you make good comments. Most women would find it objectionable if their husbands became “best friends” with another female. It would seem that such is the role of the wife. One good rule of thumb is that whatever is going on is appropriate if the wife would be welcome to join in, at any time. If the conversation could take place just the same if she were present, it is probably OK. It should make no difference whether you are interacting with the husband or the couple – husband and wife. If it does make a difference i.e. it changes the character of the friendship or the particular interaction, that is a clue that something is wrong. Life has enough hidden dangers without playing with fire.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Adding to the above, perhaps Karen can be proactive and make that offer to her praise and worship leader’s wife, and after she joins a time or two, she will probably come to the conclusion that everything is cool. When things have the appearance of being hidden, or either person is having to defend themselves, that issue should probably be addressed before the relationship continues. Being open and honest about objectives of the relationship and the feelings of all are important.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think there was any indication that the OP was overly emotionally entangled or best friends with the guy, though maybe I missed it. [Goodness knows I don’t share emotions easily with anyone, so that generally isn’t a problem for me at all.]

    Rereading above, I wonder why Karen thinks automatically that she will have to leave – is it because her friends wife is ‘hot and cold’ or because the church as a whole has not welcomed her?

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  6. I have been friends with a divorced female from another church for 15 years. She always called my husband to make arrangements for outings for the three of us, he is usually more responsive with phone and text. I have no problems with my husband’s dealings with other women. Good luck to them if they have an affair! LOL I trust most people until they give me a reason not to trust them. I’m a musician, and most musicians are men, so I’d be in a terrible spot if I limited my contact to females only.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. If anything comes down as inappropriate in your relationship with a male church staff, you will more than likely get burned.
    If your marriage was with an abusuve male, you will subconsciously gravitate very comfortably to another abusuve male, even in casual friendship.
    Rule #1 for unmarried women in the church. Avoid friendships with males, especially married ones. The church is not user friendly for single women, unless they sit like a wall flower and keep quiet.
    Please do not set yourself up for accusation and betrayal. The church will not be user friendly as you will learn as a single woman eventually.

    I just got burned, betrayed by church leadership for, hopefully, the last time a few months ago. I say ‘last time’, because I don’t intend to be part of church anymore. I am in my 60’s, have a bushel full of junk/betrayal/abuse from religious leaders. (Missions, Christian college, minister spouse, many other ministry staff, religious family members. Yuk!)

    Please beware, protect yourself. You are a precious and valuable lady.

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  8. Weird how in many churches they think matrons are incapable of adultery. Ever heard of Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina? But neither of these novels were wholesomely insipid sweet Christian romances, so good “churchy” housewives wouldn’t read them.

    The only slutty church lady I knew was respectably married to a professor who ignored her shenanigans. If she had been an “old maid” (I became one at 25 )and carried on that way they would have churched her.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. Like Celeste, I am in my 60’s and have experienced betrayal in a church situation.

    My former husband was also on the praise team when we first joined the church and we have been divorced 3 years. He was addicted to porn and chased after younger women which I might have worked through with him had he not become volatile and scary.

    As to the situation with our band leader, I have been a friend of their family the last 3-1/2 years, had dinner in their home and given plenty of opportunity for his wife to become a close friend. She has pretty much kept me at arms length, as do several of the other married women in my church. She mostly has sent me invitations for her children’s fund raisers, graduation notices, etc. Her husband is the same age as my youngest brother and 7 years younger than my own son. I think of him and others on the team as my friends as they were caring and supportive as I went through the phases of loss. We are family who all share a desire to use our gifts to praise God and serve our church.

    I have been struggling with a decision to find a church closer to my home as I moved 25 miles from church after my divorce. I work full time and serve every Sunday, which gives me little time for much else. I have included her in some of our conversations and she showed little interest. I’ve contacted her to meet as she requested and will listen to what she has to say. Perhaps as Lea has suggested, this is an old issue between the couple.

    Again, thank you all for your helpful comments. I appreciate the sounding board Julie Anne, great name!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I would guess that the wife in this situation, if it turns out that she is jealous, it is probably because she already doesn’t trust her husband for other reasons. Just a guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for chiming in, Karen. I’m not an expert or anything, but sometimes people have their own insecurities that have nothing to do with you. Even if it ends up hurting, I wouldn’t take blame for it (unless you are actually doing something inappropriate, which it doesn’t sound like to me).

    Rule #1 for unmarried women in the church. Avoid friendships with males, especially married ones. The church is not user friendly for single women, unless they sit like a wall flower and keep quiet. Please do not set yourself up for accusation and betrayal.

    Goodness this is depressing! So far, have not found this to be the case at my own church thankfully.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’ve never restricted my friendships based on gender or on marital status. I’ve never done this for my husband, either. I think friendship is hard enough to find (especially for shy introverts and people on the autism spectrum) without putting up even more barriers! I also think it’s sexist, because it assumes that people can’t control themselves even in professional or church-based relationships.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. The reasoning for “The Prohibition” is two (maybe three)-fold. First is appearances. If a church leader is seen with someone of the opposite sex, people talk. For example, years back I worked a job where I traveled a lot, I was often gone weekends because I was traveling both in and out of the country. People in the church who didn’t know what was going on started discussing about the stability of the marriage. The councilor who did know what was going corrected them.

    Second, there is an assumption that all men are girl crazy and will take advantage of women… Unfortunately, many men perpetuate that assumption. On top of that, there is also an assumption that any physical contact, such as a hello or goodbye hug is somehow sexual.

    Third, it’s easy to build inappropriate emotional ties. I’ve seen it happen all too often. This may be especially true when traumatic life events are in progress.

    All that said, all this speaks more to the people involved and the culture around us more than to the situations mentioned above. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where these are an issue.

    I have many friends who are women and Christian. I love my wife and, when doing, say meeting someone for lunch, either invite her or at least let her know what is going on. I also drew lines for myself that I didn’t allow myself to cross. Fortunately, I am not in leadership at a church so that issue is eliminated.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve been married almost 25 years, but was single til my early 30’s. As a single or married woman, I have only had very CASUAL friendships with married men. By that I mean being friends at work in a work setting, church setting, sports team setting, etc. I’ve never had the kind of friendship where I would hang out alone with a married man or talk about personal topics.

    I don’t have a clear picture of how personal it is when she says the married male friend has been a sounding board. I don’t think a single woman should ever have a friendship with a married man like she would with a girlfriend. As in no going out together one on one. No having deep phone conversations. No ‘let’s go to a private room and have prayer time’. No prolonged text/email chains. That sort of thing.

    One of the things our pastor told us in premarital counseling was, “Never say or do anything to somone of the opposite sex that you wouldn’t say/do if your spouse was sitting right there beside you.” That’s been great advice.

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  15. I think that people who have a hard time with their partners being friends with people of the opposite sex have their own issues of trust. Perhaps the wife has always heard that men only want sex with every woman they come across. How is she to trust that he won’t because that’s his “nature” as a man? Honestly, it doesn’t make sense that the attitude has changed since you have divorced. I would think she would feel this way about any other woman who attempts a friendship with her husband whether she is single or married.

    Karen, it sounds like you have had plenty of opportunity to get to know the wife, but she doesn’t respond in kind. I have a feeling her “chat” is going to be very one-sided. You could go and give her a listen. You could also go and be willing to assert yourself enough to let her know your position and accept that she might not be convinced.

    I can understand why you would want to look for a new church given the distance alone, as well as the change in attitude about how you are treated.

    On a personal note, my husband is friends with a few women who share an interest in photography. He texts them often and has gone on photography trips with them. I have met them all and think they are fantastic. A lot of people don’t understand how I can be so open to him communicating and taking trips with other women. I tell them that in all the years we have been married he has never given me a reason to not trust him.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. To clarify my last comment, it was not directed specifically at singles. Married people should keep those same boundaries with friends of the opposite sex. Lord knows the vast majority of inappropriate behavior I’ve witnessed (whether it be unhealthy emotional attachment or full blown adultery) is between two marrieds who got bored with their spouses.

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  17. I don’t think a single woman should ever have a friendship with a married man like she would with a girlfriend. As in no going out together one on one. No having deep phone conversations. No ‘let’s go to a private room and have prayer time’. No prolonged text/email chains. That sort of thing.

    Eh, I think the problem I have with these ‘rules’ based boundaries is that they don’t allow for the natural flow of life. I firmly believe boundaries are about more than rules. There is an emotional tipping point that you shouldn’t cross, but there is no reason that texting or email or lunches have to cross that. I think people know, generally, where the ‘line’ is. I can go out and have a drink with a married coworker on travel, for instance, or have lunch or exchange texts about stuff without issue.

    On top of that, there is also an assumption that any physical contact, such as a hello or goodbye hug is somehow sexual.

    I’m southern and everybody hugs so this cracks me up. Even at church. Definitely these things are cultural.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Another consideration is that one never knows how a husband is treating his spouse at home. If he is harsh, critical or indifferent etc, his wife would feel threatened or hurt when she sees him being attentive to another female. Yes, even a man in the ministry can neglect his wife and her needs all the while being friendly and charming to other women in the church. I would encourage any woman to find another woman at church to confide in. If you are in any type of ministry with a married man, put in the effort to get to know his wife. No matter how innocent, any woman has to be careful about how she relates to other men in the church and for that matter outside the church.

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  19. “Karen”,
    I don’t see where you’ve done anything wrong. Platonic brother and sister relationships between fellow men and women should be the norm in Christianity, not the exception. Please don’t take on any false guilt.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ had loving, pure, chaste relationships with many women of different ages and life situations. That is a fact, straight from the Bible. Jesus Himself says “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50. If it were a sin to have a platonic relationship with the opposite sex, Jesus would have modeled complete separation and avoidance in His life, but He did not. He modeled friendship and mutual support in personal relationships and ministry. You can take that to the bank.

    I despair that today’s church is so worldly and harsh that we have lost that ability to enjoy this kind of fellowship with each other.

    That being said, I have a feeling that there is some type of marital tension between your friend and his wife that is not related to you directly; and you may be getting unfairly scapegoated or triangulated. It isn’t necessary to know which spouse is causing you to be drawn into their drama, just know that you may need to let the friendship drop to large extent, so that you’re not harmed by their private struggles.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. If people were so sure about the lines they shouldn’t cross, I wouldn’t have been witness to all the messes I’ve seen occur in churches due to boundary crossing, especially when someone is lonely or their marriage isn’t working out. I especially cringe when I hear someone say “God led me” into this inappropriate relationship.

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  21. …and a bit of practical advice here…since the wife obviously has some kind of beef regarding her husband’s friendship with you. Instead of addressing uncomfortable feelings together in private, she is drawing you (or being encouraged by him to draw you) into the drama as if you have the power to control their marital happiness (not so!). They are responsible for their own marriage, not you.

    I strongly recommend that you don’t meet up with her in person (and not with them as a couple either, or with an elder either, if she proposes that). That scenario has you trapped as a captive audience and you will not be able to get away from her/them easily if the conversation becomes uncomfortable (or abusive) towards you. Don’t give them an opportunity to label you as the problem, or engulf you in their troubles.

    Instead, I recommend asking her over the phone, nicely yet point blank, what it on her mind. “Can I ask what this is about?” “I have time now, what is it you wish to discuss?”, “a phone conversation works better for me”, etc. On the phone, you can rapidly end the conversation if needed for your peace of mind and emotional safety.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. My question to men: Why do you let your wife’s insecurities dominate you? Shouldn’t you encourage her to grow up and become stronger? She needs to grow in her love and trust for you and for God, not become a manipulator.

    I was single for most of my adult working career. When I saw men moving away from me, I addressed it head-on. “Do you trust me? Do you trust my character? Do you really think I would have an affair with you?”

    Then I would turn the tables: “I know you. I trust that you would not try to rape me. I know your character.”

    Jesus met with women privately. He looked at character, not gender.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. I find the culture between men and women in evangelical Christianity to be very sad. In my experience, men and women are taught to look at each other either as potential spouses (or actual spouse, if married) or as temptations. A person of the opposite gender can only have superficial meaning to you unless he or she is your partner or potential partner–otherwise you’re flirting with trouble. This outlook is hard to reconcile with the mandate to treat each other like family. Do I have deeper conversations at times with my (biological) brother? Yes, I do.

    Sometimes I think the Christian culture I grew up in actually trained men and women to objectify each other and be weak around one another. Instead of learning how to control emotions and sexual urges and see the beauty and humanity in each other, we were taught over and over that we were weak and a danger to one another.

    In my opinion, that fear-based approach is dehumanizing to all parties involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I agree with Song of Joy–If this is related to some kind of abusive dynamic between the husband and wife, it can be nothing but trouble for the platonic friend, especially if the wife decides to “confront” her. I had to drop a friend in this situation because his wife was abusive toward me. While it was extremely painful, I have other friends now without the drama.

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  25. If people were so sure about the lines they shouldn’t cross, I wouldn’t have been witness to all the messes I’ve seen occur in churches due to boundary crossing,

    You can know where the lines are and still cross them, Linn. I have little patience for people who try to claim these things were accidents.

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  26. Update: I extended an invitation to coffee in a public place with his wife as she requested and she begged off. After reading your comments, some dynamics of their relationship has come to light that I hadn’t considered before. I’m not able to share the details but some of you have hit the nail on the head, this is between them. I have no problem dropping the friendship with him as I do have others in my life that don’t come with drama. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, all your perspectives have been very helpful.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Karen~
    You are not alone.

    As a single (divorced) mom – I understand and have experienced similar complications in my own fraternal relationships.

    I currently work for a church (I often ask myself why). As you can imagine, the co-workers in my assigned department (read: ministry) are all married males. Only two out of eight of their wives have accepted me with anything that smacks of authentic friendliness. The others look at me askance or are outright cold, uptight, snobbish, or act like they “put up with me.”

    I don’t know if they are jealous, curious, distrustful, fearful, angry, wrongly suspect something or what. It is always unpleasant to have to interact with one of them. I tolerate them, paste on a smile, and we act civil around each other. Usually, I find an excuse to leave the room/area.

    Otherwise, working with each of their husbands is pleasant and we have come to consider one another with some level of friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I will preface my response by saying that I am a survivor of clergy sexual misconduct and am still in the throws of the healing process. The situation Karen describes would trigger me into a panic attack. I understand that my initial response is largely due to my hellish experience with a predator pastor who used his position and the church to lure, and ultimately exploit, vulnerable women.

    How would I respond to Karen? I would start by saying that this is a sticky situation. I highly doubt it is black and white. Talk to the worship leader’s wife, see what she has to say, and share your view with her. If the wife is concerned, it could very well be for reasons not related to Karen being a divorced woman. I think it is great that the wife wants to speak to Karen, it’s certainly better than making assumptions and talking a bunch of crap behind her back.

    As to if I, as a married woman, have friendships with single, or divorced men, in our church…no, I do not. Even before my predator pastor experience, I didn’t. I spoke to men in our church, had conversations, but as to having a deep friendship with any of them, no, I did not…but, I was not frightened of those relationships, it just never happened.

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